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John Mason, Jr., Grand Master, 1842

This Brother was one of three elevated to that station directly from the body of the Craft during the last century, and was the only one who had never previously held any Masonic office. Indeed, as his fraternal record shows, his active membership in his lodge was remarkably brief and his selection to preside over the Grand Lodge can only be attributed to some special conditions, hidden by the lapse of years, but among which it may be surmised his prominence and the unsettled period were powerful factors.

Brother Mason was born in Annapolis, Md., February 18, 1797, and came from one of the best known and most patriotic of the old families. His grandfather, Col. George Mason, was an officer in the Revolutionary War, drafted the celebrated "Virginia Declaration of Rights," 1776, and was a member of the Continental Congress in 1777. He built the famous old mansion Gunston Hall, on the Potomac and died there in 1792.

The father of the subject of this sketch, Gen. John Mason, inherited and lived during the summer months on Analostan Island, also known as Mason's Island, in a pretentious colonial residence which was for years one of the social centers of this section. Among other noted guests entertained here was Louis Phillipe, of France, on his visit to this country. The house was destroyed during the Civil War.

An uncle, Stevens L. Mason, was the first Governor of Michigan. A brother of John Mason, Jr., named James M. Mason, was a Senator from Virginia from 1846 to the War of the Rebellion, and was sent by the Confederate States, with John Slidell, as a Commissioner to England and France, was taken from the British Steamer Trent, but was released on demand of the British Government.

Brother Mason received his early training partly at home under tutors and partly at school in Georgetown, and was sent to France to complete his education.

While a young man he served as Secretary of the U. S. Legation in Mexico, sailing from Old Point Comfort on the famous frigate Constitution and landing at Vera Cruz. An incident of his Mexican experience gives some idea of the man. During an uprising among the natives, and while the Consulate was being fired upon, he appeared on the veranda and waving the American flag dared them to fire upon it, which had the effect of dispersing the mob and quelling the excitement After his return in 1829, his home was always in the District of Columbia, where he enjoyed a large and successful practice as a lawyer. He also conducted a mercantile business on Water Street, Georgetown, and traded extensively with the Indians. Later on, with several other citizens he became interested in silk worm culture and planted, with that object in view, large quantities of mulberry trees on the Heights of Georgetown. He is described as about five feet eleven inches in height, very handsome, fine figure, with brown eyes and black hair; his manners were very courtly and polished like the gentlemen of the "old school." He was a linguist of unusual attainments, speaking seven languages.

He was for many years preceding the War the Captain of the Potomac Dragoons, a local military organization.

He was a son-in-law of Gen. Alexander Macomb, U. S. A., of Detroit, the hero of the Battle of Plattsburg, and resided at different times on Bridge (now M) Street, near the Key Mansion, at Evermay, on the Heights of Georgetown, and latterly on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W., between Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Streets, N. W. His brief Masonic history follows: March 9, 1824, petition received in Potomac Lodge, No. 5, and it being regarded as an emergent case, was acted upon the same evening; March 11, 1824, entered and passed; March 28, 1825, raised, and asked and obtained leave to withdraw membership, being on the point of sailing for his post of duty in Mexico; October 16, 1841, petitioned same lodge for affiliation, and by-law requiring petitions to lie over being unanimously dispensed with, he was elected He was chosen Grand Master December, 1841.

He died in the summer of 1859 in this city and his remains were interred in Christ Church Cemetery, Alexandria, Virginia.

AHGP District of Columbia

Source: History of the Grand Lodge and Freemasonry in the District of Columbia, compiled by W. Brother Kenton N. Harper, 1911.

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