John Thomson Mason (1787–1850)

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John Thomson Mason
John Thomson Mason

(1787-01-08)January 8, 1787
DiedApril 17, 1850(1850-04-17) (aged 63)
Tremont House, Galveston, Texas
Alma materCollege of William and Mary
Occupationlawyer, United States marshal, Secretary of Michigan Territory, land agent
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Baker Moir
Frances Magruder
ChildrenAt least 11, including Stevens T. Mason
Parent(s)Stevens Thomson Mason
Mary Elizabeth Armistead
Relativesgrandnephew of George Mason IV

John Thomson Mason (January 8, 1787 – April 17, 1850)[1][2][3][4] was an American lawyer, United States marshal, Secretary of Michigan Territory from 1830 through 1831,[2] land agent, and an important figure in the Texas Revolution.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Mason was born on January 8, 1787 at Raspberry Plain near Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia.[1][2][3][4] He was eldest child and eldest son of Stevens Thomson Mason, Republican U.S. Senator from Virginia, and his wife Mary Elizabeth Armistead.[1][4]

Mason was educated at Charlotte Hall Military Academy in Charlotte Hall, St. Mary's County, Maryland and at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.[4]

Political appointee[edit]

In 1812, Mason left his family stronghold of Northern Virginia to attempt making his own fortunes in Lexington, Kentucky.[3][4] In 1817, President James Monroe appointed Mason United States marshal.[3][4] Mason was appointed Secretary of Michigan Territory and superintendent of Indian affairs in 1830 by President Andrew Jackson.[3][4] He held those appointments until 1831, when President Jackson sent Mason on a mission to Mexico. To fill his post as Secretary of Michigan Territory, President Jackson appointed Mason's son Stevens.[4] Stevens later became the first Governor of Michigan on October 6, 1835.[4]

Land agent and revolutionary[edit]

Afterwards, Mason resided principally in New York City and Washington, D.C.[4] In 1830, Mason became a scripholder for the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company in New York.[3][4] The land company's purpose was to assume the land holdings of Texas empresarios Lorenzo de Zavala, David G. Burnet, and Joseph Vehlein which comprised approximately 20 million acres (81,000 km2).[3][4] Mason became a confidential land agent for the land company in 1831.[4] While in Mexico City on the land company's behalf, Mason discovered that the Law of April 6, 1830 prevented the transfer of Mexican land to foreign companies.[3][4] On a subsequent trip to Mexico City in 1833, Mason was able to secure a repeal of the law's stipulation that forbade colonization in Mexico from the United States.[3] Once he accomplished this, Mason resigned from the land company to promote his personal Texas landholdings.[3] Mason continued to expand his landholdings by purchasing 300 leagues from the Mexican government and 100 leagues from individual landholders.[3] To manage his land holdings, Mason employed John Charles Leplicher in New York City as his land office clerk and Archibald Hotchkiss as his attorney.[3][4]

Mason's prosperous land business was soon compromised when his large land grants were cancelled by the Provisional government of Texas.[3] The revolutionary government repudiated the sales of land made in 1834 by the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas, going so far as to name Mason's contract as annulled by them in the First Texan Constitution.[4] His attorney Leplicher then filed suit against Mason in Nacogdoches on February 16, 1835 for alleged unpaid salary.[3] Mason was made commandant of the Nacogdoches District by the Committee of Vigilance and Safety on April 11, 1836 only to resign twelve days later. Mason remained in Nacogdoches for most of the duration of the Texas Revolution.[3][4] Mason continued to support the Texas Revolution by paying $1,000 for the schooner Liberty for the Texas Navy[3][4] and advancing $500 for the expenses of the schooner Brutus.[3][4] On March 2, 1836, the Republic of Texas declared its independence and organized a government.[4] The following year, Mason attended a session of Congress of the Republic of Texas in Houston, the capital of Texas.[4]

Later life[edit]

After the Texas Revolution, Mason moved to New York, but returned to Texas multiple times during the 1840s.[3] He traveled to Texas for the last time in 1849.[3] Mason died of cholera on May 3, 1850, at Tremont House in Galveston.[1][2][3]

Marriages and children[edit]

Mason married Elizabeth Baker Moir in Williamsburg, Virginia on February 9, 1809.[1] The couple had at least eleven children:[1]

  • Mary Elizabeth Mason (December 18, 1809 – 1822)[1]
  • Stevens Thomson Mason (October 27, 1811 – January 5, 1843)[1]
  • Armistead Thomson Mason (June 13, 1813 – July 2, 1813)[1]
  • Armistead Thomson Mason (August 13, 1814 – November 13, 1814)[1]
  • Emily Virginia Mason (October 15, 1815 – February 16, 1909)[1]
  • Catherine Armistead Mason Rowland (February 23, 1818 – 1884)[1]
  • Laura Ann Thomson Mason Chilton (October 5, 1821 – March 2, 1911)[1]
  • Theodoshia Howard Mason (December 9, 1822 – January 17, 1834)[1]
  • Cornelia Madison Mason (January 25, 1825 – August 2, 1831)[1]
  • Mary Elizabeth Mason (January 18, 1828 – October 29, 1833)[1]
  • Louisa Westwood Mason (September 24, 1829 – October 11, 1829)[1]

Mason married for a second time to Frances Magruder in Baltimore, Maryland on June 29, 1845.[1][2]


John Thomson Mason was the grandnephew of George Mason (1725–1792);[1][2] grandson of Thomson Mason (1733–1785);[1][2] son of Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Armistead Mason (1760–1825) and Stevens Thomson Mason (1760–1803);[1][2] nephew of John Thomson Mason (1765–1824);[1][2] second cousin of Thomson Francis Mason (1785–1838) and James Murray Mason (1798–1871);[1][2] brother-in-law of William Taylor Barry (1784–1835); brother of Armistead Thomson Mason (1787–1819);[1][2] uncle of Stevens Thomson Mason (1811–1843);[1][2] and first cousin of John Thomson Mason, Jr. (1815–1873).[1][2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z "John Thomson Mason". Gunston Hall. Retrieved March 7, 2009.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Mason family of Virginia". The Political Graveyard. June 16, 2008. Retrieved March 7, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Texas State Historical Association (January 18, 2008). "MASON, JOHN THOMSON". The Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved March 8, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Rowland, Kate Mason (January 11, 1908). General John Thompson Mason. Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association.