The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

June 17, 2009

Wed. June 17, 2009 – Dr. John William Cove

John William Cove was born on a farm in Clairmont, Cumberland County, on November 11, 1838. He was the son of Richard and Elizabeth Cove who had 13 other children as well.

John received his early education in the rural school and later went on the Mount Allison University. When he left Mount Allison he taught school in Advocate. He began his study of medicine under Dr. Joseph Moore of Amherst and continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1867, having taken courses in obstetrics and gynaecology. He returned to Nova Scotia after graduation and practiced in Amherst. He later moved to River Philip practicing there for five years.

On October 2, 1867 when he was 28 years old he married Emma Agnes Sharp, 21, daughter of William and Marie Sharp. John and Emma had a total of 11 children but only 3 grew to be adults. They were Winona, John Leroy and James Aubrey.

With the opening of the mines in Springhill there became a need for a doctor in town so the Mining Company invited Dr. Cove to move here. In 1873 he did so and became the first doctor in Springhill.

Dr. Cove bought land in the centre of Main Street adjoining a store on the corner of Church and Main Street. He also bought land next to it on Church Street. He had the Acadia Drugstore built there in 1883. It also contained the house where he and his family lived for several years. He had a barn behind his store for his horse and supplies. His son John Leroy had a pigeon Cote in the back of the barn upstairs where he raised pigeons. His two sons John Leroy and James Aubrey would often assist him on his rounds.

When John Wilson wanted to expand his store Dr. Cove sold him a part of the Main Street land and moved his drugstore down to the edge of his property. Some years later Dr. Cove moved his family to a residence on Victoria Street.

His training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology served him well as the Medical Records show that there were 3200 births which he delivered. He also served the men who were injured in the mines as Medical Officer of the Coal Company. He was the only doctor in Springhill and as the town grew the work load became too much for one man so Dr. Byers was added to the staff in 1883. The worst mine accident was the great mine disaster of 1891 in which 125 men were killed. Dr. Cove and Dr. Byers were helped by doctors from Amherst, Parrsboro and Oxford. There being no hospitals at that time stricken workers were taken to their home where conditions were not always satisfactory. The need for a hospital was great and finally one was built in 1893.

Back in the late 1890’s there were many epidemics such as small pox, diphtheria, typhoid fever and influenza .and there were no antibiotics so most people did not survive. Dr. Cove was unable to save eight of his own children who contacted influenza and diphtheria. As Medical Officer of the Coal Company he served all miners and their families as well as the other citizens of the town and surrounding area. He was also coroner for Cumberland County. Most people didn’t go to a dentist to have teeth extracted so that was another job for Dr. Cove.

Dr. Cove was an active member of the Methodist Church: Secretary of the Board in 1883, secretary of Trustees, in 1889 was a member of the Quarterly Board, 1886 appointed by the Minister Reverend E.E. England as prayer leader for his area. The home of Dr. Cove and his wife was a Mecca for all visiting Methodist Ministers. Mrs. Cove was one of the founding members of the Methodist Ladies Aid in 1894.

Emma Cove was a quiet woman who enjoyed oil painting, sewing, tatting and crocheting. She died in 1927.

The Doctor was a charter member of the Masons “Laurie” Lodge which received its charter in 1875, became a member of the “Eureka” Lodge No. 15 of the Independent Order of Buffalo and a member of the Knights of Pythias of Cumberland Lodge No. 5.

Dr. Cove died June 24, 1901.

When a new wing was added to the Cottage Hospital in 1923 one room was furnished and dedicated in Dr. Cove’s memory.