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Maj John Mason

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Maj John Mason

  • Birth Apr 1600 Dorchester, South Oxfordshire District, Oxfordshire, England
  • Death 30 Jan 1672 Norwich, New London County, Connecticut, USA
  • Burial Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
  • Memorial ID 8911754

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN MASON. A biography by William L. DeCoursey his 8th great grandson.
The birth date and parentage of John MASON is uncertain; but he is said to have been born before 1600 in England and had fought in the Low Countries against the Spaniards along with Myles STANDISH and Lion GARDINER before becoming the chief military officer for the colony of Connecticut, .
The earliest known mention of John MASON's name in the history of New England is the year 1632-33, when he and Captain John GALLOP were appointed by the magistrates of Massachusetts to "suppress the rapine and cruelty of Captain Dixie BULL's band of pirates on the coast." The court granted ten pounds to him for this service, and in the terms of the grant he is called Lieutenant MASON. In November 1633, John MASON was entitled by the Court, "Captain MASON," when Sergeant Israel STOUGHTON was chosen the ensign of his company, in Massachusetts.
Having settled at Dorchester, John MASON was admitted a freeman, 4 March 1634/5; and he entered into an agreement with certain settlers on his lands. John MASON, together with Captains John UNDERHILL, PATRICK, TRASK and TURNER, and Lieutenants FEAKS and MORRIS, was employed, in 1634, in erecting fortifications for the defense of Boston. John MASON represented the town of Dorchester at the General Court in 1635 and 1636.
John MASON accompanied Rev. Elder John WARHAM's party in 1636, and became one of the first planters of the new colony at Windsor. He was among about two hundred fifty men (about sixty or seventy families) who located in the three English settlements (Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield) in the region of present Connecticut along the river called by the Indians "Quonehtacut". John MASON was one of the five principal planters of the town of Saybrook. At the time of these original settlements, the Pequots, were masters of that territory lying between the Thames and Pawcatuck rivers (the present sites of New London, Stonington, and Groton). "They were a numerous, powerful, spirited, and warlike tribe;" and had previously been at odds with the neighboring tribes of the Narragansetts and Mohegans. The Pequots resented the intrusion of the English into their territory; and when the Governor of Massachusetts made a treaty with their enemies (the Narragansetts and Mohegans), the Pequots apparently considered thi(s an act of war, and began raiding the English settlements in an effort to drive the white intruders from their land.
John WINTHROP recorded the incidents leading up to and culminating in the Pequot War. He wrote the following in May 1637: "MIANTUNNOMOH sent us word that Captain MASON, with a company of the English upon the river, had surprised and slain eight Pequods, and taken seven squaws, and with some of them had redeemed the two English maids." - James Kendall Hosmer, ed., WINTHROP'S JOURNAL "HISTORY OF NEW ENGLAND" (1908), v.I, pp.63,183-189,213-231,255, passim.
A Court held at Hartford, in the spring of the year 1637, passed a resolution to adopt an offensive warfare "and arrest the savages in their merciless career, by filling them with terror". Ninety men, from the three Connecticut settlements, together with seventy Mohegans and other friendly Indians led by UNCAS, sachem of the Mohegans, went to war against the Pequots under the command of Captain John MASON, who, it is said, had "been bred to arms in the Dutch Netherlands."
John MASON set sail with his followers, on Monday, 1 May 1637, in three small vessels. On reaching Fort Saybrook, at the mouth of the Connecticut river, he was joined by Captain John UNDERHILL with nineteen Massachusetts men from the fort; and MASON sent twenty of those he had brought with him to return home to protect the colony. John MASON led his band to the village stronghold of SASSACUS, chief sachem of the Pequots; and on 26 May 1637, they made a surprise attack on the village.
"The Pequots' fort stood on the western side of the Mystic River, near the present site of Mystic, Connecticut. John MASON, after a demonstration on the western border of their territory, surprised them by making his attack from the eastward, after a march through the neutral territory of the Narragansetts. There was little resistance. According to some accounts, many of the Pequot "warriors" had left the village leaving their women, children, and families behind.
