John Thomson Mason Jr. Collection 1744-1882, MS. 2224

Maryland Historical Society
Library of Maryland History


John Thomson Mason, Jr. Collection, 1744-1882

Maryland Historical Society


(Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, March 1999.)

John Thomson Mason, Jr. Collection, 1744-1882
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Fax: 410.385.2105

Descriptive Summary

John Thomson Mason, Jr. Collection, 1744-1882

MS 2224

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674

Biographical Sketch

John Thomson Mason Jr. was born at the family seat, Montpelier, Washington County Maryland, May 15, 1815. He received his early education at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and then entered Princeton where he graduated in 1836. Wishing to become a lawyer, he returned to Hagerstown, Maryland after graduation and entered the law office of William Price. He began his law practice in 1838 and soon undertook an active life both professionally and politically. In 1838 he was elected a member of the Maryland House of Representatives and after serving one term returned to Hagerstown and his law offices. In 1841 he was elected to the United States Congress where he served from March 4, 1841 to March 3, 1843. By 1851 he was one of the Judges of the Court of Appeals of Maryland. He served in that capacity until 1857 when he resigned the Court position to become Collector of the Port of Baltimore.

Being warmly sympathetic with the South, Mason retired to private life during the Civil War. He was twice imprisoned as a Southern sympathizer. At the close of the war Mason resumed his law practice in Baltimore, and in 1872 became Secretary of State of Maryland under Governor William Pinkney Whyte.

Mason died on March 28, 1873 at Elkton, Maryland, and is buried in Hagerstown.

Although the collection centers around John Thomson Mason Jr., many other members of the Mason family share a major part in the correspondence. There are letters to and from John Thomson Mason Jr.'s father, John Thomson Mason (1765-1824), and his son John Thomson Mason III fl. 1868. Included is correspondence from two of John T. Mason Jr.'s three brothers, Thomson Mason, and Melchior Beltzhoover Mason, to two of his three sisters, Elizabeth Mason and Virginia Wallace Mason, his cousin Westwood Thomson Mason, and his uncles William Temple Thomson Mason, Abraham Barnes Thomson Mason, and George Thomson Mason. There is also some correspondence to John T. Mason Jr.'s wife Margaret A. [Cowan] Mason, and his brother-in-law John O. Wharton.


Container List



This box contains material from the second half of the 18th century through the beginning of the 19th century. Most of the materials from the 18th century are indentures, land titles, deeds, legal documents, and receipts. Correspondence in the 18th century includes letters to Thomson Mason (1784-1809), letters to John Barnes, Abraham Barnes and Thomas H. Ridgate, and letters between Luke Tiernan and John Barnes concerning tobacco and flour merchandising (1794-5, 1798). Box I also includes letters between members of the Mason family: Stevens Thomson Mason, Abraham Barnes Thomson Mason, William Temple Thomson Mason, Westwood Thomson Mason, Elizabeth Mason, Ann Mason Tutt, Armistead T. Mason, Thomson Mason, and John Thomson Mason (1765-1824). Some letters deal with family disputes over legacies left by members of the Mason family. A letter dated April 19, 1805 from John Thomson Mason to Abraham Mason deals specifically with the dispute.

Letters are written from Washington County, Maryland, Hagerstown, Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, Leonardtown, Maryland, and Dumfries, Virginia.



Box II contains correspondence dealing with legal business between John Thomson Mason and Thomas Buchanan, and correspondence concerning the legacy disputes between Ann Thomson Mason Chichester and John Thomson Mason. In a letter from John Thomson Mason to Ann Thomson Mason Chichester dated October 24, 1816, Mason writes about this dispute and also gives a philosophical treatise on Right, Justice, and Generosity. A letter dated January 23, 1818 explains Mason's guardianship over his nephew G.M. Chichester, and deals with Chichester family history. One folder contains the dismissal document of a case by Richard McCarty Chichester against John T. Mason.

Box II also contains a letter from Winfield Scott to General A.T. Mason (1819), and letters by John D. Dutton, Melchior B. Mason, Mary B. Mason, G. Washington, and Richard B. Mason. Many deal with Melchior's attendence at a military academy in Middletown, Connecticut.

Completing the box are letters from John T. Mason, one letter from John Thomson Mason, Jr. (1815-1873) to Elizabeth Mason written from Mount St. Mary's College, and a letter from John Spangler to John T. Mason (1819) discussing medicine.



