Patrick Napier, Colonial Surgeon W-41


Nearby lived “Patrick Napier of Queenes Creek in the County of Yorke Chirurgeon,” one of the earliest surgeons of Scottish descent in Virginia. Born about 1634, and apprenticed to the surgeon general of the Scottish army defeated by Cromwell in 1650, Patrick Napier arrived here before 1655. He married Elizabeth, a daughter of Robert Booth, clerk of the York County Court and a member of the House of Burgesses. By horse and boat, Napier attended the sick, performed surgery, bled his patients, and dispensed various remedies consistent with the practice of medicine in the mid-seventeenth century. He died in 1669. He was the progenitor of most of the Napiers in America.

Further Research

Dr. Patrick Napier comes from a long lineage of Scottish Napiers, most likely a descendent of the clan of Kilmahew Napiers. Dr. Patrick Napier’s father was also a “chirugeon”, and his father worked directly for King Charles I, while he directly apprenticed for the surgeon-general of the Scottish Army, Dr. Alexander Pennycuik.  Dr. Patrick Napier was born sometime around 1610 in Scotland, and after arriving in Virginia sometime around 1650-1655, he married Elizabeth Booth (Woodson, 29).

Tools Used in Surgery

During the early colonial times, many doctors came to Virginia with the prospects of being able to practice medicine freely, with virtually no restrictions.  They provided an important service to the colonists, as the first year in Virginia was always the hardest.  On average, 1 out of every 5 immigrants died due to the “seasoning time” (the time to become adjusted to the climate and natural elements of the land) and Dr. Patrick Napier helped to provide medicine and relief to these colonists to help them (Tyler, 268).

Tool Used for Cleaning Wounds

Dr. Patrick Napier was involved in a legal matter regarding his boat.  In the early days of the settlement, the chief means of transportation were through waterways by boat since barely any roads existed. In 1660, a man named Mr. Strachey borrowed Dr. Napier’s boat without permission and Dr. Napier was unable to attend to his sick patients because of this. In return, Mr. Strachey was fined 350 pounds of tobacco due to his negligence of Dr. Napier’s belongings (Doliante, 3).

Leeches Used for Bloodletting

Dr. Patrick Napier was not the only colonial surgeon that was present in Jamestown during this time, but along with the 5-6 other physicians they are noted for helping to keep the colony alive and practicing the first bits of medicine in the New World.





Further Reading

Napier, Charlie. The Napiers of Kilmahew (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Doliante, Sharon. Maryland and Virginia Colonials: Genealogies of Some Colonial Families : Families of Bacon, Beall, Beasley, Cheney, Duckett, Dunbar, Ellyson, Elmore, Graves, Heydon, Howard, Jacob, Morris, Nuthall, Odell, Peerce, Reeder, Ridgley, Prather, Sprigg, Wesson, Williams, and Collateral Kin. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991.

Tyler, Long G. Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine-Vol. 1. Richmond: Whittet and Shepperson Printers, 1920.

Woodson, H.M. Historical Genealogy of the Woodsons and their Connections. Memphis: H.M. Woodson, 1915.

Photo Credits

Historical Marker “Patrick Napier, Colonial Surgeon W-41,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Tools Used in Surgery,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Tool Used for Cleaning Wounds,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, (accessed May 1, 2012).

“Leeches Used for Bloodletting,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, (accessed May 1, 2012).

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