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Public Library 

Kansas City, Mo. 

01170 2461 

, , \ 

ni f 



By Kent Sagendorph 


Stevens Thomson Mason 

Misunderstood Patriot 





Copyright, 1947 by E. P. Button & Co., Inc. 

All rights 


C. No pan of this book may be reproduced 
in any form without permission in writing 
from the publisher, except by a reviewer 
who wishes to quote brief passages in con 
nection with a review written for inclusion in 
magazine or newspaper or radio broadcast. 




To Rut/iie 


STEVENS THOMSON MASON was a youth whose strong per 
sonality attracted people to him as to a magnet. In a raw, 
boisterous frontier atmosphere such as Detroit's undeniably 
was in the 1830'$, Mason could not help becoming a popular 
hero, nor could he avoid becoming the target of political enmity. 
Caught between these two opposing forces, Mason lived in an 
environment of almost continuous drama. The selection of this 
remarkable character for an explanatory biography is, I think, 
an obvious one. Mason's life contains the ingredients for sev 
eral books fiction, political history, and the more difficult 
work of sympathetic but objective biography, which I have 
here attempted to achieve. 

While Mason's position in history is not that of an Andrew 
Jackson nor a Henry Clay, he nevertheless exerted a powerful 
influence upon his times and upon posterity. Throughout 
Michigan, as well as in other parts of our country, there has 
been some speculation among historians as to the cause of 
Mason's eclipse in history. This volume throws some light 
on the subject by describing the circumstances under which 
Mason withdrew from public life the most remarkable in 
stance of its kind I have ever discovered. 

After more than a century in his grave, Mason remains 
very much alive in the memory of the people who live in the 
state he created. Legends about him, like those centering 
around Sam Houston, Daniel Boone and Andrew Jackson 
himself, tend to obscure Mason's lasting achievement by per 
petuating anecdotes about what he did, what he said, the clever 
ness with which he confounded his enemies. Legends about 
Mason as a character fail to do justice to him as a leader. 

The task of identifying and classifying great numbers of 
forgotten records, letters, bound files of documents and obscure 
reports bearing on Mason's career has been exhausting and 
tedious. Fortunately I have had the help of scholars and his 
torians who know where original source material can be found, 


and who have been most generous in assisting me to crystallize 
the Mason legends into a substance of solid historical fact. 
To them, in the most sincere terms, I convey my gratitude. 

Among them, the distinguished figure of Dr. George N. 
Fuller stands pre-eminent. Secretary of the Michigan Histori 
cal Society, head of the state's Historical Commission until his 
recent retirement, Dr. Fuller regarded a popular biography 
of Mason as a welcome addition to the documentary records 
about him. He plunged into this work enthusiastically and 
helped me with the research over a period of several years. 
His successor and present Secretary, Lewis Beeson, carried on 
Dr. Fuller's cordial cooperation by supplying me with new 
references. My warmest thanks go to them and to their staff 
at Lansing. To Mr. Sydney Bonnick, the well-known photo 
graphic technician of Detroit, who created excellent illustra 
tions from old pictures, congratulations. Mr. Bonnick made a 
new photographic copy of the Mason state portrait for the 
frontispiece of this volume which is also used officially by the 
State of Michigan. 

To Mr. Stevens T. Mason of California, grand-nephew of 
the Governor and retired attorney of Detroit, I express my 
thanks for locating many of Mason's family possessions and 
books and the long-lost portrait which he caused to be copied 
for this book. Mr. Haskell Nichols of Jackson, also, located 
and forwarded to me invaluable records of Mason and his 
times. Mr. W. A. Swanberg of New York, who assisted me 
most vitally in the preparation of this manuscript, has been 
my loyal friend. To them, and to all those who have volun 
tarily assisted in the classifying of these new discoveries of 
Masoniana, my most sincere gratitude. 











October, i8$o-]uly, 1831 


July, iSji-August, 1834 


August, i834"-August, z#j5 


August, i8^-May f 1836 


May, iS^S-February, 1837 


February, iS^y-November, 1837 


November, 18 ^-January, 1838 


January, iS^S-December, 1838 


December, iSjS-December, 1839 

XIII. THE WRECK OF THE Governor Mason 378 

December, iS^November, 1841 


November, iS^i-January, 1843 




INDEX 437 



Governor Stevens Thomson Mason. State Portrait 

by Afain Smith. 32 

Stevens T, Mason of Raspberry Plain, and his wife, 

Mary Armistead Mason. 33 

The "Davis Place" Mount Sterling, Kentucky. 64 

The Jefferson Avenue House, Detroit. 64 

John T. Mason. 65 

Emily Mason. 65 

, A Wildcat Bank Note. 288 

Michigan's First Constitution, 1835. 288 

William Woodbridge. 289 

Detroit in 1837. From an old sketch. 320 

Michigan's First Railroad Train. 320 

The "Lost Portrait" of Governor Mason. 321 

Julia Phelps Mason. 321 


1. Detroit in 1 8 30. ' 107 

2. The Old Michigan Territory. ' 118 

3. Michigan-Ohio Border Controversy, 183$. 193 




JOHN THOMSON MASON, ESQ., of the Virginia Masons, was 
a perpetual adolescent who never quite grew up. 

He was boundlessly enthusiastic about new things. This 
in itself is an admirable quality in a pioneer, which he hoped 
to become. He tried hard, in the latter half of his life, to be 
come a true pioneer, and spent weary years opening frontier 
forests in the Southwest. Yet he never really succeeded. Always, 
in his memory, there remained the knowledge that he was born 
a Virginia gentleman and that he had not carried on the tradi 
tions of his class. He was more of an exile than a pioneer. 

In the year 1811, when he was twenty-four, this gentleman 
was the lord of a rolling plantation in the sunny uplands of 
Loudon County, as rich a wheat region as Virginia could 
boast. He bore a distinguished colonial name, and lived luxuri 
ously surrounded by slaves, fine silver and resplendent coaches. 
He was tired of the life he lived. He was a misfit In his environ 
ment. Something in the man's character which no one could 
explain made him crave an escape. 

He disliked his situation, but did not know exactly how 
to correct it. His mind was fixed on the money-making oppor 
tunities of the West, which, following the Revolution, cried 
out for development. 

Mr. Mason carried on the routine affairs of his plantation 
with only half his attention. The other half was concentrated 
on ways to get away from Virginia. Absently he gave his con 
fidence to men who turned out to be rogues. Casually he joined 
other planters in community schemes which blew up in the 
bankruptcy court. John Thomson Mason was a neighborhood 
problem in Loudon County. Socially he was one of the great 



families, but culturally he might have been a backwoodsman 
masquerading as a Mason. B 

His plantation lay three miles from the border of Fairfax 
County, and the main road to the bright-lawned manors led 
past his gate. It was noted that occasionally when the great 
ladies of the manors rode out for the afternoon in their landaus, 
stiffly presentable in their curled wigs and satin gowns, they 
would see John T. Mason galloping madly down the dusty 
road in a suit of rumpled homespun, jet-black hair uncombed 
and standing on end, eyes gleaming with some impulsive 
scheme. "He was not," observed one of his relatives, dryly, 
"in tune with his times." 

Perhaps John T. regarded that as an advantage. He was 
called John T. in letters merely to distinguish him from all 
his relatives who bore the same initial in their names but who 
always carefully spelled out the entire name 'Thomson" 
(without a "p"). John T. didn't; he signed himself John T. 
Mason and never alluded to the Thomson part if he could 
help it. He was beginning to erect a barrier between himself 
and all the other Masons, many of whom were Thomson 
Masons with various given names. The family, one of Vir 
ginia's mightiest clans, seemed to him to be disintegrating 
rapidly. No one else apparently noticed it, and John T.'s in 
sistence that things were going to the devil was regarded by 
the clan as another symptom of his growing eccentricities. 

The Potomac manors of Fairfax and Loudon Counties 
bred a self-satisfied society which regarded any change as 
dangerous. It was the region described by Alexander Hamilton 
as the "Athens of America." Like Athens, its inhabitants saw 
it as the most beautiful spot in the world, surrounded almost 
entirely by barbarism. A few, like John T., regarded the 
whole pseudo-feudal structure as decadent and doomed to 
collapse. They told the wealthy planters that their great homes 
were being undermined by the economic termites of taxes and 
mounting overhead, only to be brushed aside impatiently and 
termed radicals. 

John T, was one of the few Masons who could speak with 


authority on the subject of economics, because he had majored 
in that branch at college. It was clear to him that land was 
still the only source of the State's wealth. He saw, furthermore, 
that in previous generations great grants of whole counties 
and river valleys had barely sufficed to maintain a single big 
plantation in expensive colonial u Athens of America" style. 
In 1811, generations later, these grants had been willed to 
so many cousins and grandchildren that the so-called planters 
were actually only farmers. Their average holdings had been 
cut to a point which would not support elaborate estates. But 
the heirs kept on building manor houses and maintaining an 
air of aristocracy. 

The Virginia gentleman employed a steward to run his 
estate, confining his own energies to the only two careers open 
to him statesmanship and arms. He regarded service to the 
State as his duty, to be performed as long as required, for no 
fee and at his personal expense. Whether the service took 
the form of writing a pamphlet, making a speech or raising 
a regiment of troops, he undertook it. Very few such men 
knew anything about bookkeeping, or the tricks of making 
money from the land. They tended to regard the subject as 

A noteworthy exception, in 1811, was John T.'s uncle, 
George Mason of Gunston Hall. This huge Georgian brick 
mansion, set in an immense pattern of formal gardens and 
wide lawns, was the show place of Virginia. The estate bordered 
on Washington's property at Mount Vernon and in* George 
Mason's time was equally well known. Gunston Hall had 
eight thousand acres under cultivation, an entire slave city 
with its own streets, factories and stores, its own fleet of river 
scows to carry its produce down the Potomac to deep-draft 
ships which awaited it. The estate operated five factories 
which produced furniture, shoes, clothing, textiles and wrought 
iron. There was the Gunston Hall distillery which produced 
Lafayette's favorite brandy, and the barracks which quartered 
the French warrior's personal staff during his long residence 
there throughout the Revolution. 


Beside its docks at the river's edge, Gunston Hall's slaves 
had built granaries, tobacco warehouses, carding and spinning 
mills and a flax warehouse. In 1809, only two years previously, 
the estate had exported thirty-six thousand bushels of wheat 
to London, besides the other grain sold in domestic markets. 
It was the biggest estate in Virginia and George Mason the 
wealthiest citizen. 

George Mason, the master of this enterprise, regarded him 
self as a planter. Yet he ran the business himself, keeping his 
own books in the panelled library, demanding that London 
buyers come to him across the Atlantic instead of maintaining 
a London agent. 

He was one of John T.'s severest critics when the young 
man pointed out that the plantation system could not survive. 
George Mason pooh-poohed and tutt-tutted. He grew im 
patient. But he was the last Mason to rule Gunston Hall, 
and his son was forced to sell the "estate after the master's 
death. The State of Virginia acquired most of the land and 
sold it to mere dirt farmers who began raising tobacco* The 
great house fell into ruin, and was restored in 1926 by a New 
Yorker who bought the property as a private residence, 

John T. had the foresight to see what was wrong with Vir 
ginia, but not enough to see what was going wrong with his 
own life. He saw that rising taxes and mounting volumes of 
bills and expenses were going to ruin him, but the decision to 
leave Virginia was a difficult one. He was indecisive about it 
while events came crashing about his head in a series of crises, 
all seemingly aimed at chaining him even more securely to 

The statement that a wealthy Virginia gentleman, as John 
T. Mason obviously was regarded by his neighbors, wanted 
to kick over the traces and go plunging off into the wilderness 
makes him seem slightly ridiculous. In reality his ideas were 
sound, but few besides himself had the vision to realize it* John 
T, wanted to sell what he could, abandon what he couldn't, and 
Jyc Virginia while Ms JhpJdings still had some market value. 


He dreamed of migrating across the mountains to Kentucky, 
and of growing up with the new West. 

His mother, the grand old dowager who depended heavily 
upon him, was ailing. His two sisters were absent for long 
periods, attending the elaborate balls at Washington City, 
as the people then called the tiny village surrounding the new 
Capitol. His wife was expecting a baby, her second. John T. 
grew restless. His family must have winked, and told each 
other that expectant fathers always behaved that way. 

On October 20, 1811, the Mason clan arrived from all 
over northern Virginia in response to news announcing the 
imminent arrival of the baby. They assembled at the home of 
Mary Armistead Mason, John T.'s mother, a few miles away, 
because his small estate would not accommodate the mass 
of uncles, cousins and in-laws who responded to the call. There, 
in a quiet, dignified array, they waited for the tidings from 
John T.'s home. 

The birth of Stevens Thomson Mason was an event of social 
importance in Virginia. This was no common baby, but an in 
fant personage. The details of this occasion were recorded 
in diaries by aunts and granduncles and fifth cousins. The 
ceremonious act of inscribing the baby's name and birth date 
in the great, gold-hinged family Bible was described carefully. 
The baby's birth was a momentous occasion, and was stage- 
managed like one. 

