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Samuel MASON, Sr.

Male 1739 - 1803  (63 years)


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  • Name Samuel MASON 
    Suffix Sr. 
    Born 8 Nov 1739  Frederick County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    AFN 14J2-WWG 
    Name Samuel MEASON Sr. 
    Died Jul 1803  MS or LA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 

    • (1) Source: Jean James .

      (2) Torrence, Robert M., Torrence and Allied Families, Philadelphia, PA: Wickersham Press, 1938, pp. 347, 348-352:

      [Note by compiler: Information from this source should be viewed with caution, since it contains some errors relating to the MASON-MEASON and allied families.]

      SAMUEL MASON, born November 8, 1739; wife believed to have been Miss Dorsey. . . .

      Samuel Mason . . . , was born November 8, 1739, and died in July, 1803. The name of his wife is unknown, but it appears that he married quite young. Several accounts of this Samuel Mason may be found in histories. One appears in Charles Scribner & Sons' Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 12, page 374; one in the Revolution on the Upper Ohio, page 254; and one in A. Otto Rothert's The Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock. The latter states "More than a dozen documents, signed by Samuel Mason, are preserved in the Draper Collection. All of these are signed Mason, excepting one, as Meason."

      At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Samuel Mason joined the Ohio County, Virginia, Militia, and served with distinction as a Captain under General Hand. He commanded a company at Fort Henry during its first siege, September 1, 1777, and was severely wounded in a raid against ambushed Indians. His military record was courageous and meritorious. "This young man will no doubt meet a reward adequate to his merit."

      "The Shawanese and Wyandotte Indians under Girty, were approaching the Fort. The Commandant ordered Captain Mason to dislodge the enemy. With fourteen men, he set forth, discovering six Indians, fired. Almost simultaneously with the discharge, the whole barbaric army arose, and with horrid yells rushed upon the little band. Mason ordered a retreat, but in person commenced cutting his way through the Indian line which surrounded them. This he succeeded in doing, but twelve of his men perished."

      Samuel Mason was an Ensign in Colonel George Rogers Clark's Regiment of Militia, in Louis Hickman's Company, July 18, and August 21, 1780.

      "Samuel Mason, with his brothers Thomas and Joseph, were among the most useful and honest pioneers in the West. They started out with Colonel George Rogers Clark on his expedition to Vincennes. When Clark reached Louisville, he sent some of his men into the neighboring states of Beargrass, among whom, so left, were these three brothers."

      In 1790, Samuel Mason was a signer, with other representative and. responsible citizens, of a petition asking that a county be established south of Green River.

      After the war was over, he spent some time at Buffalo Creek, and then in and around Wheeling, West Virginia, from which place he went to Tennessee.

      Leaving Tennessee, he went to Kentucky, where he took up a tract of land which had been granted to him by the State of Virginia, for services rendered during the Revolutionary War. He settled on Red River, which is a branch of the Kentucky River, and which ran between Clark and Estill Counties. Here, it is recorded that his youngest son, Magnus Mason, was born, in 1787.

      Following the events just related, he appears to have undergone a great change. We, who have seen the effects of war on young men, the desperate conditions of unemployment, and the terrible letdown from the strains endured, may be able to understand and make due allowance for Samuel Mason, whose record, up to this time, had been of high character and in every way meritorious.

      He fell into the company of desperate men, and finally became a river pirate. As such, he moved from place to place, assuming different names to escape identification. There were many other such bands operating at this time, so it has not been possible to entirely place the blame for the different crimes committed. During the year 1797, he and his men made their headquarters in the once famous Cave-in-Rock, in Hardin County, on the Illinois side of the Ohio River. Later, they appeared on the lower Mississippi River. In January, 1803, near New Madrid, in the present State of Missouri, he and his band were arrested by Spanish authorities, and sent to New Orleans, Louisiana, for trial. They were acquitted, but turned over to American authorities. While in New Orleans, Samuel Mason's passport had expired, and while in this difficult situation, he gave as a reference the name of his daughter, Mrs. Thompson, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, whose first husband was Mr. Worthington. He also stated that General Benjamin Harrison was his brother-in-law. While he and his men were being transported by boat to another point, they overpowered their guards, and escaped to the nearest shore. A reward of 500 pounds was offered for his capture. Seeking to receive this reward, two of his own men shot him, and brought his head to the authorities, but they were hanged for their treachery.

      "Neither history nor tradition tells us what became of his family after his death. His wife, whose name is believed to have been Dorsey, and who deplored his actions, made her home not far from Shanktown, in Jefferson County, Missouri, which is about seventy miles north of Cape Girardeau, where she is highly respected as an honest and God-fearing citizen, by all of her neighbors."

      So far as can be ascertained, after a study of published accounts, and from information obtained from members of the family, the children of Samuel Mason and his wife were seven:

      i. THOMAS MASON. There is a will of a Thomas Mason in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, probated in 1835, which names wife Nancy, and children Samuel, John, Robert, George, Mary Anna, intermarried with John Snodgrass; Nancy, intermarried with John Long; Sarah, intermarried with Kesiah Brown; Elizabeth, intermarried with John Ralston; and Cynthia Mason.

      ii. (DAUGHTER) MASON, married twice, married first, a Mr. Worthington; married second, a Mr. Thompson.

      iii. DORSEY MASON, born August 11, 1776; died August 25, 1814; married in Fayette County, Pa., January 20, 1799, Hannah Meason, his first cousin; removed to Fairfield County, Ohio, in 1802. Hannah Meason was a daughter of Major John Meason. Their issue will be found under the name of Hannah Meason.

      iv. JOHN MASON, married Margaret Douglass. There is a will of a John Mason, probated 1780, at Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pa., whose wife was Elizabeth, and children: Thomas, William, Mary, Francis, and Elizabeth. Fayette County, Pennsylvania was formed in 1783, hence residents of that section prior to that date would have their records filed in Westmoreland County.

      v. SAMUEL MASON, whose will was made in Fort Bend County, Texas, September 17, 1857; probated August 1863, Order Book C, page 74; sworn to and subscribed August 30, 1863, at Richmond, Fort Bend County, Texas, named his wife Mary, and children: Dorsey, Roseanna, Elizabeth, Susan, and Thomas Mason. He left 1389 acres of land, and eighty-five slaves. Issue, five: 1. Dorsey Mason, married twice; married first, Katherine, surname unknown; married second, F. Fabj (sic), surname unknown. Issue, by first marriage, three: i. SAMUEL R. MASON. ii. THOMAS DORSEY MASON. iii. DORSEY MASON. 2. Roseanna Mason, married William W. Kenchelow; issue, one: i. MARY KENCHELOW, married a Mr. Wilbur, of Deer Creek, Mississippi. 3. Elizabeth Mason, married William G. Nolan; issue, two: i. ROSEANNA NOLAN. ii. FRANCES M. NOLAN. 4. Susanna Mason, married James M. Briscoe; issue, four: i. MARY BRISCOE. ii. MASON BRISCOE. WILLIAM MASON BRISCOE. iv. ANN BRISCOE. 5. Thomas S. Mason, married, name of wife unknown; issue, four: i. MARY MASON. ii. DORSEY MASON. iii. SAMUEL S. MASON. iv. CLARISSA MASON.

      vi. ISAAC MASON, married, name of wife unknown; issue, eight: 1. William Mason. 2. Sebastian Mason. 3. John Mason. 4. Isaac Mason. 5. Rachael Mason. 6. Ann Mason. 7. Sarah Mason. 8. Elizabeth Mason.

      vii. MAGNUS MASON, born 1737.

