HANSON, John, delegate to congress, b. in Charles county, Md., in 1715; d. in Oxen. Hills, Prince George co., Md., 22 Nov., 1783. He received an English education, and was a member of the Maryland house of delegates nearly every year from 1757 till 1781. He removed to Frederick county in 1778, was an active patriot, and in 1775 was treasurer of the county. About that time he was commissioned by the Maryland convention to establish a gun-lock factory at Frederick. On 9 Oct., 1776, he was one of a committee to go to the camp of the Maryland troops in New Jersey, “with power to appoint officers and to encourage the re-enlistment of the Maryland militia.” He was a delegate to the Continental congress from 1781 till his death, served one year as its president, from 5 Nov. of that year, and in that capacity gave Washington the thanks of congress for the victory at Yorktown. After 1782 feeble health compelled him to retire from public life.
First President of the First United States Government,
The United States in Congress Assembled,Which Existed From 1781 until 1788.
“As the first elected president of our independent nation, President Hanson began the task of unifying the former colonies and Providing for their common defense, communication, and economic growth.” -- Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland in The Congressional Record, United States Congress, 2010.
April 14, 1715 ─ Born at Mulberry Grove, the Hanson family's ancestral estate in Charles County, Maryland.1757 - 1782 ─ Served in the Maryland House of Delegates, the Second Continental Congress, and the United States in Congress Assembled.About 1768 ─ Moved to Frederick , built his home on this property1774 - 1779 ─ Head of Frederick County Government. A colonial and then national leader in financing the Revolutionary War, mustering troops and production of war materiel.June, 1776 ─ Pivotal in persuading Maryland to sign the Declaration of Independence.1779 - 1782 ─ Maryland delegate to the Second Continental Congress. Persuaded states with large midwestern land grants to cede these lands to the nation, overcoming the last obstacle to forming the first government.March 1, 1781 ─ Final signer of the Articles of Confederation creating the first government.November 6, 1781 ─ Elected first President, United States in Congress Assembled, under the ratified Articles of Confederation.November 3, 1782 ─ Completed one-year term as President.November 22, 1783 ─ Died at his nephew's Oxon Hill Manor home. Burial place unknown.February 21, 1812 ─ Jane Contee Hanson, John Hanson's wife, died at their Frederick home.January 31, 1903 ─ John Hanson Statue unveiled in National Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol.
John Hanson's life has been consumed by myth. But, let's start at the beginning with Hanson's birth in Charles County in 1715 or was it 1723? Two historical markers point to Mulberry Grove in Port Tobacco as the birthplace of John Hanson. This 1953 historical marker can be found along the Chapel Point Road:
Maryland State Highway Administration
Turning up Mulberry Grove Place we find a 1963 marker, placed by the Maryland Society - Sons of the American Revolution.
The marker sits in front of the brick house at 8600 Mulberry Grove Place.
When I visited in 2016, The house was for sale, with an asking price of $4,500,000. The place was purchased in 2017 by real estate agent Jay Lilly and his wife Mary. (See The Grandeur of Mulberry Grove, by L. Beth Bonifant in Southern Maryland Living.)
Although Shasho realty identified this as “Former home of John Hanson - First President of the United States and signer of the Articles of Confederation.”, this isn't John Hanson's house. That house burned down on July 25, 1934. The Architectural Style Survey form (CH-83) (1999/2012) concludes that:
The present house on the property is an inaccurate reconstruction of the original residence at Mulberry Grove.There appears to be some doubt as to whether Hanson was even born in the previous house. The Architectural Survey form says that
The original house on the property is believed to have been constructed by John Hanson, President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, on land purchased by him in 1744.
Nearby stands a rose granite obelisk placed on October 17,1959 by the Vasa Order of America, a Swedish American fraternal organization. (See Dr. Amandus Johnson's speech on the occasion.)
The plaque on the front identifies this as a monument to John Hanson.
Although this marker does not explicitly claim that John Hanson was Swedish, it's placement by the Vasa Order indicates that they believed he was. The current consensus seems to be that Hanson was of British ancestry not Swedish. In a 2001 article entitled Was the First President of the United States a Swede? in The Swedish American Genealogist, Vol. 21, No. 2, Elizabeth Thorsell examines various claims and concludes:
So the story about the United States' first president, before George Washington, being of Swedish descent can now be relegated to the bottom of the myths.
The trivia point that John Hanson was the First President of the United States rests on an equivocation around the word “President.” John Hanson presided over Congress under the Articles of Confederation, the way the Vice-President presides over the Senate under the current constitution. He did not head the executive branch of government, in fact the confederation lacked an executive branch. Though we should note that Hanson's position was perhaps the highest office under the Confederation. George Washington called it “the most important seat in the United States” in 1781.
Only two of the three 3 1/2' x 5' granite slabs that formed the floor of the "John Hanson Mausoleum" remain in situ.- Weather and recent vandalizing have destroyed evidence of the building's original design and use.
In 1984, Oxon Hill Manor was purchased for development by Lewis Enterprises which in 1986 commissioned surveys that included the crypt where John Hanson had been interred. A 1985 State survey had found the crypt and its vault intact and sealed, but by 1987 the archeologist of the Lewis survey states, "About 70 to 80 feet below the site of the plantation house was a deteriorating brick vaulted structure built into the hillside" which the archeologist reported “was the 1783 burial place of John Hanson" and "had been robbed."Sometime between 1985 and 1987, John Hanson had disappeared.Then, so did the crypt and vault. A 1993 photograph shows them having mysteriously vanished, graded into a parking lot. From 1984 to1993, Lewis Enterprises owned the property. Later, Lewis's development project went broke and the property was sold to the Peterson Companies, developer of the immense National Harbor. Efforts to track down James Lewis, head of Lewis Enterprises, have proved futile. -- Vanished: Discovering Hanson’s Grave and Reilluminating Him Today
The historical tablet erected by National Harbor says this about the disposition of Hanson's remains:
When John Hanson died, he was laid to rest in the Addison family crypt, which was found intact but empty in 1971. The crypt was demolished in 1987. The whereabouts of John Hanson's remains are unknown, the fate of no other president.