Dr. John Lang Bray was born on the 8th of May 1841 in Kingston, Ontario. He was the eldest of 11 children born to William Bray and the former Eliza Jane Lang. In 1851, the Bray family was living in Adelaide Twp, Middlesex County, where his father was an innkeeper. Dr. Bray’s siblings were; Clarence William Bray (who died in childhood in Adelaide Twp, Middlesex County), Blanche Louisa Bray, William Thomas M. Bray, Avila Eliza Bray, Caroline Augusta Pauline Bray (who died in Adelaide Twp, Middlesex County at the age of 1 year old), Laura Xariffa Bray, Florence Amy Bray, Edith Sarah Bray, Horace Edgar Bray and Harold Victor Bray. In 1881 his father, William Bray and his family was living in Petrolia, Ontario and he was listed as a “druggist”.
Dr. Bray received his early education at the District Grammar School in London, Ontario. Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Bray studied medicine with Dr. Henry Hanson of London.
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. Dr. Bray’s name appears in the 1864 -1865 County of Kent Gazetteer. In 1865, Dr. Bray moved his medical practice to Chatham. According to the 1865 -1866 Soutar’s Chatham Directory and County Gazetteer, Dr. Bray resided on Sixth Street near Wellington Street. 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 Vavasour Noel in June of 1867. Mrs. Bray was born in Savannah, Georgia on the 31st of January, 1847. She was the 5th of 6 children born to John Vavasour Noel and the former Ellen Kyle. According to the 1861 census, the Noel family was living in Kingston, Ontario. Her siblings were; Mary Emily Vavasour Noel, Anne Louisa Vavasour Noel, Jane Gertrude Vavasour Noel, John G. Vavasour Noel and Adelaide Eloise Vavasour Noel.
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 1876-1877 Chatham Business Directory his office was located “over Tackaberry’s Store, King St. West” and his home was located on Wellington Street. On page 52 of the 1881 Kent County Almanac (Soutar’s), Dr. Bray is listed as the physician for the Chatham Jail. His medical practice was listed in the 1882 Town of Chatham Directory, on Sixth Street and according to the 1888 Town of Chatham 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 died of pneumonia at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Ontario on the 24th of November 1915. Mrs. Bray died in New York in 1926. Dr. and Mrs. Bray were buried at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.
*Dr. Bray’s son, Dr. Reginald Vavasour Bray is also featured on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
**Dr. Bray’s son Walter Treleaven Bray served with the United States Army in WWI.