Famed explorer Matthew Henson was born in 1866 in Charles County near the town of Nanjemoy.
Explorer Robert Edwin Peary hired Henson as his valet for expeditions. For more than two decades, they explored the Arctic. On April 6, 1909, Peary, Henson, and the rest of their team made history and were the first people to reach the North Pole on record.
However, the designation is still widely debated to this day. British polar explorer, Sir Walter William Herbert, was hired by the National Geographic Society to assess a 1909 diary and astronomical observations, which had not been accessible to researchers for decades. He concluded that the original expedition records were unreliable, and the group could have fallen 30-60 miles short of the pole due to navigational errors.
Hebert’s book, The Noose of Laurels: The Race to the North Pole, caused public outrage when it was published, and its conclusion is widely debated. The Foundation for the Promotion of the Art of Navigation, commissioned by the National Geographic Society to resolve the issue, disagreed and concluded that Peary had indeed reached the Pole. Since then, the National Geographic Society has come to accept Herbert’s version of the event.