Wednesday, March 20, 2019

T. G. Hamilton’s Busy Life

Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton (1873-1935) became internationally famous because of his investigations into psychic phenomena.1 But his more mundane activities probably had a greater impact on the lives of his patients, friends and colleagues than his psychic research did.

undated photo of a young TGH
TGH, or T. Glen Hamilton,2 as he was known, grew up in a farming family, first in Ontario and then in Saskatchewan. He graduated from Manitoba Medical College in 1903, at age 30. After interning for a year, he set up a practice in medicine, surgery and obstetrics in Elmwood, a suburb of Winnipeg. Several years later, he and his wife, Lillian, moved into a large house in the neighbourhood. They raised their family there, and he had an office on the ground floor.

Elmwood’s first doctor, he was the kind of old-fashioned physician who made house calls (by horse and buggy in the early years) and delivered babies at home.3 According to his daughter, Margaret, his outstanding quality was his genuine concern for people: “To his many patients, he was not only the beloved physician, but he was the staunch friend and wise counsellor as well.”4

He plunged into community involvement and was elected to the Winnipeg Public School Board in 1907. Perhaps his experience as a teacher before he went to medical school inspired his interest in education. He remained on the school board for nine years, serving as chairman in 1912-13 and helping to guide the board as it built several new schools in the fast-growing city. He helped to establish fire drills and implement free medical examinations for public school students, and he believed in the benefits of playground activities.

the family home at 185 Kelvin St.
He was a member of Elmwood Presbyterian Church (later known as King Memorial United Church) from the time he settled in Elmwood. An elder for 28 years, he was chairman of the building committee and helped raise funds for the construction of the church.5

In 1915, TGH resigned from the school board after he was elected to the Manitoba Legislature as the Liberal member for Elmwood. At that time, his riding stretched all the way to the Ontario border.

These were times of social change. Manitoba’s Liberals brought in several landmark bills, including the right to vote for women, the mother’s allowance act and workmen’s compensation. Nevertheless, a strong Labour vote swept the Liberals from power in the 1920 provincial election and TGH lost his seat.

He then shifted his energies to the medical field. He was a lecturer in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine, and a member of the surgical staff of the Winnipeg General Hospital. He wrote several articles that were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the treatment of hand injuries, on the incidence of goiter (enlarged thyroid) in children, and on ulcerative colitis. He served as president of the Manitoba Medical Association in 1921-1922, and he was a member of the executive committee of the Canadian Medical Association from 1922 to 1931. He founded the Manitoba Medical Review and he was the first president of the alumni association of the University of Manitoba.6

TG and Lillian, 1932
All these volunteer activities in addition to his medical practice must have made him a very busy man. Nevertheless, after the death of his three-year old son Arthur from influenza in 1919, he found time for a new passion: psychic phenomena. His ultimate question was whether some part of the human mind, consciousness, or personality survives bodily death.
For more than a decade, he and Lillian organized weekly séances at their home, watching tables that moved on their own and communicating with spirits. He tried to take a scientific approach to his observations and to prevent fraud, so he took hundreds of photos of these events.

When TGH addressed an audience of Winnipeg physicians about his research in 1926, he was afraid he would lose his professional reputation as a result, but they listened to him with what he later acknowledged was “a tolerant and good-natured skepticism.”7 Most of them probably did not agree with his comments, but he had accumulated a bank of good will through his many professional and volunteer activities, and he had a strong reputation for integrity.8

When he died of heart attack in 1935, at age 61, hundreds of people filled King Memorial United Church, where he had been active for so long, to say goodbye to this man who had been such an important part of the community.9

This article is also posted on

See also:

“Tales of a Prairie Pioneer” Writing Up the Ancestors, Feb. 1, 2019,

“Five Brothers,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Dec. 1, 2018,

“The Legacy,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 4, 2019, 

“Arthur’s Baby Book,” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 29, 2017,

Sources and Notes:

1. The Hamilton Fonds at the University of Manitoba Archives includes photos, letters, lecture notes, newspaper clippings and other documents related to TGH’s life and research interests. See “Hamilton Fonds” University of Manitoba Libraries,

2. Although TG was my paternal grandfather, I never met him. He died many years before I was born.

3.  “Elmwood’s First Doctor,” The Elmwood Herald, June 10, 1954.

