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Dr. Thomas Graeme / Graeme Park

Dr. Thomas Graeme / Graeme Park

Dr. Thomas Graeme (October 20, 1688-September 4, 1772) was the prominent Port Physician of Philadelphia and purchased the remainder of what had been Sir William Keith's Fountain Low Estate in 1739 from Joseph Turner who had purchased it from Lady Anne Keith in 1737. (see Graeme Park Timeline).

Dr. Graeme traveled to Philadelphia with the Keiths in 1717 as their family physician upon Sir William's appointment as Governor, and in 1919 married Keith's step-daughter Ann Diggs. Graeme gained prominence as Port Physician from 1728 to 1740 during the vast migration of Germans to Pennsylvania. Disease was rampant in the overcrowded vessels, and it is to his credit that during his administration there were no major epidemics in Philadelphia. He held a number of other positions including Provincial Counsellor, and Justice of the Superior Court. He was co-founder of the Pennsylvania Hospital.

Keith and Graeme were distantly related by marriage, Graeme's sister was married to a step-uncle of Keith (89 p4), and Graeme's appointment in Philadelphia may have been Keith returning a favor:

"James Logan (mayor of Philadelphia in 1722 and later acting governor of PA), some years later, speaks of the battle (Jacobean loss at sherrifmuir) and a closet (?), apparently a refuge after the battle, having given Thomas Graeme a claim upon Keith. Keith's kinsman, the young Earl Marischal, may have hid at the Graeme seat, Balgowan, before leaving Scotland, with a price upon his head, losing his title by attainder." (89 p7)

In 1737 Dr. Thomas Graeme purchased the remaining portion of his mother-in-law’s (Lady Anne Keith) estate. (Sir William had left the colonies in 1727 and never returned. ) This had been sold a short time before at public sale to help with Lady Anne's debts, Graeme was somehow able to buy it back. probably to become his family’s summer home and renamed it "Graeme Park".

"The deed of August 16, 1737, for the balance of the estate at Horsham recites that she had been obliged for her support to contract large debts, for the payment of which and her future support the Trustees, at her request, had sold the eight hundred and thirty-four acres at public sale for seven hundred and fifty pounds Pennsylvania money. In December following the purchaser reconveyed to her son in-law, Dr. Graeme, who, we believe, notwithstanding the language of Watson (who described her as "unnoticed and almost forgotten" when she died), never allowed Lady Ann to starve." (89 pp32-32)

Dr. Graeme probably maintained his main residence in Philadelphia until at least 1747 when his health began to deteriorate. He then began to transform - reportedly with much assistance from his daughter Elizabeth - the property into a splendid colonial estate.

As part of his improvements, Graeme installed Georgian panelling in the Parlor, the Master Bedchamber, and several other rooms, built an outdoor kitchen, and "grained" several of the chamber doors for effect. He also laid out a formal garden to the front of the mansion and established a 300 acre Deer Park to make it "a piece of Beauty and Ornament to a dwelling (that any English noble) would be proud to his house." (79). (The Art Institute of Chicago and Winterthur Museum both attempted to buy this woodwork from Welsh Strawbridge after he purchased Graeme Park in 1920 - the interior of Independence Hall in Philadelphia was reconstructed by the National Park Service beginning in 1953 to return the hall to its 18th century appearance, the interior of the Keith House is said to have been used as a model for this - notation needed)

Dr. Graeme died in 1772 at the age of eighty-four while walking at Graeme Park, and left the estate to his youngest daughter, Elizabeth. It is not known exactly how many children Dr and Mrs Graeme had, but it is at least 9 per baptismal records and could be as high as 12, including a twin of Elizabeth named Sarah who died in infancy. Dr. Graeme is said to have had a heart attack in the garden just before Elizabeth had planned to tell him that she had married Hugh Fergusson against his wishes.

"I sat on the bench at the window and watched him coming up the avenue. It was a terrible task to prepare. I was in agony; at every step he was approaching nearer. As he reached the tenant house he fell and died. Had I told him the day before, as I thought of doing, I should have reproached myself for his death and gone crazy." (90)

For a more detailed biography of Dr. Graeme, please visit the Dr Thomas Graeme page on the Friends of Graeme Park website

Dr Graeme's obituary ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette on September 9, 1772: (90)

"On Friday last, September 4, 1772, died suddenly, at his seat at Graeme Park, Thomas Graeme, Esq., M. D., aged eighty-four years, Naval Officer of the Port of Philadelphia. He was descended from an ancient family in Scotland, and possessed all the natural talents of a Gentleman, improved by a liberal education. He was blest with a clear Head, a Masculine Understanding, and a happy, Sagacity, which justly placed him for Half a Century at the Head of his Profession, as a Physician, in this city. His Practice was fair and honorable, distinguished as well by his Medical Abilities and communicative Temper, as by a natural Philanthropy, that led him equally to the most affectionate and diligent Attendance on all his Patients, and to the charitable Relief of the numerous Poor who applied to him. He likewise long filled an important civil office, closely connected with the Trading Interest of this Province ; and, hating Covetousness, conducted himself therein with so much justice and Moderation, that he carried to the Grave with him, a character universally beloved for Integrity in his public Trust, as well as for the Amiable Virtues of Humanity in his private Station. From Temperance, and an extraordinary Vigor of Constitution, he attained fullness of Years.
He was interred Sunday Forenoon, in Christ Church-yard, in this city, and the Esteem in which he lived, was testified by the great concourse of respectable Inhabitants of all Denominations, who attended his funeral."

Elizabeth wrote his epitaph:

The soul that lived within this Crumbling dust
In every Act was Eminently just.
Peaceful through Life, as peaceful, too, in death,
Without one Pang, he rendered back his breath.

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Horsham Preservation and Historical Association (HPHA)
900 Governor Road
Horsham, PA 19044 USA
© 2000- Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
A Community Benefit Organization

Horsham Preservation and Historical Association (HPHA)
900 Governor Road
Horsham, PA 19044 USA
© 2000- Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
We are A Community Benefit Organization
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215-343-0659 | Email