There was a time for the guests to be very quiet, and a 
time to make a noise. They gathered on the lawn and over 
flowed the veranda, silently conversing, waiting for a signal 
from John T.'s house beyond the horizon. The baby might 
die. In those harsh times he had only a fifty-fifty chance of sur 
vival at best. There might be a long moaning, shrieking ordeal ; 
mother and infant were as likely to die as to survive, and the 
Mason clan might be attending a funeral, not a christening. 

Presently a mounted slave came galloping down the dusty 
road, waving his arm. He flourished a hastily scrawled note: 


That was the signal. Shouting and chattering, the assemblage 
entered its carriages and mounted its horses for the short ride 
to the near-by home, where John T. had a moment or two to 
tiptoe upstairs and meet his new son before the arrival of the 

Ann Thomson Mason McCarty, John T.'s aunt, wrote many 
years later that the new father was prancing around the lawn 
of his little house like an Indian, with a big silver punch bowl 
in his arms, ladling out cupfuls to all and sundry. He pumped 
the arms of people who offered congratulations and seemed 
to be all over the place at once. 

It must have been a delightful scene ; the white portico of the 
small, yet gracious, home acting as a backdrop for spreading 
crinoline gowns, gentlemen in tight-fitting strap trousers, a 
few in the more formal knee breeches. There was formalized 
proposing of toasts, downed with the proper remarks and 
gestures; stately quadrilles, an enormous feast. The home, 
according to a Mason guest who wrote of it to John T.'s 
daughter sixty years later, was festooned with garlands of 
autumn leaves, and the yard was full of coaches and restless 
saddle horses. The letter said that John T.'s slaves were 
huddled under a spreading tree near the kitchen wing. They 
were chanting softly, taking in all the sights, and "they never 
tired of talking about the great day, even after it had been 
forgotten by the gen try. " 

Five days later, October 16, 1811, the Masons who lived 
within a day's ride returned once more, to attend the christen 
ing in the small Episcopal Church in Leesburg. They heard 
the solemn name pronounced slowly, with pauses : 

"I christen thee Stevens Thomson Mason." 

The baby's name had been selected long in advance* There 
was no doubt that he would be Stevens Thomson Mason if he 
were a boy. Custom decreed it, and custom was obeyed. It was 
the name of his famous grandfather, and must be carried on. 
All the Masons who wrote delicately penned but heavily- 
phrased accounts of this heir's appearance in the world re 
membered John T. with that punch bowl in his arms. Some old 


ladies described the punch bowl in detail, how it had the Mason 
and the Thomson arms quartered, who gave it to John T., 
and his forgetfulness in not bringing out the matching silver 
candlesticks with the punch. No one remembered having seen 
the baby. 

Custom, again, decreed that papa should take the bows, 
ladle out the punch and answer the toasts, while upstairs, 
a woman who had just passed through the shadow of death lay 
in her bed, sighing, with a tiny, inarticulate bundle of life 
beside her. 

Stevens Thomson Mason was the forgotten man at his own 

For nineteen years, the lives of this lad and his father ran 
parallel. John T. shaped his son's character as a sculptor shapes 
clay. He took the boy everywhere, perched him on the corners 
of desks when he was a toddler, developed him under forced 
draft because he enjoyed showing him off. Then, the father, 
with characteristic abruptness, dropped out of the youth's life 
as if he had fallen overboard at sea. He seldom reappeared, 
and never afterward continued his influence. 

But the trend he had developed in the boy's career carried 
on until his death. Stevens Thomson Mason had his father's 
alert mind, but not his father's impulsiveness or irresponsi 
bility. Strangely, he matured before his father, becoming a 
rock of rugged strength to the family while John T. was still 
chasing luminescent bubbles far into the Southwestern forests. 

Their relationship is one of the closest father-and-son com 
binations in American history. John T. revelled in it. He knew 
that he would never become an outstanding figure in the nation, 
but he thought he saw in his young son Stevens a spark of 
genius which, though it usually fizzles, sometimes flames into 
lasting accomplishment. If that happened, he would have 
something to hold up to the Masons ; to force a revision of 
the clan's low opinion of him. John T. was a younger son, and 
that fact doomed him to comparative obscurity as long as he 


There stand the Masons in review, in Virginia history; lined 
up rank after rank in marble, bronze and State portraits, gen 
eration by generation solidifying their title the Founding 
Fathers of Virginia. 

Governors, Senators, Supreme Court justices, generals, law 
givers and law-enforcers. The Mason name rang down the 
corridors of time, re-echoing for three centuries. In seven 
generations the family produced four major generals, five 
United States Senators, and three governors. For a hundred 
and fifty years, Masons responded to roll calls in Congress. 
Three ambassadors and five ministers abroad carried the 
Mason name in honor to the foreign capitals of the world. 
It resounds in historical association to this day. 

There is Fort Mason in San Francisco, the port of em 
barkation of Pacific-bound troops, named after a Mason who 
was the first civil governor of California. The notorious 
Mason-Slidell incident which almost touched off war with 
England in 1 86 1 is a memento of another. Some writers say 
that the Mason-Dixon Line, co-engineered by Charles Mason, 
is an accomplishment of the same family, although Charles 
himself said he was an Englishman. 

At any rate, Stefens Thomson Mason (grandfather of the 
baby born in 1811), Armistead T. Mason and George Mason 
represent three generations in this immediate family who 
earned fame in the United States Senate. Their descendant 
James Murray Mason continued their prestige in the Senate 
until the outbreak of civil war. John Young Mason was Secre 
tary of the Navy during the Mexican War, and Thomson 
Mason was Virginia's first Chief Justice. 

Masons served their State and nation as long as service to 
the people was called statesmanship and not politics. Then 
they gradually thinned out of public life. The last Stevens T. 
Mason practiced law in Detroit for forty years without any 
temptation toward politics. 

They were a remarkable clan. They were a hard-living, 


energetic, opinionated group of scrappers, out in front during 
every war and first on the rostrum during every civil crisis. 
Few of them attained obscurity or old age, except their women 
folk. They lived fast and dangerously, worn out by their 
excessive labors, and died young. George Mason, the "Father 
of Virginia" in the encyclopedias, was the eldest of the lot, 
and he died at 66. His brother Thomson, first Chief Justice 
of Virginia, died at 51. Thomson Mason's son, Stevens 
Thomson Mason, I, died at 43, and his son Armistead died 
at 39. 

They are difficult people to understand today. They were 
too active to be remembered merely as marble busts in a mu 
seum gallery. The way they lived is too full of contrasts to 
be explained easily. Most Masons were rabid advocates of 
universal suffrage, leaders in the fight against slavery, viewers 
with alarm in every abuse of civil rights, outspoken in any 
cause aimed at levelling the class structure. They were vicious 
pamphleteers, loud-voiced orators. Yet they all owned slaves 
on their estates 1 they believed firmly that they were born to 
rule their less fortunate fellows, and that theirs was the re 
sponsibility for public well-being. 

Their public careers were dedicated to establishing and 
preserving democracy in State and nation. They lashed out 
from the little mahogany speaker's stand in the House of 
Burgesses at Williamsburg against "established wealth; the 
tyranny of the privileged class" and the rest of it. When they 
had finished speaking, they put on their gold-banded tricorn 
hats, pulled down their lace cuffs, and prodded applauding 
citizens out of their paths with gold-headed walking sticks. 

At home, they intermarried and intermingled only with their 
social peers. Casual strangers calling on the Masons usually 
found them very difficult to see. Yet their loyalty to the prin 
ciples of local and State sovereignty, of popular rule, was so 
fanatic that the George Mason who helped frame the United 
States Constitution refused to sign it because it did not prohibit 
slavery in the new Federal Territories. He stalked out of In 
dependence Hall in high indignation and returned to Gunston 


Hall, where he held three hundred and forty-five slaves of his 
own. To him this attitude was not inconsistent. He wrote to 
John Adams : 

"If this preposterous situation [slavery] is to be tolerated, 
the democratic form of government promised by this document 
is impossible. As it is presented, it will lead only to a monarchy, 
or to some form of tyranny by an aristocratic class wherein the 
rights of the common man will be crushed beyond hope of 

He is the George Mason whose outcries aroused so much 
antagonism toward the new Constitution that he was invited 
to make his own suggestions about correcting it. He is credited 
with drafting, in reply, the first ten Amendments to the Con 
stitution, containing the "freedoms." It is known as the "Bill 
of Rights," and is this particular Mason's monument in 
American history. The State of Virginia's monument to him is 
the familiar bronze statue on the State House lawn at Rich 

He was but one of fifty or sixty Masons prominent enough 
to gain mention in the Dictionary of American Biography, 
which devotes .thirty-four pages of fine type to their achieve 
ments. The repetition of -given names makes the Mason 
genealogy a sort of detective assignment; my own solution to 
the confusion was a card index which kept them in order. 
Admittedly difficult to appraise in the mass, the Masons are 
conceded to be among America's greatest families. They were 
leaders from the days of the first American progenitor, whose 
name, just to make things more confusing for the researcher, 
was George Mason. 

Colonel George Mason was a cavalry captain in the army 
of Charles II of England in the war against Cromwell. De 
feated in the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Colonel Mason 
helped smuggle Bonnie Prince Charlie across the Channel to 
France two jumps ahead of Cromwell's Roundheads. Then 
he secreted himself and a few loyal companions aboard a 
packet bound for Jamestown. When he arrived, in the same 


year (1651), he found himself in a decayed, half-starved out 
post which was on the point of collapse. 

Colonel Mason laid out and named Stafford County, Vir 
ginia, after his old home in Staffordshire. He assumed leader 
ship of the colony; he was the first sheriff, a justice, and com 
mander of the militia. His son and grandson held the same 
three posts in the same county, for the ensuing century. By 
that time the family was well-established as a sort of hereditary 
autocracy, coupled with the largest fortune in Virginia. 

The head of each generation of Masons in this line of 
descent was always named George, so the genealogist scratches 
his head over George Mason, I, II, III and IV, doing the same 
things at the same place but at distressingly different times. 
These leaders, named George Mason, begat more than one 
son, and following British precedent, willed the bulk of their 
estates to the eldest, but a certain patrimony to each younger 
son. In tracing five generations of the family we find that three 
of them built new manors and started new lines of descent. 
They married into the other great Virginia families, the Car 
ters, the Thomsons, the McCartys and the Lees. 

Thus while George Mason, I, bequeathed George Mason, 
II, a tract of land equal to three modern Virginia counties, 
George Mason, III, held some forty-five square miles of land 
and his son George Mason, IV, suffered along with only twenty- 
three thousand acres. Of this, a great proportion was useless 
foothill and swamp and the rest, except eight thousand acres, 
was forest. He could have cultivated more if he had had more 
labor, but with that acreage under cultivation he was very 

George Mason, IV (1725-1792), was born in Stafford 
County, but as a young man migrated to the Potomac River 
onto land bequeathed him by his father and began developing 
this big plantation. His father had begun the construction of 
Gunston Hall there, in Fairfax County, adjoining the Wash 
ington estate at Mount Vernon. George Mason, IV, and 
George Washington were intimate boyhood friends and close 


collaborators throughout the whole period of colonial friction 
with England and the Revolution. . 

In turn, his younger brother Thomson Mason, under their 
father's will, had inherited two thousand acres of beautiful 
rolling wheat land in what is now called Loudon County, up- 
river from Gunston Hall This he left intact to his only son, 
Stevens Thomson Mason. This brilliant young man was a 
colonel in the Continental Army at the age of twenty-four, 
Washington's aide throughout the war, and one of the first 
United States Senators to hold office upon the adoption of the 
Constitution. After twelve years of outstanding achievement 
in the Senate he died suddenly in 1803, at the age of 43. 

The unbending custom of favoring the elder son is noticeable 
in the Senator's will. The elder son, Armistead Thomson 
Mason, was a fat, somewhat pompous youth who had broken 
away from family tradition only once when he disdained 
matriculation at the College of William and Mary, Williams- 
burg, to attend a Northern university. He inherited Thomson 
Mason's lovely Georgian manor house, "Raspberry Plain, 77 
and one thousand acres. The other thousand acres were left 
to his younger son, who was John T. Mason, 

In 1803, when the will was probated, John T. was sixteen 
and about ready to enter college. He had been carefully tutored 
during childhood at "Raspberry Plain 7 ' and showed the chief 
advantage of the tutor system, which lay in its ability to pre 
pare students for college at an earlier age than do the schools 
of today. Virginia had no public schools, and very few private 
schools of an elementary or preparatory nature, Families 
of any standing employed tutors, who either discovered some 
latent ability in their pupils and hastened to develop it, or gave 
up in disgust before college age was reached. 

Thomson Mason's will bequeathed to John T,, in lieu of 
the family homestead, a fund wherewith to build one of his 
own. He selected a site five miles from the town of Leesburg, 
employed an architect, and departed for the College of William 
and Mary as the first of the fourth-generation Masons on its 


He developed rapidly and, as many undergraduates do, be 
came a bit conceited. His preparatory education, apparently, 
had been excellent. He had a nimble mind, quick to absorb 
facts and forget them again after examinations. John T.'s 
extra time allowed him to take up outside interests, notably 
a sort of gloomy preoccupation with what was happening to 
Virginia and what was to become of him. He delved into all 
the information available on the science of economics, which 
wasn't much. 

