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The Country Doctor

What memories this name calls to the minds of our elders, those who experienced a lifetime before hospital and medical insurance. In those days patients had to pay for medical and hospital care. Our seniors can still see their country doctor on snowshoes, in a sleigh or car, going to the furthest concessions, come rain come shine, where one being was born and where another was threatened in its existence.

All of rural Canada had their country doctor. Current research suggests that Dr. Pinquet was the first doctor in Madawaska. His letters to his friend Caroline show that when posted at Fort Ingal (Cabano, Quebec) from 1839 to 1840, he had treated patients in Madawaska, and subsequently had settled there. In a letter dated February 19, 1846 and addressed to the Bishop of Quebec, the pastor of Saint Basile, Monsignor Antoine Langevin, says: “You ask me news of Dr. Pinquet; he is a nice boy, I see him from time to time around, but the truth must be told, he does not like his profession, he loves hunting, fishing, socializing and neglects the sick ... ”.

The country doctors known by our seniors were more professional. The census of 1861 lists two names of doctors in Madawaska (then Victoria): Dr. George Currier in Grand Falls, and Dr. Florent Fournier, in Edmundston, who probably succeeded Dr.Pinquet. Born in 1824 in the part of Madawaska that would be given to the United States in 1842, Florent Fournier began his medical studies at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Dr. Fournier practiced his profession in both in the U.S. and Canadian parts of Madawaska during the latter half of the nineteenth century. The recognition of his status as a doctor was assured in 1882 in the Medical Act of New Brunswick. Dr. Fournier’s reputation, the first country doctor from Madawaska was conveyed to us by witnesses of his dedication.

The last real country doctor in the area was probably Dr. Honoré Cyr, from Saint Basile. The artist Claude Picard chose him as a model for this painting because he personally saw him at work. Dr. Cyr arrived in Madawaska in the 1920s, and became the doctor of the poor, continuing until the 1960s to treat patients in their homes; in addition to this job he was anaesthetist at the hospital. We must also make note of his political involvement for the “reds” (the Liberals).

Madawaska’s last professional country doctor, Dr. Cyr died in January, 1987 at the age of 97.

G. Desjardins
Université de Moncton campus d'Edmundston Société Historique du Madawaska Ville d'Edmundston Patrimoine Canadien