      (3) Rothert, Otto A., The Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock, Cleveland, OH: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1924, pp. 157-266:

      Mason?Soldier, Pirate, Highwayman

      In the pioneer history of the Ohio and Mississippi valley, Samuel Mason stands as one of the shrewdest and most resourceful of outlaws. The Harpes were more widely known and were more terrible characters; their notoriety was due to their great brutality. Mason robbed along the roads and rivers solely for the purpose of getting money; the Harpes killed men, women, and children simply to gratify a lust for cruelty. The two Harpes were the worst and most abnormal of their kind, while Mason was one of the shrewdest and therefore one of the most "successful" of bandits.

      These three offer the criminologist a field for study of one of the phases of pioneer life?a life that has long been of interest from a historical standpoint. Samuel Mason will be cited in history and criminology as a striking example of a lawless man receiving his just reward. In the meantime, genealogists will probably continue to exclude this "black sheep" from his family. An attempt was made long ago to tear his "branch" from the family tree so that his name and those of his children would not mar the beauty of a stem honored with the names of famous men and women. It was without doubt the frontier life that Samuel Mason entered, and not the family from which he sprang that made him what he was.

      Mason was a most striking and interesting figure. He had excellent birth; he had been a fighting soldier on the western frontier in the American Revolution, acquitting himself with courage. It is not clear how such a man in time of peace developed into a highwayman and after years of outlawry came to such a terrible death. A portion of his history is missing and probably will always remain a mystery, but his criminal exploits will lack the proper contrast unless his origin and his early services as a patriot are presented.

      He was born in Virginia about the year 1750. [Note by compiler: According to other sources, he was born on November 8, 1739.] Thirty-five years after his death Draper recorded in one of his note books that "Mason was connected by ties of consanguinity with the distinguished Mason family of Virginia, and grew up bad from his boyhood." This has been assumed in some quarters to connect him closely with George Mason, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but there is no proof of it. He was a captain in the American Revolution. Two of his brothers, Thomas and Joseph, were among the useful, honest pioneers in the West. They started with George Rogers Clark on his expedition to Vincennes, but "when Clark reached Louisville he scattered some of his men among the neighboring stations of Beargrass [near Louisville]. . . . Of this party were . . . Thomas and Joseph Mason, brothers of Captain Samuel Mason." Another brother, Isaac Mason, married Catherine Harrison, sister of Benjamin and William Harrison, and as early as 1770 moved from Virginia to Pennsylvania where he became one of the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Fayette County. These three Mason brothers, like Samuel Mason himself, were, each in a different way, products of their environment and their times. Pioneer times, like most other periods, produced a variety of characters and Samuel Mason rapidly developed into a product quite distinct from most men of his day.

      It is not often that the lineage of a highwayman can be traced back to a position so honorably distinguished as that of an officer in the American Revolution, yet such was Samuel Mason. After fighting for the freedom of his country he drifted down the Ohio to western Kentucky and the Cave-in-Rock country and there began a wild and free career unrestrained by either human or divine law.

      Before taking up Mason's military history it may be well to recall a few facts pertaining to the American Revolution: The first battle in that war was fought at Lexington, Massachusetts, April 19, 1775; the surrender of Cornwallis took place at Yorktown, Virginia, October 19, 1781. While these and other battles between were being fought in the colonies along the Atlantic coast, the frontiersmen west of the Alleghenies were engaged in the same war with the British and their Indian allies. On June 24, 1778, George Rogers Clark left Louisville with about one hundred and fifty men and floated down the Ohio, passing Cave-in-Rock, and at Fort Massac, near the mouth of the Cumberland, began his march through Illinois; he captured Vincennes August 1 and thus saved the west for the American colonies. Between Vincennes and the Old Settlements lay a vast country held, after many hard fights, by the settlers who occupied it.

      It was in this frontier defense of the upper Ohio River region that Samuel Mason took part. A complete history of his career as a Revolutionary soldier cannot, at this late day, be compiled; but, from the few statements regarding him that appear in printed history and from a few old documents still extant, sufficient evidence can be gathered to show that Mason was not only a soldier, but that he took a very active part in the struggle.

      When and where he enlisted is not known. He probably did so in Ohio County, Virginia (now West Virginia). In the List of the Revolutionary Soldiers of Virginia, issued in 1912 by the Virginia State Library, his name appears as a captain of the Ohio County Militia. The earliest record of his military life is one showing that in May, 1777, he pursued some Indians who had robbed and killed a family about fifty miles below Pittsburgh. Mason started from one of the forts above Fort Henry, now Wheeling, West Virginia, and "at the head of ten militia gallantly followed the murderers." Although he killed only one Indian he frightened and scattered the others so badly that the expedition was regarded a success. "This brave young man," says the report written a few days later, "will no doubt meet a reward adequate to his merit."

      About two months later we find him at Grave Creek Fort, twelve miles below Fort Henry. He started on another Indian pursuit July 15. On the 17th he wrote an account of this chase and forwarded it from Fort Henry to General Edward Hand, whose headquarters were at Pittsburgh. The original letter is in the Draper Collection. More than a dozen documents signed by Mason are preserved in the Draper Collection; all are signed Samuel Mason, except one letter, dated August 12, 1777, which is signed Samuel Meason. The letter of July 17, 1777, like other documents just referred to, shows that Samuel Mason was at least sufficiently familiar with the "three Rs" to attempt to report in his own handwriting some of the operations of the militia under him. In it he describes how a number of men, led first by Lieutenant Samuel Tomlinson and then by himself, had gone in pursuit of Indians and returned after two futile scouting expeditions. The suggestion made in this letter that he and his company be transferred to Fort Henry was carried out.

      Fort Henry was a comparatively old place when this letter was written. The three Zane brothers and a small party of emigrants had settled there in 1769. The fort was built in 1774 and was at first called Fincastle. In 1776 the name was changed to Fort Henry in honor of Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia. Up to the latter part of August, 1777, it was not garrisoned by regular soldiery, but its defense, like that of some of the other frontier forts, was left to those who might seek shelter within its walls. By 1777 it had become a flourishing settlement with about thirty houses around it. Scouts were employed to watch for Indians and a warning from the men on guard made it possible for all the inhabitants of the place to retire to the fort on a moment's notice.

