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Cheever, Abijah (1760–1843)

Abijah Cheever was descended in the fifth generation from Ezekiel Cheever, master of the Latin School, Boston, who came to Boston from Canterbury, England in 1637, and taught Latin for seventy years, dying in 1708.

Abijah Cheever was born in Saugus, Massachusetts in 1760, his boyhood being passed in farm work. On the evening before the battle of Lexington he was employed in running bullets from a mould over a fire of hickory coals for the long Queen Anne muskets of his brothers who shared in the battle the following day. He graduated from Harvard College in 1779, then studied medicine and surgery as a profession, and obtained his M. D. in 1782. He was a student of Dr. John Warren.

In 1782 he was commissioned as surgeon in the Revolutionary War.

"By his Excellency John Hancock, Esq., governor and commander-in-chief in and over the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

"To Abijah Cheever, Gentleman, Greeting. Having heard of your skill in surgery and reposing confidence in your ability and good conduct, I do by these presents constitute and appoint you surgeon on board the ship Tartar fitted out by this commonwealth for the service thereof. . . .

"Dated at Boston this thirteenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and in the sixth year of the Independence of the United States.

Signed, John Hancock."

In this privateer he made two voyages. In the first the Tartar captured four British merchant vessels. In the second voyage she was attacked by the British frigate Belisarius, and was herself captured. Dr. Cheever was sent to the old prison ship in New York harbor and confined some time. Exchanged later, after peace was proclaimed, he settled as physician and surgeon in Boston, at the then fashionable North End, married, and practised seventeen years. He then returned to Saugus, where he lived until his death at the age of eighty-three.

He was pensioned by John C. Calhoun, secretary of war, in 1818, as surgeon's mate in the army of the Revolution, and with the rank of captain of infantry of the continental line.

He published in 1787 a remarkable case of "Encysted Dropsy" (which now would be termed a Dermoid Cyst of the Ovary) with illustrations. This was demonstrated to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He was a genial and much liked physician and surgeon.