Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott

In the middle of the last century, Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott was a distinguished figure in the medical field in Ontario.  His father, Wilson R. Abbott, was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1801, the child of free parents, and became a notable example of the persecuted Black freedman who fled from the south in hopes of safer conditions in the north.  He ultimately emigrated to Canada in 1835, accumulated a modest fortune, and raised a distinguished family.

To understand the determination of Dr. Abbott to succeed it might help to understand the strength and determination of his father.  While in Richmond, Wilson Abbott was apprentice to a carpenter, but because he resented being away from home at the age of fifteen, he ran away and went to Alabama where he worked in a hotel for his room and board.  He went on from there to serve as a steward on one of the palatial steamboats on the Mississippi and was injured by a falling piece of wood.  He was nursed back to the health by Miss Ellen Toyer, a maid travelling with a wealthy Boston woman.  Wilson married Ellen in 1830 and moved with his new bride to Mobile, Alabama.  There he bought property and opened a successful provisions store.(1)

The Nat Turner insurrection of 1831, in Virginia,(2) alarmed the white population, and many of the Black storekeepers feared losing their shops to White ruffians.  Being warned of such an attack on his store, Abbott withdrew what money he had in the bank and headed for New Orleans with his wife and family.  He never returned to Mobile and as a result, lost the real estate and goods he left behind.

Eventually he moved to New York and after encountering many of the same hostilities as in the south, he decided to settle in Canada.  He lived in Toronto until his death in 1878, at the age of 77, at the home of his son-in-law, F. L. Hubbard.  He proved to be an honourable, industrious and reliable citizen and was elected to the Toronto council from St. Patrick's Ward, defeating Captain Emsley by 40 votes.

His son, Dr. Anderson Abbott, had a notable scholastic career.  He was educated in the Elgin Settlement, and was on e of the first graduates of the school started by Rev. William King,  Anderson studied medicine at the university of Toronto, and in 1861, became licentiate of the Medical Board of Upper Canada.(3)  In 1863, he served as a surgeon in the United States army at Camp Parker or Barker, and was placed on duty under Dr. Augusta.  He was the surgeon in charge at the Washington Hospital until he resigned in April of 1866.

Dr. Abbott returned to Canada and in 1871, he married Mary Ann Casey and came to practice medicine in Chatham, Ontario.  The Abbott residence was on Park Street beside his brother-in-law Philip Judah.(4)

While in Canada, Dr. Abbott was very involved in community affairs, as president of Wilberforce Educational Institute from 1873 to 1880.  He was the Associate Editor of the Missionary Messenger, a monthly paper published by the British Methodist Episcopal Church(5), and president of the Chatham Literary and Debating Society (6).  For one year, 1878, he was President of Chatham's Medical Society and one of the first Coroner's for the County of Kent.  Dr. Abbott's office was in the Hunton Block on William Street, where he practiced medicine while in Chatham.

In 1881, he moved from Chatham to Dundas after a fruitful decade in this area.  Dr. Abbott died in December 1913.(7)


(1) The Freedom Seekers - Daniel G. Hill 1981, pg. 205

(2) Slave insurrection ends with leader being hanged on Nov. 11, 1831 - pg. 3 of section 14 in News of the Nation - By Hoffman

(3) The Anderson R. Abbott papers - Toronto Public Library

(4) Interview with Alberta Judah Price

(5) Chatham early newspapers and pamphlets - Chatham Public Library

(6) Chatham Daily Planet, Sept. 20, 1875 - Library - Dr. Abbott addressed the students at the Princess Street School.

(7) Chatham Daily News, Dec. 3, 1913 - Dr. A. R. Abbott's death as recorded in the Toronto Globe.

(8) Wilson R. Abbott purchased 1/2 acre of land on Wellington St. E. Lot 181 on Nov. 2, 1847. (Land Registry).

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