Cork-Born MD a Hero, Patron for Buffalo's Laborers, Clergy

I ran across a man and his daughter lost in the 19th century history of Buffalo, Dr. John Cronyn (pictured) and Juliana Cronyn. They were extraordinary people by any stretch of the imagination.

John Cronyn was born in Blackrock, a suburb of Cork City, in 1825 and moved with his parents to Toronto. He finished first in his medical school class but was denied his MD when he refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen and the 39 Articles. Still he passed his Canadian boards and was entitled to practice medicine.

He received offers from all over North America but wanted to serve common folk. He set up practice in Fort Erie, Ontario, near the border and married Elizabeth Ann Willoughby, a Methodist. He also assisted in Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, just a few miles away.

Sisters Hospital, as it is now called, was founded by the Sisters of Charity from Maryland, brought there by Bishop John Timon, Buffalo's first and most outstanding bishop. He became Chief Physician at Sisters, head of the Buffalo Medical Society, and assumed numerous other posts throughout New York state. Nevertheless, Cronyn built his practice among Buffalo's large laboring class and the poor clergy who served them.

Cronyn treated Bishop Stephen Ryan for 25 years and was given credit by the Buffalo Evening News for keeping the bishop alive through years of fragile health. The bishop finally died in 1896, age 71. 

At Cronyn's death in 1898, his life was heralded by the total community and its newspapers on their front pages. When his estate was probated, it was valued at $17,000, enough to continue supporting the household of four children, his wife, his aunt and a niece that he had supported for much of his career. Obviously he treated many who could not afford to pay him. Famous and beloved he was, but rich he was not ... by design.

Pictured, Buffalo's second spiritual leader, Bishop Stephen V. Ryan. Source: Wikimedia (date unknown)

John recognized the unusual musical talent of his daughter Juliana and sent her to Italy for years of training. She returned touring North America with a famous European composer. With offers from many cities, she settled in Buffalo, became head organist and choirmaster at St. Joseph's Cathedral for 20 years and entertained widely throughout the western New York area and beyond. Lilke father, like daughter.

John and Juliana's talents would have taken them around the world, but they chose to enrich the local community struggling to emerge from its booming industrial economy and develop a broad quality of life for all its citizens.  

Views: 396

Tags: Arts, Canada, Faith, Immigration, Medicine, Music, Ontario, Philanthropy, United States

Comment by Fran Reddy on August 27, 2015 at 10:14am

Wonderful story!

Comment by Gerry Regan on August 29, 2015 at 11:45am

Obit from The Canadian Medical Review for Dr. John Cronyn available here 

And here's a Wikipedia entry on Bishop Stephen Ryan:

Comment by William J. Donohue on August 30, 2015 at 11:04am

The more I learn about Dr. Cronyn the more I realize he and his two daughters played major roles in lifting Buffalo from the rough canal town it was in 1850 to the cultured metropolis it became by the end of the century. Dr. John was the leading physician of his time in New York State let alone Buffalo. But he did much more than practice medicine. He was one of the communities most revered leaders in all health and social services and in the arts. He represented NY State at national meetings. The man was everywhere.

Comment by William J. Donohue on August 31, 2015 at 10:16am

Thanks for the back-up, Gerry.I am doing more research on the Cronyn's and hope to write a more complete article on them. 

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Comment by That's Just How It Was on September 25, 2015 at 11:46am

A wonderful article ; about Irish people ; yet again. Is their no end to Irish talent all over the world.


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