The Jonathan Hager House: Home to the "Father of Washington County"
The Jonathan Hager House
Home to the "Father of Washington County"
Stepping off the ship at the Port of Philadelphia in 1736, a German immigrant, Jonathan Hager, hoped for adventure and fortune in the wilderness of Western Maryland.
Charles Calvert, proprietor of the colony offered cheap land to those who were willing to settle in the western frontier. Because the land was undomesticated and feral, many immigrants turned back, but Hager went for it. He refused to be discouraged.
He found the perfect area (200 acres of land) in the new colony and purchased it from Daniel Dulancy for 44 pounds on June 5, 1739. He dubbed his tract "Hager's Fancy." Soon, he set to work building a 3- 1/2-story home out of uncut fieldstones. He chose to build over a spring of cool water.
In 1740, Hager married his German neighbor, Elizabeth Kershner, and presented her with the new house.
Styled in the German tradition, the large central chimney added warmth to the stone structure, while a fill of rye straw and mud between floors and partitions served as insulation against the cruel winters. During the summers, the family could retreat to the cellar where the spring water provided coolness as well as safety and convenience. The Hager family must have felt at ease and protected because of their home's twenty-two inch walls, which stood firmly against man and nature. Hager had built nearly an indestructible home during this time period, which was intended to serve as a frontier fort in case of Indian attack.
Jonathan and Elizabeth Hager lived at "Hager's Fancy" for several years. During that time, Jonathan grew prosperous. He opened a trading post within his home, continuing to acquire land. Jonathan was an active member of the community.
Jacob Rohrer bought "Hager's Fancy" on May 8, 1745 for 200 pounds. The house remained within the Rohrer family until 1944 when the Washington County Historical Society acquired it.
Under the leadership of Hager historian Mary Vernon Mish, the house was restored to its former colonial beauty. The house was presented to the City of Hagerstown in 1954. In September of 1962, the home was opened to the public on the 200th anniversary of Hagerstown.
Thanks to the Historical Society, walking into the Jonathan Hager House is like stepping back in time. This soundly constructed home is completely outfitted with authentic furnishings of the 1700 period. Touring the small rooms, with low doorways and low ceilings, reminds us of what life was like so many years ago. Not many American cities older than the country itself can present the homes of their founders completely restored.
Jonathan Hager was a man to be admired. He never gave up and fulfilled his dreams. He was involved in several community activities, while working as a farmer, cattleman, and gunsmith. He had served on various critical pre-Revolutionary War Committees.
Hager was a volunteer Captain of Scouts during the French and Indian War. In 1762 he founded Hagerstown and in 1771 and 1773 he was elected to the General Assembly at Annapolis, qualifying him as the first German to make his mark in politics.
Tragically, on November 6, 1775, Captain Hager was accidentally killed while supervising the building of the German (now Zion) Reformed Church on land he had donated.
Many have labeled Jonathan Hager as the "Father of Washington County", because of his having laid the groundwork for land separation from Frederick County in 1776.