John TVs major talent obviously lay in that field. Although 
economics was disguised under the clumsy title of "ethical 
philosophy" at William and Mary, the youth was absorbed in 
it to the exclusion of his attention to other subjects. 

He pored over old titles and land records ; he saw quickly 
that with every will probated, new heirs dividing once-ample 
land grants, land was shrinking from generation to generation 
at an alarming speed. His one thousand acres, for example. 
In his great-grandfather's time there had been twenty-three 
thousand acres to bequeath to a son. His future children 
what would he leave to them ? A kitchen garden ? 

He debated with faculty members on these themes. Profes 
sors at William and Mary, as well as at other old colonial col 
leges, were considerably more scholarly and less tolerant than 
their modern counterparts at the great universities of the 
twentieth century. Many of them were ordained ministers, 
often Catholic priests. They accepted their classroom function 
as part of their divine mission, the more so since all these 
colleges were originally chartered as theological seminaries 
and began teaching, not economists, but ministers and clergy 
men. Such serious men did not like to have their most cherished 
concepts flouted and attacked by a cocky undergraduate. One 
professor undertook to straighten out John T. on some topics. 
He began inviting him to his home. 

This scholar, Professor William Moir, was a doctor of 
philosophy as well as an Episcopalian divine. Professor Moir 
taught a few courses in "ethical philosophy," but from the 
Mason family's letters about him he appears to have been 


intensely practical and to have regarded the subject as a 
science. He was an undersized, heavily bearded man in middle 
life, irritable with his students but quiet and patient at home. 
He had taken his philosophy degree at the University of 
Edinburgh, and boasted of his family's descent from the 
Scottish poet David Macbeth Moir. But his family had lived 
in Virginia for three generations. 

At the professor's house, John T. met a girl. She was the pro 
fessor's daughter, Elizabeth. John T, forgot the beauties^ of 
abstract discussion about ethical philosophy, and began paying 
court to her. She was a dainty little thing, fragile as a Dresden 
doll. Often she was ill, and fainted easily. She had none of her 
father's love of argument 

Elizabeth was classic simplicity: finely cast features, brown 
hair primly combed in two slanted planes over her forehead 
from a central part, and large blue eyes. As became a young 
girl of the period, she spoke not. Her family never recorded 
any sayings of Elizabeth's. She moved silently, a willowy 
figure in a high-waisted Empire gown, and was demure. 

Apparently John T. loved that shy sweetness and Elizabeth's 
silence. She was eighteen when he first met her ; twenty at the 
time of their marriage in 1809. He was twenty-two. Their 
marriage again illustrates the indifference shown by John T. 
toward tradition, and what the family thought. He was the 
first Mason to marry into a family distinguished only for 
scholarship, and without property. It set a precedent carefully 
avoided by the Masons in the future. Shortly after their mar 
riage, when John T. had christened his new home "Moirfield" 
and was happy as only a well-to-do bridegroom can be, Pro 
fessor Moir and Elizabeth's tiny, brittle mother packed up, 
left Williamsburg and moved in with their daughter and 
son-in-law. John T. supported them for the rest of their lives. 

Apparently John T. expected to live at "Moirfield" and 
raise his family there. Soon after the arrival of the Moirs, 
however, John T, began exhibiting acute symptoms of uneasi 
ness, absent-mindedness and dissatisfaction with his environ 
ment It may have been the Moirs, but it is more probable 


that following the honeymoon and a resumption of his normal 
pessimism about Virginia's future, John T. realized that 
"MoirfiekT's thousand acres would never support a big estab 
lishment in comfort. We know that he came to dislike "Moir- 
field" quickly and found excuses to stay away from home. 

He spent long hours in Leesburg, moodily watching long 
wagon trains of migrating farmers plodding along toward the 
western mountain pass, and toward Kentucky. The West 
became a fever in his brain. He couldn't go. 

At home he was surrounded with annoyances. A huge, coal- 
black negress had come to "Moirfield" with the Moirs as 
Elizabeth's attendant; her name was simply Granny Peg. She 
spoke only a few words of English and was entirely pagan, 
never becoming a convert to Christianity. When Elizabeth 
was four or five years old, Professor Moir had encountered 
a slave auction in progress on the Jamestown docks. This 
buxom negress, captured in a Guinea village only a few weeks 
before, was being pushed about the scene, cruelly lashed by 
the auctioneer's whip, without being able to understand what 
was going on. More as an act of compassion than anything 
else, the professor bought her and brought her home as Eliza 
beth's servant. As the girl grew, Granny Peg lavished affection 
upon her. The slave's whole life was Elizabeth. When Eliza 
beth married, Granny Peg concluded that she would have to 
bring up Elizabeth's husband, too. 

She coldly disapproved of John T. and of everything he 
did. The lord of the manor did not live up to the slave's idea 
of a fit consort for her adored Elizabeth. She seemed to be 
hovering around him constantly, eyeing him, muttering to her 
self. Inconsequential, perhaps, but another source of irritation 
added to the growing list of domestic troubles. 

Soon after the birth of his son Stevens in 1811, John T. de 
cided to move into Leesburg and practice law. Admission to the 
bar was not difficult. Requirements were not much greater than 
those for a notary public's appointment in our day. If a man 
could read and write well, if he knew who Blackstone was 
and could quote from his Commentaries, if he knew the differ- 


ence between a criminal and a civil action and had an attorney 
friend to sponsor him, he was speedily admitted. 

Many Masons were lawyers; few practiced law as a pro 
fession. John T.'s grandfather, Thomson Mason, was a career 
lawyer who studied his Blackstone in the same courts where 
Blackstone gathered his material London's historic Courts 
of the Middle Temple. He was admitted to the bar there, 
first as a barrister, finally as a solicitor. He was a successful 
London attorney for some years before returning to Virginia 
immediately prior to the Revolution. John T. never had that 
kind of training, but didn't need it to practice law in Leesburg. 
He had a degree from William and Mary, and that was enough. 
So he bought volumes for a law library, some office furniture, 
and hung out his shingle. 

Surprisingly, he was a success. He could argue as long as a 
judge would listen. He was a genuine Virginia Mason, which 
flattered his rural clients who came to him with boundary 
disputes, leases, wills and the usual docket of a small-town 
lawyer. His practice flourished and at night John T. took his 
books home and studied hard. Opportunity was coming. Some 
day it would appear. He would be ready. 

John T. was the most ingenious of the seventh-generation 
Masons of Virginia. He delighted in experiment, mainly out of 
adolescent curiosity, but to some extent as a means of eventually 
freeing himself from the rut of his environment The other 
Masons watched the show with interest, wondering how long 
he would continue to fight. 

At Leesburg he adopted little mannerisms, changed his cos 
tume and his personality. Gone was the formal ruffled neck- 
stock he had worn at "Raspberry Plain", and in its place came 
a plain black satin neckband, around a high starched collar. 
He wore trousers of Leesburg homespun^ and let his black 
hair grow upstanding and wild. 


Anecdotes surrounded him. He cultivated them; such things 
brought him clients. His village prestige presently brought him 
to the notice of James Monroe, the Leesburg patriarch, whose 
spreading estate adjoined "Moirfield" but who seldom was seen 
in the town on business and never socially. Mr. Monroe was 
Secretary of State, at the time, in the cabinet of President 
Madison. He had served as United States Senator from Vir 
ginia just before John T.'s brother Armistead held the seat, 
and had succeeded John T.'s father, Stevens Thomson 
Mason, I. 

There had been a warm, intimate social contact between 
the families for many years, Masons and Monroes visiting 
and dining with each other. Mr. Monroe seemed like an old 
man to John T., when during the summer of 1812 the great 
man came home to his big, cool house for a rest. One of his 
first social invitations was received in great glee by John T. 
It was the first of many such visits throughout the summer. 

John T., in his own words, was "astonished at the progres 
sive ideas I received from Mr. Monroe." The Secretary viewed 
the problems of the nation with a broad perspective the younger 
man had not attained. He sat in the sun outside his pillared 
manor house, gazing absently at the distant Potomac, while 
his mind roamed the horizons of the world. He talked of the 
recent Burr Conspiracy, and its implications. 

Monroe had a feeling, based on this near disaster, that the 
chief danger to the country's future lay in the West. In time, 
the armed forces of the infant Republic could protect its 
shores. But there was a limitless* "back yard", an unknown 
wilderness spanning the continent. Maps meant little. Those 
grand claims which appeared as parallel lines stretching from 
existing states westward to nowhere ridiculous 1 

Authorities at Washington City didn't know who was in 
possession. No one knew what foreign agents were stirring up 
trouble. Other nations still clung to precarious technical claims 
to part of that "backyard." It was a vast question mark; a 
fertile breeding ground for plots and schemes of revolutions. 


The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was merely a step toward 
the eventual colonizing of that inland empire. There were 
Texas, Florida, the Great Lakes 

When John T. heard words like these; he brooded over 
them for days. His law office looked like a prison cell. The 
West I That was where he wanted to be out there winning the 
West for the United States! But there was the family; his 
wife, his little girl, Mary, now aged two and a half, beginning 
to toddle about and ask questions. And the baby. 

Ah, yes, the baby 1 

Stevens Thomson Mason, II, a squalling little object only 
a few months old, a fuzz of black hair on his pink head and two 
blue eyes as big as his mother's what was to be done about 
him? And about little Mary? Suppose he found an opportunity 
to migrate westward. Mary might stand such a trip ; the baby 
surely couldn't. 

John T. silently wished that his son would grow up fast. 

The year 1812, in spite of its mounting war hysteria, was 
an unhappy one for him, until autumn. His mind full of his 
own worries, John T. was slow to perceive something that 
most Masons knew before him. Romance had come to "Rasp 
berry Plain", his mother's house, 

John T.'s two sisters, Mary and Catherine, were Potomac 
belles who were well past the first blush of girlhood as mar 
riageable age was reckoned then, but charming in a slim, pa 
trician way. Mary, the younger, was twenty-one; her sister 
Catherine, twenty-six. "Raspberry Plain", only forty miles 
from the white-domed Capitol, was close enough to enable 
the girls to move in official Washington society during the 
season, and there they had met two eligible bachelors, both 

These girls had been trained at home to be ladies. Their 
aunt, Ann Thomson Mason McCarty, reading Plato to her 
sons at Gunston Hall; Mary Armistead Mason, their mother, 
debating philosophy with Madison and Monroe at "Raspberry 
Plain", failed to endow Mary and Catherine with a reverence 
for scholarship. They wanted homes, not degrees. 

1837, when Mason was 26 years old and campaigning for re-election as 
Governor for his second term. The portrait, six feet by fifteen feet, 
hangs in the House chambers at the Michigan State capital, Lansing. 
Photograph by Sydney Bonnie^ 



For some years they had been cautiously, demurely looking 
over the field while curtseying at Washington minuets. The 
clapboard town was a disgrace to the nation, there wasn't a de 
cent inn in the place, and every Congressman and official who 
could secure an invitation spent his leisure time in the Potomac 
manors. "Raspberry Plain" had been full of them, on week 
ends, for many years. Sometimes the manor resembled a Wash 
ington boardinghouse on such occasions, with Congressmen 
loudly caucussing on the veranda while cabinet officials debated 
with dignity in the drawing room. 

Then there were lonely weeks while the girls were visiting 
Mrs. Monroe or some other Virginia family at their Wash 
ington homes. Because they were almost like Secretary Mon 
roe's own daughters, they were invited everywhere and em 
braced the opportunity to make careful selections. Gradually 
they centered their attentions upon Benjamin Howard and 
William T. Barry, both serving their first terms in Congress 
and representing the same state Kentucky. 

John T. began cultivating these two gentlemen. Mr. Howard 
fitted into manor society with practiced ease, but Barry, a year 
or two older, spent an exasperating amount of time in pure 
man-talk with frontiersmen and seemed shy in the presence 
of the Mason girls. 

He singled out Catherine Mason for what attentions he 
could muster, and she encouraged him. They were married 
rather abruptly during the summer of 1812, with her mother's 
benign approval. Ordinarily an affair like this would have 
dragged on decorously for years, but war was in the air and 
Barry might have to go. No sooner had the wedding been 
celebrated than the younger Mason sister, Mary, came to her 
mother and announced that Ben Howard had proposed and 
that she had accepted. 

Mrs. Mary Armistead Mason viewed that romance with 
deep disapproval. She liked Ben Howard very much, and he 
was socially acceptable. But Mary was her "baby", only twenty- 
one. Her departure would sadden "Raspberry Plain"; leave 
the old dowager with only her eldest son, then in the United 


States Senate, to come home for occasional week ends. She 
sobbed. Then, as mothers must, she gave her consent. 

The two couples began packing for an immediate return to 
Kentucky. The star of opportunity burst before John T.'s eyes. 
The transportation problem was going to be difficult. The two 
couples had only themselves and baggage. They had no slaves, 
no wagons, no provisions, and the trail through the mountains 
was long and tortuous. John T. had slaves; he had money, and 
facilities for equipping the party as a regular expedition. He 
volunteered. The two Kentuckians accepted. At this, Mary 
Armistead Mason wept until her health seemed to fail her. 

