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Veterinary Education in Canada: The Early History of the Ontario Veterinary College

So just where was the OVC’s first library? Where did students first access the Cherry Collection?

The Upper Canada Veterinary School (renamed the Ontario Veterinary College in 1870) was initially located in Toronto’s Agricultural Hall, located at Queen and Younge streets. A three-story building, Agricultural Hall was built just as Andrew Smith arrived in Canada in 1861. The first floor of the building housed an agricultural seed business, while the second floor of the building housed the Upper Canada Agricultural Society. The third floor is reportedly where Andrew Smith delivered his first lectures on veterinary medicine. This may have been where the Cherry Collection first appeared in Canada, housed on shelves and made accessible to students and attendees of Smith’s lectures.

Agricultural Hall
(C.A.V. Barker Collection, Archival & Special Collections, University of Guelph Library)

Andrew Smith’s first course of veterinary lectures in Toronto began in February of 1862. The course consisted of four weeks of lectures that were offered for free and taught with George Buckland, Professor of Agriculture at the University of Toronto. Buckland, along with Adam Fergusson, a prominent cattle breeder and member of the Upper Canada Board of Agriculture, had initiated the campaign to establish formal veterinary education in Upper Canada. They approached William Dick, Principal of the Edinburgh Veterinary School (later named the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School) to recommend a graduate. William Dick endorsed Andrew Smith.

In the winter of 1863 Andrew Smith began to offer a longer veterinary course. Students paid a fee of $5.00 and were required to have attended his previous free course. By 1864, Smith was granted a charter by the Upper Canada Board of Agriculture formally founding the Upper Canada Veterinary School. Smith selected the faculty and students and was the principal instructor and examiner at the school. The course was short and very practical, and with only very basic literacy skills required to enroll.

In 1865, Andrew Smith pushed the Upper Canada Board of Agriculture to appoint a board of examiners so that the school could issue diplomas to its graduates. They agreed and a set of examiners was appointed and included Smith, Duncan McEachran (an 1862 graduate of the Edinburgh Veterinary School and the first faculty member Smith hired – he would leave soon after and found the Montreal Veterinary College), J.J. Meyrick and W.B. Walters – both veterinary surgeons with the Royal Artillery, James Hume, VS, who like Smith had trained at Edinburgh and was a practitioner from Hamilton. The final two examiners were James Bovell, MD, and George Buckland.

The first three recorded graduates of the Upper Canada Veterinary School appear in 1866: Robert Robinson of Tullamore (Peel County), William Elliot of Sandhill (Peel County), and George Kempchell of Vaughn (York County). In order to obtain a diploma, students were required to attend three winter sessions of Smith’s lectures, provide evidence that they had participated in veterinary practice, and successfully pass final exams with the board of examiners. Unfortunately, little is known about the working lives of these first three graduates. Robinson practiced in Tullamore and served as an occasional examiner of students at the college. He later moved to the Bolton area. Kempchell practiced in Ingersoll and later Woodstock, and Elliot can be traced to Elora in 1875, but little else is known about his life.

Smith continued to teach out of the Agricultural Hall until 1870 when he opened, at his expense, the first college buildings on Temperance Street in Toronto. The opening of these new facilities coincided with the renaming of the college, from the Upper Canada Veterinary School to the Ontario Veterinary College. The new college buildings included a dissection room, pharmacy, lecture space, and an anatomical collection. There would also have been space for a small library for students to access. By 1876, the student body had grown to the point where the college expanded again. A new, 200-seat lecture space was added, laboratory, office spaces, and increased stabling for the college’s infirmary.

The college would remain on Temperance Street until 1914 when it moved to new, more modern facilities on University Avenue in Toronto. In 1922, the OVC would move to its present location in Guelph.