      General Hand, expecting an Indian attack on the fort, ordered Captain Mason and his men to proceed there immediately and help defend it. Captain Mason arrived August 12, and sent a report the same day to General Hand that he would "urge and push" the work and expected to be fully prepared in a few days to resist the enemy. By the middle of the month there were less than one hundred militia stationed at the fort. After all preparations had been completed the men became impatient, for there was nothing to indicate the approach of Indians.

      On the night of August 31 Captain Joseph Ogle, who with twelve other men had been watching the path leading to Fort Henry, came in and reported that no signs of the enemy had been discovered. That same night, however, four hundred Indians, led by a few whites, succeeded in placing themselves in ambush near the fort. They lay in two lines concealed by a corn field. Between these lines, along a road leading through the corn field, were stationed six Indians who could be seen by any one entering the road from the fort, and who were placed in that position for the purpose of decoying some of the whites within the line. The next morning?September 1?two men going out after some horses walked along the road and passed some of the concealed Indians, unaware of their presence. They had proceeded but a few steps when, to their great surprise, they discovered the six Indians standing not far ahead. The two men turned and ran for the fort. One of them was shot, but the other was permitted to escape that he might give the alarm.

      Mason, hearing there were only six Indians near the fort, proceeded with fourteen men to attack them. He soon discovered that he had been trapped by several hundred and that retreat was impossible. All of his men were massacred. Captain Ogle and twelve scouts, ignorant of the strength of the enemy, rushed from the fort expecting to rescue their comrades, but most of them were killed in the attempt. Of the twenty-eight soldiers who took part in this bloody battle only five escaped, among them Captains Mason and Ogle. Mason, after being severely wounded, concealed himself behind a fallen tree until the Indians withdrew.

      Mason's venture from the fort, it seems, was a daring deed performed without consideration of its various possible consequences. Dr. Joseph Doddridge, in one of his manuscripts written about 1820, says that the garrison was too hasty in concluding that the warning sent by General Hand was a false alarm, and further comments that Mason's act was another instance of the "folly and rashness of our militia of early times."

      In the light of a knowledge of Mason's later life, this act of bravery, foolish though it may have been, suggests that he then may have had in him the daring necessary for an outlaw, whose self-assurance of success was too great to give the possibility of failure serious consideration.

      Captain Mason remained at Fort Henry until the autumn of 1779. His presence there is shown by a score of receipts now in the Draper Collection, one of which reads : "Fort Henry 27th April 1778 Received fourteen Flints of Zephaniah Blackford for the Use of my Company Given my hand. Samuel MasonCapt." He was on Brodhead's Allegheny campaign in August and September, 1779. After this expedition he retired from active service at Fort Henry and was succeeded by Captain Benjamin Briggs. Mason was, however, militia captain in Ohio County, Virginia, as late as May, 1781, as his attendance at the Courts Martial proves.

      Such is, in brief, a glimpse of Mason's military career as gleaned from scattered records. In 1845 Draper filed among his manuscripts a letter which states that "Capt. Mason resided where Daniel Steenrod's house now is, two miles east of Wheeling, and kept a tavern there in 1780." Another of his notes is to the effect that Mason lived on Wheeling Creek at the Narrows, and that in the spring of 1782 Indians stole some of his negroes. He and a man named Peter Stalnaker went in pursuit. The Indians, seeing the two men coming, concealed themselves behind a large rock a little above the Narrows and from that position they shot and killed Stalnaker. Mason fled and escaped unhurt.

      Captain Samuel Murphy, whom Draper interviewed in 1846, gave the historian a number of facts pertaining to the siege of Wheeling and in his comments on Mason said:"Mason, many years before [i.e. before he was wounded at Wheeling] had stolen horses from Colonel Hite [in Frederick County, Virginia] was pursued and overtaken, and Mason wounded and the horses recovered. Mason's brother, Colonel Isaac Mason, was a very respectable man. When Mason subsequently turned robber, he would give the up-country people a sufficient sum of money to take them home." In The Casket Magazine of July, 1834, William Darby writes: "Well would it have been for Captain Samuel Mason if he had fallen with his gallant companions on the field at Wheeling." Mason evidently did not remain around Wheeling longer than a year or two after the close of the Revolution. Why or when he drifted to east Tennessee is not known.

      What character of man Mason was when he reached the prime of life can be gathered from an unpublished paragraph written by Draper about 1840, after an interview with Colonel G. W. Sevier: "He first took possession, without leave or license, of some unoccupied cabins belonging to General John Sevier in Washington County, east Tennessee, with several worthless louts around him; one was named Barrow. Mason and his party were not known to work and were soon charged with stealing from negro cabins on Sabbath days when their occupants were attending church; and articles thus stolen were found in their possession. General Sevier gave notice to Mason, who had by sufferance remained on his place, that he and his party must leave the country within a specified time. Knowing the character of General Sevier, that he was a man not to be trifled with, Mason and his friends wisely took themselves off."

      We next hear of him in western Kentucky. It is likely that one of his purposes in going to that section of the country was to take up the land granted to him for services rendered as a Virginia soldier in the Revolution. When he moved west is not known. Finley says he settled on Red River, south of Russellville, in 1781. His youngest son, as we shall see later, was born in western Kentucky about 1787, showing that the Masons had arrived some time during or before that year. In 1790 a petition was circulated by the settlers in Lincoln County, Kentucky, who were living on the Virginia military grants between Green and Cumberland Rivers, asking the General Assembly of Virginia to establish a county south of Green River. As a result, two years later, all western Kentucky was formed into a new county called Logan. This petition was signed by one hundred and fifteen men, among them Samuel Mason and one named Thomas Mason, who may have been the eldest son of, or one of the brothers of, Captain Samuel Mason. Inasmuch as its signers, as far as is known, were "respectable citizens," it is likely that Mason was considered such when he signed, either because he tried to be one or because he succeeded in passing as such.

      The petition recites: "That your Petitioners find themselves sensibly aggrieved by their distance from Courts of Justice, it being near two hundred miles from this settlement to Lincoln Court House, by which, when business renders our attendance indispensably necessary, we are frequently exposed to much danger in traveling through an uninhabited country, being subject to fines and other inconveniences, when from high waters, enemies near our frontiers, or other causes, it is impossible to attend." Mason possibly did not then dream that in the near future he himself would become one of the worst "enemies near our frontiers" and be regarded as one of the great dangers to which men were exposed "in traveling through an uninhabited country."

      Mason's domestic life in the wilderness of the lower Ohio evidently was, in the beginning, up to the standard of the average early settler. But in the wild woods, far away from companionship and influence of law-abiding citizens, the best of men were subject to deterioration. Men of education, illiterates, and all other pioneers were alike exposed to this strong influence of frontier life. Many men who, by their inborn nature or by their own choice disregarded law and order, necessarily became, by one route or another, outcasts. Mason fell and fell fast, and became not only an outcast, but a notorious outlaw. The only argument that can be presented in his defense is that he was, to some extent, a peculiar product of his times?only more "highly developed" than contemporaneous outlaws who were products of the same influences and environment. It should be added in justice to Mason that, unlike the Harpes, he was out for booty and that he personally never shed blood unless it became absolutely necessary for his own safety.

