Plymouth County Biographies

Part of the Massachusetts Biographies Project

Dr. Gridley Thaxter

Dr. Gridley Thaxter, one of the Revolutionary War surgeons, was born in Hingham, April 9, 1756. He engaged as a surgeon on the privateer "Speedwell" and sailed from Boston in 1776, under Captain Jonathan Greeley. He continued on her during the taking of several prized until 1778. He served with Captain David Ropes of Salem in the brig "Wildcat", which was a schooner of fourteen tons, in the harbor of Halifax, which subsequently was recaptured by a schooner, brig and two sloops. The frigate "Surprise" proved truly named to them and the following day they were upon her deck as prisoners. Dr. Thaxter remained on the prison ship about three months. He was exchanged from Halifax a month later.

He was on the brig "Warrior" fourteen guns, Captain William Patten, Jr., in May, 1780, when that brig was captured by the sloop-of-war "Captain Ingalls". He was kept aboard a prison ship three weeks in New York. After his release he shipped on the State ship "Mars," Captain Simeon Sampson, and remained as surgeon until 1781.

Dr. Thaxter had bought a set of dishes in Paris which, strangely enough, he was able to retain in his possession during several of his Revolutionary adventures. He intended them as a gift to his bride when he should be married at the close of the war. The dishes were still intact when he was discharged from the service and he stored them in his father's barn in Hingham until his approaching wedding. This took place, the bride being the daughter of General Benjamin Lincoln of Hingham, who also served in the Revolutionary War.

Dr. Thaxter got the girl but she never got the dishes, as the Thaxter was burned and only two dishes were saved. Those two, however, have come down with the story from Revolutionary times and are still cherished possessions. One of them was exhibited at the observance of the sixtieth anniversary of the organization of the Plymouth District Medical Society at Abington, May 27, 1911, by Dr. Giman Osgood, at that time historian of the society.

Dr. Thaxter moved from Hingham to Abington in 1783. He died in that town in 1845, aged eighty-nine years.

Dr. Ezekiel Thaxter, son of Dr. Gridley Thaxter, was a physician in Abington, beginning before the death of his father, and succeeding him until his death October 11, 1856. he was sixty-nine years of age. The last three years of his life he suffered from paralysis. He held the office of town clerk of Abington from 1821 to 1832.

Source: "History of Plymouth, Norfolk and Barnstable Counties Massachusetts; Volume I" by Elroy S. Thompson. Pub. 1928. Page 123-4