Born in Scotland in 1726, Dr. Hugh Mercer became friends with George Washington when they were colonels during the French and Indian War of the 1750s. He opened this apothecary shop in 1761 and practiced here until returning to service as a brigadier-general in the American Revolution. He was with Washington during the famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night of 1776 and died of bayonet wounds at the Battle of Princeton a few days later. (The warrior tradition continued in his family -- Gen. George S. Patton was his great-great-great-grandson.) Today this is one of the most entertaining Colonial attractions in Virginia. It's a don't-miss for children, who often let out "Ooooos" when hostesses in period dress show how Mercer practiced 18th-century medicine in this little shop of horrors. Optional tours run continuously, so you can join one when you get here and see what you missed on the next. A garden tour explains how plants were used as medicine in those days.
Giving Meaning to "Sawbones" -- In Dr. Hugh Mercer's Apothecary Shop you can see how he used a heated cup to remove boils and carbuncles, a knife to cut out cataracts, an ominous-looking key to extract teeth, and a saw for amputating limbs. The latter instrument gave rise to the early slang term for doctors: sawbones.