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FARGUES, THOMAS, physician and office holder; b. 11 Oct. 1777 at Quebec, son of Pierre Fargues and Henriette Guichaud; d. there unmarried 11 Dec. 1847.

Thomas Fargues belonged to a middle-class Quebec family. His father was a businessman and his mother, a merchant’s daughter, had been educated by the Ursulines. Thomas was the seventh child, but several of his brothers and sisters died in infancy. In 1783, three years after his father’s death, his mother married Thomas Dunn*, a leading figure in the province. Three sons were born of that marriage: Thomas and William, who had military careers and with whom Fargues remained in close touch, and Robert.

Fargues studied in Boston at Harvard College, where he graduated in 1797. He then went to Europe to study medicine at the universities of London and Edinburgh. On 21 June 1811 he received the degree of doctor of medicine from the University of Edinburgh after presenting a thesis in Latin on chorea, a disease commonly known as St Vitus’s dance.

On returning to Quebec, Fargues requested permission from Sir George Prevost* to practise medicine in Lower Canada, but he was not granted a licence until two years later. After that his reputation spread quickly, and soon several institutions sought his services. He assumed responsibilities, for example, as surgeon general at the Hôtel-Dieu and physician to the Hôpital Général, the Ursuline convent, and the Quebec prison. Fargues also built up a large private practice. Among his patients were the Anglican bishop Jacob Mountain*, the superior of the Séminaire de Québec, Jérôme Demers*, and the archbishop of Quebec, Joseph-Octave Plessis*, whom he attended at his death in 1825.

In June 1816 Fargues was appointed a medical examiner for the district of Quebec. When the post became elective in 1831, a meeting of the district’s doctors chose him as an examiner, and he served until the early 1840s. A well-informed practitioner, Fargues followed closely the evolution of his discipline; he also owned one of the best private medical libraries in the colony. Towards the end of his life the development of homeopathy was one of his concerns. Thus, in a will drawn up in 1842 he included a clause assigning £6,000 to McGill College in Montreal to establish a chair of homeopathy bearing his name.

Fargues was considered to be an intelligent, but somewhat eccentric man, pleasant to be with and well versed in metaphysics. After 1840 he was stricken with a serious illness that brought several attacks of palsy and severely affected him mentally and physically. From then on one of his nephews looked after a large part of his affairs. In June 1843 Fargues went to England with his friend the notary John Greaves Clapham, apparently to visit his half-brothers Thomas and William and to recover his health. But when he came back, he was no better and remained in feeble health until his death.

Thomas Fargues left a fortune estimated at £25,000 that was much coveted. Besides properties within and beyond the city walls, he held shares in Canadian banks and government and city of Quebec bonds worth more than £6,000; his debtors, among whom were some Quebec businessmen, owed him more than £10,000. By the terms of his last will, dated 21 April 1844, the principal heir was to be his cousin Robert Walker Stansfeld, who had lived with him for more than six years as an apprentice and had studied medicine at McGill College at his expense. Under the will, Fargues had also left £6,000 to René-Édouard Caron* and Antoine Parant* to build a home for destitute people at Quebec. The Dunn family launched an action contesting the will, and judgement was rendered on 8 July 1850. The judge ruled that Stansfeld had exerted undue influence on Fargues at the end of his life and rejected the executors’ request that the will be upheld. As a result the Dunn family remained the principal depositary of his assets.

Jacques Bernier

Thomas Fargues is the author of De chorea (Edinburgh, 1811).

ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 11 oct. 1777, 12 déc. 1847; CN1-67, 2 juill. 1841; CN1-116, 20, 25 mai 1840; CN1-208, 10 sept. 1842, 21 avril 1844, 15 déc. 1847; T11–1/449, no. 577. ASQ, Séminaire, 128, no.135. PAC, RG 4, B28, 48: 415–16, 418–19. James Douglas, Journals and reminiscences of James Douglas, M.D., ed. James Douglas Jr (New York, 1910). Le Journal de Québec, 18 déc. 1854. Quebec Gazette, 4 Nov. 1802, 26 May 1803, 7 May 1807, 27 June 1816, 22 May 1817, 5 July 1821, 13 Dec. 1847. Annuaire de l’Hôtel-Dieu du Précieux-Sang (Québec, 1909). Quebec almanac, 1817–43. Sœur Sainte-Léonie, “L’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, 1639–1900: notices historiques et dépouillement des registres, 2e partie: 1759–1900” (thèse de bibliothéconomie, univ. Laval, Québec, 1964). Wallace, Macmillan dict. M.-J. et George Ahem, Notes pour servir à l’histoire de la médecine dans le Bas-Canada depuis la fondation de Québec jusqu’au commencement du XIXe siècle (Québec, 1923). Burke, Les ursulines de Québec, 3: 226; 4: 586–88, 633. P.-G. Roy, “La famille Fargues,” BRH, 44 (1938): 129–32.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Jacques Bernier, “FARGUES, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/fargues_thomas_7E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/fargues_thomas_7E.html
Author of Article: Jacques Bernier
Title of Article: FARGUES, THOMAS
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1988
Year of revision: 1988
Access Date: December 18, 2014