Tracy, Philemon, 1757 - 1837

Philemon Tracy (Yale 1817, honorary) was born in Norwich, CT on May 30,1757.  As a young man he served in the American Revolution as a Surgeon's Mate.  After the war, Philemon married Abigail Trott in September of 1785.  The couple would have six children.  Philemon followed in the footsteps of his father, the distinguish physician, Elisha Tracy, setting up practice in the family home near to the Norwich town green. Specializing in the treatment of chronic conditions, Philemon was well respected, publishing regularly over the course of his more than half a century of service to the Norwich community. It wasn't until 1817, however, that he received an honorary medical degree from Yale University, at the relatively advanced age of 60.

His medical account book for the years 1815-1817 indicates that he, and his son, Richard, a doctor in his own right, provided medical care for those living at Mohegan, just south west of Norwich. Families represented in the accounts include Cooper, Shantup, Mazzeen, Ashbow, Occom, and Wyyougg.  Both Philemon and Richard Tracy appear in the accounts of the state appointed overseers for the Mohegan Tribe as providing medical care to the community in the early 1820s. 

A mention in Noah Webster's first volume of A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases, published in 1799, indicates a much earlier and continuing doctor patient relationship between the Tracy family and the Mohegan Tribe.  In the late 1780s or early 1790's Philemon recounted for Webster details of the 1746 yellow fever epidemic, which was confined to the Mohegan reservation, during which Philemon's father, Elisha, administered care to the community.  Starting in August of 1743 and lasting until the onset of winter, the Mohegan tribe lost approximately one hundred members of its community to this malady.  Elisha himself contracted the illness but survived.  He was described as "the only white man affected".  Years later Philemon examined an unnamed Mohegan "priest" who had also contracted the illness and survived.  According to the Mohegan "priest", an affected " patient first complained of a severe pain in the head and back, which was followed by fever—in three or four days, the skin turned as yellow as gold, a vomiting of black matter took place and generally a bleeding at the nose and mouth, which continued, till the patient died".  Philemon Tracy tended to the medical needs of the Norwich and surrounding communities as long as his own health permitted.  He died in Norwich on April 26, 1837, a month shy of his eightieth birthday.  Abbey, Matilda O. Genealogy of the Family of Lt. Thomas Tracy, of Norwich, Conn. (Milwaukee: D.S. Harkness & Co. 1888), 119-120; Philemon Tracy Revolutionary War Pension Records; Perkins, Mary Elizabeth. Old Houses of the Antient Town of Norwich, 1660-1800 (Norwich: Press of the Bulletin Co. 1895), 118, 391-393; Account Book of Philemon Tracy, 1815-1817, CHS; Webster, Noah. A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases (Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin 1799), 341-343;  NLCC: PbS, Indians, Mohegan; Petition of Dr. Philemon Tracy (1821.05.01.00), CSL, Passed Legislation, RG2: Gen. Ass. NA, 1822-1868 Box 1, 99-138; Unpassed Legislation, RG2: Gen. Ass. NA, Rejected Bills 1808-1869 Box 1, folder 6, 43-45 and Box 2, folder 7, 7-10.

Image of Philemon Tracy courtesy of The National Gallery of Art.

May 30, 1757
April 26, 1837