Category: Winnipeg

A Gentle Country Doctor

As a child, my great-uncle John Stobo Hamilton admired Scottish-born missionary doctor David Livingstone. Famous for his search for the source of the Nile River, Livingstone was much more than an explorer: he wanted to bring Christianity to people in the interior of Africa, and to free them from slavery.

Livingstone so inspired John that he also wanted to become a missionary doctor. John did become both a minister and a physician, but he never got to Africa. His patients in rural North Dakota were lucky indeed.

The third child of James Hamilton and Isabella Glendenning, John was born on the family farm in Scarborough, Ontario in 1866. He was a teenager when the Hamilton family moved to newly founded Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

John’s first job was a temporary teaching position in Saskatoon in 1887. He then taught school on Vancouver Island for two terms between 1888 and 1890.

A young John S Hamilton (far left) in British Columbia

 The Hamilton family moved to Winnipeg, so John joined them there to continue his own studies. He graduated with a B.A. in philosophy from Manitoba College in 1892, then did a year of theology at Knox College in Toronto. He returned to Winnipeg to finish his theology degree, graduating from Manitoba College in 1895. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister a year later, he immigrated to the United States and became a pastor in rural North Dakota.

There he met his future wife, Alison Blanche Wilson, also known as Alice, a petite brunette with beautiful brown eyes. A school teacher, active in the church and the community, she was just what the quiet pastor needed. Before they married, however, he wanted to complete his medical degree. He began studying medicine in Winnipeg, then transferred to the University of Kentucky in Louisville, graduating in 1902.

Two of his classmates did become missionary doctors, but both soon died: one succumbed to bubonic plague after a few months in India, while the other was murdered by bandits in Tibet. It is not clear whether John still planned to become a medical missionary, but at this point, he returned to his ecclesiastical duties in the U.S. After he and Alice were married in 1903, they moved to Chinook, on the plains of central Montana.

John’s dreams of going to Africa were finally dashed when he contracted typhoid fever. After that, he never fully regained his health and he gave up his position as a minister. When the town of Hansboro, North Dakota, needed a doctor in 1906, the family moved there and John practised as a country doctor for the rest of his life.

John Stobo Hamilton in his later years.

In 1917, the family moved to the busy town of Bathgate, ND, near the Canadian border, and from there they were often able to visit John’s brothers and their families in Winnipeg, about 80 miles away.

John’s niece Olive Hamilton later described him as a quiet man who was gentle, kind and had a good sense of humour. His patients loved him, but he may have been intellectually rather lonely. He was interested in everything, but there were not many people he could discuss his interests with. “Everyone thought a very great deal of him, though,” Olive recalled in a letter to her cousin.

John and Alice had two children: Alison Isabel Hamilton (known as Isabel), born in Montana in 1905, and Donald James Hamilton, born in 1913. Tragically, Donald died of complications from diphtheria in 1915 and was buried in the Hamilton family plot in Winnipeg.

As a teenager, Isabel often accompanied her father when he made house calls so she could practice driving, and this gave them the opportunity to get to know each other well. She left for college in 1921 and became a public school teacher. By the time she married in 1933, it was too late for her father to attend the wedding. He died of a heart attack on August 22, 1932, and is buried with his young son, his mother and his siblings in Winnipeg. Isabel died in 1968 and Alice in 1971; both are buried in Litchfield, Minnesota.

See Also:

“Five Brothers,” Dec. 1, 2018, Writing Up the Ancestors,

“From Lesmahagow to Scarborough,” Dec. 13, 2013, Writing Up the Ancestors,

“The Stobos of Lanarkshire,” Dec. 28, 2016, Writing Up the Ancestors,


Thanks to Alison Mossler Wright, of Dallas Texas, for researching her grandfather’s life and writing about him so eloquently. This article is an abbreviated version of hers.

  1. “David Livingstone (1813-1873),”, accessed March 21, 2019.
  2. John Stobo Hamilton, born April 17, 1866; Hamilton family bible, private collection.
  3. “North Dakota, County Marriages, 1872-1958,” database with images, FamilySearch( : 26 September 2018), John S Hamilton and Alison B Wilson, 11 Jun 1903; citing Pembina, North Dakota, United States, State Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismarck; FHL microfilm 
  4. 1910 census    “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 March 2019), John S Hamilton, Sidney, Towner, North Dakota, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 233, sheet 8A, family 113, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1148; FHL microfilm 1,375,161
  5. “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 March 2019), John S Hamilton, Bathgate, Pembina, North Dakota, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 3, sheet 1A, line 33, family 6, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1740; FHL microfilm 2,341,474.
  6. John Stobo Hamilton, died Aug. 22, 1932; gravestone, Elmwood Cemetery, Winnipeg.