The majority of the correspondence in this box concerns John Thomson Mason's (1815-1873) education at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and at Nassau Hall, College of New Jersey, Princeton, New Jersey. Letters from friends of John H. Stull and James W. McKinstry talk of college life and courses of study. There is an information sheet about Mount St. Mary's College, and progress reports concerning John T. Mason Jr.'s academic standing at Princeton. One letter dated May 8, 1833 from John B. Purcell, President of Mount St. Mary's College to John D. Dutton, reprimands John Thomson Mason for misconduct. Included in the box are many letters from John D. Dutton, friend of the Mason family, to John Thomson Mason encouraging him to pursue his studies earnestly.

Also found in this box are letters from George C. Patterson, Clement Hill, Virginia Mason (John T. Mason's sister), Thomson Mason (John T. Mason's brother), and John O. Wharton, John T. Mason's brother-in-law.

Box IV


In this box, most of the letters from 1835-1836 concern John T. Mason's school life. School letters include those from John D. Dutton and various members of the Mason family. John Thomson Mason graduated from Princeton in the summer of 1836 and hereafter the letters deal with his pursuit of law as a profession. A letter from R.W. Harrison to John T. Mason August 2, 1836 discusses the Baltimore Bar. A letter from William Cromwell to John T. Mason, May 28, 1837, describes Peoria, Illinois as a city agreeable to the practice of law.

This box also includes two letters to John V.L. McMahon, December 26 and 28, 1837 asking him to run for United States Senator. One of the letters is from William Merrick, Maryland Senator from 1837-1845. Other letters are from William Schley and Francis Thomas, Governor of Maryland 1842-1845.

Box V


The letters in this box are from a wide variety of personal and political friends. The year 1842 brings letters from Francis Thomas, and on June 4, 1942 John Thomson Mason is appointed as aid-de-camp to Governor Thomas. A letter dated December 2, 1843 is from Maryland Senator Reverdy Johnson.

In 1844 there are a series of letters directed to John T. Mason from Richard Cowan, John F. Wrenshall, William Ebbs, and A. Kirk Lewis, discussing estate and property negotiations. Also on August 12, 1844, James Carroll, nominee for Governor declined an invitation to come to Washington County from John T. Mason.

Box V also includes congratulations to John T. Mason on being elected as Judge of the Court of Appeals 1851, and on being appointed collector of the Port of Balitmore in 1857. Levi K. Bowen's letter of February 14, 1857 discusses the collectorship position and Buchanan Administration politics. There are also letters from John V.L. McMahon to John Thomson Mason.

Box VI


This box holds letters from a wide variety of correspondents. Many of the letters ask for support, financial help and recommendations from John T. Mason. The Civil War is mentioned throughout the letters, and especially in those dated September 15, 1865 and February 20, 1860 from W.C. Daniell, and in a letter from Emily Mason to John [Thomson Mason] dated June 14, c. Civil War.

Other interesting letters are from Thomas Pickens to John Thomson Mason, October 28, 1858, concerning Europe and Buchanan Administration politics, from Reverdy Johnson 1860, and from John Tyler ex-President, December 26, 1860. Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury in the Buchanan Administration, also wrote to John T. Mason October 29, 1858.

Family letters include those to John T. Mason from W.E. Keefer, R.A. Lacey, and J.W. Smith concerning financial affairs of Virginia Mason, some letters to John Thomason Mason III (?) at Princeton 1868, and a letter from John T. Mason Jr. to Governor Oden Bowie (Maryland) December 26, 1868.



This box includes a few last letters to John Thomson Mason Jr. and some letters from and to John Thomson Mason III (?) as an attorney practicing in Baltimore.

It also includes a letter to John T. Mason from R.S.M. Kaig telling Mason of the whereabouts of the J.V.L. McMahon papers.

The rest of the box contains items without dates, and miscellaneous papers, envelopes, and invitations. Included in the `No Date' items are the will of Richard Barnes, an “Act for the Relief of Virginia W. Mason of Washington County, Maryland,” a letter to an author of an American history book, containing references to Martin Van Buren, James Polk, John Tyler, Andrew Jackson, and John Calhoun, and a poem entitled, “Lines Suggested by a Rainy Day,” by John Thomson Mason.