      To what extent Mason had fallen by 1794 can be gathered from an entry quoted from Benjamin Van Cleve's diary, made in July of that year on his return to Cincinnati from Fort Massac. Van Cleve, with Major Thomas Doyle and a number of other men, left Fort Washington, now Cincinnati, on March 16, 1794, with ten boats to repair Fort Massac and to supply the place with provisions. They arrived at the fort June 12, and three weeks later some of the men, including Van Cleve, started on their return up the river. On July 8 they landed at Red Banks, now Henderson. Here are the entries taken from The American Pioneer, published in 1843:

      "July 8. [1794] Came to Red Banks.

      "July 9. The weather unpleasant, and the company of soldiers disagreeable. We [four men] determined to quit the boat and travel the residue of the way by land. Made preparations to set off in the morning. This place is a refuge, not for the oppressed, but for all the horse thieves, rogues, and outlaws that have been able to effect their escape from justice in the neighboring states. Neither law nor gospel has been able to reach here as yet. A commission of the peace had been sent by Kentucky to one Mason; and an effort had been made by the south-west territory (Tennessee) to introduce law as it was unknown as yet to which it belonged; but the inhabitants drove the persons away and insisted on doing without. I inquired how they managed to marry, and was told that the parties agreed to take each other for husband and wife before their friends. I was shown two cabins, with about the width of a street between them, where two men a short time ago had exchanged wives. An infair was given today by Mason to a fellow named Kuykendall who had run away from Carolina on account of crimes, and had run off with Mason's daughter to Diamond Island station, a few weeks ago. The father had forbid him the house and threatened to take his life, but had become reconciled, and had sent for them to come home. The parents and friends were highly diverted at the recital of the young couple's ingenuity in the courtship, and laughed heartily when the woman told it. She said she had come down stairs after all the family had retired, having her petticoat around her shoulders, and returned with him through her parents' room, with the petticoat around both; and in the morning she brought him down in the same manner before daylight. This Kuykendall, I was told, always carried in his waistcoat pockets 'devil's claws,' instruments, or rather weapons, that he could slip his fingers in, and with which he could take off the whole side of a man's face at one claw. We left them holding their frolic.

      "I afterwards heard that Kuykendall was killed by some of the party at the close of the ball.

      "July io. Left Red Banks."

      Ministers and certain others, in pioneer days as at present were licensed to solemnize marriages according to the laws established by the state. But a compliance with the church law was, in the eyes of the Masons, a useless form. They disregarded all laws, as it suited them. In that section of Kentucky the execution of the laws was in the hands of Captain John Dunn, a Revolutionary soldier who was one of the first settlers at Henderson and who, in 1792, was appointed its first constable. Starling in his History of Henderson County, Kentucky, says that Captain Dunn was "the only recognized officer of the law in all this territory" up to September, 1796, when he was authorized to "raise three men to act as patrol at the Red Banks." This increase in patrol became necessary not only because the number of settlers was gradually growing larger, but also because the wild conduct of such men as Mason made it imperative.

      That the presence or absence of the patrol was a matter of equal indifference to the Masons is shown by some notes Draper received from Mrs. William Anthony, daughter of Captain John Dunn. In her letter she writes that Mason and his family were among the original settlers of Henderson County and that with Samuel Mason were "a brother-in-law named Duff, and perhaps a son-in-law." Whether or not this Duff to whom she so briefly refers was the counterfeiter Duff is not known. She states that about 1796 Samuel Mason requested Captain Dunn to sign "some instruments of writing." Captain Dunn declined to sign the paper, saying he would have nothing to do with any such "rascal" as he was. This refusal aroused Mason and a few days later he and four of his men "fell upon Captain Dunn in Henderson, drew their concealed weapons and beat him entirely senseless and until they thought he was certainly dead, and then threw his body over a fence close by. But Captain Dunn unexpectedly recovered." Their hatred of Dunn then grew greater than ever.

      Shortly after Captain Dunn experienced this narrow escape from death Hugh Knox, afterwards Judge Knox, of Henderson, "incurring the displeasure of the Masons, was badly beaten by them. Others fared no better." One day the Masons stole a negro woman and her two children belonging to Knox and took them to "their then quarters at the mouth of Highland Creek." Knox raised a party, including Captain Dunn, and managed to regain the three negroes. Dunn's participation in this rescue aroused the Masons against him to an even greater degree. One day Thomas Mason, the oldest son of Samuel Mason, came to Red Banks with his rifle and threatened to kill Dunn. Mrs. Dunn, hearing of the threat, begged Thomas Durbin, Dunn's cousin, who had just arrived with a flatboat going down the river, to try to pacify young- Mason and take the gun from him. Durbin being a stranger, it was thought he would succeed. But Durbin had little more than begun talking to Thomas Mason and made known the object of his interview, when Mason, without any comment, shot him dead, and fled.

      Mrs. Anthony in the same letter to Draper writes: "Late in December, 1797, early on a cold morning, Captain Dunn, accompanied by Thomas Smith, started on horseback for Knob Lick, carrying out corn meal and intending to bring back salt. As they were coming near the ford on Canoe Creek, three miles below Henderson, Captain Dunn remarked that many a time, in former years, he dreaded the crossing of that creek on account of the Masons, as it was so well fitted to waylay the unwary, but now that the Masons had gone so far below [to Cave-in-Rock] he no longer apprehended danger from them. The words were scarcely uttered ?they were about midway the small stream?when the crack of a rifle told too plainly that villainy yet lurked there. Captain Dunn fell from his horse into the partly frozen stream. Thomas Smith got but a glimpse of the person who did the deed; he could not, in the confusion of the moment, define his features. The wretch darted off and Smith conveyed Dunn home, where he died in a few hours. When asked if he knew the person who shot him he answered that 'it was that bad man.' This allusion was probably to Henry Havard, a young man who was a friend and supposed accomplice of the Ma sons." Thus ended the life of the first constable of Red Banks, and with this killing the work of the Masons in Henderson County ended. And with his departure from there, Mason's life went from bad to worse."

      About the time Mason and his gang left Henderson County there appeared in Red Banks and on Diamond Island a man named May. Mrs. Anthony calls him Isaac May, some refer to the same man as Samuel May, but he is best known as James May. He later played a very important part in Mason's history. Writing of this outlaw's early career, Mrs. Anthony says: "May loitered about Henderson and had a lame sister with him?at least she passed as such and thereby excited some remarks. At length May stole some horses and he and his sister made off and were pursued and overtaken at Vincennes. May was brought back to Henderson, and the very first night after they got him there he managed to break away and make his escape, which he effected by making an extraordinary leap. He joined Mason's gang. . . ." He joined Mason in the South and there performed another extraordinary act of which, as is shown later, Mrs. Anthony has more or less to say.

