Black History Month: Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott (1837-1913)

A young Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott standing in his Union army uniform

We’ve made some really cool discoveries while researching for an upcoming project on Black History in Dundas, and we want to share them with you!

Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott was the first Canadian-born Black doctor. He served in the Union army as a civilian surgeon during the American Civil War and attended to President Abraham Lincoln in his last moments. Afterwards, he returned to Canada and married Mary Ann Casey. We knew that he and his family moved to Dundas in 1881, where he held many prominent positions, including President of the Mechanics Institute, Church Warden at St. James Anglican Church, and Assistant Editor of the Dundas True Banner. But we never knew for sure whether he practiced medicine while he was living here…until now!

An older Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott with an impressive moustache is seated wearing robes.

While perusing through a prescription book from H.W. Ralph’s Dundas Drug Co. store, we came across several entries which had been prescribed by Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott, proving that he was indeed practicing while he was living in Dundas! This entry is especially interesting – the name above the prescription was the patient, in this case, Sam Lightfoot. Samuel Jackson Lightfoot was a Freedom Seeker born June 3rd, 1816, in Kentucky, USA. With the assistance of Josiah Henson, he escaped enslavement and eventually settled in West Flamborough. Samuel Lightfoot married Jane Brackstone, and their first child, John Samuel Lightfoot, was born in Dundas in 1838. Samuel and Jane had another son before she died in 1845. Samuel then married Ellen Ball and had another 10 children. He died in 1889 in New York, only a few years after this prescription was written.

1)      Scanned image of a handwritten prescription. Sam Lightfoot’s name is at the top of the image, followed by a list of ingredients and instructions for the prescription. The initials A.R.A. are in the bottom right corner.

Although Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott and his family moved away from Dundas in 1889, he was an integral member of the community. He made a tremendous impact on the town and its inhabitants – especially his patients!