Dr. Booth’s Infirmary
One of the first hospitals in Leeds County was operated near Forthton prior to 1870 by a pioneer physician, Dr. Booth.
Dr. Booth took up practice here around 1830, and built a large stone house on the east side of No.42 highway north of Forthton.
As his practice grew Dr. Booth put up a ten bed hospital which for years was know as “Dr. Booth’s Infirmary”. In her book “Leeds the Lovely”, Evelyn Purvis Earle wrote: “Every day those patients who were able were taken for a ride in the fresh air by this old fashion doctor, who was surprisingly modern in his views”.
The infirmary closed in the 1880’s and the building has collapsed over the years, so that nothing remains.
The hospital was built on the homestead of John Goldsmith Booth. John Goldsmith Booth III was the son of John Booth Jr. and his second wife Ruth Boyce.
The future doctor was born near Lyn on January 26th, 1804 being a grandchild of the first Booth to settle in Leeds, John Booth, Sr. His grandmother was the former Bethia Goldsmith, and her last name was passed on to him.
John Booth’s farm on the 7th Concession took in the present site of Forthton. This 200 acre homestead was a Crown Grant to John Booth and Allan McDonald. In September 1806, Allan McDonald sold the west half of Lot No. 35 to David Booth born in 1785, to John Booth Jr. and his wife Bethia Goldsmith Booth. At the time of sale John Goldsmith Booth was only two years of age, but was named as one of the buyers.
At the age of 20, John G. Booth wed 19 year old Catherine Purvis, the daughter of Yonge Front pioneers Peter Purvis and the former Catherine Gardiner. Catherine was the daughter of George Gardiner, the first settler at Yonge Mills.
Booth historians believe John G. and Catherine eloped because they were married at York, now Toronto. The Booths were Wesleyan Methodists, the Purvis family staunch Presbyterians. There is a suspicion that the marriage created a mild rift in the Purvis Family, but since John G. and Catherine named their first child Peter after his grandfather, they were forgiven.
After the wedding John G. took over the Unionville homestead. John constructed a stone building and attached it to his home via a passageway. Later he added a herb preparation room, stables and out buildings. The main infirmary between Dr. Booth’s dwelling and the herb dispensary was furnished with wide verandas on both first and second floors.
These verandas were used to give his patients an airing when they needed it, It appears that there were five patients’ rooms on the ground floor and another five above.
Booth’s Hospital was known as the “Electrick Infirmary”, but was called “Hydergia Hall” by the builder. Booth named his own dwelling “Hygea House”.
A believer in natural medicine, Booth grew his own herbs and manufactured his own medicines. The hospital was supplied with food from his own homestead.
Dr. Booth and his wife had four daughters, Catherine married to neighbouring farmer George Percival; June, Ruth and Mary. John’s son Peter lived on the property with his wife Eliza and two children Charles an Jessie. Peter at the age of 17 started to teach school at Glen Buell.
Dr. Booth’s wife Catherine died in May 1854. He remarried in December 1855 to Margaret Fairbairn of Beverly (Delta). His happiness was short lived for he died on March 11, 1856 at the age of 52. Margaret later wed one of Dr. Booth’s colleagues, Dr. G.A. Edwards. She died February 20, 1977 aged 52 years.
(Recorder and Times, Darling Scrapbook No.3)
The drawing of the Booth Infirmary was done by John C.Lamontagne