      During the greater part of 1797 the Masons were established at Cave-in-Rock. Their headquarters while in and near Henderson seems to have been changed from time to time. For a while they had a camp at the mouth of Highland Creek, as stated by Mrs. Anthony, but most of their time previous to 1797 was spent not far from what now is the town of Hitesville, in Union County, Kentucky. A small stream, tributary to Highland Creek, on or near which the Masons lived, still bears the name of Mason's Creek. About twenty miles south of this old camp is "Harpe's Head," where two years later the head of Big Harpe was placed on the end of a pole. About ten miles northeast of the Mason Creek country is Diamond Island, where many early pioneers going down the Ohio in flatboats became the victims of the Masons.

      Fortesque Cuming stopped at Diamond Island May 16, 1808, about ten years after Mason had left it. Commenting on the place, Cuming says, in his Tour to the Western Country: "Nothing can be more beautifully situated than this fine island. . . . It is owned by a Mr. Alvis, a Scotchman, of great property in South Carolina, who bought it about two years ago [1806] of one Wells, the original locator. Alvis has a negro quarter, and near one hundred and fifty acres of land cleared on the Kentucky shore opposite the Island. This used to be the principal haunt of banditti, from twenty to thirty in number, amongst which the names of Harper [sic] five Masons, and Corkendale [Kuykendall] were most conspicuous. They attacked and plundered the passing boats, and frequently murdered the crews and passengers. At length the government of Kentucky sent a detachment of militia against them. They were surprised, and Harper, one of the Masons, and three or four more were shot, one in the arms of his wife, who escaped unhurt though her husband received eleven balls. The rest dispersed and again recruiting, became, under Mason, the father, the terror of the road through the wilderness between Nashville in Tennessee and the Mississippi Territory."

      Cuming's account is fairly accurate, but if by "Harper" he refers to Big Harpe or Little Harpe, he is mistaken. The "detachment of militia" that ran out this band of Diamond Island outlaws could more properly be called a "regiment" of local regulators, for there is nothing on record to show that any state militia was ever sent to the island. In pioneer days regulators, as a rule, relied upon their own "military strength" and exercised it without formal orders from "official headquarters."

      Diamond Island is about fourteen miles below Henderson. It is some three miles long and a half-mile wide, and more or less diamond shaped. In Mason's day it was covered with gigantic trees and luxurious vines and presented so wonderful a scene that it attracted early travelers who passed it. In pioneer days it was, according to comments written by many travelers, the most beautiful island in the Ohio. Zadok Cramer in The Navigator, published in 1806, says it is a "large and noble looking island." J. Addison Richards in his Romance of American Landscape refers to it as "the crown-jewel in this cluster of the Ohio brilliants." Thomas Ashe, whose trip down the Ohio was "performed in 1806," goes so far as to say it is "by far the finest in the river, and perhaps the most beautiful in the world!" About a generation after Mason and other outlaws abandoned it as a trap for victims, Edmund Flagg visited the Island and found that "it is said to be haunted." In 1917 it was, according to one man's idea, "sure ha'nted." This once luxuriant forest island is now a cornfield, celebrated for its wonderfully fertile soil and for its "Diamond Island Canned Corn." All that is left of its former splendor is its size. Its heavy fringe of cottonwood and willow still attracts attention and helps repicture the Island as it was in the olden days. The gnarled roots along the bank and the driftwood piled here and there on the beach seem to hold dumb the secrets of Mason and his men and the tragedies enacted there more than a century ago.

      Robbery and its booty were uppermost in Mason's mind and were the object of his every act. Nevertheless, in selecting Cave-in-Rock, seventy miles down the Ohio River, as his next headquarters he chanced to choose a place, judging from the present appearance of the landscape, that was far more picturesque than Diamond Island. All the primeval beauty of the Island has long ago disappeared, and some of the wild charm of Cave-in-Rock and its surroundings has vanished with the original forest. Flatboat pirates have come and gone; the Ohio still flows on as majestically and as mysteriously as ever, but all its flood of waters will never wash away the legends of tragedies connected with the two places.

      Mason made Cave-in-Rock his headquarters during the greater part of 1797. River pirates were numerous in the old flatboat days?especially before 1811 when the first steamboat was run from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Travelers were warned by those who had made trips down the river and knew the usual methods followed by river pirates; but with all their intended precautions and in spite of all the instructions received many of the inexperienced became easy prey for the robbers. The Cave had often been used by travelers as a temporary stopping place and had become a well known shelter. But the fact that it had also served as a temporary abode for outlaws seems not to have been widely circulated before this time. Mason recognized in it a hiding place that offered him the shelter of a good house and also one that was very convenient and reasonably safe. Besides, it was peculiarly fitted for his purpose, for its partially concealed entrance commanded a wide view both up and down the river.

      He also recognized the necessity of enticing his intended victims into the Cave in an innocent manner or by some unusual method. Mason's reputation as an outlaw was beginning to spread. He overcame the obstacle of publicity by changing his name to "Wilson." In order to lull any suspicion he concluded to convert the Cave into an inn and he and his family therefore fitted it up for the purpose of accommodating guests. On the river bank where it could be seen by those going down the stream he raised a large sign: "Wilson's Liquor Vault and House for Entertainment." And thus it came about that Cave-in-the-Rock was transformed into Cave-Inn-Rock and finally to Cave-in-Rock.

      Daniel Blowe, in 1820, briefly recorded that "Mason's gang of robbers made Cave-in-Rock their principal rendezvous in 1797, where they frequently plundered or murdered the crews of boats descending the Ohio." Most historians who touched on the subject after Blowe's time publish, with equal brevity, the same statement. Henry Howe, in his Historical Collections of the Great West, published in 1852, says: "Sometimes Mason plundered the descending boats but more frequently preferred to wait and plunder the owners of their money as they returned." Comparatively few men returned north by river and it is therefore likely that not many single boats or small flotillas going south floated by unmolested. In this connection Judge James Hall comments that the boats that were permitted to pass the Cave and Hurricane Island, six miles below, were pointed out by Mason, who on such occasions would jokingly remark: "These people are taking produce to market for me."

      Mason discovered that many of his men who went south with captured boats never returned to report, and he realized that sooner or later an attempt would be made to capture him if he continued his work at the Cave. He therefore decided to go south. For these and probably other reasons he, as stated by Monette, "deserted the Cave in the Rock on the Ohio and began to infest the great Natchez Trace where the rich proceeds of the river trade were the tempting prize."

