We Made Hartney

We Made Hartney

Medical Services

Doctor John Tolmie



DR. JOHN TOLMIE ARRIVED IN HARTNEY with a wife and son and an African grey parrot called Jack in the late summer of 1906. He had spent the previous three years at the University of Edinburgh and on the P & O boats (where he acted as part-time ship’s surgeon), taking his FRCS. Previous to that he had spent four years at McGill University studying medicine under the famous Dr. Osler. On returning to Canada from Edinburgh he married Maude Emma Ross, the daughter of an old Sherbrooke family whose father was John Ross, one-time mayor of Sherbrooke, Quebec. With this new bride and the parrot, which he had picked up on the west coast of Africa on his last voyage with P & O, Dr. Tolmie came to Hartney and started the practice of medicine. The house that he bought shows his first two children, Jean and Ross sitting on the front fence.

Dr. Tolmie was the only doctor in the Hartney district for eleven years. There was no hospital and at first there were no cars. He maintained two teams of horses and a cutter for winter calls in the country and eventually (about 1910 or 19111) he bought the first car in the district – a brass adorned Ford with acetylene lamps and a very temperamental crank. That crank had a habit of kicking back and breaking the arms of the cranker. Dr. Tolmie later mended so many arms of new owners of cars that he developed a quick half turn of the engine and hasty withdrawl of hand and arm from the orbit of the backfiring crank.

The Tolmie family ultimately moved to British Columbia, where he retired in 1948. After one winter of idleness, sitting in the lobby of the Vancouver Hotel, he decided to become active again. He saw an appeal in the Vancouver papers for a volunteer job on the Anglican mission boat “The Columbia,” where they desperately needed a doctor to fill in for the previous incumbent who had suffered a nervous breakdown. Dr. Tolmie volunteered and had one last year of very active and adventurous medical practice up and down the B.C. coast, delivering babies, pulling teeth and performing emergency operations on loggers or miners who had experienced serious accidents. After his final year he was content to retire. He lived for another 18 years, dying in January 1967, within six months of his 100th birthday.

Adapted from A Century of Living, page 637.

Nursing in 1900

A nurse like Hartney’s Margaret McKie, who did this and that,

In the early 20th century, most nurses received their education from hospitals, not colleges or universities. While earning diplomas at hospital-based schools, student nurses provided the facility with two to three years of cheap and abundant labor, typically working 10- to 12-hour shifts seven days a week, with only a few hours dedicated to classroom instruction. Historians describe early clinical training programs as rigorous and exhausting.

After graduating, a nurse in the early 1900s usually went to work as a private-duty nurse in a patient’s home or as a superintendent in a hospital. Many nurses averaged about $5 a week near the turn of the century—barely enough to live on. Nurses’ care-giving duties included giving baths, inserting catheters, administering enemas and medications, dressing wounds and sores, and generally monitoring patients’ appearance. In the early 1900s, nurses still administered leeches to treat inflammations or engorgement and relied heavily on poultices, stupes, and plasters to relieve everything from congestion to colic.


Nurse A. Dalziel of Hartney.

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