"John MASON entered the village first; his comrades followed; and he passed, with hurried steps to the extremity of a range of wigwams, seeking in vain for the foe. Almost breathless from his efforts and emotion, he then hastened back, feeling the extreme hazard of contending with so numerous and subtle a horde of fierce savages concealed in their lurking-places from which their arrows were now deliberately aimed. 'We must burn them,' he cried; and seizing a fire-brand, he so effectually employed it that all the combustible mat-covered huts were soon enveloped in the flames of a desolating conflagration."
More than seven hundred Pequot men, women, and children died in the massacre and burning of the village, while only two of their assailants fell in the battle. There were only seven of the residents of the village who survived the onslaught and were taken prisoner. The loss of their fort and families, and subsequent pursuit by John MASON and Israel STOUGHTON, caused the Pequots to disperse, and for over 300 years terminated the existence of the Pequots as an independent organized tribe . Their sachem, SASSACUS, fled to the Maquas (Mohawks) who subsequently assassinated him and sent his scalp to Boston.
The English appointed new chief's for the Pequots, and they were subsequently allies in 1675 in the war against King Phillip, the Narragansett Indian Chief.
Abiel Holmes, in his ANNALS of AMERICA, reflects on the ruthless aspect of the historic event of the Pequot War: "However just the occasion of this war, humanity demands a tear, on the extinction of a valiant tribe, which preferred death to what it might naturally anticipate from the progress of the English settlements, --dependence or extirpation." - See also: Colman McCarthy, Washington Post Writers Group, Sept. 20, 1985, "More Savagery than Sanctity in Our Judeo-Christian Tradition."
For John MASON's own account of the event see: John Mason's, A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR (1656) - Facsimile and Kindle editions are available from Amazon.]
In the late twentieth century, by act of Congress, descendants of the remnants of the Pequot Nation were recognized as an indigenous tribe and were granted the right to build a casino in Mystic, CT. near the site of the Massacre that had occurred in 1637. It was, in a small manner, reparations (and perhaps justice) for the Pequot's grievous loss at the hands of the English led by John Mason. Part of the agreement called for the removal of a statue of John Mason that had been erected in 1883 at the intersection of Clift St. and Pequot Avenue, in Groton, Connecticut,. [I visited this monument at Mystic in the 1970's; when I returned years later, I discovered that my ancestor's statue had been moved to Palisade Green at Windsor, CT in 1996. At the time, I was disappointed that I had missed seeing it again; but I was also understanding of the feelings and sensitivities of the Native Americans then occupying the area where their ancestors had been annihilated by English soldiers led by John MASON.]
Thomas STANTON arrived at Fort Saybrook in April 1637, and served under Major-General John MASON in the Pequot War. According to Deforest in his HISTORY OF THE INDIANS IN CONNECTICUT, Thomas STANTON's services as interpreter during this war were invaluable. Special mention was made of his bravery in the battle of Fairfield Swamp, where he nearly lost his life. [Note: This Thomas Stanton had learned the native languages from his earlier experience at the Jamestown colony. He married Katherine Washington, 4 generations removed to George Washington, first Pres. of the U.S.A. He is another one of my direct line ancestors.]
In 1639 the General Court awarded 10 pounds to John MASON "for his good service against the Pequots, and otherwise."
John MASON married (2nd?), July 1639, at Windsor, Conn. to Anne PECK, dau. of Reverend Robert PECK. They had children: Priscilla m. 1664 Rev. James FITCH; Samuel MASON; John MASON (1646-1676) m. Abigail FITCH; Rachel m. 1678 Charles HILL; Ann MASON m. 1672 Capt. John BROWN; Daniel MASON (1652-1736) m. (1) Margaret DENISON, m. (2) Rebecca HOBART; Elizabeth MASON m. (1) 1671 Thomas NORTON, m. (2) 1676 Major James FITCH; and possibly Isabel MASON m. 1658 John BISSELL.
The will of Robert PECK of Hingham, co. Norfolk, England was dated 24 July 1651 and proved 10 April 1658. He had been of Hingham, Mass., and had returned to England where he died. The will contains this clause: "I give to the children of Ann MASON my daughter wife of captain John MASON of Seabrooke on the river connecticut in new England the sum of Forty pounds to be divided equally unto them and to be sent to my sonne John MASON to dispose of it for their use within 2 years after my death." - Peck, Ira B., DESCENDANTS OF JOSEPH PECK (1868), p.27; AMERICAN GENEALOGIST, Vol.26, pp.84-87,94-95.