      By what means and under what circumstances Mason and his family moved south is not known. After leaving Henderson County he remained longer at Cave-in-Rock than at any other one place. His name is inseparably associated with Cave-in-Rock, both in history and tradition, but neither history nor tradition has preserved an account giving the details of any definite robbery committed by him while there. It is likely that he left the Cave in ample time to avoid being driven out by a body of men who had been organized by the merchants of Pittsburgh for the purpose of trying to exterminate him and all other river pirates. No record of Mason's whereabouts during 1798 and 1799 can now be found. During these two years many robberies occurred along the Mississippi River and along various trails on the American side of the river from Kentucky to New Orleans, but the guilty men were seldom captured. A number of these robberies, on both river and land, were doubtless perpetrated by Mason under one or more assumed names.

      According to Audubon, the ornithologist, the Masons made their headquarters for a while on Wolf Island, in the Mississippi, twenty-five miles below the mouth of the Ohio. About 1815, or a number of years after Mason's career was closed, Audubon gathered the. following about the famous outlaw's stay on this island:

      "The name of Mason is still familiar to many of the navigators of the Lower Ohio and Mississippi. By dint of industry in bad deeds, he became a notorious horse-stealer, formed a line of worthless associates from the eastern part of Virginia (a state greatly celebrated for its fine breed of horses) to New Orleans, and had a settlement on Wolf Island, not far from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi, from which he issued to stop the flatboats, and rifle them of such provisions and other articles as he and his party needed. His depredations became the talk of the whole western country; and to pass Wolf Island was not less to be dreaded than to anchor under the walls of Algiers. The horses, the negroes, and the cargoes, his gang carried off and sold."

      In March, 1800, Mason appeared in New Madrid, Missouri, then Spanish territory, and applied for a passport. This was issued to him, as appears later, on the recommendation of a man whom he had met casually at Red Banks (Henderson, Kentucky) and who was unaware of the real character of the person he introduced. The passport not only permitted Mason to settle on Spanish territory with the privilege of purchasing land, but it also served as a document designating him as a desirable citizen. When he applied for this permit, he may have resolved to open up a farm and lead a respectable life. If so, the resolution to reform was of short duration, for he made no attempt to select a site for a permanent home. In the meantime he carefully preserved the passport, knowing it might some day serve, in its way, as a letter of recommendation. It would also serve as evidence that he had taken an initial step toward becoming a Spanish subject. Should he confine his land operations to the American side, and his river piracy to the waters of the Mississippi, and make none but American citizens his victims, the chances were he might some day find a safe and convenient retreat in the Spanish domain west of the river.

      During 1800 and the three years that followed, Mason moved over the country with remarkable activity. A report of a robbery committed by him on the Natchez Trace, says Monette, was soon followed by an account of another perpetrated on the Mississippi many miles away, and vice versa. Men going down the Mississippi, as those going down the Ohio, encountered many troubles incidental to the running of boats. They were always exposed to river pirates of whom Mason was one. Among other hardships to which they were subjected was the unrestrained authority of the Spanish, who were then in possession of the land west of the Mississippi and who practically controlled the navigation of that river.

      Mason On the Natchez Trace

      Much has been written about the old'Natchez Trace, the narrow Indian trail leading from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, at which place travelers took other trails leading to Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia. In the flatboat days many merchants who had disposed of the goods they brought down the Ohio and Mississippi returned north with the proceeds of their sales by this overland route; others took the ocean route by way of Philadelphia, back to their homes. Many of these pioneer merchants refer to their experience in this wilderness and many early western travelers who rode over this old trail describe it in their books. We shall, however, confine our glimpse of the early days on this historic trace to the facts concerning Mason.

      It is more than likely that Mason had committed a number of crimes along the Natchez Trace before he appeared in New Madrid in March, 1800. Many pioneers traveling over this route encountered highwaymen, but none of them succeeded in identifying the men by whom they had been robbed. The first record of a case with which Mason is definitely connected is that of a party of boatmen riding from Natchez to their homes in Kentucky. An account of this incident is told in Old Times in Tennessee, by Josephus C. Guild, who received his information from John L. Swaney. Swaney told Guild that more than fifty years before, while carrying the mail over the old Natchez Trace, he frequently met Samuel Mason and talked with him.

      Swaney began carrying the mail over this old Indian trail about 1796 and was familiar with the route before Mason appeared on the scene. The distance from Nashville to Natchez he estimates at about five hundred and fifty miles. It was, in his mail-carrying days, a mere bridle path winding through an almost endless wilderness. He rode it for eight years, making a round trip every three weeks. Traveling at the rate of about fifty-five miles a day permitted him a day's rest at either end of his route. He frequently met Indians along the Trace. At Colbert's Ferry, on the Tennessee River, he always found the Indian ferrymen "contrary," for they would not cross the river for him if he got to the landing after bed time. At the Chickasaw Agency, about half-way between the two places, he changed horses. The only white men he saw were the few settlers, scattered forty or more miles apart, the occasional traveler returning north and, now and then, Samuel Mason and some of his band. Swaney rode a good horse and carried with him, besides the mail (consisting of a few letters, newspapers, and government dispatches) a bushel of corn for his horse, provisions and a blanket for himself, a pistol, a tin trumpet, and a piece of flint and steel.

      Merchants and boatmen brought their provisions and other necessities on pack-horses or pack-mules. It was from these that Mason captured much of the food and most of the clothing he and his people required. These travelers, as a rule, sewed their money in rawhides and threw the hides in the packs with supplies. At night, before making a fire, they hid their valuables in the bushes some distance from the camp in the event of a surprise at night by robbers. It was in this wilderness that Mason looked for and found many of his victims. He and his band were the terror of all who traveled through the Indian nation, except Swaney.

      Mason frequently sought interviews with Swaney, with whom he had many friendly chats. The outlaw often asked what was said about him by the public. He told Swaney that no mail-carrier need fear being molested by him and his men, for mail was of no value to them, and that he "did not desire to kill any man, for money was all he was after and if he could not get it without taking life, he certainly would shed no blood."

      "Among Mason's first robberies," continues the historian who interviewed the mail-carrier, "was that of a party of Kentucky boatmen returning home from Natchez. They had camped at what was called Gum Springs, in the Choctaw Nation. They ate supper, and, as a matter of precaution, were putting out pickets before retiring for the night. In going to their positions one of the pickets stepped on one of Mason's men, who were hidden in the grass awaiting an opportunity to pounce upon the boatmen. The robber thus carelessly trod on jumped up, gave a yell, and fired off a gun, calling upon his comrades to shoot and kill every boatman. This was so unexpected to the Kentuckians that they became panic stricken and ran off in the wildest confusion, leaving everything, some even their wearing apparel. Mason and his men went to the camp and carried away everything.

