VEREY, GEORGE, physician, teacher, and officeholder; b. probably in the 1830s in England; m. 31 Oct. 1876 Sarah Ann Coulson, and they had two sons and twin daughters; d. 19 Nov. 1881 at Edmonton (Alta).
George Verey was educated in London and studied medicine under Dr John Whaley at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England on 31 May 1861 and for a time resided in Kilburn (now part of Greater London). By 1863 Verey had travelled to Australia where he practised medicine briefly; he had returned to England by 1866 and joined the British army as a surgeon in the Far East. Following his discharge from the army, his wandering and intemperate spirit led him to Montana where he served for a time as a medical officer in the United States Army.
Verey was in the Canadian west by 1871 when he travelled with George Millward McDougall* to Fort Edmonton; there he worked as a clerk for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In the spring of 1874 he opened a school; it operated until the spring of 1875, when he departed for the Red River Settlement with a letter of introduction from Chief Factor Richard Charles Hardisty. On his return to Edmonton that summer, he was engaged to teach school and tend to the medical needs of the Stony Indians at the Methodist mission at Morley (Alta) under the Reverend John Chantler McDougall*.
While Verey was at Morley in the winter of 1875–76, his former benefactor, Richard Hardisty, fell seriously ill with rheumatic fever and sent for him by dog team. After tending Hardisty successfully, Verey returned in the summer to Edmonton where he taught school, rather unhappily, over the next winter. In the spring of 1877 he went to Red River. There he entered into a partnership with James Stewart*, a Winnipeg druggist, and also practised medicine after being licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba. But, dependent on credit from Hardisty, he set out once again for Edmonton in the summer of 1878.
From 1878 to 1881 Verey’s family grew to four children, and he built a house and operated a farm at Edmonton near the HBC’s property. Because the community was still too small to support a doctor, he also ran a school for a year. In August 1879 he was appointed a justice of the peace for the North-West Territories and was active, along with Hardisty, also a justice of the peace, in prosecuting offenders in the district. Verey expanded his farm and became secretary of the local agricultural society, which disseminated practical scientific information on farming. In 1881 he was made clerk of the Edmonton sitting of the Saskatchewan District Court. At the same time his medical practice improved, but it was necessary for the district, which now had a population of almost 2,000, to provide a bonus of $130 for the purchase of an adequate stock of medicines.
Edward G. Verey, the doctor’s brother, arrived late in 1881 to assist on the farm, but he departed suddenly and Dr Verey was apparently left depressed. After a week’s illness Verey died unexpectedly from an accidental overdose of self-prescribed chloral (an admixture of alcohol and opium) on 19 Nov. 1881. He left no will, and his family appears to have been provided for by relatives in England, with Hardisty attending to their welfare. A considerable stock of medicines and a substantial clientele were taken over by Verey’s successor, Dr Laurence John Munro from Winnipeg.
Verey is an example of the restless individual occasionally attracted to frontier societies. But unlike some, he had medical credentials which were certainly authentic, and the services he performed in the northwest were important in its early development. His experience and diverse interests were, in fact, well adapted to a pioneer society.
Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Richard Hardisty papers, 1861–94. PAM, MG 10, A15. Provincial Arch. of Alberta (Edmonton), Dr George Verey family papers. Saskatchewan Arch. Board (Saskatoon), North-West Territories, Proclamations and orders of the lieutenant governor, 1876–79 (mfm. at Glenbow-Alberta Institute). Supreme Court of Alberta (Edmonton), Probate Section, Papers relating to the estate of George Verey, 1890–94. J. [C.] McDougall, Opening the great west: experiences of a missionary in 1875–76, intro. J. E. Nix (Calgary, 1970), 36. Edmonton Bulletin, 1880–82, in particular 26 Nov. 1881. Henderson’s directory of the city of Winnipeg . . . (Winnipeg), 1880. Manitoba directory . . . (Winnipeg), 1877–79. H. C. Jamieson, Early medicine in Alberta: the first seventy-five years (Edmonton, 1947), 15–16, 36, 38, 112.