The John Hancock was constructed at the Boston Navy Yard for a Government tug in 1850. A year later she was sent to Annapolis, Maryland for use as a practice ship for the Naval Academy. She later was used as Commodore Perry's flag ship in his famous trip to Japan. 

The treaty between the United States and Japan was signed on her decks. Upon her return from the Orient she sailed a while on the Pacific Coast. In the Spring of 1856 she visited Fort Steilacoom and her engineer George Tennant Steeb wrote a letter about the Fort on April 22,1856.

Steeb wrote: 
"...the other day we went up to Fort Steilacoom after a couple of companies of soldiers. We arrived at the town about sunset and as soon as I was off watch, 8:00 p.m., I went ashore and in company with the Captain's clerk walked up to the Fort, about a mile and a half.

"The fort is built of logs. In fact it is no Fort at all, but a collection of buildings built in the shape of a square, the men's barracks on one side, the officers on the other, store house on another and a row of army wagons on the last side.

"The houses are only one story and doors connect them all ... A short distance from the fort is a burial place, of those who died here.

"One grave is quite recent, that of Lieutenant Slaughter, killed while on a scout against the Indians."