Richard Barnes Mason

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For other people called Richard Mason, see Richard Mason (disambiguation).
Richard Barnes Mason
United States  Military Governor of California
In office
Preceded by Stephen W. Kearny
Succeeded by Persifor Frazer Smith
Personal details
Born January 16, 1797
Lexington Plantation, Fairfax County, Virginia
Died July 25, 1850(1850-07-25) (aged 53)
Jefferson Barracks, St Louis, Missouri
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Margaret Hunter
Profession Soldier
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch US Army
Years of service 1817 - 1850
Rank Union Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union army brig gen rank insignia.jpg Bvt. Brigadier General
Unit 1st U.S. Infantry
Commands 1st U.S. Dragoons
Battles/wars Black Hawk War
Mexican-American War

Richard Barnes Mason (January 16, 1797 – July 25, 1850)[1] was a career officer in the United States Army and the fourth military governor of California before it became a U.S. state.

Early life[edit]

Military career[edit]

Mason was commissioned into the Army in 1817 and served in the 1st U.S. Infantry during the Black Hawk War. In 1833, he transferred to the 1st U.S. Dragoons as its first Major. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1836. During the Mexican-American War, he served in New Mexico Territory and California, rising to the rank of Colonel in 1846.[2]

Following the war, he was appointed military governor of California, serving from May 31, 1847, until April 13, 1849. When gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, Mason made a report of the finding to President James K. Polk.[2]

Mason died in 1850 at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri and was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery.[1][2]

In the US Federal Census of 1850 for Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis County, Missouri, dated 18 August 1850, the following annotation is located at the bottom of the third page: "Brig Genl Mason died at Jefferson Barracks July 1849 of Cholera."[3] However, The St. Louis Intelligencer reported the General's death on Saturday, July 27, 1850, (p. 3, cols. 1, 4.)[4]

Marriage and children[edit]

Mason married Elizabeth Margaret Hunter on 28 January 1836.[1] Richard and Elizabeth had three daughters:[1]

  • Emma Twiggs Mason Wheaton (17 October 1836–16 February 1864)[1]
  • Elizabeth Mary Ann Sally Mason (20 August 1838–19 November 1912)[1]
  • Alice Graham Mason (c. 1843–10 February 1847)[1]


In 1882, the Post at Point San Jose in San Francisco, California was renamed Fort Mason in his honour, and served as an Army base for more than 100 years.[5] There is also a Mason Street in downtown San Francisco.


Richard Barnes Mason was a grandson of George Mason (1725–1792);[1] son of George Mason V (1753–1796);[1] brother of George Mason VI (1786–1834);[1] grandnephew of Thomson Mason (1733–1785);[1] first cousin once removed of Stevens Thomson Mason (1760–1803), John Thomson Mason (1765–1824), and William Temple Thomson Mason (1782–1862);[1] first cousin of Thomson Francis Mason (1785–1838) and James Murray Mason (1798–1871);[1] second cousin of Armistead Thomson Mason (1787–1819), John Thomson Mason (1787–1850), and John Thomson Mason, Jr. (1815–1873);[1] and second cousin once removed of Stevens Thomson Mason (1811–1843).[1]



Research resources[edit]