Dr. William Abraham Groves was born in Fergus, Ontario on the 21st of March, 1877. His parents were Dr. Abraham Groves and the former Jane “Jeannie” Gibbon. His father had been born in Ireland and he was a family physician and surgeon in Fergus. Dr. William Groves had one sister, Laura Kathleen Groves, who was born on the 7th of June, 1879.
Dr. Groves was educated in the Fergus area and graduated from Fergus High School before attending The University of Toronto. He graduated B.A. in 1899. While studying for his B.A., Dr. Groves played hockey, lacrosse and football. He was also a member of the Literary Club and he served as the Historical Club secretary. Dr. Groves continued his studies and graduated M.B. from The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in 1903. According to the 1928 Ontario Medical Registry, Dr. Groves joined the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 14th of December, 1903. He became the house surgeon at the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Fergus. (His father had established the hospital in 1902). In 1904 Dr. William Abraham Groves did post graduate work in London, England. After his completing his studies in England he started practicing medicine in Fergus in 1905.
Dr. Groves married Maria Rathburn ‘Burnie’ Sutherland on the 21st of January, 1907 in Hanover, Ontario. She was born on the 23rd of December, 1878 in Glencoe, Ontario and her parents were the Rev. William Ross Sutherland and the former Marion Ross. Mrs. Groves was from a blended family of 18 children. On the marriage record, it stated that Mrs. Groves was a nurse.
Dr. and Mrs. Groves had a daughter, Helen Sutherland Groves born to them in Fergus on the 24th of April, 1909. In March of the following year, they had twin sons born prematurely on the 1st of March. Sadly Mrs. Groves died on the 3rd of March, 1910 and one of the twins died on the 4th of March,1910. The surviving twin was named William Rathburn “Sutherland” Groves.
Dr. Groves moved to Ridgetown shortly after his tragic loss. On a happier note, on the 12th of September, 1910, Dr. Groves delivered triplets for Mr. and Mrs. James White of Ridgetown; 2 boys and a girl.
Dr. Groves married Irene Ethel Locke on the 12th of December, 1911 in Ridgetown. She was born on the 22nd of December 1886, the daughter of John Charles Locke and the former Jean Leitche. Mrs. Groves had an older brother named Charles and two younger sisters, Jeanet and Greta. Her father owned a furniture store in Ridgetown.
Dr. and Mrs. Groves moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan sometime around 1913. They had a daughter Irene, born in June of 1914 in Saskatoon. When the baby girl was a week old her mother, Irene Groves died on the 20th of June, 1914. Mrs. Groves was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Ridgetown.
Despite being widowed and having 3 young children, Dr. Groves enlisted on the 29th of July 1915 as a Major with the Canadian Army Medical Corp. At the time he was living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Dr. Groves had past experience serving with the Militia. He was attached to the 65th Overseas Battalion. His young daughter Irene, went to live with his wife’s parents, John and Jean Locke in Ridgetown and according to the 1921 census she was still living with them. His other two children, Helen and William were lodged with the Mewhenney family in Saskatoon.
Dr. Groves was sent to France during the war. On the 26th of April, 1917, while at Vimy, Dr. Groves reported that he had fever and pain in his extremities. He was hospitalized in May and June of 1917 with bronchitis attributed to “trench fever”. After sufficient time he recuperated and returned to active duty. Dr. Groves was transferred to Canada in January of 1919. He was discharged with the rank of major on the 12th of February 1919 due to general demobilization.
According to the 1921 census, Dr. Groves was living at 1 Roslyn Rd., in Winnipeg, Manitoba with 2 of his children, Helen and Sutherland. It lists his occupation as a physician with a general medical practice.
Dr. Groves returned to Fergus in 1926 to work with his father in the community of Fergus. Their relationship had often been fractious, but in 1927, they embarked on a mission to find a cure for anemia. They produced capsules of raw beef liver and Dr. William Groves did lab tests to test the results of the capsules. Before the results could be properly tested and proven to the medical community, the contentious relationship between the father and the son dissolved, never to be restored. Before Dr. Abraham Groves died in 1935, 3 other doctors received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for finding the cure for anemia by identifying a deficiency of vitamin B12, (which is high in beef liver).
Dr. William Groves died on the 28th of September, 1935 in Fergus, just 4 months after his father died. He was buried at the Belsyde Cemetery beside his first wife ‘Burnie’ and the little son that was born and died prematurely.
*His son William Rathburn “Sutherland” Groves graduated M.D. from The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in 1935, just prior to his father’s death. He died in Vancouver on the 6th of May, 1948. He was 38 years old.
**His father Dr. Abraham Groves (08 September 1847-12 May, 1935) opened a hospital called the Royal Alexandra in 1902 in Fergus. Dr. Abraham Groves was a pioneer in the use of antiseptics and sterilization. In 1935 Dr. Abraham Groves gave the Hospital to the Community of Fergus and it was rebuilt and renamed Groves Memorial Community Hospital. A new Groves Memorial Community Hospital was opened on the 9th of August, 2020 at 131 Frederick Campbell Street.
Photo: Courtesy of Wellington County Museum and Archives ph 15404.