Biography of Robert J. Gunn, M.D.

Robert John Gunn, thirty-seven years a Physician and Surgeon in Whitby, was born in the parish of Watten, County of Caithness, Scotland, February 14, 1815, his father being Rev. Alexander Gunn, a Minister of the Kirk of Scotland, and his mother, Elizabeth nee Arthur. His maternal grandfather, Robert Arthur, was also a Minister of the same denomination. Robert was educated at a private school and at the University of Edinburgh; studied medicine in that city; became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; practiced two years at Thurso, in his native county; in the autumn of 1842 he emigrated to Canada West, now Ontario, and settled in Whitby, and has practiced here steadily, with the exception of three or four months, from that date, being a Licentiate of the Medical Board of Ontario.

When he first located in this township, what is now the town of Whitby, with its three thousand five hundred inhabitants, was nothing more than a four corners, with two or three stores, a post office, and a few mechanics’ shops. The country was thinly populated, the roads were poor, the streams rarely bridged, physicians scarce, and the Doctor had, from necessity, very long and tedious rides, often extending thirty miles northward through half cleared forests. In a work like this we cannot enter into the details of the hardships of a pioneer physician’s life; it must suffice to say that our subject had a liberal experience in such hardships, and that he shrank from none of them when duty called him to administer to the wants of the sick or injured. He promptly obeyed every summons, regardless of the state of the weather or roads, the seasons of the year or the hour of the night. To many an. humble cabin, far back in the little openings in the woods, his coming was like that of a messenger of mercy, affording relief to the distressed, and strengthening restoratives to the weak and feeble.

Dr. Gunn has been of no inconsiderable service to the public outside of his profession. He was trustee of the local schools sixteen or seventeen years, and chairman of that board part of the time; has been a Justice of the Peace equally as long; and after being in the town council several years, was mayor two terms. He has been Surgeon to the jail since Ontario became a separate county in 1853.

The Doctor is a member of the Presbyterian Church and served as elder of the same for a long period. Once or twice he has been appointed a delegate to the General Assembly. He is a member of the Masonic Order.

Dr. Gunn was married on the 24th of October, 1849, to Miss Agnes Pringle, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, then residing in the township of Whitby; and they have had four children, two dying young and two still living. Elizabeth Arthur is the wife of Mr. Angus McKay, a farmer in the township of Pickering, and Mary Ann is the wife of Mr. John Ball Dow, barrister, Whitby.



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