Contee Road is a well-known thoroughfare that crosses part of Prince George's County near Laurel. It's named for the Contee family, early landowners. But, more interesting in regional history, Rep. Benjamin Contee was the first to represent both Prince George's and what is now the District of Columbia as a voting member of Congress.

Few people today realize that the area now composing the District, long disenfranchised in Congress, ever had voting members of Congress. (Local history is complicated because Arlington County and most of what is now Alexandria were part of the District until 1846, when that area was given back to Virginia -- in the belief that the nation's capital would never need that much land! This discussion will stick to the Maryland side.)

The land for the current District was ceded by Maryland, whose laws and congressional representation remained in effect until the District of Columbia was activated in 1800. So between the First Congress, 1789-91, and the sixth, 1799-1801, P.G. and the current D.C., whose sole city was then Georgetown, were represented by five directly elected Maryland congressmen and six U.S. senators elected by the General Assembly. The congressmen were:

*Contee, an officer in the American Revolution who was born near Nottingham, in P.G. County, served in both the Maryland House of Delegates and the Continental Congress before being elected to Congress, serving 1789-91. He later became an Episcopal priest at Port Tobacco, where he died and was buried. (A nephew, Alexander Contee Hanson, was later both a representative and senator from Maryland in the decade of 1810.)

*Rep. William Pinkney served in 1791 in the Second Congress, but resigned over a residency technicality. He served as U.S. minister to both Britain and Russia and U.S. senator from Maryland, 1819-22.

*Rep. John F. Mercer was elected to fill out Pinkney's House term and served part of another one, 1791-94. He had served as a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress before moving to Maryland.

*Rep. Gabriel Duvall, who was Maryland's first state comptroller, served in Congress 1794-96, and later (1811-35), served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

*Rep. Richard Sprigg Jr. served 1796-99. (His uncle, Thomas Sprigg, had served in Congress from a Western Maryland district in 1793-97).

*Rep. John C. Thomas, Pennsylvania-born, served 1799-1801, but didn't run for reelection -- and, by that time, D.C. had lost voting representation.

In the period between the first and sixth congresses, Maryland (and D.C.) had six U.S. senators: John Henry, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Richard Potts, John Eager Howard, James Lloyd and William Hindman.