SOMETIMES it seems to
me that for twelve or fourteen years past I have been, to a great
extent, only a fit subject for the doctors to experiment upon. For that
length of time I have been suffering more or less from some sort of
disabilities. During that time I have been in the hands of a number of
medical men in different localities where I have resided.
And here I may say, whatever the doctors that I am acquainted with may
think of me, I have learned to esteem them very highly indeed. There was
a time when I had but little love for doctors—not much more than I had
for lawyers. Then I looked upon both of these professions as merely
money - getting institutions.
But an experience, such as but few men have passed through, has given me
entirely different views and feelings in regard to the medical
profession. My mind is not nor never has been fully settled as to the
utility of lawyers in human society. Whether, on the whole,
the world would not be better without them is, I think, an open
question. But the doctors could not be dispensed with. .
I have a very great respect for the medical men that I have become
familiar with, not only because of the importance of their work in
relieving suffering and saving life ; but I respect them on account of
the warm sympathies, the sterling principles, and the manly qualities
that I have so frequently found in them.
My own personal afflictions, and what the doctors have done for me, will
be the subject treated of in this chapter. I know that sickness and pain
are gloomy subjects to speak or write about; but my excuse for
presenting this part of my experiences is found in their unusual
character, and in the uncommon kindness shown to me and mine by medical
men, and by the public generally.
I do not write to attract attention to myself, or to elicit sympathy: I
have already had my share of both; but a sense of justice to those who
have reached out a helping hand in the dark hours of severe trials and
afflictions impels me to speak of them, and in doing so I must of
necessity speak of myself. With this explanation, I feel confident that
the reader will exonerate me from the charge of egotism on the one hand,
or childishness on the other.
When my time on the District expired, old Bishop Richardson asked me to
take Meaford, which was made vacant by putting its pastor, Rev. R.
Sanderson, as my successor in the presiding-eldership. I had already
been there for one term, besides a four years’ residence there while
travelling the district. At the time my name stood in the list of
appointments for Palermo. My whole ministerial life had been spent in
the back country. It required no little effort on my part to sacrifice
the chance for a better appointment than I had ever been favoured with;
but the Bishop was urgent, and I consented. I thought that I knew the
people of Meaford; but in this I was a little mistaken. I did not know
quite all of them, as I learned with a sad heart afterwards. When I came
home from Conference, I found opposition that was as unexpected as it
was unmerited. But I resolved to go on and do my duty at all hazards, no
matter what might come in the way, the Lord helping me.
My colleague and I laid our plans for a year of hard work. We intended
to go over the entire circuit with a series of revival meetings; but
those plans were never put into execution. I had just gone once over the
round of appointments when I was taken sick with what seemed like a
fever. After two or three days, Dr. Maclean was called. On examination
he prescribed for fever; but for several days there was no change for
the better. The remedies did not seem to produce the desired effect. One
day I called the doctor’s attention to a secret trouble that had been
slowly developing for years past, caused by an old injury which had been
received while breaking in an unruly horse. As soon as the doctor saw
the true state of the case, he said, “You may rely upon it, that thing
is at the bottom of all your present difficulty. Why did you not come to
me about it sooner? However, I will do the best I can now to help you;”
and the first thing he did was to perform a bit of surgery. This gave at
the time but a temporary relief. For five months I was an invalid in the
doctor’s hand. Some of the time I could fill my work in part, and at
other times I could do nothing. In the meantime my colleague, Hr. Thomas
Love, worked with all his might to keep up the interest of the work on
the circuit. He held one series of revival meetings alone, and there
were a number of conversions.
As the summer advanced it became quite evident that one of two things
was inevitable. Either I must submit to a very critical and tedious
operation or give up all hopes of a recoveiy. Believing as I do, that
men arc in duty bound to live as long as they can in this world, I
concluded to take the chances of a dangerous operation.
Dr. Mackintosh, of Meaford, and Dr. Hunt, of Clarksburg, were called to
assist Dr. Maclean in the difficult performance. After three hours and a
half of intensely anxious work, their task was completed, and their
patient alive; but my nervous system has never fully rallied from the
effects of that three and a half hours under the influence of
I have never been able to exercise the same amount of self-control that
I could before, and I have not the same power of endurance ; but still I
have great reason to be thankful to God for medical skill and human
kindness. Dr. Maclean could not have been more kind and attentive if I
had been his own brother.
Through all my afflictions, both of myself and family, during our seven
years’ residence in Meaford, he never accepted a single cent as
remuneration for his services. Many an earnest prayer has gone up from
my heart for the safety and happiness of the doctor and his family.
