Dr. Clarkson Freeman

Dr. Clarkson Freeman

FEBRUARY 26, 1827 - MARCH 1, 1895

Clarkson Freeman was born in Trafalgar township, Halton county, Upper Canada on February 26, 1827. His grandfather William was resident of Elizabethtown, New York until the American Revolution, in which he fought for the British and subsequently lost all of his property. The Freeman family emigrated to Canada in 1800 alongside many other United Empire Loyalists, and were granted land outside of Ancaster where they took up farming. Clarkson’s father Isaac fought under General Brock against the Americans in the War of 1812, after which he settled on a farm on concession 1, lot 16 of Trafalgar township. This was the farm where young Clarkson and his fourteen siblings grew up. Incidentally, this was also the farm that William Lyon Mckenzie, leader of the 1837 Rebellion in Upper Canada, fled across on his way to self-imposed exile in the United States.

Clarkson Freeman attended the local Common School as a young boy, but was soon withdrawn by his father who figured he would get a more useful education working on the farm. A bright and curious child, Clarkson was often seen leading a team in the fields with one hand and holding a book in the other. One hot summer day, after working in the fields, Clarkson stopped to rest under the shade of a tree and began reading as usual. His father approached him and said: “Is this the way you work? I think you might as well go to school, as you are no good on the farm.” With that, Clarkson was off to pursue his career as a learned man.

At first, Clarkson went to the Common School in Nelson and excelled at his studies. Shortly thereafter, he attended the Grammar School in Palermo where he made the six kilometer walk to and from every day. Afterwards, Clarkson made it his ambition to attend King’s College (the modern-day University of Toronto) and began to prepare. To earn money, he taught Common School in Boyne during the summer, and stayed in Toronto during the winter to receive private tutoring in classics and mathematics. When it was time to attend King’s College, Clarkson had difficult time deciding what career path to pursue. A clerical friend of him suggested that he study to enter the church, which he rejected, saying that he was not good enough to be a minister. “But you are too honest a young man to be a lawyer,” was his friend’s reply. Therefore Clarkson elected to study medicine, and became a doctor upon graduation in 1853.

In 1854, Clarkson married Elizabeth Marth Cobban of Milton, Halton county. The daughter of a prominent pioneer doctor in Milton, Elizabeth helped Clarkson get started in his career. The two moved to Milton where he joined Dr. Cobban’s practice, which he then took over after his father-in-law’s death shortly thereafter. In 1860, Clarkson made the sea voyage across the Atlantic, where he learned much touring the hospitals and infirmaries of England, Ireland, Scotland, and France. Then, in 1865 Dr. Freeman returned to the land of his forefathers to volunteer his medical expertise to the Union forces during the final bloody campaign of the American Civil War. Clarkson served at the front as a surgeon in Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac during the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, and was there at the final defeat of the Confederacy with Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. This was certainly a life-changing experience for Clarkson, as Grant’s army suffered well over 50,000 casualties during the harrowing final months of the war.

Dr. Freeman returned to Milton to continue his medical practice, where he remained a much valued and beloved figure among the members of the rural community. He also served as mayor of Milton from 1870-72, and in that position he was instrumental in the building of railway facilities and roads in the area. After his brief political career, Clarkson returned to his medical practice, which he was engaged in well into his late 60s. On March 1, 1895, Dr. Clarkson Freeman died of a heart attack at his home. He was 68 years old.

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