Anderson Abbott belonged to the first generation of his affluent, free family to be born in Toronto. His parents had to leave Alabama abruptly for their own safety, and after briefly settling in New York, they chose Toronto as their home. Due to his family’s involvements and wealth—they owned almost 50 properties in the Toronto area— Abbott was educated at North Buxton (near Chatham), the Toronto Academy, Oberlin College and the Toronto School of Medicine. Following a supervised placement with another Black doctor, Alexander Augusta, Abbott was licensed in 1861, becoming the first Canadian-born Black doctor in Canada.
Abbott felt compelled to apply his medical services to the American Civil War effort and ended up in a segregated regiment, and then as a civilian surgeon in several Washington, DC hospitals. Among his experiences was caring for the dying President Abraham Lincoln. Returning to Toronto, Abbott married and moved to Chatham. There he was appointed coroner for Kent County while also advocating for integrated schools. After living in other Ontario towns, he accepted an appointment in Chicago, becoming medical superintendent in 1896. Again returning to Toronto, he spent his later years writing on Black history and other topics.