"Kentucky?" she wailed. "That place? Indians behind every 
tree?" Why, even Daniel Boone had to hide from them. John 
T.'s father, Stevens, had headed a government exploration 
party through the Cumberland Gap in 1801 and his vivid de 
scription of its hazards was preserved in his diary at "Rasp 
berry Plain". John T. read excerpts from it : 

"The pilgrim into those regions," Stevens Thomson Mason 
had written, "will have to pass through the country of the 
Cherokee Indian, nearly one hundred miles over the Cumber 
land mountains, where he will be exposed to every unclemency 
of the weather without a shelter to retire to, for there is not 
a house or hut in the entire journey; a journey in which all 
travellers are obliged at all times and of unavoidable necessity 
to sleep one night at least, and from the fall of rains and the 
rise of watercourses often many nights, without a roof to cover 
them from the beating of the storm, and moreover where 
they are liable at every stop to be robbed by the Indians, as I 
myself experienced while passing through that wilderness."* 

Stevens had left an excellent map of the course he had fol 
lowed. That, said John T., was the route they'd take. Mr. 
Barry demurred with violence. Why, he said, that was silly. 
The new wagon road passing through Leesburg continued 
on to. Redstone Fort, Pennsylvania, to Pittsburgh, and thence 
down the national road which lay parallel to the Ohio River 

*Also quoted in Travel in America, by Seymour Dunbar, p. 158. 



to Covington, Kentucky, from which Lexington was just a 
day's travel by a wagon road. It could be done in two weeks, 
easily. John T. ran his finger along his father's inked topo 
graphical map. He pointed out that the route Barry preferred 
was not only longer, but that it crossed the mountains at an 
elevation of seven thousand feet; the map said so. Now, 
Boone's old Cumberland Gap trail was much easier, sparing the 
women and the tiny baby, Stevens Thomson Mason II, the 
anguish of that mountain climb between western Virginia and 

"It's not seven thousand feet high in those passes," Barry 

But he apparently was outvoted; the southern route was 
selected and preparations for departure began. John T. pro 
cured stores, supplies and equipment. Whether he sold "Moir- 
field" or not we don't know; he closed it, packed up his Lees- 
burg lawbooks and desk, and ordered all his furniture piled 
on long, wide-wheeled wagons. 

Somewhere John T. bought an old six-horse coach, probably 
a stagecoach. Into this sturdily built vehicle he packed four 
women and two children: Mary Mason Howard, Catherine 
Mason Barry, Elizabeth Moir Mason and her aging mother. 
John T.'s two children were held on their laps. He packed a 
veritable wagon train; a line of heavy road wagons piled high 
with food and equipment. While he was thus engaged, war was 
declared with England and the President sent commands to 
all reservists to join the colors. Both Ben Howard and William 
T. Barry received these summons, urging them to return to Ken 
tucky with all haste. 

Almost immediately came another letter, for Howard. The 
President had carved out the upper half of the gigantic Louisi 
ana area under the name of the Territory of Missouri, and 
had appointed Colonel Benjamin Howard military governor. 
He would have to stop in Lexington just long enough to leave 
his bride, and hurry on. It made a quick departure imperative. 

In the Northwest, Tecumseh's council fires were blazing, and 
British officers fed the flames, Already British men-of-war 


lay off the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Like the roil of approach 
ing drums, the terror of war rolled louder and nearer, seeming 
to drown out everything else. 

Brass-bound trunks were lashed to the top of the coach. 
Behind, stretching far into the distance, came the wagon train. 
Twenty slaves drove the teams or perched precariously on the 
canvas-draped loads. Granny Peg was there, so was old Peff, 
a slave John T. had inherited from his father, his personal 
servant since boyhood. Handling the intricate lines of the six- 
horse coach team was John TVs coachman, a slave named 
John Jackson, who had driven Senator Mason to White House 
receptions and had been bequeathed to John T. in the estate. 

In the wagons there lay, carefully wrapped, a gleaming set 
of English silver with the Mason and Thomson arms, the 
ceremonial punch bowl and candelabra, John T.'s law library, 
some of his father's old books and Professor Moir's heavy 
scholastic library. In those wagons were books like Adam 
Smith's Wealth of Nations, with John T.'s college notations in 
the margins; Mackintosh's Review of the Progress of Ethical 
Philosophy; a finely bound calfskin edition of William Penn's 
History of the People Called Quakers; Benjamin Franklin's 
Autobiography; and Voltaire's Candide; and many hundred 
other books. Under the canvas tarpaulin was a heavy English 
walnut dining table, chairs, a carved sideboard, chests, beds, 
foot warmers, brass andirons, trunks tied with rope and heavy 
with crinoline gowns, Paisley shawls, lace caps, fluffy hooded 
cloaks, absurd corsets. 

All these items were entered on John T.'s inventory. Many 
are in museums now in Michigan and Virginia: shoes, cooking 
pots, fire tongs, pewter tankards, mixing bowls. 

Looking at a relief map we can see that Barry was right 
and John T. was cruelly wrong about the proposed route to 
Kentucky. Modern maps are more accurate than those he had; 
nevertheless Barry had ridden to Washington from Lexing 
ton after his election to Congress and his services as guide 
ought to have been more important than John T.'s father's 
map. But John T. would listen to no disparaging remarks 


about his father's handiwork. Stevens Thomson Mason, I, was 
no engineer, and his estimates of altitudes and distances were 
woefully incorrect, but John T. would have no other. 

Mounting his horse, he rode to the head of the column. 
Barry, Colonel Ben Howard and Professor Moir rode along 
side the coach. In early September, 1812, the pilgrimage began. 
John T. raised his arm, Jackson on his box cracked his long 
whip over the coach teams, and the procession wound slowly 
out of the u Raspberry Plain" driveway. 

The road selected, through Cumberland Gap and along the 
old Boone Trail, was one of the first means by which white 
men invaded the plains of Tennessee and Kentucky through 
the mountain barrier. Boone himself had publicized it quite 
widely after some semi-factual adventures around the Cumber 
land Gap nearly twenty years previously. After him came 
Senator Mason, heading a military survey party whose ob 
jective was opening a practical means of communication be 
tween the interior and the seaboard. 

Boone was a pioneer; the very name of Dan'l Boone is part 
of our folklore. Not so well known is the fact that he was also 
a good promoter and organizer; his influence is strong in Ken 
tucky today. He did not like the Boone Trail and said so many 
times. He negotiated it on horseback with an Indian guide, 
discovering the practical value of the Gap. But he forded 
rivers, galloped around the shoulders of forbidding mountains 
and got through, never expecting that his discovery route would 
be followed by a supply train of John T.'s household goods. 

North of the Gap the mountains were impassable. Through 
it, one had to ford the Cumberland River, which John T.'s 
caravan could not do. And Senator Mason had forgotten to 
enter this important bit of information on the map that John 
T. trusted so implicitly. 

In 1812 the route to the Gap from Leesburg lay south, 
through Richmond. There it turned southwest and began 
the approach to the mountains over a well-travelled emigrant 
road which continued on for some two hundred miles until it 


crossed the "Great Road"' from the Yadkin River to Philadel 
phia, four hundred and thirty-five miles long. Intersecting this 
main highway, the emigrant trail vanished entirely withm the 
next hundred miles. From a point near the present town of 
Pulaski, Virginia, there was only a vague set of directions on 
the map leading to a ruined Revolutionary War blockhouse 
called Fort Chissel, two hundred miles east of Cumberland 
Gap, This was Daniel Boone's famous "Wilderness Road" 
which in the first three decades of the eighteenth century saw 
thousands of emigrant trains arrive at Fort Chissel annually, 
thence branching off either to Tennessee, or across the Blue 
Ridge Mountains to Kentucky. 

In 1812 it was easily followed as far as the old blockhouse, 
but not surveyed. Arriving there, the Mason party studied 
its map again. Daniel Boone had indicated directions from 
Fort Chissel to Cumberland Gap as about two hundred miles. 
From the Gap, the route progressed along the top of a ridge 
of mountains, through another gap, up again and across the 
hardest section of the terrain, the crossing of the Smoky Moun 

Once across, the route, which Boone had ridden in 1775 
at the request of a land company interested in opening new 
routes to Kentucky, led northward through a valley called 
"Boone's Trace". This route branched off on other routes 
which Boone had dubbed "The Warrior's Path" and "Bison 

By following haphazard directions hastily scribbled by Boone 
in his letters to the Transylvania Land Company, more than 
thirty thousand white men had arrived safely in Kentucky 
along Boone's road by the year 1800. Some authorities, notably 
Seymour Dunbar, cite figures to show that hundreds of cara 
vans like John T.'s came safely across the mountains every 
year. In that case there seems to be no obvious excuse why, 
under John T.'s leadership, the journey to Lexington should 
have required seven weeks, as he admitted in later years. It 
was hideous. 

Trees had to be felled to pry the mud-cacked coach out of 


the mire. Teamsters shouted profanely at horses, while the 
ladies covered their ears. From Fort Chissel to Cumberland 
Gap the party averaged only a few miles a day. "We were 
frequently in danger of being killed by the falling of horses on 
the icy and almost impassable trace, frozen at night, and above 
all, attacked by hostile Indians who were even at that time 
making war upon the whites at many places on the frontier. 
We subsisted on scanty allowances of stale bread and meat. 
The ladies rode with children in their laps, the men with guns 
on their shoulders." 

He probably got lost after arriving at .Cumberland Gap, 
since the remainder of his own account of the trip was removed 
from his file of letters by John T. himself in later life. Elizabeth 
Moir Mason was ailing, but held the baby, Stevens Thomson 
Mason, II, in her arms throughout the harrowing journey. 
There was no place to leave him except in some other pair of 
arms, and that wasn't practical. 

Mary Mason Howard, thin and haggard, was ill. While 
great flakes of mud fell from the coach wheels, she became 
weaker. There was nothing to do but go on. No help for her 
could be found in those mountains. Mile after mile they gnawed 
their way toward the summits of the Blue Ridge, only to find 
more summits, higher, confronting them farther on. Fall turned 
to early winter. There came blizzards to whip them on. It was 
an experience that left its mark on the minds and bodies of 
everyone in the caravan, black as well as white. 

After seven weeks, weary in every bone, most of the party 
sick and Mary Mason Howard critically ill, the caravan limped 
into Lexington. It was November, 1812, and Lexington itself 
was in the grip of fever. 



STEVENS THOMSON MASON ; S earliest childhood memories were 
scenes of mourning at funerals. 

Kentucky, as a state, was in mourning. Everywhere, when 
the boy was about four years old, he heard tales of the savages 
who had ambushed and slain nearly two thousand brave Ken 
tucky fighting men at the hideous River Raisin massacre near 
Monroe, Michigan, in midwinter, 1813. He saw the pitiful 
remnants of the decimated troops, mutilated and stumbling, 
dribbling back in scores and dozens for the next two or three 
years. He and his family stood silently on the sidewalks of 
Lexington to watch the slow processions pass. 

It was drilled into his eager mind that somehow Michigan 
had cost all those lives. Michigan was a savage wilderness 
where no man's life was safe. It was a distant land many days' 
journey to the north, where the country's flag had been dis 
graced by a man named General Hull, and where many battles 
had been fought Memories like these are enough to fix a name 
like Michigan in a boy's mind as a very exciting place. 

His mother, particularly, shuddered at the Territory's 
name. His father looked grim and shook his head* 

The impact of the disaster of Michigan on the boy's nimble 
mind was a lasting one. More than any other factor, it lassoed 
and hog-tied his galloping imagination and branded it with one 
word politics. He heard about Michigan day after day: 
why the cowardly Hull had surrendered; what was wrong 
with the War Department to make such a thing possible ; how 
Kentucky troops had been sacrificed on the altar of bureau 
cratic indifference ; the crying need for men in office who would 
do something. 



He heard little else. Around the house, John T. was con 
stantly making extemporaneous speeches about these things, 
and Stevens T., aged four or five, was the only one who would 

In 1815, John T. was rich. He bought a famous old Southern 
mansion with three hundred acres of velvety blue-grass lawns ; 
he rode in a varnished coach with liveried footmen and he was 
a big name in Lexington. The boy Stevens only knew what he 
saw. He didn't remember the small rented house the family 
had occupied upon arrival in Lexington. His parents didn't 
like to recall the galling memories of that place, and very little 
was said about it. 

Local records in Lexington have very little to say about 
John T. Mason's arrival in December, 1812. The attention of 
the State was centered on meeting its quota of five thousand 
troops for the fight against the British on the lakes. The Mason 
caravan came snaking down out of the hills and limped into 
Lexington just in time to be caught in this recruiting furor. 
There was no time to talk about anything else. 

Kentucky went far beyond its quota with nine thousand 
able-bodied men raised and equipped within three months. The 
enthusiasm for the war mounted >f almost to hysteria. Ken- 
tuckians, mostly quick aggressive woodsmen and congenital 
scrappers, rose en masse. They were fighting against something 
that seemed very real to them. The Lexington Gazette, four 
wavery columns of blurred woodcut type, defined the war as an 
attempt by the British to curb our budding national spirit. 
People said that the haughty British officers in their gold braid 
and lace cuffs were openly contemptuous of the whole idea of 
American independence. They boasted that they would squelch 
it by a few bold moves. Everybody knew that the plan included 
four simultaneous moves. British fleets were to sail audaciously 
up Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi and Hudson Rivers and 
swarm down from Canada upon the Great Lakes. They 
planned the very move James Monroe had visioned in talks 
with John T. quick cleanups with Indian help in the West 
and on the Lakes, and a sweeping movement eastward to meet 


the victorious fleets. The Americans would be caught in a vise. 

