Owen Sound's First Doctor: Dr. Lang 

Owen Sound's First Doctor: Dr. Lang arrived in Sydenham (Owen Sound) after a distinguished military career and a successful practice in Toronto in the 1840s.


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When the first settlers arrived in the Owen Sound area, one of the major problems that they faced was proper medical care.

For the first few years they depended upon each other's limited knowledge of caring for injuries and illnesses. However, a fateful fire in Toronto in the mid-1840s proved to be an important and beneficial event for the early settlers of the Owen Sound area. 

Dr. William Lang, a retired British navy surgeon, lost his medical office and drug store in Toronto to a fire in 1847. For some reason he decided to move from the Toronto area and re-establish his medical practice in the hinterlands of Upper Canada. 

The doctor chose the tiny settlement of Sydenham. His arrival here probably brought a sense of relief to settlers who had been forced to rely upon home remedies to solve all of their medical needs since their arrival in the area. 

Owen Sound's First Doctor Arrives in the Area

When Dr. Lang arrived in Sydenham in 1847, he was 51 years of age. Prior to coming to Canada, Dr. Lang studied medicine at both the University of London and Glasgow. 

He was a refined and cultured man who spoke seven languages and specialized in surgery. Dr. Lang was hardly the type of man that one would expect to find in the rough wilderness hinterland of Upper Canada!

He served in the British navy for several years before he married Susan Burnie. The couple had two-sons before they emigrated to Canada in 1827 and set up a practice in Toronto. 

Once in Canada, the family grew even larger as they had seven more sons and two daughters. 

Three of the sons became doctors and one became a druggist. Dr. Christopher Lang practiced for many years in Owen Sound. 

Dr. Archibald Lang established a practice in Sault Ste. Marie and Dr. Thomas Lang practiced medicine for a short time before passing away at an early age.

Burnie Lang set up a drug store which he eventually sold to Harry Middlebro. Later, this drug store was the Tamblyn Drug Store in downtown Owen Sound. 

When Owen Sound's first doctor, Dr. William Lang arrived in the area in 1847, he settled his family on what was called the Lake Shore Road near Leith. Later, he moved his family to the area just north of Bothwell's Corners.

The doctor's choice of location for his home is a little difficult to understand, because of the distance that he would have had to travel to visit his patients elsewhere in the Owen Sound area. However, Dr. Lang must have been a dedicated and hardy person. Legend has it that he would walk from his farm north of Bothwell's Corners to Inglis Falls in the middle of the winter to tend to a patient. 

In the dead of winter on a freezing night a familiar sight for Owen Sound residents, was to see the doctor all bundled up in furs and blankets, sitting in a horse-drawn sled, travelling to attend to a patient. Dr. Lang's reputation was such that he often was called to Toronto to consult on medical problems. 

Dr. Lang was active in the Scottish community around Owen Sound and was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Kirk in Leith. Owen Sound's first doctor died in 1868 at the age of 73. 

The information used in this article came from the pages of early Owen Sound newspapers and from early journals of the Owen Sound area. 

A version of my article, "Owen Sound's First Doctor: Dr. Lang," originally appeared in my Local History column in the August 11, 2000 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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