T. G. Hamilton’s Busy Life

Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton (1873-1935) became internationally famous because of his investigations into psychic phenomena.1 But his more mundane activities probably had a greater impact on the lives of his patients, friends and colleagues than his psychic research did.

undated photo of a young TGH

TGH, or T. Glen Hamilton,2 as he was known, grew up in a farming family, first in Ontario and then in Saskatchewan. He graduated from Manitoba Medical College in 1903, at age 30. After interning for a year, he set up a practice in medicine, surgery and obstetrics in Elmwood, a suburb of Winnipeg. Several years later, he and his wife, Lillian, moved into a large house in the neighbourhood. They raised their family there, and he had an office on the ground floor.

Elmwood’s first doctor, he was the kind of old-fashioned physician who made house calls (by horse and buggy in the early years) and delivered babies at home.3 According to his daughter, Margaret, his outstanding quality was his genuine concern for people: “To his many patients, he was not only the beloved physician, but he was the staunch friend and wise counsellor as well.”4

He plunged into community involvement and was elected to the Winnipeg Public School Board in 1907. Perhaps his experience as a teacher before he went to medical school inspired his interest in education. He remained on the school board for nine years, serving as chairman in 1912-13 and helping to guide the board as it built several new schools in the fast-growing city. He helped to establish fire drills and implement free medical examinations for public school students, and he believed in the benefits of playground activities.

the family home at 185 Kelvin St.

He was a member of Elmwood Presbyterian Church (later known as King Memorial United Church) from the time he settled in Elmwood. An elder for 28 years, he was chairman of the building committee and helped raise funds for the construction of the church.5

In 1915, TGH resigned from the school board after he was elected to the Manitoba Legislature as the Liberal member for Elmwood. At that time, his riding stretched all the way to the Ontario border. These were times of social change. Manitoba’s Liberals brought in several landmark bills, including the right to vote for women, the mother’s allowance act and workmen’s compensation. Nevertheless, a strong Labour vote swept the Liberals from power in the 1920 provincial election and TGH lost his seat.

He then shifted his energies to the medical field. He was a lecturer in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine, and a member of the surgical staff of the Winnipeg General Hospital. He wrote several articles that were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the treatment of hand injuries, on the incidence of goiter (enlarged thyroid) in children, and on ulcerative colitis. He served as president of the Manitoba Medical Association in 1921-1922, and he was a member of the executive committee of the Canadian Medical Association from 1922 to 1931. He founded the Manitoba Medical Review and he was the first president of the alumni association of the University of Manitoba.6

TG and Lillian, 1932

All these volunteer activities in addition to his medical practice must have made him a very busy man. Nevertheless, after the death of his three-year old son Arthur from influenza in 1919, he found time for a new passion: psychic phenomena. His ultimate question was whether some part of the human mind, consciousness, or personality survives bodily death.

For more than a decade, he and Lillian organized weekly séances at their home, watching tables that moved on their own and communicating with spirits. He tried to take a scientific approach to his observations and to prevent fraud, so he took hundreds of photos of these events.

When TGH addressed an audience of Winnipeg physicians about his research in 1926, he was afraid he would lose his professional reputation as a result, but they listened to him with what he later acknowledged was “a tolerant and good-natured skepticism.”7 Most of them probably did not agree with his comments, but he had accumulated a bank of good will through his many professional and volunteer activities, and he had a strong reputation for integrity.8

When he died of heart attack in 1935, at age 61, hundreds of people filled King Memorial United Church, where he had been active for so long, to say goodbye to this man who had been such an important part of the community.9

This article is also posted on

See also:

“Tales of a Prairie Pioneer” Writing Up the Ancestors, Feb. 1, 2019,

“Five Brothers,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Dec. 1, 2018,

“The Legacy,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 4, 2019, 

“Arthur’s Baby Book,” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 29, 2017,

Sources and Notes:

  1. The Hamilton Fonds at the University of Manitoba Archives includes photos, letters, lecture notes, newspaper clippings and other documents related to TGH’s life and research interests. See “Hamilton Fonds” University of Manitoba Libraries,
  2. Although TG was my paternal grandfather, I never met him. He died many years before I was born.
  3. “Elmwood’s First Doctor,” TheElmwood Herald, June 10, 1954.
  4. Margaret Hamilton Bach. “Life and Interests of Dr. T. Glendenning Hamilton.” Proceedings of the First Annual Archives Symposium. University of Manitoba Department of Archives and Special Collections, 1979, p 89-90.
  5. For more information about the church, see “Historic Sites of Manitoba: Elmwood Presbyterian Church / King Memorial Presbyterian Church / King Memorial United Church / Gordon-King Memorial United Church,” Manitoba Historical Society,, accessed Feb. 22, 2019.
  6. Ross Mitchell, M.D. “Dr. T. Glen Hamilton, the Founder of the Manitoba Medical Review,” The Manitoba Medical Review, vol. 40, no. 3, p 219.
  7. Margaret Hamilton Bach, Ibid, p. 92.
  8. Dr. Charles G. Roland, “Glenn – the Mystical Medic from Manitoba,” Ontario Medicine, May 18, 1987, p. 29.
  9. “Death of Dr. T. Glen Hamilton Ends Life of Marked Achievements,” The Elmwood Herald, April 11, 1935.