Ephraim Cook, the oldest physician in. the County of Oxford, is a native of Hadley, Mass., dating his birth, June 14, 1805. His father, John Cook, a farmer, was born in the same town. His mother was Sarah White. In his youth he aided his father in tilling land, and attended a district school, finishing his literary education at Hopkins Academy, in his native town. There also he commenced the study of medicine; attended lectures in Boston Mass.; in 1830 came to Upper Canada, finished his professional studies at St. Thomas, and in the spring of 1831, located in a farming district one mile north of where the village of Norwich now stands. There was then no sign of a village within a dozen miles of this point, and no physician nearer than Tilsonburg, twenty miles away none between here and Simcoe and Brantford, each twenty-five miles distant; none on the road to St. Thomas, fifty miles, and to the northward, none probably this side of the North Pole. A few years later, Dr. Turquand, mentioned elsewhere, settled at Woodstock.
Leaving the plain backwoods house about 1847, Dr. Cooke moved to his present home in the eastern end of the village of Norwich, then hardly in the embryotic state, here still living for years in the plainest farm house, and farmer’s style. For more than forty years his professional labors were exceedingly hard, and up to less than three years ago there was little abatement. He fairly wore himself out in the service of the sick, now being quite feeble, and doing little more than office work none outside the village. He has been in independent circumstances for many years, but some of the older families want no other physician, and he tries to accommodate them.
Notwithstanding the busy professional life which Dr. Cook lived for nearly fifty years, he was often almost forced into office, and has held nearly every civil position in the gift of the people of the township and county. In 1854-1858 he served the constituency of the South Riding of Oxford in the Canadian Parliament. He carried through the charter for the Canadian Literary Institute, now a flourishing school at Woodstock. He was the first bank manager at Norwich, and is a Director of the Port Dover and Lake Huron Railway, which he aided liberally with his funds in building.
The Doctor was Postmaster at Norwich at an early day, when there was only a weekly mail from Burford, arriving on Saturday and making Sunday a delivery day. His recollections of those times are quite vivid. The best pulpit talent could not be commanded at that period; the supply of teachers was rather meagre, and sermon or no sermon, the people who came five, ten and fifteen miles for their letters and papers, were more earnest to get secular than gospel news. It was glad tidings when they had a letter from far away friends; and a newspaper a month old, or if from the old country, three months old, was fresh and refreshing.
Dr. Cook holds no church connection, but is a Presbyterian, and a Christian believer, and, in his physical weakness, finds a staff and support in the Divine promises.
His wife was Phebe English, native of Ireland, and daughter of John English, who died at London, Ontario, in July, 1879, aged 96 years; married in January, 1834. They have three sons, all living in Norwich. George A. is a barrister; Ephraim C. is a medical student, and John H. a student at Law.