Not many Washington County residents have had their names in the DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. but Samuel Mason (1739-1803) is listed as "desperado and river pirate". He lived in what is now Buffalo Township from 1779 to 1784. He was elected justice of the peace July 15-1781 in the new county of Washington and named associate judge August 24-1781. His brother, Isaac M(e)ason, a leading citizen of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, is also listed in the DICTIONARY. He is "pioneer ironmaster". A sister of Samuel married John Fell, a Methodist preacher. Samuel was born at Norfolk, Virginia in 1739. He grew up near Charles Town, West Virginia and moved to Ohio County, West Virginia about 1773. He lived in Washington County 1779 to 1784, when he went to Kentucky. By 1800 he was in Mississippi. In 1803 the governor of Mississippi offered $500 for the capture of Mason. Members of his gang beheaded Mason and took his head to the governor to get the reward. They got a different kind of reward. While in Ohio County Mason was made militia captain. He attended a Council of War on January 28-1777 at what is now Washington. He was wounded in September 1777 during a skirmish with Indians. His life can be summed up as captain in West Virginia, judge in Pennsylvania, river pirate in Kentucky, desperado in Mississippi. To put it another way: 1760s stole horses in eastern West Virginia 1770s stole supplies at Fort Henry - Wheeling 1780s ran up debts in Washington County 1790s robbed boats on the Ohio River 1800s killed people near Natchez, Mississippi. In 1782 Samuel Mason was taxed for 500 acres, 2 horses, 4 cows and 6 sheep. In 1783 he had 4 slaves. The farm he bought in 1779 was sold by the sheriff in 1785. The court in 1789 sent David Bradford to Kentucky to try to collect some of the debts. Mason's wife~s name may have been Rosanna Dorsey. He had 6 sons and 4 daughters. Most of his children lived respectable lives. Dorsey and Isaac lived in Ohio, Samuel in Texas. It is not known what became of sons Thomas, John, Magnus. The Masons were from Norfolk, Virginia. Francis settled there in 1613, dying in 1648. Son Lemuel died in 1712. grandson, George in 1711. George was the grandfather of Samuel Mason. Samuel's father was Thomas Mason, who was born at Norfolk February 22-1707. He died March 15-1779 in what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania, leaving Samuel 5 shillings. Thomas' wife was Mary, daughter of Nathaniel Newton. The book THE OUTLAWS OF CAVE-IN-ROCK by Otto A. Rothert, Cleveland 1924 tells about Mason and his gang. Actually this was made into a Disney movie. The cave on the Illinois side of the Ohio River was near Henderson, Kentucky. When a boat came down the river Mason gave it a warm welcome and invited the people on the boat to eat and sleep there - real hospitality. His men checked over the boat and if it contained anything valuable robbed it the next morning after it went around the bend of the river. In Mississippi it was different. Many travelers went north on the Natchez Trail. Mason found out in advance how much money they carried. If it was much he robbed them. He said if they were from the Washington County region, he left them with enough money to get home - very generous. How could a man fall so far? The reason will never be known. Mason was a part of the history of Washington County.
This article was transcribed by George and Mary Ann Plance in August 1998.
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Published with permission of Raymond M. Bell.