Dr. Tecumseh Kingsley Holmes was born near Florence, (Lambton County) Ontario on the 17th of January, 1839. He was the youngest of 7 children born to Abraham Holmes and the former Jane Louisa Gibson. When Dr. Holmes was a young child, his family moved to Kent Bridge in Chatham-Kent. His parents were farmers and his siblings were; Hands Irwin Holmes, Hugh Hamilton Holmes, James Alexander Holmes, Thomas Holmes, Mary Jane Holmes and Sarah Holmes. Dr. Holmes received his primary education in a rural school. To help pay for medical school, Dr. Holmes worked for five years as a school teacher, while observing and studying medicine under Dr. James Smith Wallen and Dr. Charles James Stuart Askin.
Dr. Holmes enrolled in medical school at the University of Michigan in 1864, but the following year he transferred to Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. He graduated with a medical degree in 1865. He then spent a year studying at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Dr. Holmes finished his medical studies at Victoria College, University of Toronto and graduated M.D., in 1867. According to the 1882 Ontario Medical Registry, Dr. Holmes joined the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 9th of May, 1867. In May of 1867, Dr. Holmes opened his medical practice in Chatham.
Dr. Holmes was married to Mary Elizabeth Taylor on the 22nd of January, 1873. Mrs. Holmes was born in Chatham on the 27th of January, 1849. She was the eldest of 9 children born to Thomas Hulme Taylor and the former Maria Lent Bogart. Her father had meagre beginnings as a small village merchant and gradually expanded his holdings to include a woollen and flour mill in Chatham. Her siblings were; Jennie Taylor, Agnes Taylor, Alice Taylor, Ella Eugenie Taylor, Walter Hulme Taylor, William James Taylor, Thomas Trumpour Taylor and Grace Laura Maud Taylor. Mrs. Holmes attended school in Chatham prior to Helmuth College in London, Ontario. Mrs. Holmes graduated in 1871.
Dr. and Mrs. Holmes were the parents of 4 children; Garnet, Kingsley, Edith and Shirley. All 3 of their sons entered the medical profession and their daughter Edith Melville Holmes married Mr. Reginald Lancaster Pattison on the 2nd of June, 1915.
Dr. Holmes was involved in the development of Chatham’s two hospitals: St. Josephs Hospital and the Public General Hospital. He would also deliver guest lectures at the University of Western Ontario. In 1882, Dr. T. K. Holmes was the surgeon for the 24th Battalion of Infantry.
Dr. Holmes was listed in the 1877 Chatham Directory and the 1885, 1896 and 1900 Ontario Business Directories as practicing in Chatham. His office was located at 165 King Street West. Dr. Holmes’ residence was listed at 209 King Street West in the 1877 and the 1888 Chatham Town Directory. Dr. George Thomas McKeough was listed as his partner in the 1885, 1896 and 1900 Ontario Business Directories.
The Kent Children’s Aid Society was organized in about 1897 and Dr. Holmes served as the President. In 1901 there was a frame home on Stanley Avenue that was rented to act as a shelter for wards of the Society. It wasn’t in operation long before a system to place children in foster homes was developed.
Dr. Holmes served in the 24th Kent Regiment Militia as a Surgeon and appears on pay records.
Dr. Holmes was well-known in Chatham’s business circles, serving as the President of the T.H. Taylor Company, and Director of the Traders Fire Insurance Company. In 1906 Dr. Holmes, organized the Chatham Motor Car Club. He served as the President of the company, which was located on Adelaide St. in Chatham.
Dr. Holmes also served as the first Chairman of the Chatham Water Commission, and in 1885 he was named President of the Canadian Medical Association. Dr. Holmes was a corresponding member of the Toronto Pathological Society, as well as the Detroit Medical and Library Association. Dr. Holmes was the first President of the Kent Historical Society in 1912.
In 1907 his sons Dr. Garnet Holmes and Dr. Kingsley Holmes and Mr. J. A. Tremblay formed the Tilbury Town Gas Company. They laid a pipeline from Chatham to Tilbury to supply natural gas to the Maple City Oil and Gas Company. In 1908 he formed the Northern Pipeline Company with his son Dr. Garnet Holmes and his future son-in-law Mr. Reginald Lancaster Pattinson. This company supplied gas from the Leamington Oil Company to the Sydenham Glass Company in Wallaceburg and the Dominion Sugar Company in Chatham.
According to the 1911 census, Dr. and Mrs. Holmes resided at 287 King Street with all of their children. Their sons were all practicing physicians according to the census record. Dr. Holmes appears in the 1913 Bell Telephone Directory. His telephone number was 76. His address was listed as 287 King Street.
In 1921, their daughter Edith and her husband, R. L. Pattison and their infant son Hulme lived with Dr. and Mrs. Holmes. This residence is located at 287 King Street West in Chatham. It is situated on the Thames River and is now the location of the Kent Club. Below is a picture of the Holmes residence. Above the front door is a transom window with “T. K. Holmes M.D.” etched on the glass. On the front lawn is a plaque that reads as follows; “On this site, in the year 1820, a log house was erected by Chatham’s first permanent resident, William Chrysler, Great -Grandfather of Walter P. Chrysler, automobile pioneer and Founder of the Chrysler Corporation.”
Dr. Holmes enjoyed reading and he had an extensive library at his residence. He enjoyed travelling and was often called upon to speak at social functions on a wide range of topics. According to his obituary that appears in the February 1931 Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Holmes performed the first trachelorrhaphy procedure in Canada.
Mrs. Holmes died on the 5th of October, 1930. Dr. T.K. Holmes died on December, 25th 1930. Dr. and Mrs. Holmes were interred in the mausoleum at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.
Within 6 months, 4 members of the Holmes family had died. Prior to the death of Dr. Tecumseh Holmes, his eldest son Garnet died on the 9th of August, 1930, then Dr. Holmes’ wife died. After Dr. Holmes death his son Kingsley died on the 5th of February, 1931.
*Dr. James Wallen Smith, Dr. Charles James Stuart Askin, and his sons Dr. Garnet Wolseley Holmes, Dr. Kingsley Hulme Holmes and Dr. Shirley Morell Holmes all appear on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
**Dr. Holmes’ brother Hands Irwin Holmes also became a physician. He practiced medicine in Michigan. Mrs. Holmes’ brother, Thomas Trumpour Taylor also became a physician. He practiced in Chatham-Kent and he is featured on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website. Mrs. Holmes’ sister Ella married Dr. John “Earle” Jenner. Dr. Jenner practiced medicine in Chatham and he is also featured on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
Tombstone and Residence Photo Credit: Anne F.