In testimony of their appreciation of his services, and especially of his exploit at the Mystic River, the General Court, in 1641, granted to Captain John MASON five hundred acres of the Pequot territory, and a tract, of equal extent, for distribution among his comrades in arms. John Mason's brother-in-law, Joseph PECK, was one of the principal purchasers from the Indians of that tract of land called Seekonk, afterwards the town of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, and Seekonk and Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
John MASON served as magistrate of the Connecticut Court from 1642 to 1660. The General Court, in 1643, appointed Deputy Governor Edward HOPKINS, Major General John MASON, and Mr. William WHITING to a special committee, "with authority to press men if occasion should require it", for the protection of UNCAS, the Mohegan sachem who was an ally of the English in the campaign against the Pequots.
John MASON sold his lot and house at Hingham (Windsor), Massachusetts, 5 (5) 1647 O.S. He resided in Saybrook in 1647, and was chosen one of the two magistrates, to whom was entrusted the government of the town. "Soon after his removal thither, in the depth of winter, in a very tempestuous night, the fort at Saybrook was set on fire, and all the buildings within the palisade, with all the goods &c., were burnt down; Captain Mason, his wife, and children, hardly saved." - Winthrop's HISTORY OF NEW ENGLAND, an. 1647.
John MASON served as a commissioner to the Congress of the United Colonies in 1647, 1654 to 1657, and 1661.
The first land grant in the Mystic, Connecticut area was given, 11 September 1651, to Captain John MASON as reward for his military victory. MASON received one hundred acres on the mainland and Chippechauge Island (now known as Mason's Island) at the mouth of the Thames River. John MASON never lived on his island. He gave this land to his sons, Samuel MASON and Daniel MASON, after he founded Norwich in 1659.
By 18 November 1651, MASON failed to persuade a remnant of defeated Pequots to remove from land along the Mystic, close to his island, but he extracted a promise that they would hold the English blameless of damage to their crops by English cattle, but be responsible for damage of English corn by theirs. [Seems rather one sided.]
On 18 November 1651, Captain George DENISON of Roxbury, Massachusetts received a six acre house lot on Hempstead St. in New London, Connecticut; and in December 1652, DENISON was granted two hundred acres just north of John MASON's land, with the Pequot-Sepos Brook as its southern boundary.
In 1652, Thomas MINER sold his house in New London, which was one of the largest and best in the town, and removed with his family to land lying east of Wequetoquock Cove at Quambaug, near Stonington, Connecticut. This land was adjacent to that of Major John MASON.
In December 1652, Captain George DENISON was granted two hundred acres just north and east of John MASON's land, with the Pequot-Sepos Brook as its southern boundary. DENISON'S brother-in-law, Rev. Richard BLINNMAN (he married Mary THOMPSON), was granted 260 acres which he later sold to his brother-in-law, Thomas PARK (he married Dorothy THOMPSON).
In March 1653, NINIGRET, Sachem of the Niantics and Narrangansetts, who had spent the winter in Manhattan as a guest of the Dutch, returned to Narrangansett in a Dutch sloop with arms and ammunition. The Stonington settlers were fearful of an alliance of the Dutch and the Indians, and on 19 April 1653, the United Colonies voted to raise an army of 500 with Major John MASON as commander. In August 1654, NINIGRET attacked the friendly Long Island Indians, and Major John MASON with the Connecticut Militia was sent to their aid. "Prior to 1654 the highest military office in the colony of Connecticut was captain, and John MASON of Pequot fame was the only one who bore this title. When in after-years he visited the militia of the different towns, bearing the insignia of his rank as major, he was gazed at by the boys and girls of the settlement with eyes of wide wonder, as a man to be reverenced, but not approached." - Elias B. Sanford's A HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT (1888), p.123.
On 10 October 1654, under Major John MASON, 40 horsemen and 270 infantry redezvoused at Thomas STANTON's trading post on the Pawcatuck for an expedition to impress NINIGRET who was threatening war on UNCAS. -
Major John MASON's land on the mainland near his island was laid out by Capt. George DENISON, Robert HEMPSTEAD, and Thomas MINER on 8 February 1655.
