America’s first president might be George Washington, but Frederick historians say one of their own was the first president of the United States.
Pete Michael says he has been researching the life of John Hanson - one of his ancestors - for years because Hanson was the country’s first president. Hanson was elected in 1781 to be the United States in Congress Assembled’s first president.
“John Hanson deserves to be better memorialized than he is,” Mr. Michael said. “And what better place to do it than his adopted hometown of Frederick, which propelled him into national politics.”
The one-year term for Hanson, from Port Tobacco, Md., was a busy one. He created the country’s first central bank and postal department, organized the first government departments and permanently scheduled Thanksgiving on November’s last Thursday.
“We may not have had a United States if it had not been for John Hanson,” historian John Ashbury said. “His colleagues in the Congress felt his influence and his work was such that he should lead the country.”
Before becoming president, Hanson was opposed to British rule and attracted to communities focused on independence, such as Frederick County when he moved there in 1773.
He owned a house on West Patrick Street, in Frederick and served in county government as a deputy surveyor, Frederick County delegate and on a committee that resembles today’s county commissions.
Mr. Michael thinks Hanson was buried at Mulberry Grove, in Charles County’s Port Tobacco, after he died in 1783 at Oxon Hill Manor, in Prince George’s County.
Mr. Ashbury thinks Hanson is likely buried on the manor because people were generally interred as fast as gravediggers and families could bury the dead.
George Washington served as commander of the Army during the Revolutionary War and reported to Hanson. Mr. Michael said Hanson and Washington had a close friendship and working relationship.
But Washington is well-known in America and across the world while Hanson is mostly unknown.
Most area resident know his name only because of the John Hanson Highway, or Route 50, which is the major route to the Atlantic beaches.
Mr. Michael hopes to change that by securing funding and a design for a Hanson statue outside the Frederick County Courthouse.
“There is no tangible remnant of him,” he said. “He’s pretty much become a forgotten person in history.”