Fredericksburg is home to a host of captivating historical figures, and the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop tells the story of one of the city’s lauded physicians.
Who Was Hugh?
Dr. Hugh Mercer lived a storied and accomplished life in 18
th century-century Europe and North America. He traded in medicine and saw battlefields on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and spent a notable period of his career here in Fredericksburg. Mercer was born in Scotland, where he studied to become a physician and later went to war as an assistant surgeon in the Battle of Culloden. When his side, the army of Charles Edward Stuart was defeated in 1746, he left Scotland and traveled to Pennsylvania. Mercer in Fredericksburg
Mercer operated an apothecary in Pennsylvania for several years, then fought as a captain when General Edward Braddock attempted to seize Fort Duquesne during the Seven Years War. While garrisoned at Shippensburg, Mercer met George Washington, and the two developed a rapport that continued for the rest of their lives. Washington suggested that Mercer move to Fredericksburg, and the doctor located here in 1760. He set up his apothecary and practiced the medicine of the day, which involved snakeroot, leeches, and lancets among other methods. The community relied on Mercer as a trusted physician, and his patients included Washington’s own mother, Mary. In 1776, Mercer was appointed brigadier-general and left home to fight in the Revolutionary War. He was wounded in New Jersey, and it’s said that he refused to leave his troops, and remained on the field under a tree that would later be known as the Mercer Oak.
Dr. Mercer Remembered
After his death, Dr. Mercer’s memory lives on in the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop in Fredericksburg, as well as his namesake Mercer County, New Jersey, where the Mercer Oak stood for hundreds of years (although the original tree fell in 2000, a new Mercer Oak is growing from an acorn from the original tree). The doctor and brigadier general’s lineage also features other historical figures like General George S. Patton.
Plan Your Visit
The Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop is open seven days per week. From Monday to Saturday, it opens at 10 a.m., and on Sunday, it opens at noon. The site closes at 4 p.m. each day. The site is located at 1020 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401. As one of the Washington Heritage Museums, the shop is also just a quick walk away from other Fredericksburg historical sites. If you’d like to make a full day of delving into the region’s past, keep in mind that St. James’ House, The Mary Washington House, and the Rising Sun Tavern are all nearby.
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