The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

May 17, 2006

May 17, 2006 – Employees Relief Fund

When the mines opened in 1873 Springhill was the first to have socialized medicine. They had their own colliery doctor – Dr. Cove, their own dispensary and a Drugstore – Acadian Drug Store. The miners had .25 cents taken off their pay cheque every week to pay the doctor and they and their families were assured of doctor’s care.

The widows received a special levy of .50 cents from each employee of Cumberland Railway and Coal Company in trust as monthly indemnity for herself and her children up to sixteen years of age.

In 1886 a fund was established to provide relief to employees and their families in case of sickness, accident or death. This was the Employees’ Relief Fund of the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company. If an employee was killed on the job his wife would receive $100.

In 1924 this fund was known as the Dominion Coal Company Employees’ Benefit Society. The Annual report for the year ending December 31, 1924 had the following executives: George E. Roach McKay, Chairman; Thomas Oulton, Joe Scarborough, William McKay, Trustees; A.K. McLeod and W.F, Campbell were Company Representatives; William H. Murray, Government Do.; C.J. Allbon, Treasurer; J.B. Moss and William Murray, Auditors.

During the year $14644.76 was paid out in sick claims; $900. in Death Claims; and $5280. in Widow & Children Allowance. 9 members passed away in 1924: William Killan, January 31; George E. Porter, February 15; Joseph Claes, March 3; Kenneth McKenzie, June 7; William Boran, July 5; Milson Hatton, May 22; William Walsh, September 28; Arthur Cook, October 19; Henry Morse, October 16. That left 5 widows and 12 children to the care of the Benefit Society. The society also completed its obligation to 6 widows and 2 children during the year. 4 of which completed the 5 year period and 2 remarried. Still on the fund were 21 widows and 47 children.

Dr. John W. Cove began his study of medicine with Dr. Joseph Morse of Amherst and completed his study at the University of Pennsylvania . He began his practice in River Philip where he stayed for five years. In 1873 he came to Springhill to be the Colliery Doctor for the Springhill Mining Company. He also opened the Acadian Drugstore here. He was the only doctor in Springhill for ten years at which time he was joined by Dr. J.A. Byers. Dr. Cove was an issuer of Marriage Licenses, a Trustee and Secretary of the Methodist Church , as well as a member of the Masonic Lodge for 31 years. He was also a member of the IOOF and Knights of Pythias.

On October 3, 1867 he married Emma A Sharp of Amherst and they had 11 children. Eight of which died of influenza or diphtheria and only three lived to maturity.

There was no hospital here until the opening of the All Saint’s Cottage Hospital in 1893 so he had to go where he was needed. He was the Chief Doctor at the Hospital and was also a member of the Hospital Board. He not only looked after the miners and their families but also the other Springhill citizens and those in the surrounding area who needed medical aid. He was present at 3,200 births and was also here at the time of the Mine Explosion of 1891.

There were no dentists at that time so Dr. Cove also had to extract teeth. Its been said that when he was about to extract a tooth he would tuck his long white beard inside his vest in case the patient wanted something to hold on to.

In 1899 Dr. Cove moved to Amherst where he continued to practice medicine and also opened a drugstore.