In 1656, at the request of the General Court, John MASON wrote his eye witness account of the HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WARS. It was first published at Boston in 1736; and reprinted in the MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS, 2nd series, v.VIII, pp.120-153, and again reprinted by University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan (1966). In his preface he states that he records the facts of the history, "that some small glimmering may be left to posterity, what difficulties and obstructions their forefathers met with, in their first settling these desert parts of America; how God was pleased to prove them, and how, by His wise providence, He ordered and disposed all their occasions and affairs for them, in regard to both their civils and ecclesiasticals."
On 15 May 1657, Major John MASON was commissioned to go to Southampton, L.I., with 19 men to help protect the settlers there against Ninigret and the Narragansetts.
On 19 May 1659, he was chosen commissioner to the United Colonies to act for the colony of Connecticut in the dispute with Massachusetts over the jurisdictional boundaries of the Mystic-Pawcatuck area. -
By 1659, John MASON had purchased a great amount of land from the Indians by the authority of the General Court, and UNCAS, the Mohegan sachem, gave him a deed to this land, during the time (1659) that he acted as agent of the colony. After he had been elected Deputy Governor of Connecticut in 1660, he turned over to the colony all lands which he had purchased from the Indians. Forty years later, in the famous "Mohegan Case" the descendants of John MASON claimed these lands "in virtue of a deed given to him by UNCAS", and alleged that his surrender of the lands was having respect to "nothing more than the jurisdiction right" and "that the title to the soil was vested in their family, as guardians or overseers of the Indians." The case was agitated for about seventy years, and not finally decided, until George the Third, in Council, just before the Revolutionary War, gave a decree in favor of the colony, and thus put the case to rest.
Major John MASON, having for many years resided at Saybrook, was the head of the company, including most of the congregation of the Saybrook Church, that settled at Norwich, Connecticut in the spring of 1660. The nine square mile tract had been purchased by MASON from UNCAS for the sum of 70 pounds. John MASON's house was "a little south of the old court-house, on the old road leading to New London, near the bridge" over the Yantic, and was "bought by the town (1692) for a parsonage."
In September 1660, Major John MASON pleaded the case of Connecticut in the Mystic-Pawcatuck debate before the United Commissioners, who upheld their former decision of dividing the Pequot country at Mystic River. The Commissioners of the United Colonies met, 1 September 1661, at the church in Stonington, and Major John MASON addressed them, again presenting the case for Connecticut.
Thomas MINER and Samuel MASON (son of Major John MASON) were named town representatives to the General Court in 1663.
John MASON was appointed Chief Judge of the New London County Court and served from 1664 to 1670.
John MASON drew his will in 1670, two years before his death, He left his property, mostly in New London County, to his three sons and four daughters. Daniel MASON (1652-1737), then age 18, was left the East or "Neck Farm", land south of the Meeting House, Andrew's Island and Enders Island. Allyn, James H., MAJOR JOHN MASON'S GREAT ISLAND (1976), pp.20-23.
In 1671 John MASON "excused himself from the service of the commonwealth."
He died 30 January 1672 at Norwich, New London, Connecticut "in the 73rd year of his age", and he is buried at Norwich in Founder's Cemetery, also known as: Mason Cemetery, Post Gager Burial Ground
John Mason's son, Daniel MASON was living in Lebanon when his father died in 1672. The next year, at the age of 21, he joined the newly formed troop of New London Dragoons, the first cavalry unit in the colony. First Quartermaster, then Lieutenant, he became Captain in 1701.
See Also FAG #21945697

Family Members



Major John Mason
Born 1600 in England
Immigrated to New England in 1630
A Founder of Windsor, Old Saybrook, and Norwich
Magistrate and Chief Military Officer of the Connecticut Colony
Deputy Governor and Acting Governor
A Patentee of the Colonial Charter
Died 1672 in Norwich
This Monument Erected at Mystic in 1889 by the State of Connecticut
Relocated in 1996 to respect a sacred site of the 1637 Pequot War

  • Maintained by: William DeCoursey
  • Originally Created by: Nareen, et al
  • Added: 13 Jun 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8911754
  • Duncan Sparrell
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Maj John Mason (Apr 1600–30 Jan 1672), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8911754, citing Palisado Cemetery, Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by William DeCoursey (contributor 46613311) .