      "The next morning, just at daylight, Mr. Swaney came along, and seeing the camp fires burning, rode out, but could find no one. He was going toward Natchez, and having met no party that morning, he instinctively knew that something was wrong, and began to blow his bugle. The boatmen recognized the familiar sound and commenced coming to Mr. Swaney, one and two at a time. He asserted that they were the worst scared, worst looking set of men he ever saw, some of them having but little clothing on, and one big fellow had only a shirt. They immediately held a sort of council of war, and it was unanimously agreed to follow the robbers and recapture their property. It was an easy matter to follow their trail through the cane and grass. Their plan was, as they had no arms, to provide themselves with sticks and knives, and should they overtake Mason and his men, attack them by a vigorous charge, knocking them down right and left with their shillelahs, and if those in front fell at the fire of the robbers, those in the rear were to rush upon, overpower and capture the robbers and recover their property.

      "They started in pursuit of the robbers under the lead of the big Kentuckian. They had gone about a mile when they began to find articles of clothing which had been thrown away by the robbers. The big Kentuckian found his pants, in the waistband of which he had sewed four gold doubloons and, to his great joy, the robbers had not found them. After this it was noticed that the big Kentuckian's valor began to fail him, and soon he was found in the rear. The pursuit was kept up about two miles further, when they were suddenly hailed by Mason and his men, who were hid behind trees, with their guns presented, and who ordered them to go back or they would kill the last one of them. This caused a greater stampede than that of the night before, and the big Kentuckian out distanced the whole party in the race back to camp. They abused the big Kentuckian at a round rate for his want of courage, but he only laughed at them, saying he had everything to run for. But, to his credit be it said, he spent his last dollar in procuring supplies for his comrades."

      Mason was an active man and this comparatively insignificant robbery was doubtless preceded and followed by others of greater consequence of which, however, no written record or oral tradition now exists. Then occurred the Baker robbery on the old Natchez Trace?a robbery that became widely known through the current newspapers and soon convinced the public that Mason was an outlaw of dangerous character, working over a large territory.

      Colonel Joshua Baker, the victim of this famous robbery, was a merchant living in central Kentucky. In his day he made a number of trips south, going down in flatboats and returning by way of the old Natchez Trace. Colonel Baker had the misfortune to come in contact with Mason at least once on land and once on water, and, as is later shown, played an important part in the activities that resulted in ending Mason's career.

      In the spring or summer of 1801, Colonel Baker took several flatboats filled with produce and horses to New Orleans. After disposing of his cargo, he set out on his return home, accompanied by four men, each of whom rode a horse. Besides the five riding horses there were five pack-mules in the cavalcade loaded down with provisions, and, among other things, the proceeds of the sales made in New Orleans. Colonel Baker and his men experienced no unusual trouble until they reached the ford across what was then called Twelve Mile Creek, but since known as Baker's Creek. The place is in Hindes County, Mississippi, about twenty miles west of Jackson and near where the Battle of Baker's Creek was fought on January 16, 1863. There, August 14, 1801, the Baker party was surprised by Samuel Mason and three of his men. A paragraph relative to the robbery that followed was published in The Kentucky Gazette, September 14, 1801. It is the earliest printed record so far found of Mason's activities on the Natchez Trace:

      "We are informed that on the 14th of August, about sixty miles on this side of the Big Biopiere [Bayou Pierre] River, Colonel Joshua Baker, a Mr. William Baker and a Mr. Rogers of Natchez, were robbed of their horses, traveling utensils, and about two thousand three hundred dollars cash. It seems the company had halted in the morning at a small, clear stream of water in order to wash. As soon as they had dismounted and gone to the water four men appeared, blacked, between them and their horses and demanded the surrender of their money and, property, which they were obliged to comply with. Mr. W. Baker was more fortunate than his companions. A pack-horse, on which was a considerable sum of money, being frightened at the appearance of the robbers, ran away, and they being in haste to escape could not pursue. Mr. W. Baker recovered his horse [pack-mule] and money. He, however, lost his riding horse, etc. Colonel Baker and Mr. Rogers came to the first settlement, where they procured assistance and immediately went in pursuit of the villains. It is to be hoped they will be apprehended. One of them who was described by Colonel Baker, formerly resided at Red Banks. A brother of Colonel Baker, our informant, obtained this information from Mr. W. Baker, who lodged at his house [in Lexington, Kentucky] on Thursday night last."

      John L. Swaney, the mail-carrier, whose reminiscences have been drawn upon, gives some different details of this incident. The banks at Baker's Creek are high and steep and at this crossing there was then nothing more than a deep-cut bridle path on either bank leading into or out of the stream. The Baker party, after more or less difficulty, rode down to the creek. While their horses and mules were drinking, says Swaney, Mason and his men jumped up from where they had concealed themselves. The victims, realizing they had been trapped and were at the mercy of the outlaws, surrendered. Mason made them drive the pack-mules over to his side of the creek, where two of his men took charge of them but permitted Baker and his companions to keep their riding horses and side arms. Colonel Baker then rode to Grindstone Ford, a distance of about forty miles, and there raised a company to pursue the outlaws.

      They followed the trail of the robbers to Pearl River, near Jackson, Mississippi, and there learned that Mason had crossed the stream only a few hours before. In the pursuing party was a man named Brokus, a quadroon Indian. Brokus, according to Swaney, stripped and swam down the river to ascertain, if possible, what route Mason's men had taken. While he was climbing up the bank one of the robbers punched him in the breast with a gun. Brokus thought he was shot and, losing his grip on the sapling to which he was holding, fell back into the river. After considerable swimming and diving he reached the opposite shore. Swaney ends his story of this chase by saying: "Mason then made his appearance and notified Colonel Baker that he would never recover his money. This seemed to be accepted as the final arbitrament, for the pursuit of the robbers was abandoned."

      A contributor to The Natchez Galaxy in 1829, in a short article entitled "The Robber of the Wilderness," gives another account of how Mason made his appearance on the banks of Pearl River and under what circumstances Colonel Baker abandoned the chase. This Natchez writer has it that when Colonel Baker reached the river the pursuers took the saddles off their horses and made preparations to rest for a few hours before resuming the chase. The tracks made by Mason's horses showed that his party was much smaller than theirs. The pursuers therefore anticipated nothing other than an unconditional surrender. They did not realize how quickly Mason could turn to his advantage any condition that presented itself. How the outlaw mastered the present situation is best told by the contributor to The Natchez Galaxy:

      "Those preliminaries being disposed of, two of the party strolled to the bank of the river and, tempted by the coolness and beauty of the stream, went in to bathe. In the course of their gambol they crossed to the opposite shore, where they encountered an individual whose society, under the present circumstances, afforded them very little satisfaction.

      "Mason, aware that he was pursued and having ascertained the superior force of his pursuers, determined to effect by strategem what he could not hope to do by open contest. The path into the forest was narrow here and much beset with undergrowth; and he placed his men in ambush so that by a sudden onset the party of Colonel Baker on entering the woods would be thrown into confusion, and thus be easily despatched or routed. Chance, however, produced a success more complete than any he could have anticipated. No sooner had the two naked and unarmed men reached the eastern shore of the Pearl, than Mason rushed upon them before they could collect their thoughts or comprehend their danger. He was a hale, athletic figure, and roughly clad in the leather shirt and leggins, common to the Indians and hunters of the frontier.

