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STIMSON, ELAM, physician; b. 4 Oct. 1792 at Tolland, Connecticut; m. first, in 1819, Mary Anne Frances Bolles, by whom he had five children, and secondly, in 1832, Susan Bolles, by whom he had four children; d. 1 Jan. 1869 at St George, Ont.

Elam Stimson was the youngest in a poor family of 12 children, and as an adolescent he worked to support his family. He served as a sergeant in the United States Army for a year during the War of 1812, a time he considered “all but lost to me as regards usefulness. . . .” Following his service he returned to Tolland, taught school, and worked as a farm labourer while studying medicine with the village physician. In 1817–18 he attended lectures at the Medical Institute of Yale College, and in the fall of the latter year attended the New Hampshire Medical Institution at Dartmouth College. He was granted the degree of md in April 1819 and returned to Tolland to practise.

In 1823 Stimson moved with his family to St Catharines, Upper Canada, and was licensed to practise by the Medical Board of Upper Canada on 7 July. He moved to Galt (Cambridge) in 1824 whence he travelled on horseback to patients in neighbouring townships. In 1831 he moved to London, where he formed a partnership with Dr James Corbin and was appointed a coroner and physician to the jail. In 1832 immigrants infected with cholera spread an epidemic from Quebec to western Upper Canada, and all cholera victims were quarantined upon entering the London District.

In a pamphlet published in 1835 Stimson vividly described cholera symptoms: “Spasms are . . . severe, attacking the legs, thighs and body. The fingers and toes are shrivelled and purple or black. The veins . . . are only flat black lines . . . and to the feel the skin is like a cold wet hide. . . .” Stimson considered the “remote cause of cholera to be some Atmospheric Impurity and the Proximate Cause an Imperfection in the Performance of the Chemical Functions of the Lungs.” His treatment was massive doses of calomel with ginger tea and alcohol, and copious bleeding of the patient. Many of Stimson’s patients, including his wife and a son, died.

In the fall of 1832 Stimson went to Connecticut where he married a younger sister of his first wife. The next year he returned to Upper Canada and settled at St George, where he practised until his death in 1869. One of his sons, Elam Rush, became a Church of England clergyman and was editor of the Church Herald (Toronto) and author of History of the separation of church and state in Canada (Toronto, 1887).

C. M. Godfrey

Elam Stimson was the author of The cholera beacon, being a treatise on the epidemic cholera as it appeared in Upper Canada in 1832–4 . . . (Dundas, [Ont.], 1835). C. T. Campbell, Pioneer days in London; some account of men and things in London before it became a city (London, Ont., 1921). Canniff, Medical profession in U.C. Edwin Seaborn, “The Asiatic cholera in 1832 in the London District,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XXXI (1937), sect.ii, 153–69; The march of medicine in western Ontario (Toronto, [1944]).

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Cite This Article

C. M. Godfrey, “STIMSON, ELAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 30, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/stimson_elam_9E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/stimson_elam_9E.html
Author of Article:   C. M. Godfrey
Title of Article:   STIMSON, ELAM
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   January 30, 2023