Plymouth County Biographies

Part of the Massachusetts Biographies Project

Dr. Abner Hersey

Dr. Abner Hersey, to whom Dr. Thatcher had been apprenticed when he was eighteen years of age, was one of three sons of James Hersey of Hingham who became physicians. Ezekiel was graduated from Harvard College in 1728 and practiced in Hingham. Dr. James Hersey practiced in Barnstable and it was from him that Dr. Abner Hersey obtained his early knowledge of medicine, studying in his office. While thus engaged Dr. James died and Dr. Abner carried on the practice.

A Vegetarian and Wore Red Flannel- The latter was eccentric, wore large, loose-fitting garments, his overcoat consisting of seven calfskins lined with flannel and, as red flannel was supposed to have peculiarly effective remedial qualities at that time, it is presumed that the lining was of that lurid hue. Dr. Hersey ate principally fruit, mild and vegetables, was a vegetarian and total abstainer from alcoholic beverages, which was, in itself, sufficient in those days to give him a reputation for being decidedly "queer." He was, however, a studious, skillful and much liked physician and one of the early members of the Massachustts [sic] Medical Society, the parent society in New England. He accumulated an ample estate, the chief part of which he bequeathed to the churches in Barnstable. He left five hundred pounds to establish a professorship of anatomy and surgery at Harvard College. He died January 9, 1787, aged sixty-six.

Source: "History of Plymouth, Norfolk and Barnstable Counties Massachusetts; Volume I" by Elroy S. Thompson. Pub. 1928. Pages 120-121