The Old Apothecary Shop 1859

The Old Apothecary Shop on the Beaufort Restoration Grounds
Dr. Josiah Davis House
1796 Courthouse
Dr. William Cramer, of Portsmouth Island, first came to Beaufort in 1850 to help staff the new US Government Hospital. He purchased the old 1796 courthouse—moved fifteen years earlier from the intersection of Ann and Turner Street to the northeast corner—and made it his home. In 1859 he built the original front portion of the Apothecary Shop adjacent to his dwelling. Dr. Cramer died in 1864, a victim of the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged the area that year.

After Dr. Cramer’s death, Dr. Josiah Davis acquired the Apothecary Shop and moved it across the street next to his Ann Street home. There it served as his office and drugstore and was used until 1936 by his son, Dr. George Davis.

Dr. Josiah Davis was largely self-educated and, after attending a series of medical lectures in 1859-60, Dr. Davis started his practice in 1862. He continued his medical education at the University of New York City in 1865 and graduated a year later. 

His son, Dr. George Davis, later joined the practice in 1902 and eventually added an office to the rear portion of the apothecary building. George went to the University of Chicago Medical School and was well known for his intellect. George was not only a physician but a lawyer as well; having received his law degree in 1931 on a dare that he couldn’t do it. It is said that he would have a circle of friends in the back with chairs around to discuss politics, religion and law. George was also a talented musician and he had a small organ in the office. He was very melancholic and always wore all black with long sleeves, even in the summer. He had very fair skin that burned easily so he avoided the sun and never went out without a long black cape and top hat, his skin supposedly an unhealthy, pasty white. He diagnosed himself as having Hodgkin’s disease in 1931 and practiced until 1932.
As in these early times, Drs. Cramer, Davis and Davis were surgeons, eye doctors, dentists, psychologists, and general practitioners. They diagnosed patients, prescribed medicine and then filled their own prescriptions in the front part of the shop. The restored Apothecary looks very much as it did when Dr. George Davis was practicing there, filled with medicinal bottles, instruments and flasks—and even an organ.

Beaufort Historic Site
Paintings by Mary Warshaw