A British officer wounded in the battle of Tippecanoe told 
grizzled William Henry Harrison that the British had com 
plete plans for the administration of the United States as a 
crown colony, and that they did not anticipate any difficulty 
brushing aside American armed defense. Whether it was true 
or just a contemptuous bit of propaganda, it aroused such 
hatred in Kentucky that everybody who could walk and carry 
a rifle volunteered. 

In New England, a budding revolt had rumbled against 
the Federal embargo which had tied up Yankee shipping and 
kept seamen ashore rather than let them face the danger of 
being seized and thrown into servitude on British men-of-war. 
Privateers were armed and manned. In New York State there 
was difficulty raising troops. In the East the war was looked 
upon as a cruel act of fate; something that had to be suffered 
through and survived if possible. In the West, Kentuckians 
grabbed their rifles and swarmed northward to kill the British ; 
just like that. 

Kentucky sent them away without food and with one blanket 
for six men, but they got there and they fought. In spite of the 
ambush and massacre at the Raisin, they rallied and rushed on. 
They chased the British commander, General Proctor, across 
the Detroit River and far into Canada. At the Thames River, 
near the present city of London, Ontario, they caught him. 
They killed the wily Tecumseh. They came so close to killing 
many British officers that four of them ran madly through the 
woods for eight miles, half-dressed, leaving their subordinates 
and all their Indians at the mercy of the Kentuckians. It was 
a bloody slaughter ; as bad as the Raisin massacre. But it turned 
the tide of the war. Kentuckians supported Commodore Perry 
and helped him sweep the British from the Lakes, and they 
were the last troops to return to their homes. 

The British began paying the Indians a cash bounty for 
American scalps. One Indian survivor, in 1824, related that 
four tribes of redskins were making money on that bounty as 
long as Tecumseh was alive. After the Battle of the Thames, 


he said, at the mere sight of a Kentuckian they'd vanish, and 
go hunting somewhere else. 

This sort of thing showed British military policy at its worst. 
Kentuckians, on the other hand, were fighting a back-to-the- 
wall defense of their very homes and not even a scalping Indian 
could stand up before that. Lexington, from the very day the 
disaster at the Raisin was known, was like a military head 
quarters. John T. Mason could not have picked a worse time 
to arrive. 

His sister Mary, utterly spent by the tortuous seven weeks, 
was very sick. His wife Elizabeth was expecting another baby. 
The men upon whom he had counted for introductions into the 
right Lexington circles vanished into the excitement of the war 
as soon as they arrived in town. Governor Ben Howard 
resigned his post as Territorial Governor and was appointed 
Brigadier-General of the Kentucky Volunteers. William T. 
Barry wanted action; he was given a commission as a major 
and became one of the great personal heroes of the war. 

General Howard couldn't go to war. His bride was uncom 
fortably ill at first, then seriously ill. She survived the jolting 
of that coach only eight months, and died quietly in July, 1813. 
Ben Howard never wore his resplendent general's uniform. 
He followed her to the grave three months later, dying in that 
quick, mysterious way in which so many people died a century 
ago. There was no explanation. 

It was an omen, a sign of more tragic events to come. Eliza 
beth Moir Mason was delivered of a male child in the rented 
house in Lexington. It was born dead. The following year, 
1814, she bore her anguished husband another son. The babe 
lived about an hour. 

With returning troops in 1815; with General Andrew Jack 
son's glorious but belated victory over the British at New 
Orleans and with the corning of peace to Lexington, the skies 
cleared/The war had wiped out many of the town's old asso 
ciations. New beginnings were made. John T. Mason had a 
degree from the College of William and Mary; he had a big 
law library and he knew more law than half of these back- 


woods lawyers ever knew existed. After the war, his practice 
became very large. 

Socially, he and Elizabeth Moir Mason captivated Lexing 
ton. Major Barry returned, wearing the laurels of a hero. 
He was John lYs brother-in-law, and that helped. Henry Clay 
the mighty, a sort of haloed demigod around Kentucky, singled 
John T. out for the benediction of personal and professional 
approval. John T., as one of his colleagues said later, was a 
"made man." 

Henry Clay, next to the aging Daniel Boone himself, was 
Kentucky's greatest man. Clay lived simply but comfortably at 
a gracious little blue-grass estate he called ^Ashland", three 
miles from the town. He had been in Congress long enough 
to acquire a large national repute. It had the effect upon his 
fellow citizens of endowing Henry Clay with an aura of great 
ness which made everything he did seem like the inspired act 
of a statesman. He maintained a law office, but he wasn't there 
to practice very often. When he appeared, strangers bowed to 
him on the street. In 1815 he was at the peak of his Kentucky 

A small, benign man with mild gaze and quiet voice, he 
wore h/s thinning hair very long on each side so that it com 
pletely covered his ears and draped almost to his stiff, stand-up 
collar. He looked and acted like a distinguished man. Little 
favors from him were magnified into events of great im 
portance; stories were handed down from father to son. 
Withal, he was a cantankerous old crab who took a serene joy 
in making his enemies miserable. It was he who suggested to 
John T. that there was a fine old estate for sale, adjoining 
his own. 

Clay was executor for the Todd estate, owners of the prop 
erty, but John T. didn't know that until later. The home was a 
great, imposing three-story brick mansion, built by Colonel 
Levi Todd in 1790 and said to be the first brick house west 
of the Alleghenies. Because of its associations with Todd, 
the real colonizer of Kentucky, it was the center of most of 
Kentucky's early history and already a hallowed object of 


respect. Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd, came from that family. 

John T., instead of preserving the historical associations of 
the estate, changed its name and its appearance. He painted 
the whole house a dazzling white, planted a formal flower 
garden and built new slave quarters. He christened it "Serenity 
Hall", because his maternal grandfather Robert Armistead 
had thus named his palatial manor in Louisa County, Virginia. 
John T. opened a new carriage drive to the Boonesborough 
Road which ran past the property, planted trees and built 

He could afford it. There was a surplus in the bank and 
more came in every day. John T.'s dream of a future in Ken 
tucky had come true. He was the happiest man in the world, 
and one of the luckiest. 

Late in 1815, John T. began worrying. Another baby was 
expected. Every possible consideration was shown the fragile 
little Elizabeth. Perhaps after three years the effect of that 
bone-jarring journey across the mountains would have disap 
peared. There was no recorded celebration, no social event. 
But there was medical skill, and quiet, and a sense of security. 
The baby was born; a girl. They had her christened Emily 
Virginia, and she lived to be 97. 

Stevens Thomson Mason was nearly fouj- at the time. 

He was an eager, bright-eyed, effervescent child, abnormally 
curious. Tall, but slender as a willow reed and nearly as deli 
cate, his big blue eyes made him appear to be eternally ques 
tioning, questioning, trying to puzzle out the answer to the 
riddle of the world. When he was a small boy his face was 
deliciously heart-shaped, smooth, dainty. He had the wavy 
chocolate-brown hair of the Moirs, but he had his father's 
energy. Even though he was a beautiful child in an age when 
rich boys were dressed in elaborately adorned costumes, he 
doesn't appear to have been a sissy. One reason, of course, was 
John T, Anybody who could keep up with that dynamic man 
needed energy. 

Stevens learned so fast that sometimes he scared John T. 
He couldn't read out of books, but he could listen. When he 


was five he knew why General Jackson was a hero. People had 
explained the Battle of New Orleans in detail for him, drawn 
diagrams, quoted statistics. His astonishing brain quickly 
analyzed all this, filed it away under the proper headings for 
future reference. Professor Moir, humble at times m the 
presence of this marvellous intellect, and constantly developing 
it, began a new career. Its object was the transformation of 
this bright-eyed little boy into one of the few recorded child 
prodigies of the time. 

Not a hundred miles away there was a boy about two years 
older running barefooted around the tall grass of a tiny back 
woods cabin. Nobody in the world of affairs knew that he, Abe 
Lincoln, was there. At "Serenity Hall", statesmen held serious 
discussions with Stevens T. Mason on the subject of the United 
States Bank and other political subjects when he was seven 
years old. 

He must have known that he was abnormal in some way. 
Hemans says that Granny Peg and Jackson, the coachman, fed 
him a lot of African superstition which he took very seriously. 
Voodooism helped him find some occult explanation for the 
mysterious world in which he lived, and for his strange differ 
ence from the carefree, uninhibited boys about him. He had 
only one constant companion when he was about this age. This 
companion exerted a highly marked influence upon him, of very 
doubtful value indeed. Professor Moir had probably never 
heard of anything approaching the modern theories of guidance 
in dealing with precocious children. I imagine that it was great 
sport, to him, to point out his handiwork when visitors came 
to "Serenity Hall", asking the boy to answer a lot of complex 

Professor Moir was more responsible for the boy's fund 
of information than anyone else. He used to lie flat on the 
carpeted floor of the book-lined library with him, tracing out 
the routes of Caesar's legions on maps. He was teaching his 
eager pupil the history of Virginia before the child could pro 
nounce "Williarnsburg", One of the first noticeable effects 
of this scholastic experiment was Stevens 1 s growing impatience 


with the drudgery of learning. He couldn't read, but he could 
recite page after page from books. He didn't know what he 
was saying, but parrot-like, he said it just as the Professor 
read it to him. 

All his life this habit clung to him and caused him endless 
trouble. His mind would grapple with a situation by deciding 
what sort of an answer he wanted and blithely skip to it across 
a yawning chasm of intermediate details. 

For that, we blame the Professor. This aged man, a pathetic 
figure in the strange new land of Kentucky, was like a fish 
out of water. Virginia was more than his home it was his 
creed, his code. Shorn of his scholastic routine and the cloistered 
gentleness of the college, tossed about over the mountains and 
deposited like a sack of mail in this frontier city, Professor 
Moir had little else to do than pump information into the 
boy's brain. 

Circumstances at "Serenity Hall" explain the rest: seclusion 
in a quiet library; a cultured household three miles from town 
and half a mile of lawns and shimmering groves from the 
next hotise; a very large library, for the Kentucky of that day, 
laboriously packed and unpacked so many times that every 
volume in it seemed like a dependent friend; and there was 
the boy's grandfather, a brilliant philosopher and a teacher 
for most of his life. 

When the boy was seven, John T. finally saw what was 
going on. He did not relish the prospect of beginning his son's 
education with college philosophy and having to work back 
ward to the first grade. He wrote to "Raspberry Plain." Out 
from Virginia, where he had been making the rounds of Mason 
manors for nearly twenty years, came Mr. January, the tutor. 

He was right out of Washington Irving. Tall, skinny, 
pedantic, fussy, bound up with rules of conduct until he had 
no more originality than a well-squeezed lemon, Mr. January 
took the boy in hand. 

It was fortunate. He was the perfect foil for Professor 
Moir's broad philosophical concepts. He had a book. It was a 
reader. In the book were letters. A is for apple. 


The boy rebelled; Mr. January stood over him and made 
him memorize the appearance of the letters. B was for bore 

When he was eight, Professor Moir gleefully began teach 
ing him Latin declensions on the sly. 

John T. grew richer. Early in 1818 he was one of the most 
successful men of Lexington after only six years as an attorney. 
He had other interests. "Serenity Hall" cost a fortune to main 
tain, but even with that load he had a surplus which ought 
to be invested. Cautiously he bought a few business properties 
in Lexington's downtown section. Recklessly he plunged like a 
gambler into many a little business venture, hoping to come 
out ahead in some of them. 

Not because he was an attorney but merely because he was 
a wealthy property owner, opportunity had come to him in 
1817. The Federal government was about to put into opera 
tion the most widely debated political puzzle of the time, the 
United States Bank. A branch of the bank was to be estab 
lished in Lexington. Groups of prominent men of the city 
assembled to talk about it. Because they were mainly* Demo 
crats, they opposed the idea in principle. But as long as the 
Bank planned to open a Lexington branch they decided they 
might as well handle the deal among themselves. John T. 
had very definite ideas on the subject, and one of them was 
that he should have one of the directorships. 

And so it came to pass. When the Bank opened its Lexington 
branch in 1817 it promptly became a gold mine for the direc 
tors. It had quite a lot of legal business, having to do with 
mortgages and trusteeships. John T. and Barry each received 
many a gratifying fee. 

The fact that his father was wealthy did not impress young 
Stevens. He had always taken that for granted. At this period 
he saw his father less often, and John T. didn't talk business 
with him. One day Stevens came to his father and declared that 
henceforth he was to be called Tom. He said that even though 
the name Stevens Thomson Mason was a deep honor, and 
one to be appreciated as such, he didn't like it. It appeared 


that Mr. January addressed him as Stevens constantly, and 
he wanted the family to use some other name. To his father 
and mother he was always Tom thereafter. To his baby sister 
Emily, toddling about the splendid halls in the heavy, puffed 
dresses little girls wore then, he never was anything but 
Tom all his life. His older sister Mary was suffering along 
with Mr. January and his incessant penmanship exercises, 
often making a slip and saying: "Mr. January says that 
Stevens " She probably was rebuked for it. 

