Dr. Edmund Burke Donnelly was born in Ireland in 1819, the son of Patrick Donnelly and the former Maria Catherine Caldwell. It is unclear if he met and married his wife Anne McGuire in Ireland or in Canada, but it is known that Anne was born in Ireland in 1818.
In 1837, Dr. Donnelly travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana to assist with an outbreak of yellow fever. He was accompanied by his friend Dr. Thomas William Johnston of Lambton County. There were 412 deaths that year attributed to yellow fever.
Dr and Mrs. Donnelly became the parents of 5 children, 2 boys and 3 girls. Their eldest son Hadley was born in Canada around 1839. The next 2 children, Maria and Catherine were born in the United States and the last 2 children, Alice and Frank were born in Canada.
Dr. Donnelly, practiced in Chatham from 1849 to 1871. Dr. Donnelly’s office was listed in the 1851 Canada Directory as being on King Street in Chatham. Mrs. Donnelly died at her father’s home in Blairsville, Pennsylvania on the 19th of January 1856. A notice of her death appeared in the Weekly Planet on the 7th of February 1856. (The Weekly Planet was the name of the Chatham newspaper, at that time.)
Dr. Donnelly made a name for himself, when a train crashed at Jeanette’s Creek. As a coroner for the County of Kent, he called an inquest into the train collision. The collision occurred on the 27th of October, 1854. A total of 52 people were killed and 48 people were injured. There wasn’t a hospital in Chatham and the dead and the injured were taken to where Tecumseh Park stands today. The inquest concluded that human error was to blame for the train accident.
Dr. Donnelly married Mary Grant on the 1st of October, 1857 in L’Orignal, Ontario. She was the daughter of Alexander and Jane Grant.
Dr. Donnelly was listed as a coroner in the County of Kent from 1854 to 1871.
In 1871, Dr. Donnelly resided in Essex County. An advertisement appears in the 1871 Lovell’s Ontario Directory under Windsor, advertising Dr. Donnelly’s medical practice. Dr. Donnelly travelled to California in poor health later, in hopes that the weather would improve his health. After returning to Canada he died in Essex County on the 28th of January, 1873. He was buried at Assumption Cemetery in Windsor, Ontario.