McMaster University

History of
Health Care in Hamilton

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Dr. William Case House circa 1890

Dr. William Case

Dr. William Case (1776-1848) is a good example of the American doctors who came to Canada after the American Revolution. They were the first civilian doctors to practice in Upper Canada. Prior to this, the settlers had been dependant on the British military for medical care. Dr. Case was one of the first doctors to practice in the area that was known as the "Head of the Lake," which was essentially where the City of Hamilton is today. He was born in New Hampshire in 1776, educated at the Philadelphia Medical College and emigrated here in 1805.

He and his wife, Ruth, settled on a farm near what is now King Street at Lottridge. After the Battle of Stoney Creek in 1813, his residence was taken over as a field hospital. When the regimental surgeon was recalled, the responsibility for the wounded was left with Dr. Case and his home served as a military hospital for two years subsequently. Dr. Case, however loyal, must also have been non partisan for he provided medical care to soldiers on both sides.

There was no such thing as a municipal hospital. Sick and injured people remained in their homes and were visited by physicians like Dr. Case who often made their rounds on horseback. During this period Hamilton was mostly wooded with large inlets off the harbour that turned the whole bayshore into a huge bog every spring.

Dr. Case died in 1848, two years after the City of Hamilton was incorporated. The Hamilton Medical Society placed a plaque on his tomb to honour him in 1927. Originally buried in a private cemetery, his remains were removed to the Hamilton Cemetery in the 1950's to accommodate the widening of the Jolley Cut.