Happy Birthday, Dr. Jenkins!

Dr. Willard Miles Jenkins, c 1950

Dr. Willard Miles Jenkins, c 1950

Dr. Williard Miles Jenkins, who was born at Kars, Kings County 19 April 1884.  While growing up on the Belleisle Bay, his family had hoped he would become a Baptist preacher, but in 1908 he graduated from McGill University and returned home to New Brunswick.  After first working at Hampstead in collaboration with Dr. Casswell in Gagetown, Dr. Jenkins eventually moved to Gagetown in 1920 when Dr. Casswell retired to Nova Scotia.  Dr. Jenkins opened a large medical and surgical practice which served three counties.  He was known to travel to patients homes with his collapsible operating table and complete surgical kit, and was the first to give spinal anesthetic east of Montreal.  Jenkins was often aided by Dr. McGrand during major surgery.

portable operating table, 1895-1920

portable operating table, 1895-1920

This operating table was likely home-made using a pattern or instructions based on other models available around the same time.  One such portable operating table was made famous by London-born Dr. Victor Bonney circa 1901.  Bonney’s surgical table was purchased from the manufacturer, Allen & Hanburys Ltd. The design incorporated A-frame legs and supports which were hinged to plywood and collapsed flat.  The patient was secured to the table using removable stirrups made from canvas straps.  Dr. Bonney is reputed to have stored his portable table in a canvas bag in the trunk of his Rolls Royce so that he was able to “complete three or more operations a day by rotating staff and equipment with a chauffeur driven Lanchester or Rolls Royce” (as quoted Campbell, 2003).

According to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2003; 43: 190-191), “prior to the 19th century ordinary kitchen tables were used for operative purposes, because many operations were performed in homes.”  The journal reports the first literature on the subject of operating tables can be traced back to 1829, though the first portable operating tables only appeared in 1863.

In a letter date 16 January 1959 to George MacBeath, New Brunswick Museum, Dr. Jenkins notes that the table “belonged to and was used by Dr. A. Lapthame Smith who operated a private hospital on McGill College Ave., Montreal.  When he was finished with it he gave it to Dr. Casswell who in turn gave it to me when he left Gagetown in 1920.”  Mr. MacBeath was apparently planning a medical exhibition and wished to borrow the table.  The McCord Museum of Canadian History, Montreal, has a photograph of a Dr. A.L. Smith, Montreal, dated 1880.  See file for copies of the NBM/Dr Jenkins correspondence courtesy of the NBM, and a copy of the Dr. Smith photograph from the McCord.

instruments of torture?

instruments of torture?

Dr. Jenkins was known throughout Queens County and beyond and to this day, visitors to the Tilley House, when viewing his medical equipment, remark on a tooth her removed, an appendix surgery or a sick cow he doused with some miracle drug.  At home in Gagetown he lived on a farm on what is now Doctor’s Hill and had a herd of prized Jersey cows.  When he died in 1968, the community mourned not only a great physician, but a well known friend.  His daughter, Patricia, donated his equipment to the collection where it has been exhibited every since.

For more information about Dr. Jenkins, to view his medical equipment in person or share your memories, visit the Tilley House or contact us at info@queenscountyheritage.com!

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7 Responses to Happy Birthday, Dr. Jenkins!

  1. Anne Ryan says:

    Thanks for a great post. My parents (Greta adn Walter Appleby) certainly recounted stories about Dr. Jenkins’ time as a resident of Hampstead and the fact that he traveled to his patients by car. A memorable figure in our local history.

  2. Thanks, Anne. He would make a great thesis project for an enterprising student or a the subject of a book outright. A fascinating fellow for sure.

  3. Anne Ryan says:

    Do we have any journals or letters of Dr. Jenkins?

  4. There are none in the QCH collection, however they may exist in the hands of the family.

  5. Ann Scovil says:

    I know many colourful and loving stories of Dr. Jenkins from my father who hung out with him in Dad’s younger years, most of which are too colourful to post. Thanks for recognizing him. I do believe he made a very big impact both medically and socially in the community.

  6. Linda Osborne Scott says:

    Happy Birthday to a great man – the Baptist minister makes me smile. I have great memories of him and many many stories from my father who he treated like another son and my mother who was his nurse of a few high rising. He delivered many babies at our house when I was growning up. Many stories and memories. Remarkable man.

    • Shirley White says:

      Dr. Jenkins took my tonsils out when I was eleven years old at my home. Tthat was’nt yesterday). He was a great loved doctor.

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