      "'I am glad to see you, gentlemen,' said he sarcastically, 'and though our meeting did not promise to be quite so friendly, I am just as well satisfied; my arms and ammunition will cost less than I expected.'

      "His prisoners were thunderstruck and totally incapable of reply. Having placed a guard over them, Mason walked deliberately down to the shore and hailed the party on the opposite bank, who had witnessed the scene, that has been detailed, in amazement and apprehension. As he approached they instinctively seized their arms.

      "'If you approach one step or raise a rifle,' cried the robber, 'you may bid your friends farewell. There is no hope for them but in your obedience. I want nothing but security against danger to myself and party and this I mean to have. Stack your arms and deposit your ammunition on the beach near the water. I will send for them. Any violence to my messenger or the least hesitation to perform my orders will prove certain and sudden death to your companions. Your compliance will insure their release, and I pledge my honor as a man to take no other advantage of my victory.'

      "There was no alternative. The arms and ammunition were deposited as Mason directed. Two of the band were despatched for them, while a rifle was held to the head of each prisoner. No resistance was attempted, however, by Colonel Baker or his party, and the arms were brought across. The banditti were soon in readiness for a march; the prisoners were dismissed with a good humored farewell; and the dreaded Mason, true to his word, was soon lost in the depths of the wilderness. It is hardly necessary to say that the pursuers, disarmed, discomfitted, and a little chapfallen made the best of their way back to 'the settlement'."

      Shortly after the Baker robbery John Mason, a son of Samuel Mason, was lodged in the Natchez jail charged with taking part in the affair. It is more than likely that John Mason happened to be in town when he was accused and arrested than that an officer brought him in from the country. At any rate, he was tried, convicted, and punished by whipping. It is possible that he was innocent of the specific crime for which he was punished, for he may not have been present when the Mason band robbed Colonel Baker. About seventy years later George Wiley, who was a mere lad at the time this whipping occurred, wrote a sketch on "Natchez in the Olden Times." In it he says:

      "The old jail, too, was the scene of the first public disgrace to the noted Mason, who afterwards, with his robber band, became the terror of travelers from the Ohio River to New Orleans. Mason and his son were brought to Natchez and lodged in jail, charged with the robbery of a man named Baker, at a place now in Hindes County where the road crosses a creek still known as Baker's Creek. They were defended at their trial by a distinguished lawyer named Wallace. He, after the manner so common with lawyers, went to work to get up a public feeling in favor of his clients, and succeeded so well that, although the Masons were convicted, the general sentiment was that they were innocently punished. They were both convicted and sentenced to receive the punishment of thirty-nine lashes and exposure in the pillory. I witnessed the flogging and shall never forget their cries of 'innocent' at every blow of the cowhide which tore the flesh from their quivering limbs, and until the last lash was given they shrieked the same despairing cry of 'innocent,' `innocent.' After they were released the elder Mason said to the surrounding crowd, 'You have witnessed our punishment for a crime we never committed; some of you may see me punished again but it shall be for something worthy of punishment.' He and his son then shaved their heads, and stripping themselves naked, mounted their horses and yelling like Indians, rode through and out of the town." [26]

      This account appears correct in all its details except two. Samuel Mason's son, John, was the only member of the Mason family arrested and whipped. If, as stated by Wiley, two men were punished on this occasion, the other may have been a member of Samuel Mason's gang. The other error is in the statement that the two prisoners were released. It is shown later that after they were whipped they escaped from jail by the aid of some of Mason's men.

      William Darby, another citizen of Natchez, in an account published in The Casket Magazine, in 1834, tells what occurred shortly after John Mason was whipped: "One of the jury, whose name I omit," writes Darby, "made himself very conspicuous at the trial of John Mason, wishing before the whole court and audience, that 'the rascal might be hung.' " By some means Samuel Mason received a report of the juryman's statement. A few weeks later this same juror, returning to Natchez from one of the settlements, had occasion to ride over a bridle path through a heavy canebreak. He was suddenly confronted by Samuel Mason who stepped out of the cane, armed with a tomahawk and rifle, and, raising the rifle, pointed it at the surprised rider, who immediately threw up his hands. Mason very calmly informed the juror that he had waited for him for two days "to blow your brains out."

      The frightened man begged to be spared for the sake of his wife and children. Mason replied that he, too, had children and loved them -as much as any other father loved his own, and that this was his first chance to extend to him the same mercy he had shown toward his son John. Then, as if to further prepare the captive for the worst, Mason asked: "Did John Mason ever do you any harm? Did I myself ever do you any injury? Did you ever hear of me committing murder, or suffering murder to be committed?" Mason shrewdly omitted the words, "except when necessary." The juror answered: "Never in my life." "Thank God, I have never shed blood," declared Mason with great earnestness, "but now, come down off your horse, Sir. If you have anything to say to your Maker, I'll give you five minutes to say it."

      "The terrified man," continues Darby, "sank off the horse and fell on his knees, uttering a fervent prayer, addressed rather to the man who stood beside him with his gun cocked. At length, his words failed him and he burst into a violent shower of tears. The man himself, who afterward related the whole circumstance, and could scarce ever do so without tears at the remembrance, said he every moment expected death; but Mason, regarding him with a bitter smile, swore his life was not worth taking, wheeled around and in an instant disappeared amongst the cane."

      Colonel Baker returned to Kentucky and reports of the daring robbery on the Natchez Trace and of his unsuccessful attempt to capture Samuel Mason were circulated throughout the country. Monette says that about the time the Baker robbery occurred "the o
    Person ID I14595  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 12 Nov 2017 

    Father Thomas MEASON, Sr.,   b. 22 Feb 1707,   d. 14 Mar 1779, Westmoreland County, PA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Elizabeth TEETH,   b. 2 Apr 1721,   d. Abt 1765  (Age 43 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 14 Oct 1734  Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church, Wilimington, New Castle County, DE Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Family ID F6602  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Roseannah DORSEY[?] 
    Married Abt 1766 
    Children 
     1. Dorsey MASON, Sr.,   b. 11 Aug 1776,   d. 25 Aug 1814, Fairfield County, OH Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years)  [natural]
     2. Samuel MASON, Jr.  [natural]
     3. Isaac MASON  [natural]
     4. Magnus MASON  [natural]
     5. John MASON  [natural]
     6. Thomas MASON  [natural]
     7. --- MASON  [natural]
    Last Modified 12 Nov 2017 22:51:11 
    Family ID F6603  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Sources 
    1. Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Citation Text: (1) Burr, Horace, TheRecords of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church, Wilmington, DE: Historical Society of Delaware, 1890, p. 358: Marriages 1734. . . . Thomas Measor and Elizabeth Teeth, married Oct. 14th.