Washington Counties Battle for Title of First

And Maryland may be the winner
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2015 2:15 PM CDT
Washington Counties Battle for Title of First
Gilbert Stuart's "George Washington."   (AP Photo/National Gallery of Art)

The US has no shortage of Washington Counties. There's one in Maryland, one in Pennsylvania, another in Georgia, and one in Tennessee, to name just a few. And all of those claim to have been the first named after the first president, the Wall Street Journal reports. A monument in Tennessee, for instance, makes the assertion, while another in Sandersville, Ga., does, too. But the Journal suggests that the real winner may be Maryland, which, on Sept. 6, 1776, established its own Washington County. Tennessee's Washington District wasn't recognized by a colony until November of that year, and it wasn't until later that year that Virginia's got its name. (Virginia has since admitted it wasn't the first.)

Washington County, Pa., meanwhile, acknowledges that it has no proof it was first. It turned up in 1781, while Georgia's arrived in 1784. Its county administrator says the county website will likely be erasing its claim, though he's not thrilled about it: "The next thing you’ll tell me is he really didn’t chop down that cherry tree." So far, the Georgia county's website still proudly describes "the first county in our nation to be named after General George Washington." Whether the Journal's hard-hitting report changes things or not, the debate itself is proudly American. "We’re looking at what is basically a fundamental characteristic of American culture, and that is boosterism," says a retired Maryland archivist. (Read more George Washington stories.)

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