Phaya Singhanat Racha, first governor of Mae Hong Son
The exact origins of the city are not known. In fact, archaeological digs in a cave north of town suggests that the area has been occupied by humans for thousands of years. What is known is that by the mid 19th century Mae Hong Son was still a small village, but well-known for its teak and wild elephants that could be captured and used in war.
In 1855, a man named Chan Ka Lay emigrated from the Shan state in Burma to the village of Pang Moo, north of Mae Hong Son. In 1866 he moved to Mae Hong Son and eventually became village headman. His rise was no doubt helped along by a couple of strategic marriages to the daughters of powerful men. In 1872, the King of Chiang Mai (King Indhawijaonon), hearing of this capable man, called Chan Ka Lay to Chiang Mai.
In 1874, the King of Chiang Mai saw the strategic importance of Mae Hong Son and upgraded the village of Mae Hong Son to a city. Chan Ka Lay was appointed as the city's first govenor, and awarded the title and name 'Phaya Singhanat Racha'.
Most of the old temples and other buildings that you see in Mae Hong Son today date from the time just after the elevation of the village to a city.