Just an anecdote, one of many. But it shows that he had a 
well-formulated idea in his mind. He knew his distinguished 
grandfather's story at that age. He had been drilled in the 
achievements of the Mason family until he undoubtedly be 
lieved that he was foredestined for a great career himself. 
His formal name would do to sign state papers with, when 
he became governor of Kentucky someday. In his private life 
he ought to be Tom. 

Thus at the age of eight he made a distinction between his 
public position and his private life. There is no doubt that 
he firmly believed that he would become governor of Kentucky. 
The more he learned about the Masons the more he felt cer 
tain that he couldn't dodge fame even if he chose. And he 
certainly did not choose. He eagerly prepared for it. 

Some of the slaves on the place thought he was born to be a 
celebrity. Emily has left us a vivid, but graceful, succession of 
scenes from life at "Serenity Hall" which portray Tom as a 
hero to the blacks. It is a manuscript volume in which she 
transcribed all her diaries late in life. Names, from frayed old 
inventories and letters, rise up to people the gaunt old ruin 
of the mansion with busy blacks, snatching off their hats and 
bowing when young Tom came sauntering around the corner 
of the kitchen wing to visit with some of them. Granny Peg, 
all two hundred pounds of her; old Peff, a chronic rheumatic 
who walked with a cane but could lift a cask of wine any time 
he thought he could filch a drink from it; Jackson, the coach 
man, in his silk hat and white breeches; Tishey, the cook; Sam 
and Robert, gardeners ; Evelena and Coty, the upstairs servants 


nearly fifty in all. The spinning house, the dairy, the long 
whitewashed stables under the whispering trees, lively with 
whinnying saddle mounts. A double row of slave cottages on 
its own street; white fences marching across the bluegrass. 
A busy little island in a sea of lawn, populated by black servants, 
quiet and uncomplaining. They served cigars to the gentlemen 
from silver trays. They appeared out of the shadows with cut- 
glass wine decanters, and they blended into the background 
after trimming the dripping candles in their silver holders. 

They belonged there; they were part of the very walls and 
carpets. They would belong to Mr. Tom some day. They 
adored him. 

Little Emily, so tiny that Jackson had to lift her into the 
carriage, knew each of them as an individual and a friend. 
Eighty-five years later she was able to recall their names, 
what they looked like, what they said. Tom never seemed 
to realize that they were individuals. His mind was on other 

He was a constant annoyance to the exasperated Mr. Jan 
uary. There was no gainsaying his brilliance of intellect but 
nobody could make him work. He knew, as soon as the patient 
old tutor began a sentence, what he was going to say. His mind 
raced ahead to the point of the idea before Mr. January had 
thought of it himself. He thought most of his elemental school 
ing was childish. 

Throughout the winter of 1817-1818 Mr. January stood 
beside his pupil and made him practice penmanship until the 
lad was dizzy. Tom's undecipherable scrawl gradually 
straightened out and became, in time, the astonishing en 
graver's script so familiar to researchers among historical 
documents of the present day. What Mr. January did to Tom 
to force him to write this way is one of time's secrets. Even 
a hundred years later, every letter of his handwriting is plain 
and as easily read as a page of type. His one concession to his 
public position was an elaborately scrolled signature as com 
plex and full of figure eights and flourishes as that of Elizabeth 
of England. It was just the sort of gesture that pleased young 


Tom. It was a signature that he designed and practiced pur 
posely to go down in history along with his famous grand 

Years of secluded peace, and of bounteous plenty. Shadows 
of the brick mansion lengthened across the bluegrass, and 
seasons changed. A new entry in the Bible, dated 1818: a 
new baby sister for Tom and Emily and Mary, christened, 
in grateful recognition of many gracious deeds past and present, 
Catherine, namesake of John T.'s only surviving sister, Mrs. 
Barry. In the summer of 1819 there was another such entry- 
yet another daughter, Laura. Five children would bring sun 
shine to the old Todd house and help brush away some of the 
warlike tales about the place before John T. bought it, when 
battles were fought and men died in its yard. 

Tom, for some reason, had selected Emily as his closest 
confident and companion. The elder sister Mary seems lost 
in the corridors of "Serenity Hall"; a dimly seen, lonely little 
girl who said very little and preferred to keep herself company. 
It was to Emily that Tom came with his bits of sarcasm about 
Mr. January; with her he tried to play hooky from the in 
evitable family prayers which opened the new day. All his life 
Emily was the only person, male or female, to whom he really 
said what he thought. His sister was always his closest friend. 

The year 1819 was a milestone in Mason history. It was a 
year of rapid decisions, excitement, unpredictable events, 
strange goings-on. 

Early in the year John T.'s brother, Armistead Thomson 
Mason, was dramatically killed in a pistol duel with his cousin, 
Colonel John McCarty. A mounted messenger rode with the 
tragic news as fast as horses would carry him across the moun 
tains. The news arrived in the remarkably fast time of three 
weeks. John T. summoned the Barrys to a family council to 
hear its contents. 

From the letter it appeared that Armistead had been ap 
pointed to the United States Senate by the State Legislature, 
and was serving his full six-year term. He was another Mason 


who was personally a famous popular hero; a colonel of 
cavalry in the War of 1812 and the chief figure of the Demo 
cratic party in the northern section of the State. His own 
popularity caused his death. 

The Federalists had put up a candidate named Charles 
Fenton Mercer from the Loudon district for election to the 
House in 1818. The Party was aroused about it. That district 
held the balance of power in the electoral votes for the coming 
Presidential election, and it had to be carried at all costs. The 
State leaders persuaded Armistead to resign from the Senate 
and campaign for the House, as a Democrat, against Mercer. 

The election contest was so bitter that it split the whole 
district, ruined friendships, started family feuds. Armistead 
T. Mason lost, by a mere handful of votes. 

Colonel McCarty was a Federalist and one of Mercer's 
chief lieutenants. He took violent exception to some of 
Armistead's campaign remarks and called him out in January, 
1819, on the historic old duelling ground at Bladensburg, 
Maryland, with a pair of silver-mounted duelling pistols. At 
the signal, both weapons cracked in unison. Mason's ball 
shattered McCarty's left arm. McCarty's ball hit the wooden 
handle of the pistol in Mason's hand, split into two parts, and 
half of it glanced off and hit him squarely in the heart. He 
died there on the field, with McCarty standing over him. 

The letter caused hasty packing, hurried hitching of the 
four biggest horses to the great coach. Because of the ex 
pected baby, Elizabeth could not go. Young Tom went. It was 
his first visit "home". 

"Raspberry Plain" was silent with mourning. Armistead 
had left a slender, weeping widow and two children, a son and 
a daughter. The son was six years younger than Tom; just 
a wide-eyed little toddler. To Tom's great disgust, he bore 
the name of Stevens Thomson Mason. Tom's first cousin, 
and now there were two of them I Armistead didn't know 
whether John T.'s family would survive in the Kentucky wilder 
ness, and he was taking no chances. If John T.'s son died, his 
would survive to carry on the hallowed name. To that astonish- 


ing degree did the proud Masons of Virginia set up barriers 
against the disappearance of their illustrious names. 

In practice, Armistead's theory worked just the other way. 
His son Stevens went to military school and was just the right 
age for a commission when the Mexican War of 1 848 appeared 
to bring the phrase "manifest destiny" into the vernacular. 
He was a captain in Robert E. Lee's mounted rifles, and he 
got a Mexican bullet in the brain trying to drag some of Lee's 
artillery up the blood-drenched mountainside at Cerro Gordo. 
His death simplified matters considerably for historians, some 
of whom would have been nonplussed had two men named 
Stevens Thomson Mason emerged into the national spotlight 

There was mourning at "Raspberry Plain", and Armistead's 
little son stared up at his tall, wavy-haired cousin without 
worrying particularly about what the future held for him. 
Then, quietly, John T. departed. The long journey homeward 
gave Tom a chance to forget about the cruel fate which had 
bestowed his name on somebody else. It was forgotten. As soon 
as he arrived home, another sudden event eclipsed it. 

James Monroe, President of the United States, was coming 
to "Serenity Hall" for a visit. The Lexington Gazette sputtered 
angrily about it, muttering deep in its mouthful of wooden type 
about who did Monroe think he was, anyway, to gad about 
the country spreading a doctrine he called "the era of good 
feeling" at the taxpayers' expense? 

The President had a very good reason for visiting Lexing 
ton. Perhaps his decision to quarter the Presidential party at 
John T.'s home was an afterthought, but it was a good one. 
The grumbling Lexington newspaper was Whig in sympathy, 
meaning that anything a Democrat did was patently the re 
sult of an ulterior motive and needed looking into. Mr. Monroe 
had just finished a very disappointing session of Congress and 
was going to Tennessee with Andrew Jackson for -a rest at 
"The Hermitage". Lexington was a stop on the route, nothing 

Everywhere he went, Monroe spread the gospel of peace, of 


security, of getting along with the country's neighbors. Lexing 
ton was a hotbed of anti-Administration criticism, thanks 
largely to the Gazette and Henry Clay's frequent letters to 
the editor under a Washington date line. Clay, exhausted 
after the adjournment of Congress, was on the way home, 
too. They were scheduled to arrive about the same time. Violent 
enemies on every point of policy, Clay and Monroe were none 
too cordial personally. John T. anticipated a lively visit. 

The President arrived first, in June, 1819, to be feted by the 
cheering citizens in a long parade which Tom and his father 
watched. Veterans of the War of 1812 turned out in coonskin 
caps and leather jackets. Cavalry, in new uniforms dazzling 
with gold buttons and plumes, rode sedately as a guard of 
honor. The Gazette came out that day with a growl about 
the cavalry. It was the editor's opinion that such a display was 
not in good taste to mark the arrival of a man who happened 
to be merely the head of a democratic country. It smacked of 
royalty. Copies of it were flung down into the mud as spon 
taneous cheers went up. There were speeches, and John T. 
stood beside Monroe while Barry delivered the official address 
of welcome. Tom saw him, saw Monroe whispering to John 
T. behind the back of his hand during Barry's speech. He didn't 
hear a word Barry said. His eyes were on the tired-looking 
man at the end of the platform: Andrew Jackson. 

"Old Hickory" was the kind of hero who seemed to be 
acknowledging applause all the time. Everywhere he went, 
mobs surrounded him. The worst mob scene he ever survived, 
according to his biographer Parton, was his arrival in New 
Orleans at the conclusion of this same trip. Lexington was 
nearly as bad. Whether the citizens were Whigs or Democrats 
or Federalists they howled, whooped, milled around him. 
At Lexington they pushed against the speakers 1 platform so 
violently that they tore the bunting decorations off. Nobody 
was listening when the President arose to speak. Not a word 
of his address has been preserved. 

Andrew Jackso^ was in the Senate; Clay was Speaker of the 
House, and had launched a bitter campaign against Jackson 


about a year before, aimed at debunking him as a hero. Jackson 
preferred not to stop at Lexington at all because of the violence 
of his hatred for Clay; the two might meet on the street and be 
forced to speak. 

When the speech was over, John T. and Torn seated Jackson 
between them at a reception dinner at Keen's Hotel. It was 
late before the party arrived at "Serenity "Hall" but Jackson 
had plenty of time to rest. He stayed there four days, with a 
Sunday included. John T. said that he lay sprawled out on a 
sofa in the parlor most of the time, rubbing his left arm. Truth 
was, as several biographers have noted, Jackson was physically 
sick and utterly weary. Periodically he would have spasms of 
pain in that left arm, where Jesse Benton had accurately 
plunked a bullet some five years before. The bullet was still 
embedded in the bone of his arm. Physical exhaustion made it 
ache like a throbbing tooth. At such times, Jackson was as 
surly as a bear. 

This was one of the times. He had to pay a duty call on 
Mrs. Clay, next door, because Mr. Monroe went there. He 
was relieved to find that Mr. Clay was still on the road some 
where between Washington and Lexington. His relief was so 
evident that he began to notice Tom, and joke with him. 

If Jackson thought that Tom was a cute little boy to be 
patted on the head, he was soon forced to change his mind. 
Tom's mother came in to find Jackson laid out there on the 
sofa arguing vociferously with Tom about something. He sat 
up and took a hot toddy from her hand, muttered u Thank 
you, ma'am", and lay back staring at Tom incredulously. He 
gained a powerful attachment to Tom Mason during that visit. 
The President and John T. and Barry and most of the Ken 
tucky Democrats were outside in the rose garden, settling the 
fate of the country over cigars and juleps. Jackson wanted 
surcease from argument; enjoyed nothing more than resting 
on the sofa and marvelling at Tom Mason. 

The boy always loomed up in Jackson's mind as one of his 
chief memories of that visit to Lexington. He remembered 
John T. mainly as Tom's father. The visit exerted a strange 


influence on the subsequent history of the Northwest. When 
Jackson began packing to leave he was calling Tom "my son" 
and "my boy", and begging Tom to come and see him some 

When Tom did, it was a different Jackson, and a different 


There is a little incident about this visit which only Parton, 
among Jackson's biographers, seems to have appreciated. 
Jackson and Monroe got away on schedule and made the town 
of Lebanon, Kentucky, for breakfast the following morning. 
Jackson limped out of his carriage and walked int<? the town's 
only inn. He ordered breakfast and bought a copy of a news 
paper containing an account of his arrival in Lexington. As 
he sat there reading it, Henry Clay walked in. 

