MORRIS, FREDERICK WILLIAM, physician; baptized 29 May 1802 at Halifax, N.S., eighth son of Charles Morris* (1759–1831), surveyor general of Nova Scotia, and Charlotte Pernette; m. 12 Nov. 1863 at Lunenburg, N.S., Janet Maria (Jessie) Solomon; they had no children; d. 4 Sept. 1867 at Halifax.
Frederick William Morris entered King’s College, Windsor, N.S., in 1816, but did not graduate, perhaps because his right hand had to be amputated following a shooting accident in 1820. After his recovery he was apprenticed to Dr William Bruce Almon*, a leading Halifax surgeon. Morris continued his studies at the University of Edinburgh where he received his md on 1 Aug. 1825. He visited hospitals in London and Paris at this time.
The early years of Morris’ medical career are difficult to trace. By 1826 he was practising in Lunenburg, and on 8 Oct. 1828 he was appointed a justice of the peace for Lunenburg County and attended the Court of Quarter Sessions for a year. In a letter written in 1859 he stated that he had practised in Annapolis, Lunenburg, Halifax, Dartmouth, and Rawdon. He published a pamphlet, Remarks on spasmodic cholera, in Halifax in 1832. In 1839 he advertised a 20-week course on chemistry at the Halifax Mechanics’ Institute; one would therefore assume that he was practising in Halifax by that date.
On 10 Jan. 1840 Morris was one of the Halifax practitioners petitioning the Legislative Council to establish a public hospital. His name next appears in existing documents as founding member of the Halifax Medical Society on 7 May 1853. A member of its first council, in March 1858 he was elected its second vice-president. This society became the Medical Society of Nova Scotia on 21 March 1861, and Morris was chosen a member of its first council.
At a citizens’ meeting in Halifax on 20 Feb. 1855 Morris became one of eight doctors on the board of governors of the newly founded Halifax Visiting Dispensary. The board also included eight businessmen, with William Murdoch as president. On 23 April 1855 Morris was appointed the dispensary’s resident physician with an annual salary of £100; he was to attend the clinic daily, dispense free medicine, visit the patients at home, and keep the records. Although the dispensary received small grants from the provincial government and the city, as well as voluntary contributions, it was always short of funds. Between 1855 and 1867 over 38,000 cases were treated there. Another important function was the training of medical students.
In the spring of 1861 Dr Morris administered a drug, “Indian Remedy,” as a cure for smallpox. He also published in the local press several letters urging its use. At a meeting of the Nova Scotia Medical Society on 6 May 1861 Morris was asked to give notes of patients treated with this remedy. He did so, but the meeting decided by a vote of ten to one that he had “not had any reliable data” upon which to base his recommendation. Finally the society passed a resolution that “Dr. Morris by lending his name and authority to the sale and use of . . . [a] remedy . . . of the utility of which he appears . . . to possess no conclusive evidence, has violated the rules of this society . . . and his name should be erased from the list of members.” Action taken at the Halifax Visiting Dispensary was less drastic; although five of the medical governors resigned in protest at the decision, its board only censured Morris and demanded his written assurance that he would no longer prescribe the “Indian Remedy” or any other medicine not recognized by the medical profession. Morris accepted their reprimand.
In September 1861 the Reverend James C. Cochran* tried to have Morris reinstated in the medical society and to convince the doctors who had left the dispensary to return. He failed on both counts as did Charles Tupper* when he attempted to have Morris reinstated in the society. Finally at its annual meeting on 7 Jan. 1862 the society amended its by-laws to enable a person who had been expelled to be readmitted on obtaining a favourable vote from two-thirds of the members present at a meeting. Shortly thereafter the secretary of the society wrote to Cochran stating that Morris should write expressing “his regret for the circumstances which led to the erasion of his name” and also expressing his “determination to avoid such unprofessional conduct in the future.” Such a letter would probably have gained his readmission but there is no evidence that it was ever written.
Frederick William Morris continued his work at the dispensary until his death. The inventory of his will shows that he died almost in poverty, leaving his widow an estate of only $1,235. In 1867 the dispensary was reorganized; some of its functions were taken over by the Dalhousie Public Health Clinic in 1924, but it still provides medicine for outpatients at the Izaac Walton Killam Children’s Hospital in Halifax.
Halifax County Court of Probate (Halifax), no. 1485, will of F. W. Morris, 1867. PANS, MG 1, 544 (T. H. Lodge, “Genealogy of the Morris family of Halifax” (typescript)); MG 20, no.179/1; no.181/1. St John’s Anglican Church (Lunenburg, N.S.), register of marriages, 1817–65 (mfm. at PANS). St Paul’s Anglican Church (Halifax), register of baptisms, 1791–1816 (mfm. at PANS). F. W. Morris, Remarks on spasmodic cholera (Halifax, 1832). Halifax Dispensary, Report, 1855, 1857, 1858, 1860–1959, 1962. Acadian Recorder, 22 Oct. 1825; 21 Nov. 1863; 14 Jan., 16 Feb., 6 Sept., 13 Nov. 1867; 10 April 1897. Novascotian, 20 Nov., 4 Dec. 1839; 23 Nov. 1863. M. W. Fleming, “The Halifax Visiting Dispensary – 100 years ago,” Nova Scotia Medical Bull. (Halifax), XXXVI (1957), 106–9.