Elisha Lenox Thurlow Thompsonian Doctor Upper Canada

Elijah Lennox of Thurlow Tp.

1833 Petition - "Root Doctor"

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Pioneers of the Bay of Quinte

Why I am interested in this family:
In 1833, Elijah Lennox of Thurlow Tp. petitioned for a licence to become a certified "Root Doctor". He had 48 inhabitants of Thurlow and Sidney Townships sign this petition in support of his request. The term Root Doctor was new to me - I had to know more.  Thanks to Guylaine trin for directing me to this unusual petition.

© Randy Saylor, Dec. 2018

This page is composed of three parts
  1. The 1833 petition of Elijha Lennox [Lenox].
  2. The names of the 48 inhabitants of Thurlow and Sidney.
  3. A short note on medical practice in Upper Canada in the 1830's, and the eventual acceptance of the Friendly Botanic Society and the "Thomsonians" and "Eclectics" as they were called. Elijah Lenox was part of this movement.

Preamble: First off, Elijha signed his surname as Lenox but the contemporary documents otherwise have Lennox. Elijha was trained in what we might call natural medicine and he petitions for a certificate so he can practice legally. The short note on the fold suggests his request was denied as "the Lt Governor is not authorized to grant any merchant business except under the provisions and conditions presented in the Statutes of the Province."
Source: Governor General's Office, Miscellaneous Records, LAC, RG 7 G14,  H-1177, 1751-5, on line HeritageCanadiana.ca, starts at image 1852

[1751 and part of 1752]
To Colonel Rowan
Secretary etc  etc
Government House
Upper Canada

3rd Con[cession] Thurlow near Belleville
August 1833

I have the honor to enclose you a Petition from myself to his Excellency Sir John Colborne praying for a License or Permission to practice in the neighborhood as a Root Doctor or vender [sic] of Herbs for Medicinal purposes etc and shall feel much obliged by your laying the same before his Excellency and informing me of his determination thereon
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most and Obedt Servt
[signed] Elijah Lenox

[1752 - fold notes]
Elijah Lennox praying a license may be granted to him to practice as a Root Doctor
Thurlow August 1833

That the Lt Governor is not authorized to grant any merchant business except under the provisions and conditions presented in the Statutes of the Province

To Sir John Colborne Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Upper Canada North America

The humble petition of Elijah Lennox [sic] of the township of Thurlow in the county of Hastings in the Midland District and in the province of Upper Canada

That your petitioner some years since resided in the state of New York in the United States, and having devoted his time to the study of botany and become a member of the Friendly Botanic Society in that state, he obtained a licence to practice as a Root Doctor and vender of Herbs for medicinal purposes

That since his return to this country he has been constantly solicited for and has given his assistance in cases of sickness without being able to receive any remuneration for his services though tendered him in consequence of not having hitherto obtained a permission or Licence to practice

That for some months past the scarlet fever attended with very dangerous symptoms has been very prevalent in your Petitioners neighborhood principally attacking children a very great number of whom have died in consequence of medical assistance being difficult to procure

That your petitioner has attended about fifty cases of this disease, all but one of the persons attacked have recovered but as your petitioner is so circumstanced as to be precluded from receiving any remuneration for his [1754] loss of time and exertions he has been compelled in many instances with considerable regret to refuse assistance

That he has been threatened with legal proceedings if he continued to practice and that in consequence of such threats and at the solicitation of the Inhabitants of the neighboring concessions he has been induced to petition your Excellency for a Permission or license similar to the one obtained by your Petitioner in the State of New York.

Your Petitioner therefore prays that your Excellency will be pleased to order such a Certificate or Permission to be granted to your Petitioner that he may be legally entitled to vend and  Administer such Roots and Herbs as he may procure in this Country medicinally and receive payment for the same

Your petitioner begs to call attention to the accompanying recommendation from the Inhabitants of Thurlow, Sidney etc at whose solicitation this petition is presented
And your petitioner will ever pray
[signed] Elijah Lenox

We the undersigned being Inhabitants of the township of Thurlow and Sidney beg to recommend Mr. Elijah Lennox’s petition to the favorable consideration of his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor as many of our Families have recovered from severe and dangerous illness from his advice and assistance and from a conviction that the greatest benefit will be conferred on us if he can be enabled to render us assistance by practicing in our Neighborhood


These are actual signatures and not easy to decifer. Feedback is most welcome. The signatures are on page 1755.

