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Hugh Mercer: An unexpected life page 6
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

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In 1771, he began a partnership with Dr. Ewen Clements, who had moved to Fredericksburg. Mercer's decision to expand his business may have been influenced by the opportunity created by the demise of Dr. Sutherland in 1765. (Mercer bought some of his town lots.)

The partners advertised in the Virginia Gazette. Their shop was on the Main (Caroline Street) "opposite Henry Mitchell's store" (which was on Lot 30 adjoining Julian's tavern property across the street). They offered "a large assortment of drugs and medicines of the best quality, just imported from London."

Their shop was no doubt in Barbara Jones' old tavern, on which Mercer was already paying rent. (He may have been there for some time, for she had died in 1765.) The partnership, however, did not work out, possibly because Mercer took two-thirds share of the profits to Clements' one-third.

On the first day of July in 1772, Mercer announced a new partnership with young John Julian, "next door to Mrs. Julian's tavern." He had moved directly across the street from his old shop, and the new partners were undoubtedly getting a rent break from Julian's mother, Phebe. One month later, Dr. Clements announced the sale of his share of the contents at the old location prior to moving away. He asked for "one hundred per cent of the original price for ready money only." Clements did not offer any bargains, and the parting between the former partners evidently was not amicable.

But Mercer's practice flourished, as his surviving ledger attests. Between 1771 and 1773, he had 243 accounts and over 100 local patients. Members of the gentry, leading merchants from both sides of the river, craftsmen, tavern keepers--all patronized his services.

Most of his ministrations to his patients were performed in their homes at five shillings a visit. His principal treatments were purges, vomits and bleedings.

Several members of the gentry had very large bills reflecting serious health problems. Among them were John Mercer, Charles Dick, Fielding Lewis, and Roger Dixon. And, of course, there were illnesses among family members, as well.


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