Once Upon a Time: Dr. John H. McDonald – Part 1

It was likely a typically frigid January afternoon on the Bruce Peninsula in 1944 when a local 75-year-old veterinary surgeon, Dr. John McDonald, was making a routine call at the Carson farm near Clavering. Suddenly, he collapsed and died of a heart attack. Here is part one of his remarkable life story and long veterinary practice as compiled by Douglas W. MacDonald.

Part 1

John was born in Chesley on August 2, 1869. His Scottish-born mother hoped her third child would become a Baptist pastor. (She once censured her own minister for shaving on Sunday.) Instead, Jack, as he was known, chose veterinary college. To finance this, he and his younger brother, Jim, operated the Paisley Brick Company of Scone to raise money. One Sunday evening, their means of livelihood burned down. The two young men were sure it was because they had been playing cards earlier that Sabbath.

                                                               Dr. McDonald (2nd L) standing

In due time, Jack graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in Toronto in 1894 and began practice in Wiarton. He boarded at the St. Alban’s Hotel. One of the proprietor’s daughters, Amanda Ashley, caught his eye and the young couple married on June 25th, 1895. They began saving for a house. Within a few years, they moved into their newly-built, two-storey home on William St. Four children were born to John and Amanda: Ola, Wilfrid, Alein and Beatrice.

The doctor’s practice covered a sixty-mile territory from Hepworth to Tobermory. “Doc” McDonald made his calls by horse and buggy in summer, and by horse and cutter in winter. On one occasion, he lost his horse which fell through the ice of Colpoy’s Bay when Doc was enroute to White Cloud Island. In time, the vet acquired a motor car. He was the first in town to be equipped with a self-starter—no arduous cranking!

In the early 1900s, lumbering was a booming industry on the Peninsula and the McDonalds wished to share in the prosperity. In 1908 they bought Daley’s general store in Stokes Bay where seven lumber mills were located. Besides running the store, the family conducted a small beef operation and the doctor continued his practice. Next month—a temporary move to Saskatchewan.


The original article from the 1996 yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society was abridged by Bob Johnston