John Mason (planter)
April 4, 1766|
Mattawoman, Charles County, Province of Maryland
|Died||March 19, 1849
Virginia, United States
|Resting place||Christ Church Cemetery, Alexandria, Virginia|
|Residence||Analostan Island, District of Columbia
Clermont, Alexandria, Virginia
|Occupation||merchant, banker, planter|
|Spouse(s)||Anna Maria Murray|
|Children||10, including James Murray Mason and Murray Mason|
|Parent(s)||George Mason IV
John Mason (April 4, 1766 – March 19, 1849) was an early American merchant, banker, and planter. As a son of George Mason, a Founding Father of the United States, Mason was a scion of the prominent Mason political family.
Early life and education
Mason was born on April 4, 1766, at Mattawoman plantation, the estate of his maternal grandparents William Eilbeck and Sarah Edgar Eilbeck. He was eighth child and fifth-eldest son of George Mason IV and his wife Ann Eilbeck. Like his brothers, Mason was tutored at his father's estate, Gunston Hall, in Fairfax County, Virginia. His tutors were Scotsmen Mr. Davidson and Mr. Constable. After the American Revolutionary War, Mason, his brother Thomas, and a cousin, studied with Reverend Buchnan, rector of Aquia and Pohick churches, who resided on Passapatanzy Creek.
Mason completed his formal education in mathematics with another Scotsman, Mr. Hunter, in Calvert County, Maryland. He was then apprenticed to a Quaker merchant William Hartshorne of the firm of Harper & Hartshorne in Alexandria, Virginia. Mason accompanied his father George Mason to the Philadelphia Convention, but returned to continue his apprenticeship with Hartshorne before the Convention ended. Mason remained with Hartshorne until spring 1788, when he then entered into a partnership with merchants James and Joseph Fenwick of Maryland.
Merchant and banking career
On June 22, 1788, Mason travelled to Bordeaux, France to conduct business for Fenwick & Mason firm there. Despite the onset of the French Revolution, Mason remained in France until 1791 and only then left due to his ill health. The Bordeaux branch of Fenwick & Mason continued to thrive, but was liquidated in 1793 because of the encroaching threat of war in Europe. Declining prices of tobacco were also partly to blame for the firm's Bordeaux closure.
By Spring 1792, Mason had established a branch of Fenwick & Mason in Georgetown. As the firm expanded, it became involved in a variety of other lucrative ventures including bankinging, international commerce, the organization of foundries, and navigation and turnpike companies. Fenwick & Mason also became involved in the flour and wheat trade in addition to its tobacco operations.
Mason also served on the board of directors of the Bank of Columbia and became its president in 1798. Around this same time, Mason purchased large tracts of land in the Federal City. His involvement with government service was enhanced through his 1807 appointment as Superintendent of the Indian Trade. Mason held this position until 1816. Mason also served as a brigadier general in the District of Columbia militia. He was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson to be the first Commander of the District of Columbia militia in 1802. Through this role, Mason became commissioner general of prisoners during the War of 1812. In 1817, he became the president of the Potomac Company. His nephew Thomson Francis Mason was later chairman of the Alexandria Canal further downstream.
Mason acquired Henry Foxall's Foxhall Cannon Foundry in Georgetown in 1815. Mason continued to operate the foundry until his death in 1849. For five years after Mason's death, the foundry remained part of the Mason estate with Mason's son Maynadier Mason as its superintendent.
Marriage and children
- John T. Mason, Jr. (February 18, 1797– August 11, 1859)
- James Murray Mason (November 3, 1798– April 28, 1871)
- Sarah Maria Mason (September 11, 1800– July 29, 1890) married Samuel Cooper
- Virginia Mason (October 12, 1802– January 21, 1838)
- Catherine Eilbeck Mason Jamison (July 12, 1804– March 7, 1888)
- Eilbeck Mason (May 20, 1806– June 28, 1862)
- Murray Mason (January 4, 1808– January 11, 1875)
- Maynadier Mason (January 4, 1808 – April 1865)
- Anna Maria Mason (February 26, 1811– November 3, 1898) married Sydney Smith Lee
- Joel Barlow Mason (9 June 1813 – 1861)
Following Mason's marriage to Anna Maria Murray in 1796, he settled in Georgetown on property located at the corner of present-day 25th and L Streets and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. Mason also built a summer residence on Analostan Island (now Theodore Roosevelt Island) on the Potomac River, which became the scene of many elegant social activities in the District of Columbia. Analostan Island had been acquired by George Mason in 1724. Mason inherited the Island from his father upon his death in 1792 and owned it until 1833. The island was famous for its gardens, which were designed and installed by English gardener David Hepburn. Mason continued the operation of the ferry which crossed the Potomac River from Georgetown to the Virginia. After suffering a series of financial setbacks, Mason was forced to give up Analostan Island, and in 1833, the family moved to Clermont in the Cameron Run valley in Fairfax County, Virginia. Mason and his family had already vacated the island in 1831 when a causeway stagnated the water in the Potomac River.
- Gunston Hall. "John Mason". Gunston Hall. Retrieved March 22, 2009.
- Gunston Hall. "Children of George Mason of Gunston Hall". Gunston Hall. Retrieved March 22, 2009.
- Virginia1774.org. "George Mason's Progeny: John Mason". Virginia 1774 The Legal Research Site on The Right to A Well Regulated Militia & the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Virginia. Retrieved March 22, 2009.
- arlisherring.com (Feb 9, 2008). "Gen. John Mason". arlisherring.com. Retrieved March 22, 2009.
- Jensen, Merrill; Gordon DenBoer; Robert A. Becker; Lucy Trumbull Brown; Charles D. Hagermann (1984). The Documentary history of the first Federal elections, 1788–1790. University of Wisconsin: Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-09510-X.
- John Mason (December 19, 1808). "[Letter] 1808 December 19, Georgetown [to] Levi Sheftall, Savannah, [Georgia] / J[ohn] Mason". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved March 22, 2009.
- Columbia Historical Society (Washington, D.C.) (1908). Records. Washington, D.C.: Columbia Historical Society (Washington, D.C.).
- James W. Foster, "Potomac River Maps of 1737 by Robert Brooke and Others," William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine 2nd Ser., Vol. 18, No. 4. (October 1938), 410.
- Curry, Mary E. (1971–1972). "Theodore Roosevelt Island: A Broken Link to Early Washington, D.C. History". Records of the Columbia Historical Society.