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Hugh Mercer: An unexpected life page 5
After escaping from Scotland to freedom in America, Dr. Hugh Mercer became a Revolutionary War hero. He is profiled in a series by Paula S. Felder on 'The Fredericksburg Patriots.' Hugh Mercer: An unexpected life

Date published: 9/4/2004


In April 1762, Mercer obtained an appointment as a civilian doctor to the Virginia regiment, which was based in Fredericksburg and was experiencing an outbreak of smallpox. His services extended through the summer until October. He submitted a bill for 175 pounds for medicines and another for an expensive medicine chest costing 125 pounds. (The examining committee challenged his bill, but the Virginia Assembly honored all but 58 pounds.)

In 1763, George Weedon moved to Fredericksburg, transferring his lodge membership from Port Royal. And it was probably in that year that the two men married sisters, the daughters of the widow Gordon, who had run her husband's popular tavern since his death in 1750.

The following year, Weedon obtained a commission as a captain in the Spotsylvania militia. Also, the two men, now brothers-in-law, bought a ticket in Roger Dixon's lottery offering lots in his new development at the lower end of town. They drew lots 240, 250, and 203. (Weedon later built the Sentry Box on lot 250.)

In 1766, Hugh Mercer bought his first home, at the very steep price of 470 pounds, on Lot 50 at the corner of Amelia and Princess Anne streets, next door to Charles Dick. The seller, James Hunter, was one of the leading Scottish entrepreneurs, who had expanded the family business at the public wharf (on Henry Willis' old property). He also owned a foundry across the river and the farm next to Mary Washington where he now lived.

Beginning in 1767, Hugh Mercer became one of the principal doctors reimbursed by the vestry for the care of the indigent sick. (Because of some misinterpretations of the minutes, it has been incorrectly claimed that he was a vestryman.)

By now, Mercer's practice was growing and included a cross section of the population--ranging from John Mercer of Marlborough, who lived 15 miles away--to dozens of townspeople from every walk of life.

After his purchase of James Hunter's residence in 1766, Hugh Mercer settled into a more expensive and expansive lifestyle. In 1769, he acknowledged a debt of 549 pounds to Archibald Ritchie and Co. with interest dating from 1766, which suggests that he had not yet paid for his residence. But he would continue to make land purchases.

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