Dr. John Lang Bray was born on the 8th of May 1841 in Kingston Ontario. His parents were William Bray and the former Eliza Jane Lang. He was the eldest of 11 children. His siblings included Clarence, Blanche, William, Adelia, Caroline, Laura, Florence, Edith, Horace and Harold. Dr. Bray graduated M.D. from Queen’s University in 1863 and he was issued a provincial licence the same year. After graduation, he immediately enlisted in the medical branch of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. At one point, Dr. Bray was one of eight physicians responsible for administering to four thousand sick and wounded patients in Libby Prison, a Confederate prison in Richmond, Virginia.
After spending about six months with the Confederate Army, Dr. Bray moved north. He arrived in Wallaceburg in the fall of 1863, and opened the town’s first medical practice. Two years later, Dr. Bray moved his practice to Chatham. He served as the Medical Officer for the Chatham Branch of the Royal Canadian Rifles, and he was also a highly regarded coroner. According to the 1872 Ontario Medical Register, Dr. Bray joined the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 18th of May, 1866.
Dr. Bray married Madeline Isobel Noel in June of 1867. She was born in Savannah, Georgia, on the 31st of January, 1847, the daughter of John V. Noel and the former Ellen Kyle. She was living in Kingston, Ontario with her parents and her 4 sisters and one brother, according to the 1861 census.
Dr. and Mrs. Bray had 3 sons; Reginald Vavasour Bray was born in February of 1869, Walter Treleaven Bray was born on the 16th of January, 1873 and John Noel Bray was born in February of 1881.
Dr. Bray’s practice was listed in many business directories over the years. According to the 1877 Chatham Directory his office was located “over Tackaberry’s Store, King St. West” and his home was located on Wellington Street. According to the 1888 Chatham Town Directory his residence was listed on Wellington Street opposite Forsyth Street.
In September of 1878, Dr. Bray delivered a paper on amputation at the Canadian Medical Association (C.M.A.) in Hamilton, Ontario. In September of 1891 he was elected President of the C.M.A. In January of 1892 Dr. Bray published an article on malaria. In December of 1895 he spoke at the 19th annual banquet at Trinity College. In May of 1902 Dr. Bray was elected to the Ontario Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In April of 1903, he was appointed as consulting physician of the National Sanitarium Association.
When not practicing medicine, Dr. Bray enjoyed playing outdoor sports and he was also extremely active in local politics. He was elected to the Chatham Town Council in 1873, and he was elected second Deputy Reeve of Chatham in 1885. In 1890, Dr. Bray initiated the discussions with the Sisters of St. Joseph to open a hospital in Chatham. On the 15th of October, 1890 the former Salvation Army Barracks building at Centre and School Street was opened as a temporary hospital. St. Joseph’s Hospital on King Street at Robertson Avenue was officially dedicated on the 21st of January, 1892. Dr. Bray was also heavily involved in the establishment of the Public General Hospital. He was elected President of the Canadian Medical Association in September of 1891. Dr. Bray was the Chairman of the Chatham Water Board for 6 terms. He was selected to speak at the 19th annual banquet of Trinity Medical College in 1895. In November of 1902, Dr. Bray was elected to the Ontario Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1903, he was appointed as Consulting Physician of the National Sanitarium Association. In January of 1904, Dr. Bray was the delegate to the American International Congress.
Dr. Bray received the degree of L.L.D. on the 26th of April, 1905 in Kingston, Ontario at a special ceremony at Queen’s University. The honor was bestowed upon him by the Governor General of Ontario, Lord Earl Grey. Dr. Bray continued his practice in Chatham until 1907, when he was named Registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and he moved to Toronto to fulfill his duties. Dr. Bray resigned from his position as Registrar in July of 1915, due to ill health. Dr. Bray was in Toronto when he passed away on the 24th of November 1915. Mrs. Bray died in New York in 1926. Dr. and Mrs. Bray are buried at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.
*His son, Dr. Reginald Vavasour Bray is also featured on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.