4 Margaret Hamilton Bach. “Life and Interests of Dr. T. Glendenning Hamilton.” Proceedings of the First Annual Archives Symposium. University of Manitoba Department of Archives and Special Collections, 1979, p 89-90.

5. For more information about the church, see “Historic Sites of Manitoba: Elmwood Presbyterian Church / King Memorial Presbyterian Church / King Memorial United Church / Gordon-King Memorial United Church,” Manitoba Historical Society,, accessed Feb. 22, 2019.

6. Ross Mitchell, M.D. “Dr. T. Glen Hamilton, the Founder of the Manitoba Medical Review,”
The Manitoba Medical Review, vol. 40, no. 3, p 219.

7. Margaret Hamilton Bach, Ibid, p. 92.

8. Dr. Charles G. Roland, “Glenn – the Mystical Medic from Manitoba,” Ontario Medicine, May 18, 1987, p. 29.

9 “Death of Dr. T. Glen Hamilton Ends Life of Marked Achievements,” The Elmwood Herald, April 11, 1935.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Bread and Buns for the Wounded

When I started researching the Hamilton family’s history and realized that my grandfather’s only sister, Maggie, had died at the age of 23, I cried. I felt I knew her personally after reading the two letters she wrote from Saskatchewan to her aunt in Ontario in 1885. Those letters portrayed a young woman full of promise: observant, articulate and empathetic.

this may be a photo of Maggie
 My last post focused on a letter in which Maggie described life on her family’s prairie farm. This second letter describes her experiences during the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 when Canadian government soldiers set up a field hospital near her home to care for those wounded in battle.

She also expressed sympathy for friends and relatives who had recently lost young children. When she wrote this letter in July, she had no idea that her father would die of a heart attack in September, and that she herself would contract typhoid less than a year later.

RIP, Margaret Hamilton, born Scarborough, Ont. Sept. 26, 1862, died Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, June 24, 1886.

(See also "Maggie Hamilton's Letter from Saskatoon, 1885," Writing Up the Ancestors, Feb. 15, 2019)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Saskatoon, May 13, 1885
My Dear Aunt,

            We received your kind and welcome letter and were very sorry to hear of you having so much trouble. No doubt you will miss your dear little child very much but what a comfort it must be to you to think that he is now safe in the Arms of Jesus. There are so many of our friends gone to their graves since we left Ontario. I’m sure it is a warning to us all to keep watch for we know not the day nor the hour that the Son of Man cometh.

            A few weeks ago Mr. and Mrs. Copland, our most intimate friends out here, lost their only child, a little girl of about four years of age. She died of diphtheria. They left four little children lying in their graves in Ontario and came out here partly to be away from the places where they had so much trouble.

                                                                                                                   July 20th

I am very sorry to have been so long in answering your kind letters but we have been so very busy this summer that I have neglected my writing.... The soldiers are all gone now and the place seems very quiet. I think you have no idea what a stir war makes in a country. Mother says that we have seen a great many changes since we parted with you at the station in Toronto and I’m sure we have. I only wish that we could meet and have a talk.

You may be sure we were very anxious for a while last Spring not knowing the night that they might come in on us. When the Indians did come, they camped on our place. People think now that there would likely have been more trouble with them had we not been gathered together in Saskatoon and prepared as best we could to meet them. We hear after that White Cap had got orders to take all arms from Saskatoon people. No doubt Father will tell you all about them.

I baked bread and buns for the wounded when they were here and after they were gone for the London Fusiliers. Sometimes baked about eighty weight a day in a little no. 8 stove. I’m sure the wounded men got every attention. I just wish you could have seen the Hospital to see how comfortably they were fixed up, everything so tidy and clean. I think many of them could not have been so well attended to if they had been at home. I believe they had almost every kind of fruit and vegetables you could think of in the cases of presents that were sent out to them.

We made a party for them before they went away. Tea was served from four to six and after that a short entertainment and after that was over dancing commenced which lasted until morning. We had a very nice time. Had another party in Saskatoon on Dominion Day. The London Fusiliers were down from the Crossing. Were playing games all day and some of the songs they sang they had composed since they came out telling about their journey and the band was there too. Many things I could tell you if I saw you that I cannot write about. I must now close as the mail leaves Saskatoon in about an hour. I am glad to think the war is over. All send our love to you all.

                                                                                          From your loving niece,
                                                                                          Maggie Hamilton

Maggie's remains now lie in the family plot in Winnipeg.