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American Medical Biographies/Almon, William James

Almon, William James (1754–1817)

William James Almon was born in New York in 1754, and died at Bath, England, in 1817, after having practised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for upwards of thirty years. He was found dead in bed. A diary kept during his last illness has been published and is very interesting.

In 1771 he was apprenticed to Andrew Anderson, physician and surgeon, of New York. On the outbreak of the Revolutionary War he sided with the Royalists and was employed as a surgeon at the Battle of Bunker Hill. On the evacuation of Boston in 1776, he came to Halifax with Lord Howe's forces, but remained only a short time, as he accompanied the troops to New York and remained in active service for several years. In 1779 he received from Lord Townshend a commission as assistant surgeon to the 4th Battalion of Royal Artillery. Before the close of the Revolutionary War he returned to Halifax and received the appointment of surgeon of artillery and ordnance, a position which he held for many years. He was also a justice of the peace for Halifax and surgeon-general of the militia. He acquired an extensive practice and enjoyed, to the fullest extent, the confidence of the community.

He was very absent-minded, a characteristic which gave rise to many amusing anecdotes. Readers of Marryat's "Newton Foster will readily recall the awkward predicament in which the hero's uncle was placed when he discovered himself unexpectedly in a bedroom with a woman not his wife. The incident is based on a misadventure of Dr. Almon's, which was related to Marryat by the family when the sailor-novelist was on the Halifax station. On another occasion, when paying a professional call on the Hon. Richard Bulkeley, he inadvertently slipped a gold watch and chain, which was lying near, into his pocket, where it was found that evening by his wife, but not before its loss was being proclaimed by the town crier.

In 1785 he married Rebecca Byles, a daughter of the Rev. Dr. Mather Byles, and had a large family. His son, Dr. William Bruce Almon, succeeded to his practice.