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May 26, 2020

Richmond’s First Mayor Was Also Mutual Assurance Society’s First President

Richmond, Virginia’s first mayor, following the end of the Revolutionary War, was Dr.William Foushee – a doctor, politician, and socialite. Born in Northumberland County in 1749, Foushee was a third-generation Virginian, a descendant of French Huguenots who had fled France during the Reformation and were given asylum in Virginia in the early-17th century.

After returning from his studies to become a surgeon at the University of Edinburgh, in 1775, Foushee married Elizabeth Isabella Harmondson, another Northumberland County Native. Together they 7 children, William Jr., John, Nancy, Margarette, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Isabella.

Foushee was a renowned surgeon who served in the Revolutionary War, went on to serve as President of the Medical Society of Virginia, and was one of the earliest proponents of the use of the smallpox vaccine. Henrico County was the first to allow Dr. Foushee to administer the vaccine. In September of 1801, he wrote this letter to Thomas Jefferson with a cc to Dr. Currie regarding use of the vaccine; a testament to his respected position in the medical field.

In 1782, Dr. Foushee was elected as the first Mayor of Richmond. He also served as a member of the General Assembly, Postmaster General, and President of the James River Navigation Company (which built and managed the canal system).

From December 24, 1795 to August 13, 1804, Foushee also served as the first president of Mutual Assurance Society, elected at the initial organization meeting where the company’s constitution, rules, and regulations were adopted and officers selected. It was during his term as president that the company grew more secure in its position and reputation, building the foundation on which the company still rests today.

William Foushee died in his home in August of 1824 at the age of 74 and was buried in Shockoe Hill Cemetery. When the western part of the city was being laid out in the mid-1800s (an area now generally known as mid-town near the Jefferson Hotel), the cross streets were named Foushee, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. That is very impressive company for this much-beloved, first mayor of Richmond, and first president of Mutual Assurance.