Neither did the other two doctors exact any pay for the assistance they
gave. The people, too, showed the greatest kindness to me and my family
in our time of trouble. May the Lord reward them for it, and guide them
to the home above where affliction and suffering are things unheard of.
Removal to Kincardine.
At the end of the Conference year I was sent to Kincardine. Three years
of hard labour there, with health only partially restored, finished up
my work in the active ranks of the itinerancy. My strength gave way so
that I was compelled to take a superannuated relation to the Conference.
And yet three different medical men, after they had examined me, each
one in his own office, said they could find no symptoms of organic
disease or functional derangement. The whole system seemed to be run
down. That was all that they could say. Dr. Secord, of Kincardine, said,
in his blunt, outspoken manner. “You are like an old ox that is half
starved through the winter and then overworked in the spring.” I said,
“Doctor, you have hit the truth, I think. But the starving is not for
lack of food to eat, but it is for want of an appetite to eat it. I can
hardly tell any difference in the taste of articles of diet, and I never
get hungry. What I eat is forced down, for I know that I must eat or
die.” The doctor prescribed for me and in a few months I so far
recovered as to be able to do some work both by preaching and otherwise.
But other trials and difficulties were in store for us. Our married
daughter, Mrs. Prentice, had taken cold while cleaning out a new house
that they had built, the plaster of which was only partially dry. The
cold culminated in consumption. She lingered along for two years and
then died, leaving behind her four children. Her home was at Heathcote.
Our other daughter had been with her sister the most of the time of her
illness, or about a year and a half. When she came home after the
funeral, it was easy to see that the same disease had marked her for
another victim. I said to my wife, “That new house is going to cost us
both of our daughters.” And so it came out at last.
But the summer that our second daughter died I passed through a strange
experience. The first intimation that I had that anything was going
wrong was a noise in my head that sounded like the dashing of the waves
of the lake against the shore, or like men sawing with a cross-cut saw.
After a few weeks I found my head getting dizzy. This grew on me very
gradually, until I was unable to walk with steadiness. Then, in a few
days more, a weakness seemed to seize upon every nerve and muscle of my
body, and I was completely helpless. For four weeks I was in this
condition. I was perfectly conscious, but I seemed to be living in the
region of the purely emotional. I had but little control of my feelings.
When any one came to see me it seemed to overcome me so that sometimes I
would weep like a child and could not tell what it was about. All this
time I had not a particle of pain. When any one would ask me how I was,
my answer generally was, “All right. A person that has no pain and no
condemnation surely should have no complaints.” My appetite was good ;
food never tasted better than it did at that time, though my wife had to
feed me like a child. The doctor told her from the first that my case
was hopeless, but in this he was destined to be disappointed. At the end
of the fourth week I told the doctor one day that I was getting better.
At first he seemed incredulous, but after trying two or three tests, he
said: “You really are getting better. I will come again in a day or two
and see how you are, as I do not want you to take one dose of medicine
more than is absolutely necessary. When he came to see me again I was
out in the garden under the trees. When he came out to me he said; “This
is a most wonderful thing; you are really going to get well.”
I said to him: “Doctor, some of the people say that it is in answer to
“Well, well,” said he, “it is in answer to something, but I think it is
to be attributed to a good constitution and a sober life.”
But it was after I could get up and stand on my feet that I found just
how far down I had been. I was greatly taken by surprise one day when I
took up a book to find that 1 could not read a single line. The letters
seemed to run all together. I tried to write on a piece of paper, but I
could not make a single letter. I would find myself sitting at the table
with a knife and fork and teaspoon in my hand. To decide which of them I
wanted to use would cost me a greater mental effort than it ever did to
frame the outline of a sermon when I was well.
While my strength returned our sick daughter grew worse, and on the
twenty-fifth of August, 1882, she went home. The last words she ever
spoke on earth were, “Jesus has come to take me home.” While writing
this, I have in my desk the breastplates taken from two coffins. On the
one is carved, “Philura Maud Prentice, died on the 22nd of November,
1879, aged 30 years and nine months.” On the other are the words, “Eliza
Ann Hilts, died August 25th, 1882, aged 30 years.” The bodies of these
two sisters are sleeping, one on the banks of the Georgian Bay, and the
other on the shores of Lake Huron, far apart. But their spirits are
among the shining ones along the banks of the river of life.
