Dr. Thomas Robert McInnes was born November 5th, 1840 in Lake Ainslie, Nova Scotia. His parents, John McInnes and the former Mary Hamilton were immigrants from Scotland. Dr. McInnes had an older brother named Loftus Robert McInnes, who is also featured on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
Dr. Thomas Robert McInnes served with the Union Army during the American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865).
Dr. McInnes’ name appears in the 1864-1865 County of Kent Gazetteer and General Business Directory under the heading of Dawn Mills (see below). According to a write-up that appears in the 1864-1865 Gazetteer and Business Directory, Dawn Mills was a village that was laid out in 1863 “on the third lot of the seventh and eighth concessions of the Gore of Camden”. The Town Hall was “a fine brick building” that had been erected ” a few years ago”.
On the 5th of October, 1865 Dr. McInnes married Martha Eleanor (Griggs) Webster. Her husband George Webster had been a merchant in Dresden. He died on the 31st of August, 1862 at the age of 39. Martha had at least 2 children, prior to Mr. Webster’s death; Martha Jennie Webster and Barbara Lillie Webster. According to the 1861 census Mrs. Martha E. Webster was living with her 2 daughters as well as William Griggs and Margaret Griggs (presumed to be her brother and sister). Her daughter Barbara died in April of 1862. George Webster and his daughter Barbara are buried at the Butler Cemetery, 30452 Brick Road, Kent County.
According to the 1872 Ontario Medical Register, Dr. McInnes earned a medical degree from the Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois in 1869. He joined the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 1st of October, 1869.
Dr. and Mrs. McInnes had two sons born in Dresden; Thomas Robert McInnes who was born on October 29th, 1867 and William Wallace Burns McInnes who was born on April 8th, 1871. Dr. McInnes is listed in the 1869 Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory and the 1870 and 1871 Sutherland’s Gazetteer Business Directory as practicing in Dresden. Dr. and Mrs. McInnes raised their children at a home located at 396 Hughes Street in Dresden. This home is included on the Chatham-Kent Municipal Heritage Register. His medical office was located in the same building as the mercantile.
Dr. McInnes served as a Village Councillor and then Reeve in 1874. In May of 1874 he moved his family to New Westminster, British Columbia. Dr. McInnes’ brother Dr. Loftus R. McInnes was already living there. Dr. Thomas R. McInnes continued to practice medicine and worked at the Royal Columbian Hospital.
An interesting story appears in the May 30th 1874 edition of the Mainland Guardian newspaper. “Successful Operation at the R.C. Hospital”, “On 26th inst., Dr. T. R. McInnes, assisted by his brother L.R. McInnes, removed the injured leg of Mr. (Anthony) Twentyman, who accidentally shot himself at Dog Creek. It was diseased, so that amputation was a simple necessity; the division, from the progress upward of the disease, required to be made at the union of the middle with the lower third of the femur……This, we are told, is the first operation of the kind at our hospital.” Mr. Twentyman made a complete recovery and returned to his job as a miller.
Dr. McInnes was appointed as a coroner and in July of 1878, he was made Superintendent of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, as it was known as then. Dr. McInnes was elected Mayor of New Westminster in 1877. On March 25th of 1878, he was acclaimed to the Federal House of Commons as an independent and in 1879 he was elected in a general election. Prime Minister John A. MacDonald appointed Dr. McInnes to the Senate on December 24th, 1881. In 1897, Dr. McInnes was appointed the 6th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. He held this position until 1900.
Both of his sons became lawyers. Thomas Robert McInnes eventually changed the spelling of his last name to MacInnes. Thomas travelled extensively and he is considered a great Canadian author and poet. He acted as his father’s private secretary during his tenure as Lieutenant Governor. William Wallace Burns McInnis held the Vancouver seat in the B.C. legislature for Sir Wilfred Laurier. Eventually William McInnes became a judge.
There is a street in New Westminster that was named after Dr. Thomas R. McInnes and his brother Dr. Loftus R. McInnes.
Dr. McInnes died in Vancouver, B.C. on November 18th, 1904. He was interred at the Vancouver Crematorium.
*The webmaster is grateful to the New Westminster Archives for the photograph below of Dr. McInnes, Item #574 and Record #98556. Used with permission.