Dr. Plummer was not only an early physician in Richmond, he was a noted naturalist, educator and historian. Largely self-taught, much of his life was occupied with obtaining and disseminating knowledge.
John Thomas Plummer was born in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1807 and moved with his family to Richmond in 1823. He tried to be a clerk in his father’s store but was a failure, because he paid so much more attention to his books than his customers. He spent all of his free time studying. His medical studies began with Dr. Thomas Griffith in Richmond, and he earned his degree from the Medical Department of Yale in 1828. He opened an office on Fort Wayne Avenue and continued to practice until a few weeks before his death 37 years later.
While studying in the East, he met Noah Webster. They became good friends and it is said that Dr. Plummer contributed some western words to Webster’s dictionary. Over the years he wrote articles for numerous periodicals on such varied topics as agriculture, education, pharmacy, and chemistry, in addition to two beginning readers for Friends’ schools.
Dr. Plummer was a devout member of the Society of Friends, and followed so closely the tenet of simplicity that he declined several professorships in medical schools and educational institutions because he felt acceptance might be misconstrued as an attempt to exhibit his knowledge.
In 1857 the publishers of the first Richmond City Directory asked Dr. Plummer to write an article outlining the first years of the city of Richmond. It is widely recognized that many facts of Richmond’s history would have been forever lost if Dr. Plummer had not included them in his historical sketch.
Read Plummer’s Reminiscences of Richmond History