James Lister, a surgeon and physician in Belleville for thirty-seven years, and one of the best educated professional men in this part of the Province, was a son of Captain Lister, long a commander of the Coast Guards, at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, and was born in London, England, June 30, 1811. When he was twelve years old, the son was placed in a large private school near Cork, where he received an English and classical education. He then went to Dublin, took a thorough course of study in surgery; received his degree in that branch of the healing art, and thence repaired to London, taking a medical course and there receiving the degree of M. D. He also became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London.
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Thus thoroughly equipped, Dr. Lister entered upon the active and responsible duties of his profession, practicing six years near Barnstable, Devonshire, and in 1841, immigrated to Upper Canada, now Ontario, settled at Belleville, and was in constant practice until his demise March 23, 1878. He had an extensive general practice, yet always had predilection for surgery, in which he was an expert. In this branch he often went a long way from home to attend to difficult cases, and in consultation has gone as far as Montreal and New York.
He was greatly esteemed for his kindness as well as skill at the sick bed, and for his generosity to the unfortunate. He did an immense amount of practice among the poor, for which he received and expected to receive nothing. He never thought of asking that class of patients for a penny; and if he had any one fault, it was carelessness in making collections of those abundantly able to compensate him for his services. It is doubtful if he received fifty per cent, of his annual charges; and yet he left his family in comfortable circumstances.
He was a self sacrificing man, never refusing to respond to a call while he was in good health, whatever might be the weather. The result was that overwork and exposure partially undermined his constitution, and he was an invalid for some years before he died. Of his death the Belleville Free Press, of March 30, 1878, thus speaks:
“Few of our citizens were more widely known and none more highly respected than Dr. Lister. He was a type of that character which we are accustomed to call a gentleman of the old school’somewhat bluff in outward demeanor, but honorable, courteous, and open as the day in all his intercourse with his fellow men, a faithful and generous friend, a kind and indulgent husband and father. His loss will be lamented by many who owe their lives to his skilful hand and patient attendance; but the blow will fall most heavily on his family and intimate friends, who, best knowing him, loved him most. A sketch of the deceased gentleman’s life has already appeared in the daily papers: it is ours merely to offer an humble tribute to the high character he has born; and we offer it the more willingly because, in these days, the words of Tennyson can but rarely be applied with truth, as they can be to him:
‘And still he bore without abuse The grand old name of gentleman.’ “At the funeral a detachment of the 15th Battalion, of which he was surgeon, marched in the procession, and the band of the battalion was also in attendance. The remains were taken to the cemetery by the steamer Prince Edward’ and buried with military honors.”
Dr. Lister grew up in the Church of England; was a constant attendant of divine worship all his days, and lived a pure, exemplary and noble life.
His professional duties were so burdensome that he rarely, if ever held a civil office; but during the Fenian raids he acted as staff surgeon of the 15th Battalion of Militia, and was a true patriot, ready at any time to aid in defending his country.
October 4, 1843, Miss Margaret Cowper, daughter of Dr. George Cowper, of Belleville, became the wife of Dr. Lister, and is the mother of eight children, only four of whom survive their father.