ItemSt. Andrew Beacon, Feb 4, 1892
The Oldest Physician
Dr. S. T. Gove of St. Andrews, talks with the Beacon
Dr. Samuel Gove, of St. Andrews, is without doubt the oldest practicing physician in New Brunswick. On Friday last the Beacon surprised Dr. Gove in his study and drew from him a few facts relative to his life history.
Dr. Gove is a native of Gagetown, Queen's Co., having seen the light of day there in 1813. His father came to this Province from New Hampshire after the Revolution and settled at Gagetown, where he married a daughter of Samuel Tilley, who took an active part in the American Revolution as a royalist. He landed at Saint John in 1783, and served on the first petit jury ever established in the province, under the grandfather of Sir John Allen. One of Dr. Gove's ancestors on his father's side was in the pioneer force attached to the 8000 troops that were ordered to be levied in Massachusetts for the siege of Louisburg in 1748. He assisted in the building of a road across this morass on which to haul the heavy siege guns and when the British fleet broke the chain across the harbor and captured the town, the contingent from Portsmouth, N. H. of which he was a member, dismounted the silver bell of the cathedral, and it was taken to Portsmouth, where it is now hanging in the belfry of St. John's Episcopal church. This bell had been blessed by the Archbishop of Paris.
The subject of this sketch removed with his family to Saint John when three or four years old, and took up his residence in the suburbs, which is now almost in the heart of the city. He has a vivid recollection of many events in the history of Saint John. He can remember visiting the smouldering remains of the military barracks on Fort Howe, and can clearly recollect hearing the 9 o'clock gun being fired from the fort while lying in his bed. After the fire, the military were quartered in the "Red Store" at Rankine's wharf, remaining there until the Lower cove barracks were built for their reception. The doctor remembers the two last gentlemen in Saint John who wore Hessian boots, with tassels on them. These were a man named Bonsall, and the father of Mr. Beverley Robinson, a tall, stately gentleman.
Dr. Gove was one of the first pupils of the Madras School, which was then situated on King Square. Among his early schoolfellows he distinctly remembers Mr. Thomas E. Millidge, Mr. John R. Marshall, ex-chief of police, and the late Canon Scovil. General Smythe, who had been aide-de-camp to Wellington at the battle of Waterloo frequently, opened the school. He would ride up on horseback, and leaving his horse in charge of an orderly, would enter the room. He would seat himself at the organ, and after playing and singing "Old Hundred," would open the school. The General, by the way, was regarded as one of the best musicians in the army. Brunswick Smythe, his son, was also the doctor, thinks, a pupil of this school.
He remembers having seen one or two persons in the pillory on King Square, and has also witnessed the whipping of criminals on the Square. The whipping post was on the corner of the square, about opposite the present site of the Dufferin hotel. He has seen the school boys turn sick on witnessing one of these public whippings.
The first Sunday school that he attended was in Trinity church, of which, he thinks Mr. Byles was then rector. Two of the lots of land on which Trinity church now stands were given for that purpose by the grandfather of Mr. William Whitlock, of St. Andrews. Dr. Gove's grandfather owned two lots on the corner of King St., which were sold for a hogshead of rum. In those days such a sale excited no comment, as money was scarce, and it was quite common to barter in that way.
Dr. Gove began his medical studies with the late Dr. Cooke. He then attended Guy's hospital, London, Sir Astley Cooper being at that time consulting surgeon. In 1833 he graduated at the Royal College of Surgeons. On returning to New Brunswick he settled for a short time at Sussex, where he took unto himself a life partner, who is now living, though in poor health. From Sussex he removed to Gagetown, and while there saw the troops go through on sleds to Canada to quell the Papineau rebellion.
In 1939 he came to St. Andrews. Asked in what state he found Saint Andrews when he first came here, he said that he found a population of 3000 in the town proper, several square rigged loading in the harbour, and several new ships on the stocks. The principal merchants were Jas. Rait, Allanshaw and McMaster, and the Wilsons. The West India trade of the port, owing to the English government having thrown open West India ports to the United States, had even then begun to decline.
Ever since 1939 the doctor has been practicing here and very successfully, too. He is now the oldest practicing physician on the register. During his medical experience he has seen the rise and fall of one whole generation.
In public matters, he has taken quite a prominent part. He was a director of the Charlotte County bank until the day it closed its doors. He was a Class A stock holder and director in the English railway, until the final transfer to the English stockholders. He has reason to believe that he is now the only survivor of the first railway board in Canada, and can boast of having seen the first mile of railway in Canada and the first locomotive that ran over it. For thirty-five years he has been a coroner in Charlotte County. Since 1849 he has had charge of the Marine hospital and the quarantine affairs of the port. When the "Star" arrived here in 1847, with nine-tenths of her two hundred or more passengers sick of fever, they were placed on Quarantine Island, where between 75 and 100 of them died. Dr. Gove, Dr. Edwin Bayard and Commissioner Boyd were stricken down with the typhus at the same time, but they recovered.
The Doctor related an incident which occurred during he dark days of the Charlotte county bank, and which may even yet have an interest for some people. The bank had been carrying a pretty heavy load, and had got in debt to the bank of New Brunswick to the extent of about 8,000 pounds and they were pressing them for it very hard. The board, in order to re-establish their credit, determined upon paying the amount, and Dr. Gove was selected to carry the specie to Saint John. He started on his mission early one evening, with a pair of horse, the late Cornaby Morris, with a brace of heavy horse-pistols, accompanying him. At that time the road between St. Andrews and Saint John was infested by runaway sailors and fugitives from justice, who were trying to get to the American lines, and precautions of this kind were quite necessary. It was about breakfast time when he drove up to the residence of Mr. Thomas Millidge, who was then president of the Bank of New Brunswick. It was with fear and trembling that the had gone on his errand on account of the position the Bank of NB had taken in pressing them, but he found his old schoolfellow, Mr. Millidge, equal to the occasion, and the business was got through with very pleasantly.
Dr. Gove is still in good health and is as smart on foot as many men half his years. He attributes this fact to the disuse of rum and tobacco.