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A Doctor of the old fashioned kind

April 21, 2017

Barbara A. Martindale- For What It's Worth (2003)

            The house at 99 Argyle St. North is very special to Caledonia. Almost always a business and residential house at the same time, it was designed and built by Doctor Keith Cornelius Wesley Dean in 1927 to be his home and doctor’s office. Wm. Burgess and Fred Salmon assisted in the building of the stately looking building that today is The Proper Topper business and residence of owner Mary Duncan and her husband.

 

            When Dr. Dean arrived in Caledonia in 1922, there were three doctors looking after the community; Drs. Roszell, Maw and Forbes. None were interested in selling their practice so he decided to start up anyway. He rented a room at first at the corner of Argyle and Sutherland Streets and lived down the street in an apartment above Marshall’s store.

 

            The 1927 house remained the family home and office until Dr. Dean died in 1966. His wife Olive remained in the home for many years following his death. One of her concerns during those years was to keep her husband’s wish that the exterior of the house always be kept in good condition.

 

            In the early days, drug company salesmen would call on Dr. Dean. He kept a room full of medicine in large bottles and dispensed the medicine into small bottles for his patients. There were no prescriptions in those days. He kept his own books and only when he was short of money did he sit down with his wife to send out statements, with stickers that showed a moon crying.

 

            Dr. Dean looked after poor families and did considerable work that was never entered in his books. One such family man came back to Caledonia about 15 or 20 years later to pay asking how much did he owe. Dr. Dean went into another room, opened his book and closed it. It wasn’t entered but he told the man it was $400. The man paid and both parties were happy.

 

            There was a livery located across the road from his house/office and on occasion when snow made the roads impassable, he rented a team and sleigh or horse and cutter to make his calls.

 

            He was also a doctor on the Six Nations Reserve and there was a time when he left his car in Middleport, put on snow shoes and crossed the river to see a patient on the Reserve.

 

            Dr. Dean also was interested in community affairs. He was involved in Boy Scouts and getting the Library started. He shunned public speaking but accepted the job of running a St. John’s ambulance course at the gypsum mine. He belonged to St. John’s Masonic Lodge in Kingston and was a Mason in the Scottish Rite in Hamilton. He took an interest in the formation of the West Haldimand Hospital, donating to the operating room when the new building was constructed. He was a member of the School Board, a member of the Hamilton Academy of Medicine, took time each year to hunt and fish in the north, and he was a lawnbowler.

 

            Dr. Dean brought three generations of babies into the world and several were named after him.

 

            Their five children all graduated from university. The youngest, Malcolm, was the third generation of doctors in the family. Malcolm’s grandfather, Dr. Noble Dean, served as a doctor with the Union Forces in the American Civil War and subsequently served in Brighton.

 

            For what it’s worth, the information for this column as narrated by son Keith Dean is part of Stan Parke’s Caledonia Medical History along with Dr. Dean’s 1966 obituary, and a memory of this writer in an interview with Mrs. Olive Dean when she was still living in the home. 

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