Before leaving this part of my narrative I must pause a little and
bestow a just meed of praise on one who has stood faithfully and
courageously by me in many a sore trial—one who, although she has her
foibles and weaknesses like other mortals, has on many occasions
exhibited the noblest characteristics of the true wife and mother.
During those dreary weeks while I was lying helpless in one room, and
our dying daughter in another, my wife had the care of both of us on her
hands, and for seven weeks she never got one night’s rest in her bed.
I used to look at her and wonder how she could be so calm and composed
under such an unusual strain both of body and mind. To be thus taxed to
the utmost limit of human endurance and still remain so completely
self-possessed, might be looked for in one whose heart was adamant and
whose nerves were steel. But it could hardly be expected from a tender
mother and a devoted, sympathising wife. But the Lord gives strength and
grace for every emergency to those who trust in Him according to His
word. I should have mentioned that for the three years past I had one
appointment in the town every Sabbath. While I was laid up this time,
Rev. Simon Terwilliger, who then resided in the town, kindly took the
work for me until I got able to resume it.
Under the successful treatment of Dr. Secord I so far recovered that the
next spring I undertook to assist Rev. D. L. Scarrow in the work on the
circuit. It was arranged that I should take charge of the two eastern
appointments, namely, Blackhorse and Kinlough.
I was to go out on the stage on Saturday, preach at both places on
Sunday, and go home again on the stage any day that suited me. The
proprietors of the stage —Messrs. John Kaake and Thomas Stewart—kindly
allowed me to go out and in for single fare. Some one of the
congregation would generally take me from one place to the other on the
Sabbath. When this was not convenient I walked. I followed this up
during the three summer months and I enjoyed it very much.
On the first Sabbath in September I was at my work apparently all right.
In the morning I preached and led the class at Kinlough. Then Mr. John
Nicols took me to the afternoon appointment where I preached and led the
class again. Then I went home with Mr. Anderson, where I stayed all
night. On Monday forenoon I went to Mr. Joseph Armstrong’s, and I was
around with him until the stage from Walkerton came along. Then I
started for home. I felt as well as usual until we got within a mile of
the little village of Bervie, seven miles from home. All of a sudden a
sharp pain took me in the back of the neck just below the base of the
brain. At first I thought but little about it, but in a few minutes it
seemed to dart up into my head, and the pain became most excruciating.
Then I turned sick and began to vomit as though I had had a large
As we came into the village I told the driver that I could not go home.
He said if I would go on he would drive through as fast as the horses
could go. I told him it was no use: I could not go on. He then asked me
which hotel I wished to go to. I told him not to take me to either of
them, saying, “I do not wish to die at a tavern, if 1 can help it. But
take me to Mr. William Temple’s; I think they will let me in.” They were
a young couple that I had married a few years before. When I came to the
door, Airs. Temple met me. I told her that I was too sick to go home,
and must find a shelter somewhere. She helped me into the house and said
they would do all they could for me.
I asked Mrs. Temple to call William and get him to go for Dr. Bradley,
who lived in Bervie, and then telegraph to her brother, Francis Sellery,
to bring out my wife. That was five o’clock on Monday afternoon, and it
is the last thing that I remember until Wednesday afternoon. It did seem
to me that if all the pains that I had ever suffered were concentrated
in one sharp hour it could not equal the intensity of anguish that I was
enduring when I went into the house that day.
On Wednesday evening, about seven o’clock, I seemed to wake up out of
sleep. It seemed to me that I had only a short nap; but I felt better.
The pain in my head was nearly all gone. I thought that perhaps, I could
get along without the doctor, as he had not come yet. I had not opened
my eyes yet, and, supposing that I was still at Bervie, I was somewhat
surprised to hear my wife and another woman of Kincardine talking in the
next room. I thought, “How is this that they are here so soon?” Just
then I opened my eyes and, to my great astonishment, found myself in my
own bed at home; but when or how I got there I had not the slightest
idea. I called my wife, and asked her how long I had been home, and how
I came. She said, “You have been here about and hour; but don’t you know
how you came home; don’t you remember when we came to the gate and
helped you out of the carriage, you said you could walk alone, and you
came into the house and lay down on the bed.” I had no remembrance of
anything of the kind. In fact, those fifty hours seem to have gone and
not left the faintest impression upon my memory, as I cannot recall a
single thing that occurred during that time; but those around me all
this time say that I was able to talk and answer any question just as
well as ever. They were all greatly surprised when I told them that I
could not remember what occurred.
Some time after I got better, I saw Mr. Temple, and he told me of some
things that took place at his house. He said, “ My wife sent for me to
the shop and requested me to come at once and bring the doctor with me.
