Dr. Charles Baird Oliver was born in Perth County, near the town of St. Mary’s on January 21st, 1866. His parents David Oliver and the former Agnes Robertson were of Scottish descent. Dr. Oliver was the 9th of 11 children and his siblings were; John, James, David, Agnes, Jane, William, Margret, Robert, Mary and Isabella.
He went to school in St Mary’s, Ontario and furthered his education at Trinity College in Toronto. He graduated M.D., C.M. in 1890. According to the 1928 Ontario Medical Register, Dr. Oliver joined the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 22nd of May, 1890. His first medical practice was in Ruthven (Essex County).
He married Nellie N. Bickell on the 13th of May, 1891 in Hibbert Twp., Perth County. She was born on the 12th of July, 1866 near Staffa, Hibbert Twp, Perth Cty. She was the youngest of 4 children born to William Bickell and the former Eliza Cudliff. Her parents were farmers and her siblings were; Fred, Sarah and Carrie. Mrs. Oliver was only 4 years old when her mother died. Her father re-married and she had 4 more siblings from his second marriage.
Dr. and Mrs. Oliver had 4 children; Roland Oliver was born in Ruthven on the 10th of April, 1892 (He did not survive his childhood). Douglas Robertson Oliver was born on the 23rd of January in 1894 in Ruthven, Marjorie Hamilton “Mavis” Oliver was born on the 14th of November, 1898 in Chatham-Kent. Another daughter Agnes Helen Oliver was born in Merlin on the 15th of December, 1900. Sadly she died on the 3rd of May, 1901 of heart failure.
In 1911 a fire in the downtown core of Merlin destroyed Dr. Oliver’s medical office and the adjoining Layman-Oliver Drug Store. He did not rebuild his office.
Early on in his career, he found his calling in obstetrics. He attended a post-graduate course of studies in 1911 at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Ireland and in hospitals in London, England. His post graduate education specialized in maternity medicine.
Dr. Oliver moved his family and his medical practice in Chatham in 1912. Dr. Oliver delivered the most difficult cases, often called in during the last critical moments. He appears in the 1913 Bell Telephone Directory. His office was located at 53 King Street West and his telephone number was 804. Dr. Oliver’s residence was located at 212 Wellington Street West and his home telephone number was 805. During the war, Dr. Oliver attended the families of men who were serving overseas without charge.
Dr. Oliver enjoyed bowling and he won The Free Press Trophy at a bowling tournament in Wallaceburg on the 21st of August, 1919. He also enjoyed playing baseball, golf and hunting. In September of 1922, Dr. Oliver was appointed to the College of Physicians and Surgeons Examining Board, to officiate obstetric exams. Dr. and Mrs. Oliver sponsored an Armenian child brought to Canada to be educated and given the name John Oliver. The child lived at the Armenian Orphans farm in Georgetown, Ontario and he was known to have a beautiful singing voice. Dr. Oliver also had an excellent singing voice and he sang in the St. Andrew’s Church choir and he also sang as a tenor soloist. Dr. Oliver was President of the committee that erected the soldiers memorial (the Cenotaph) at the entrance of Tecumseh Park. Dr. Oliver was a member of the Masonic Lodge.
Dr. Oliver was raised in the Presbyterian faith and became an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Chatham. He later moved to the St. Andrew’s United Church. In 1926 he ran for the West Kent Provincial Conservative seat but was defeated by the Rev. A. C. Calder. Dr. Oliver was against the proposed legalized sale of liquor and public opinion was in favor of the legalization of alcohol.
In his spare time, Dr. Oliver was fascinated by the study of astronomy and he lectured on it extensively. He loved to camp and hike and study wildlife and he was considered an expert on the subject. In his autobiography, “Wild Goose Jack”, Jack Miner referred to Dr. Oliver as his friend. He was an honorary president of the Canadian Legion and he was a supporter of the war monument on Memorial Square in Chatham. Dr. and Mrs. Oliver resided at 212 Wellington Street West in Chatham and according to the 1921 and the 1929 Vernon City Directory, Dr. Oliver’s office was located at 35 King Street West.
Mrs. Oliver belonged to the I.O.D.E. and the Ladies Assisting Society of the Public General Hospital. She was an avid reader and enjoyed travelling with her husband. Dr. and Mrs. Oliver owned a home at Erie Beach and Mrs. Oliver was an ardent gardener.
Mrs. Oliver died at her residence in Chatham on the 6th of March, 1933.
Shortly before Dr. Oliver died, a newborn baby needed a blood transfusion. Dr. Oliver gave the baby his own blood. That baby’s name? Dr. John Arthur Roe. Already in poor health, this selfless act saved Dr. Roe’s life but endangered his own. Dr. Oliver died at his residence in Chatham on the 19th of November, 1933.
Dr. and Mrs. Oliver are interred in the mausoleum at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.
*Dr. Oliver’s son, Douglas Robertson Oliver became a well-known journalist. Douglas Oliver enlisted in World War I with the Canadian Armed Services and served overseas in France. Douglas Oliver is featured on the ‘Gathering Our Heroes’ website.
**Dr. John Arthur Roe also appears on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
***Dr. Oliver’s residence at 212 Wellington Street West was demolished and a retail outlet was built in it’s place.