COVE, JOHN WILLIAM, physician; b. 11 Nov. 1838 in River Philip, N.S., eleventh child and sixth son of Richard Cove and Elizabeth Chandler; m. 2 Oct. 1867 Emma Agnes Sharp in Amherst, N.S., and they had 13 children; d. there 24 June 1901.
John William Cove was educated at Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy in Sackville, N.B., and after teaching school at Advocate Harbour, N.S., he began to study medicine with Dr Joseph Moore in Amherst. Following his apprenticeship, he attended the University of Pennsylvania, and he obtained his md there in 1867. Part of his training was in practical obstetrics and operative midwifery at the Philadelphia Lying In Charity, from which he received a separate diploma. He then returned to Nova Scotia and practised at Amherst, for a short time at River Philip, and from 1873 at Springhill.
Coal had been discovered at Springhill in the 1830s, but it was not until 1873 that mines were opened. Large numbers of people subsequently settled in the town, whose population increased from 20 in 1871 to 6,000 in 1891. Cove came to Springhill in response to an invitation from the company that had opened the mines to become its medical officer. His primary duty was to attend to injuries received in the mines, such as cuts, sprains, and broken limbs, but he also treated miners and their families for influenza and diphtheria. Eight of his own children died from the two diseases. Cove maintained a private practice as well. Springhill’s first doctor, he would deliver 3,200 babies during his years there, and he also performed the services of a dentist. In addition, he was a coroner for Cumberland County. Because Springhill was a working-class town, Cove’s private practice was not lucrative, and in order to supplement his income he opened the Acadia Drug Store in 1883, selling non-prescription medicines as well as soap, pipes, and cigars.
By 1885 Cove’s work-load had increased beyond his capacity, and Dr J. A. Byers arrived to assist him. Both men were present when on 21 Feb. 1891 the first major mine disaster occurred in Springhill, killing 121 men and boys [see Henry Swift*]. Without ambulance or hospital facilities, Cove, assisted by Byers and doctors from Amherst, Oxford, and Parrsboro, treated the 17 burned and maimed survivors, four of whom later died. The tragedy led to the building of All Saints’ Cottage Hospital, which opened in 1893.
Cove and his wife were active in the Methodist church in Springhill, and he was a member of several fraternal organizations, including the freemasons and the Knights of Pythias. In 1899 he moved to Amherst, where he died of chronic Bright’s disease two years later.
PANS, MG 4, 137: 40; RG 32, WB, 60: 28, no.2. Daily News (Amherst, N.S.), 24 June 1901. Biographical review . . . of leading citizens of the province of Nova Scotia, ed. Harry Piers (Boston, 1900). [Includes genealogical information on Cove’s ancestry and states that his grandfather Richard Cove came to Hants County, N.S., from England prior to 1790. a.e.m.] B. J. Campbell, Springhill, our goodly heritage ([Springhill, N.S.], 1989). [A photograph of Cove appears on p.171, along with a statement that he was born at Claremont, a farming community east of Springhill. a.e.m.] B. J. Campbell, “Springhill’s first doctor,” N.S. Hist. Quarterly, 9 (1979): 297–312. D. E. Eagles, The churches and cemeteries of Horton Township (Sarnia, Ont., 1974; copy at PANS). R. A. H. Morrow, Story of the Springhill disaster: comprising a full and authentic account of the great coal mining explosion at Springhill mines, Nova Scotia, February 21st, 1891 . . . (Saint John, N.B., ).