I found him on the street, and we ran to my house as fast as we could.
He looked at you for a minute or two, and then said, “Mr. Hilts, you are
a very sick man.” Mr. Temple said my reply was, “Doctor, I did not send
for you to tell me that, for I knew all that before you came; but can
you not give me something to ease this dreadful pain in my head?” The
doctor said he could, and started to go out. When he got to the door, I
called him back and said, “Doctor, what is the matter with me?” He said,
“I cannot tell just yet; but it is a very severe attack of some kind.”
Then I said, “Well, doctor, the trouble is in the head; I had some kind
of brain trouble last year, and Dr. Secord gave bromide of potassium.”
Dr. Bradley was at a loss to know what to do. On Tuesday morning he went
to see Dr. Secord, and when he told him about the case, he asked what he
had given, and what was the effect produced. On being answered, he said
to Dr. Bradley, “That old man ought to have died last year, according to
all the declarations of medical science. You will see he will come
through this. You will find him better when you go back.” And so it
proved to be.
After I got home, Dr. Secord attended me. I recovered very slowly, and
had to give up all kinds of work for a while. In the meantime I moved
from Kincardine to Streetsville. But one word more about Dr. Secord. He
attended me and my family during the nine years of our residence in that
town, and when I would ask him about his bill, he would turn off to some
other subject; but before I left the place I told him I would like to
know how matters stood between us. He said, “You owe me nothing; I am
working my way to kingdom come by doctoring old ministers, free of
charge.” I hope he may succeed in reaching that place; but I also hope
that he may not find another “old minister,” or young one either, that
will draw as largely on his good nature and his science as I have done.
Success to him.
During the summer and fall of 1885, I felt that something was going
wrong with me; I grew weak and lost in flesh; my appetite became poor
and I seemed to be running down generally.
Then a severe and racking cough set in. My wife became uneasy, and sent
for Dr. Ockley, of Streetsville. He came, and brought with him his son,
Dr. Ockley, jun., who was home on a visit to his parents at the time.
After examination, they said that the trouble was caused by a pleuritic
affection of the right lung. In fact, the amount of aqueous fluid in the
pleura was so great that it prevented almost entirely the action of the
one lung, and pressed the other against the heart so as to dangerously
interfere with its functions.
At first, it was decided to adopt the usual mode of treatment by
blistering ; but after taking into consideration the progress that the
disease had already made, and the danger of a fatal termination unless
relief was speedily afforded, they proposed a quicker method of
treatment. To draw the water off with instruments was a shorter and less
painful way of combating the disease than the old tedious and weakening
process of a series of blisters. This plan was adopted, and it afforded
relief in an hour, by removing from the lung seven imperial pints of
water. The cure after this was rapid, and so far as can be ascertained
now after ten months, it is permauent.
Dr. Ockley, like the others, would make no charge, only for medicine
which was administered.
People talk sometimes about the critical periods in life. We hear of one
crisis here and another there as we are passing from the cradle to the
grave. I think that I have gone through 110 less than four critical
periods in the last twelve years. It is about that length of time since
the affair in Meaford. And I was told, after that was all over, that
three or four times during the operation the two younger doctors stepped
back and said: “There is no use in doing any more; the man is dead.” But
Dr. Maclean thought other wise, and so it proved. “But,” said he, when
he told me, “four or five times we had you down to the death line. There
is not more than one in a thousand that would have lived through it.”
At the time that I lay so long helpless in Kincardine, Dr. Secord told
me, after I got better, that he had never known of any one getting well
who was in the same condition that I had been in. When Dr. Bradley was
called to see me at Bervie, he said to Mrs. Temple: “The old man will
die at your house. He is too sick to be moved.” And at the time of my
last attack the doctors said it was very doubtful if I would have lived
a week longer if I had not been relieved.
So, kind reader, you see that when, at the beginning of this chapter, I
spoke of being a subject for the doctors to practice on, I was not
talking at random. I know what it is to look my wife in the face and
realize that she will very likely be a widow within an hour. When the
chance of life is only as one in a thousand, it seems to be well-nigh
hopeless, but human nature clings to that one chance till the last
moment, and faith proclaims that, with a Divine hand to lead us, the one
chance gives a safer and a stronger case than ten thousand to one in our
favour could offer us without that hand. Who would not, in the time of
trouble, like to feel the leading of that hand.
