About Us

History of Washington County, Maryland

Settlers first arrived in the Washington County area in the early 1730s. The large forests, bountiful natural resources, and plentiful tracts of arable land attracted farmers and craftsmen to what was then uncharted frontier land. Towns and villages cropped up throughout the region, and Fort Frederick was built in 1756 to defend these local citizens during the French and Indian War. The county was officially founded from part of Frederick County in September of 1776, the nation’s first county to be named after first United States President George Washington.

Over the years, the county has found itself embroiled in pivotal events in American history. From rioting during the Whiskey Rebellion to hosting the Battle of Antietam and the site where John Brown planned his infamous raid on Harpers Ferry, the county has a tremendous historical legacy packed within its small boundaries. Its vast impact on the nation’s history can be explored at the over 30 historical sites and museums located around Washington County.

History of the Washington County Historical Society

The Washington County Historical Society was founded in 1911 by a group of almost 30 county citizens who were concerned with the preservation of the county’s rich historical legacy. Early projects included political preservation advocacy and the physical preservation of many important county landmarks, including the Boonsboro Washington Monument, Burnside’s Bridge, the Dunker Church, and Fort Frederick.

One of the Washington County Historical Society’s largest early preservation projects was the purchase and restoration of the Jonathan Hager House, the early stone home of Hagerstown’s founder, Jonathan Hager. In 1955, after over 10 years of restoration efforts, the Washington County Historical Society gave ownership to the City of Hagerstown, so that the public can enjoy a piece of early Washington County history.

In 1966, after 55 years of holding society meetings and storing collections all over Hagerstown, the Miller family donated the Miller House Museum to the Washington County Historical Society. First opened to the public in the summer of 1966, the museum created a safe, permanent home to the many artifacts that had been collected over the years.

Over 100 years later, the Washington County Historical Society still strives to preserve and promote the rich history and heritage of Washington County, Maryland. From engaging exhibits and lectures to interactive events for all ages, the continued mission of the Washington County Historical Society is to foster a deep appreciation for the area’s rich cultural and historical legacy.

Read more about the history of the Washington County Historical Society in Curator/Program Manager Abigail Koontz’s article: “Washington County Historical Society has safeguarded local history for more than a century.”


Make a fully tax-deductible contribution to Washington County Historical Society and help us bring the past to life. Our mission to connect people to the those who have gone before us has never been more relevant—donate today and extend the experience for all. WCHS is a 501(c)3 not for profit institution. All gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.