There was an embarrassing silence. Jackson stuck his fur 
rowed face deeper into the newspaper. Clay said: "How do 
you do, General?" Jackson said: "Ugh." Immediately an 
argument broke out. Neither man had eaten breakfast; both 
had spent a hard night in their carriages on the road. They 
argued up and down, while the President stared. Jackson 
openly accused Clay of lying about him; claimed that Clay was 
trying to besmirch his military reputation. Clay told Jackson 
he was a fool; that he had his eye on the Presidency and that 
he was totally unfitted by training or temperament to hold such 
an office. Jackson was so enraged that he stalked out of the 
place without breakfast and without even waiting for the 
President. A military attache of the party was taking rapid 
notes, unknown to either. Parton printed the conversation 
almost word for word. 

This angry meeting of the titans, with poor Mr. Monroe 
being ignored entirely, explains a great deal. During the next 
session of Congress there was open war between the two. Clay 
finally took his revenge, and how sweet was the taste of vic 
tory in his mouth! He beat Jackson out of the Presidency in 
1824 on a parliamentary trick which was the biggest defeat 


of Jackson's life. Neither man ever spoke to the other again. 
An accidental meeting, but it charted the course of history. 

Young Tom Mason celebrated his eighth birthday at "Serenity 
Hall," and thereafter saw it no more. 

It is quite impossible for a historian to explain what hap 
pened. We know the facts, but dusty entries on old records 
often fail to tell a coherent story. Only a psychiatrist can say 
why John T. Mason threw his fortune to the winds. 

He owned everything a man of his times would want. His 
faith in the new West and in the city of Lexington had been 
more than justified. His estate was a recognized sight-seeing 
attraction. Lexington people used to drive out there on the 
customary Sunday afternoon airings just to gaze over the high 
white fences in awe. He had one of the best law practices in 
Lexington and one of its largest annual incomes. 

A hundred and twenty years later, a wit named Robert 
Quillen wrote a definition of a professional man: one who 
makes a fortune at his own business and loses it by investing 
in somebody else's. If John T. could have read just that one 
little sentence in the musty old Gazette, his life might have 
been different. 

Probably John T. would have read it and forgotten it. 
He was one of those men who manage to become successful 
with only half their minds. With the other half he was always 
dreaming weaving dreams of what he was going to do, some 
day. Most men are never satisfied, no matter how prosperously 
things are going/This pouty air of dissatisfaction seems to go 
with successful men, at least in the opinion of men who are not 
successes themselves. Executives are constantly demanding the 
impossible and grousing until they get it, whereupon they de 
mand something a little more impossible. Washington was such 
a man, forever finding fault with his subordinates, complaining 
to his diary of what scamps they were, seldom praising anyone. 


John T. did not have that particular trouble, but he was al 
ways telling himself that he could make more money with his 
investments than he could in his law practice. He was cursed 
with a craving for change. There was a limit to^ his tolerance 
of routine. When that limit was reached, he attained his maxi 
mum pressure and blew a gasket. 

In 1819 John T. was eyeing the first feeble appearances of 
industry. He poked around among cavernous sheds and sooty 
shops full of strange iron machines. He asked questions. He 
compiled logical summaries of the prospects of industry in 
Kentucky. He convinced himself, at least, that Kentucky was 
destined to become the workshop of America. 

Plotting the future is a harmless sport, but backing one's 
dope sheets with ones' own cash is not a sport but a highly 
specialized profession. Some few men make fortunes that way; 
most lose. John T. was basing his forecasts on increase of 
population, emigration from the East, improvement in the 
rivers and roads, known factors. He could not foresee that 
the railroad, for instance, would in the next thirty years cen 
tralize industry in the heavily populated East and keep Ken 
tucky predominantly agricultural for a century. He could not 
foresee that those masses of dusky slaves of his, chanting 
spirituals in their cabin doorways on warm Sunday nights, 
were going to become central figures in a struggle that would 
nearly tear the nation apart. He could not chart the influence 
of that war in his plans for Kentucky's future, because he 
could not foresee any such movement of forces which might 
cause it. 

Those things were far in the future, hidden behind the 
opaque screen of time. We can analyze the experience of a 
century and see quickly that he was wrong. He could not see 
any such signs at the time. 

John T., in a tall beaver hat and well-tailored tail coat, stood 
squinting into the glare of a roaring- fire under a smelting pot 
in a little ironworks at Owingsville, a microscopic village on 
Beaver Creek in Bath County some thirty-five miles from 
Lexington. There was some ore, newly mined from a deep 


shaft sunk slantwise into the looming hill. The little shop 
breathed fire from its open door, sticking out its tongue at the 
hill. A shaft car slid quickly down the incline while a cable 
rattled over a pulley. 

He watched while the blast of cold air aroused the fire to 
white, roaring anger. He saw the ore liquefied in the heat of 
the furnace ; saw the dross skimmed off, and the incandescent 
ore poured from ladles into moulds. When they were cool 
he picked up new pig iron, fondled it, studied it, nodded his 
head at the men who pointed to it and shouted information 
over the roar of the furnace. 

In industry, he felt, lay his future In industry he could 
produce new wealth, help build the State. The little company 
owned the hill, and the rattling shaft car, and the smelter. 
It produced something of value, something Kentucky needed. 
With more money it would become a big company, and pro 
duce more and more. 

Some other "gentlemen", as the act of incorporation states, 
and John T. Mason organized a new company to operate this 
mine during the summer of 1818. Later, in the fall, he bought 
an interest in a distillery at Mount Sterling, a village which 
was on his way from Lexington to the iron mine at Owings- 
ville. Then he waited for his profits. 

About this time he casually gave a friend his endorsement 
on a note at the Bank of the United States, without thinking 
much about it. But it was a short-term note for a very large 
amount; the friend defaulted and the Bank the very Bank 
where he held a directorship regretfully notified him that 
he would have to make good the amount. 

In the fall of 1819 John T. saw nothing but ruin ahead. 
He had sold property in Lexington and paid the note, but it 
had cost him his directorship. The "gentlemen" who were his 
partners in the Owingsville mine turned out to be practical 
businessmen, not gentlemen at all. They had to have more 
money more money. John T. had to supply it. 

He sold "Serenity Hall". The slaves sadly loaded the long 
caravan of wagons again. Down came the books from the 


library walls. Into hogsheads of sawdust went the fragile 
china and the gleaming silver. Once more the Masons were 
on the move. In Mount Sterling, a village near the ironworks, 
the caravan halted before a gloomy-looking old house on the 
edge of town, overgrown with weeds, damp inside and with 
windows half big enough. This was home. "Serenity Hall" was 
thirty-five miles behind them in distance, but actually it was 
something out of another world. Few people in Mount Sterling 
had ever heard of the Masons. Villagers told each other that 
the "Davis place" was going to be occupied again, and how 
much were eggs worth this morning? 

Tom Mason helped the family unpack, and his father es 
corted him back to Lexington on a pony which Tom thought 
was the finest animal in the world. He was eight years old, 
reading Latin easily, writing in the precise script of an adult 
but unable to understand even the rudiments of arithmetic. 
Professor Moir's work had been done so well that he had 
completed most of the required reading for entrance require 
ments for college. In contrast, he could not spell the words he 

There was a private school for young gentlemen at Lexing 
ton. John Barry, his cousin, attended. Arrangements were 
made for Tom to enter. He was to live at the Barrys'. Emily's 
reminiscences announce that he was very happy there. Tom 
himself never mentioned it. 

It was Tom's first physical contact with a group of boys 
his own age. John Barry was younger and smaller, but he 
was as stocky as a bull calf and had his father's carefree ability 
to get along with anybody. He valiantly undertook to make 
Torn feel at east among these boys, but the effort was wasted. 
Torn froze up, withdrew in shyness and was silent. 

After some months Tom thawed out and took a more active 
part in the games. I have studied all the records of this period 
to find an anecdote describing how long Tom required to thaw 
out, but nobody seems to know. He had a wide notoriety as 
a boy prodigy, a superior little boy who always knew the 


answers. He must have been an insufferable little eight-year-old. 

The penalty of precocity is never greater than in the com 
pany of a group of boys. There is a pathetic loneliness, a sense 
of being an outsider, somehow. Tom was one of the youngest 
boys in the school and he had a long lead on them in scholar 
ship. He was too young to be chosen for the games, too ad 
vanced to share the burden of study. It must have been a very 
unhappy first year. 

Gradually he won a place for himself. His record was never 
a distinguished one at this private school. Tom wasn't studying 
very hard, but he was learning how to get along with others, 
how not to lead with his chin, when to keep still in class even 
if he knew the answer that stumped the rest of the boys. Dur 
ing these school years he added very little to his store of knowl 
edge. His trick of making himself popular had to be acquired, 
the hard way, month by month. Popularity is the secret of every 
politician's success. If Tom were dreaming about being gov 
ernor of Kentucky he'd have to start learning that secret right 
here in prep school. He learned it. He learned how to make 
himself prominent, and he never forgot. 

On week ends and vacations during these childhood years, 
Tom rode back to Mount Sterling to roll luxuriously in the 
verdant grass. He loved the "Davis place". If it weren't for 
the multiple tragedies of these years he could have happily 
rounded out his life there. But John T. was going broke. Food 
was scarce, clothes were tattered and Tom didn't have to be 
a boy prodigy to see it. 

John T. had farmed out some of his slaves so that he 
wouldn't have to keep them. He was away from home most of 
the time, and he'd come back in a vile temper and utterly ex 
hausted. Tom didn't have to ask what had happened. He knew 
his father had been victimized again. 

John T. was a gentleman, a man of honor. To the end of 
his days he believed every associate of his to be the same 
fortress of unimpeachable honesty. One of his worst failings 
was his readiness to believe what he heard, and forget to ask 
for proof. He was being skinned alive in that ironworks. His 


partners were trying to squeeze him out. He had impoverished 
himself to raise money to build the new plant the partners 
said they had to have. When he couldn't raise another dollar 
they decided that it was, after all, too good a thing to divide 
with him. They tried to buy his interest for a pitiful fraction 
of what he had invested. He was told he'd have to put in more 
mone y more money, or the business would perish. But he 

wouldn't sell. 

Tragedy was bowing his head at home, and at the mine he 
was just a woolly lamb whose function in life was to be shorn. 
In the year 1822 his oldest daughter Mary, wasting away to 
skeleton thinness with a malady then not fully understood, died 
after a lingering illness. The effect of the heart-breaking death 
of this quiet little twelve-year-old girl laid Tom's mother 
perilously close to the grave herself. Just at that time she was 
about to give birth to her seventh daughter and eleventh child. 
Her husband's fortune was visibly melting away. The times 
were bad; she knew intuitively that her husband's partners 
were defrauding him. Mary's death brought her to a climax. 

The floors were cold and the corners were drafty. There 
was the smell of cooking all through the gaunt old house. 
Granny Peg was there to fetch and carry, but John T. paced 
the floor in anguish. A skilled surgeon from Lexington was 
upstairs at the bedside. When the babe was born only fast 
work by the doctor saved either life. For days it was a delicate 
balance. Both survived, but neither mother nor daughter fully 

Another entry in the Bible: Theodosia. A mite of a baby, 
brought into the world in the midst of a family crisis and 
doomed to suffer all her brief life. The good old days at 
"Serenity. Hall" were just legends to Theodosia. She knew 
nothing but trouble, incessant migration from one Kentucky 
house to another a little worse; never knew relief from the 
constant battle to find food and keep the home intact. She 
didn't live long enough to see her big brother's fame shoot 
skyward like a rocket and cling there, at its zenith, for a 


decade. Her life hung by a thread for the first few weeks. She 
was an invalid all her life. 

Elizabeth's cheeks were gaunt. She aged rapidly. John T.'s 
upstanding shock of black hair was shot through with gray. 

While he lived at Mount Sterling, his Lexington properties 
mysteriously shrank in value. Taxes were shooting higher; 
assessments against property owners to build roads were com 
ing fast. His income from Lexington was a pittance, and it 
was all he had to live on. He had given up his law practice 
entirely. He had no clients in a place like Mount Sterling, 
a village with two or three stores and a dozen lawyers to fight 
for occasional wills and justice-court pleadings. 

Once in 1824 he petitioned the State Legislature for permis 
sion to organize a lottery to raise funds to build a road to his 
mine from the neighboring health resort of Olympian Springs. 
Permission was finally granted. He still owned a small share 
in the distillery in the village, but it had only a local market 
and never made any appreciable income for him. 

Down, down went the family fortunes. Weeks dragged into 
months, and years. John T. kept his head above water and 
food in his family's mouths. That was all. 

In 1825 he was given a temporary relief when a building 
boom hit Lexington and his lots briefly climbed in valuation. 
He sold some of them and used the money to buy equities in. 
other properties. Hardly any of his Lexington property was 
fully paid for/The windfall gave him a chance to move the 
family back to Lexington for a short time in 1825 and fall 
headfirst into another bit of luck. 