Besides my personal afflictions we have had our share of family
troubles. We know what it is to iook into the Hushed and feverish faces
of sick children and upon the cold and pallid features of dead ones. We
know just what it means to sit alone at the bedside of our sick, and
watch in silence for the end that seemed coining nearer as the weary
hours passed slowly on. To wait for daylight and the kind-hearted
doctor, as one listens to the low moanings of helpless sufferers, is not
a desirable task, but we have had to do it. When we were stationed at
Listowel our eldest son came home from his work sick with typhoid fever.
This dangerous disease was very prevalent in the community; people were
dying on every side. Our boy was very low. As the fever was running its
course the symptoms became very alarming. The people on the circuit were
afraid to come to the house. For seven weeks not one person entered our
house except the doctor and one neighbour woman; but with the blessing
of God upon his efforts, Dr. Pattison brought our boy through. He lived
and is alive yet. A word about the woman who did what others feared to
do. She was an Englishwoman, only out a short time. She used to come in
and help my wife every day, as she was not in good health at the time.
When asked if she was not afraid of catching the fever, she would say:
“I can’t let any one suffer for want of help while I can help them, and
I don’t believe that any one dies any sooner for doing one’s duty.” We
have often spoken of Mrs. Edmond Binning.
Three to Care For.
The next winter after our boy was sick our eldest girl was taken down
with the same fever. Again people were afraid to come to the house. My
wife was sick and confined to the bed, too, and there was a baby about a
month old to be cared for. Our friend Mrs. Binning was herself in poor
health, but she did what she could, and between us we managed to go on
in some way for three weeks, when I succeeded in getting a girl to help
in the work. All this time I had my appointments to meet. With the help
of Bro. James Vines and his brother Richard, two good local preachers,
the work was fully done, and the circuit sustained no loss because of my
home troubles. The next spring Mrs. Binning took diphtheria. My wife
returned to her the kindness she had shown to us, in part and in kind.
A Dislocated Joint.
When we lived in Thornbury we kept a cow. My wife always made her own
butter when she could. Like many other women, she is hard to please in
that important part of table supplies, and like others also she is
somewhat conceited about her own ability to make a good article. I have
never disputed with her on that point, for I thought she was not very
far astray in her ideas about the matter. Our cow was pasturing in a
field a little distance from the house. One morning my wife took the
pail as usual and went out to milk. In getting over some poles she
stepped on one that rolled, and put her ankle out of joint. She was near
the cow. After she met with the mishap she concluded that she would get
the milk anyway. In going up to the cow she made another misstep, and
sprung the ankle to its place again. However, she did the milking, after
which she hobbled to the house in some way. When I saw her face as she
came in I was frightened. She was as pale as a dead person and nearly
wild with pain. She did not walk a step for over a month. I took her to
see Dr. Maclean in Meaford. He said the ankle had been out of joint, but
had sprung back by a sudden twist that had been a terrible strain on the
tendons. That ankle was weak and troublesome for several years.
A Broken Bone.
I was away on a three weeks’ round of quarterly meetings. During the
last week I was conducting a camp-meeting at Melville, on the
Orangeville Circuit. There was a good work done at the meeting, but
toward the last I became very uneasy about home. I had heard nothing
since I left, and I felt almost certain that something was wrong.
We closed the meeting about four in the afternoon. I went to where my
horse was and hitched up and started for home. I drove twenty miles that
evening. Next morning I started and went twelve miles before breakfast.
In fact, I went home just as fast as my horse would take me. When I
arrived and drove up to the door I heard my wife moaning before I got
out of the buggy. I went in, and on inquiring what was the matter I
found that she had got her collar-bone broken the week before. It
happened in this way: She was milking the cow at the door. Some boys
came along snapping a whip. The cow got scared and made a sudden jump.
The woman could not get out of the way soon enough. She fell over. The
cow stepped on her and bruised her face and broke the collar-bone just
at the top of the shoulder. Dr. Maclean was called at the time, did all
that could be done, and left directions charging her not to use that arm
and to keep perfectly quiet. She had gone to knitting and had got things
displaced, and was afraid to call the doctor again because she had
As soon as I found the condition of things I hurried up street for the
doctor. He was away in the country. I went to a druggist and got the
best liniment he could make. The shoulder, when I looked at it, was
spotted purple and green. I applied the remedy and in twenty minutes she
found relief, and went off to sleep, which she greatly needed, as she
had but little since she was hurt. I never knew what were the
ingredients of that liniment, but it was a first-class thing.
When I asked why no word was sent to me, the children said their mother
would not allow them to send to let me know for fear it would disturb me
and interfere with my work at the camp-meeting. I think that I have said
enough for the present about doctors and doctoring.