James McTaggartt Jacob Fralick
Samuel McTaggartt jr William Brower
Allen McTaggart Harman Rose
John Nicholson Abraham J Canniff
Augustus H? Tappin Philip Jones
Samuel Calvert Samuel McTaggart
Peter Bell Peter McTaggart
Hiram Sinberry? Samuel McTaggart
Thomas Bell Gilleiah Sh?ont
Fredric Bell Abraham Canniff
John J. Roblin John McTaggart
Isaac Baines John Reynolds
John Bower? Hiram Sulford
John H Vandervoort Daniel Gerow
Stephen Beerup Leonard Gillet
Samuel Vandervoort Willaim McCormick
David Beatty William Phillips
Steven J. Gilbert Wm Yager
Henry Rose Gershom Reed
T.Y. Ayres James B Cook

[Additional page]
David Nicholson
Elisha Phillips
George Lott
Jorge Sharp
Jacob Finkle
Jacob Sharp
Samuel Nichols
Thomas F Fralick

[48 names]


It is very clear from the excerpts below that Elijha Lenox studied with Samuel Thomson or one of his associates in the United States around 1830. Elijah was part of a movement that met resistance but over time found some acceptance. It is not known at this time if Elijah continued as a practioner as a "Root Doctor." His name did not come up in a quick search of the Thurlow records on this site. More information is welcome.

A recent book has been written about Samuel Thomson and his leadership in what was then a new type of medical practice. Thompson was the founder of the Friendly Botanic Society and practitioners became known as "Thomsonians." This excerpt from the bibliography gives a sense of Thomson's ideas.

- Samuel Thomson.  An Address to the public on the Causes and Treatment of  Disease; Upon a New System Originating with the author; Showing the bad Consequences of Administering poison as Medicine, and the Advantage of Following the Course Pointed out by Nature; Using Vegetable substances Only. To which is Added Some Account of the success which has attended the Practice in the State of New York; With the Proceedings of the Friendly Botanic Society. Boston, 1825.

- A brief sketch of the causes and treatment of disease, addressed to the people of the United States, pointing out to them the pernicious consequences of using poisons as medicine, such as mercury, arsenic, nitre, antimony, and opium; and the advantages using such only as are the products of our own country. … 1821
Source: The People’s Doctors: Samuel Thomson and the American Botanical Movement, 2000, partly online at Google Books, p. 357

Dr. William Canniff is quite well known to Quinte researchers for his book The History of the Settlement of Upper Canada publsihed in 1869. Dr. Canniff later published a book titled, The Medical Profession in Upper Canada 1783-1850 and in it he writes about Samuel Thomson and says this on page 74,"Thompson [sic] was, we believe, a subject of the United States; but he found in Canada a somewhat fruitful field for the practice of his peculiar views of medical science, and in time, had a considerable number of followers.  They were known as 'Thompsonians.'  Not a few young Canadians, disinclined to do manual work, as their fathers had done, cast aside their homespun clothes, donned a broadcloth suit and kid gloves, hung up a shingle and announced themselves to be “Doctors,” according to the doctrine by Thompson. Little or no preparation was required for this change of occupation, and money was generally made by the change. For many years the Thompsonians practiced without a license and in defiance of the law. But later on they assumed the name of the “Eclectics,” and commanded sufficient influence to secure from Parliament the right to grant licenses to practice medicine. They ultimately became absorbed in the general profession after the incorporation of the Ontario Medical Council." [William Canniff, 1894, on line archive.org, p 71-75.

There is another account about Thomson and his Friendly Botanic Society and how he and his agents spread about the country. They had success in some States in gaining the right to practice. See the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, [later: The New England Journal of Medicine], Vol 130, Jan-Jun 1894, p. 611 Google Books.

A more modern account of the "Eclectics" is included on the web site of the The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. "By the 1840s, people had three main types of doctors to choose from: the “regulars” (meaning standard licensed doctors), the eclectics, and the homeopaths. All three had basic medical knowledge, but practised medicine in different ways. The regulars were fond of violent methods of treatment, as they believed one should meet severe symptoms with equally severe treatment. Bleeding and purging sometimes worked, but they also sometimes killed patients. The eclectics rejected these principles and used gentler methods, such as local roots and herbs, for treatment. Many of their practices were learned from the well-developed medical knowledge of Indigenous peoples. Finally, the homeopaths advocated the treatment of individuals with either small doses of desirable drugs, or with drugs that would cause the same symptoms in a healthy person as experienced by the sick person. All three groups initially had their own licensing boards, but in 1869 they were united under the banner of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
Source: CPSO, A Look Back, The Practice of Medicine in the early 1800's