Bell Anthology - Samuel Mason

The Raymond M. Bell Anthology

Samuel Mason
	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 

	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, 

	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.

Raymond M. Bell Anthology     Genealogy in Washington Co., PA

Published with permission of Raymond M. Bell.