His benefactor, oddly, was Henry Clay. 

In 1825 Henry Clay was on the bottom in the scale of 
Lexington popularity. Kentucky, after a generation of frenzied 
loyalty, had turned against him so bitterly that he wanted to 
take his family away from there. Even the patrician, white- 
haired Mrs. Clay urged him to go. 

Clay had engineered his deal against Jackson during the his 
toric Presidential campaign of 1824. He had won; Jackson 


received a large majority of the popular votes cast but Clay 
beat him in the House of Representatives. There were three 
candidates: Jackson, Democrat; John Quincy Adams, Whig; 
and William H. Crawford, Federalist. None had an outright 
majority of the electoral votes. Under the Constitutional pro 
vision governing such contingencies, the election was thrown 
into the House of Representatives wherein sat gimlet-eyed, 
vengeful Henry Clay, enthroned as Speaker. 

Clay himself appeared as a compromise candidate and man 
aged to secure the electoral votes of three states. This ma 
neuver cut the vote for each individual candidate even further 
below a majority. General Jackson's name was marked on the 
ballots as a second-choice favorite in three more states; he 
was gaining in popular support every day. Clay had only one 
opportunity for stopping him, and he used it. He appointed 
a House committee to recommend a choice. Then he packed 
the committee. 

Clay did not like Adams, but he hated Jackson so bitterly 
that he preferred to see Adams win. When the committee re 
ported back to the House, Clay invited the members of the 
Senate to come in and watch the roll call. One by one the vote 
was counted by states, not by individuals. Adams received a 
majority on the first ballot He defeated Jackson by two votes. 

When the news reached Kentucky there was hissing, and 
mass meetings. Clay did not even return to Lexington after the 
adjournment. Adams immediately offered him the highest of all 
Cabinet posts, that of Secretary of State. Clay wrote a few let 
ters to his friends saying that he was undecided about accepting, 
relating that there was a good deal of opposition to him both 
at home and in Washington. He attributed that to the Ebul 
lition of the moment, the offspring of chagrin and disappoint 
ment." He accepted. And he did not return to Lexington. 

He solved his problem by writing John T. and offering him 
a very low rental if he cared to occupy "Ashland", the Clay 
estate, during Clay's four-year term as Secretary of State. 
John T. accepted. 

About that time Mary Armistead Mason, the grand old 

W vi 

1 I 


matriarch of "Raspberry Plain", died quietly with none of her 
four children at her bedside. In her will she bequeathed some 
of her own slaves to John T. He made a hurried trip to Vir 
ginia to assist in the settlement of her affairs. When he returned 
he did not take the new slaves to " Ashland' 1 . He found em 
ployment for them, and used the proceeds for living expenses. 

Tom liked "Ashland" because of its location. He had a pony, 
and rode it to school every day. Among the three or four sur 
viving slaves in the household was Jackson, the faithful coach 
man who no longer had a coach to drive. Tom used to canter 
to school every morning on this pony, like a young aristocrat, 
with Jackson astride a horse following respectfully a few paces 
to the left and to the rear. 

Once again he was in his element: good clothes, fine food, 
a servant to accompany him. John T. was feeling a little more 
cheerful, too. The boom at Lexington continued throughout 
the year. Floods of eager humanity were coursing through the 
mountains, sweeping downward into Kentucky, swelling into 
the full force of the tide which peopled the West in one gen 
eration. Endless wagon trains of Virginians and New Eng- 
landers and New Yorkers rumbled and creaked along the twisty 
roads. Veterans of the War of 1812 were taking up the land 
grants awarded them for military services as fast as new roads 
were opened into their areas. Pike highways were being hewn 
through the stone gaps in the Blue Ridge and Cumberland 
summits. Inns were built. Settlements sprang up around the 
inns. Along the muddy Ohio there were puffing steamboats 
and new towns at every anchorage. 

Good things can't last forever. John T. was guessing wrong ; 
he believed that industry would find a market readily enough 
among these hordes of land-hungry emigrants. The family lived 
at "Ashland" not quite three years. By that time John T. was 
unable to keep it up any longer. 

Tom might have known. He was adaptable enough to live 
anywhere and have a good time. Whether at "Ashland" or 
some little cottage far out in the bald foothills known in Ken 
tucky as "The Knobs", Tom grew taller and happier. In Lex- 


ington there were parades for some reason or other every few 
months. Tom and John Barry and some other youngsters from 
the school always managed to get through the crowds for a 
close view. They saw Lafayette, when he made his personal 
visit to Lexington in May, 1825. They were on the platform 
with the great people when, on July 4, 1826, William T. Barry 
was the official orator of the day. A few weeks later they turned 
out again for a monster funeral procession. Thomas Jefferson 
and John Adams, the father of President John Quincy Adams, 
had died on the same day. Mourning was nation-wide. 

In 1827 Tom was almost sixteen. John T. was moving again, 
but Tom begged leave to stay in Lexington with the Barrys. He 
had just been accepted as a freshman in the autumn class at 
Transylvania University. 

Inevitably, disaster came to John T. Mason. Specifically it came 
in the collapse of the Beaver Creek Iron Works at Owingsville. 
But it would have come anyhow. He was no businessman, and 
he could not fight with the weapons which constituted sharp 
business tricks in 1827. 

Tom heard from him infrequently. He knew the family was 
poor, but not hungry. They were back at the "Davis place" at 
Mount Sterling, waiting for winter with the stolid resignation 
of the vanquished. 

Grandpa, the splendid old Professor Moir, died quietly of 
old age at "Ashland" in 1826. He was buried at Lexington. 
Tom's grandmother was a wrinkled, quavery old woman. She 
was hardly able to understand what had happened. The kitchen 
fires smoked all the blue out of Tom's mother's eyes ; left them 
a dull, beaten gray. There were wrinkles at the corners of her 

There was Granny Peg peeling potatoes ; Peff to weed the 
garden; Jackson to take care of John T.'s horse. The others 
were gone. Tishey the cook was dead. One or two had quietly 


stolen across the Ohio River to freedom. John T. didn't care. 
There were that many less mouths to feed. 

A sad procession, barricaded all winter against the siege of 
storm and limping forth in summer to find cheer at some sunnier 
place. They rented little houses, sometimes at Mud Lick or 
Indian Fields, just to give the girls a respite from the clammy 
old brick house at Mount Sterling. Emily and Catherine and 
Laura, running and laughing through the bluegrass ; Theodosia 
lying limply on a blanket, staring with piteous eyes. And there 
was their mother. She was grateful for sunshine. 

When Emily was twelve her mother found some hidden, 
cherished gem among her keepsakes which gave the little girl a 
year's schooling at Madame Mantelli's fine Lexington private 
school for girls. Where she got it, we don't know. Emily didn't 

Tom was finding college absurdly easy. He liked it mainly 
because he liked the serious respect for scholarship which was 
always the hallmark of the small classical colleges. At Transyl 
vania the whole atmosphere was serious. It had an enrollment 
of about two hundred boys, and offered strict classical courses. 
Knowledge was approached reverently. 

He attended classes in a brand-new building made of white 
Tennessee stone and full of marble floors, the gift of an early 
alumnus. Henry Clay as executor of the will of the donor, 
named Morrison, designed the building in the severe classical 
manner: tall columns, Greek pediment, frescoes, impressive 
stone steps. The building itself crowned the very summit of a 
rather sharp hill, and these steps led up to the second story, 
which was the main floor. College wasn't hard on Tom's brain. 
It was more of a strain on his wind, climbing those stairs every 

Emily was happy as a princess at Madame Mantelli's 
French-style school. She made a thorough study of everything 
she saw and heard. By candlelight she wrote in her small 
leather-bound diary pinched little letters which look like the 
first attempts at rhetoric of a very small girl. When Emily was 


86 or so she transcribed these diaries and gave us a glimpse of 
her life at Madame Mantelli's. She must have been a delightful 
child. Everything was beautiful; all her fellow pupils were 
splendid ; everything she saw was a new marvel. 

"Here we danced and sang and were as gay as only French 
people can make a house," she wrote. "Madame played the 
violin, her son Waldemar the clarinet, and Ma'amselle Marie 
danced with a grace beyond anything I had ever imagined. 
Ma'amselle Louise made the best waffles ever eaten. It was a 
happy household, giving happiness to all within its reach, and 
I got on rapidly." 

Waffles. Waffles in 1828? Was Emily sure about that? Yes, 
she was sure. The waffle iron is in Michigan's State Museum 
today, where any skeptic can see it. The iron was old and black 
when it came to Lexington. Forged of bar iron in Louisiana 
many years before, it was a very long and very heavy pair of 
pliers, with waffle grids in place of jaws. The handles were all 
of four feet long, with rings on each side. Ma'amselle Louise 
hung the long utensil from a pothook over the kitchen fire until 
it was hot enough. Then she withdrew it, opened it, greased 
each grid, poured in the batter and hung it back on the pothook 

The grids are the same size and shape of the rectangular 
electric waffle irons of today about four by eight inches. It was 
a simple enough gadget. Any blacksmith could make one. When 
the waffle was browned on one side Ma'amselle Louise pulled 
the heavy handles off the ring, turned it over and hung it up 
again. It didn't flash any red lights, ring bells or stick out a little 
chromium tongue when the waffle was done to the precise shade 
of brown. But it produced waffles. 

On his sixteenth birthday, October 27, 1827, Tom Mason 
had attained the stature and strength of a man. Taller than his 
father, he was. He was an inch and a half under six feet, Emily 
said, just to make him sound bigger. But he was skinny as a rail 
and weighed a mere hundred and twenty. Narrow, boyish 
shoulders did not fill the puffed and padded tail coat he wore. 


They never did, even later in life. Some sketches of him show 
these narrow shoulders in painful clarity but his official portraits 
always show a well-tailored broadcloth torso which might have 
belonged to a stevedore. 

His inquisitive blue eyes were larger and more richly blue 
than ever. Tom's face was losing its heart-shaped baby outlines 
and beginning to show his father's strong chin. The chin had 
a dimple in it; the waves of dark-brown hair were precise and 
regular; well-arched black eyebrows completed a handsome 
picture. His beauty was an outrage against the crude log- 
cabin and dogwood background of Mount Sterling. In Lexing 
ton he was a youth to set all the girls at Madame Mantelli's 
into a flutter. He walked as erect as a soldier; head up and 
held so far back under the weight of his big beaver hat that 
his upper eyelids drooped enough to make him look arrogantly 

Thoughts of superiority and his appeal to adolescent girls 
never occurred to him while he attended college. Regardless 
of his appearance he was a mighty hard-working youth with no 
time or energy for anything but study. He was devouring the 
undergraduate course in great bites, his nose in his books and 
his eye on the calendar. John T. did not have to tell him that 
each passing day might be his last as a college student. Tom 
knew it in a hundred ways, from the clipped evasiveness of his 
father's letters to the ever-mounting air of suspense and defeat 
which they bore. 

What hair John T. had was turning white. He clung to his 
conniving partners at the ironworks with the rigid doggedness 
of a drowning man who clings to any floating thing. He was 
tortured, but he wouldn't sell He wouldn't give up and let those 
men laugh at him for a fool. He stayed. He kept another set 
of books himself. As fast as he stopped extortions and 
swindlings in the plant, crooked agents cheated him out of funds 
from the sale of his pig iron. 

They called that smart business in 1827. John T. became 
his own sales manager. Then, in self-defense, he became the 
whole sales force as well. He saddled his horse, stuffed saddle- 


bags with blank forms and bills of lading, and started on the 

Selling pig iron in 1 827 was something like being an itinerant 
preacher. There was nothing to correspond with modern sales 
methods because there was no way to exchange money with any 
certainty. There was no way to sell a product at all except 
the way peddlers still sell cloth and leather to the monks of 
Tibet and Sinkiang, and the way the Romans sold bronze and 
brass to the barbarians of Central Europe. John T. took sam 
ples and went forth to barter. 

If he got an order he couldn't collect for it until the pig 
iron had been unloaded at the customer's warehouse. Then 
according to the custom of the time he had to wait thirty or 
sixty days. The customer received a big discount for cash, but 
if he paid in bank notes he did not earn quite so much of a dis 
count. The customer could mail bank notes of some backwoods 
bank the partners had never heard of. They were subject to a 
complicated system of discounts which varied from day to day. 
He could send a draft on some well-known bank in Lexing 
ton, Louisville or Cincinnati which was gladly accepted at par. * 
Or he could stall. 

Whatever he did, he forced the manufacturer to finance the 
whole deal and carry the load while the customer was using 
the foundry's money. Nobody had established credit in the 
backwoods. It was a case of sell the product, wait, and try 
to get your money. 

Most customers made all their purchases through commis 
sion houses up and down the broad Ohio River. These were 
middlemen who never saw the goods they bought and sold. 
They did not warehouse them, but merely collected a few 
orders from various customers for similar merchandise and 
bought it from the producer for delivery directly to the cus 
tomer. They might have twenty little blacksmith shops that 
wanted pig iron; they bought a bargeload from a producer and 
directed the barge to stop at all twenty docks. For this service 
they charged the producer a commission. 

By dealing over a period of years with commission houses 


which supplied established customers, a manufacturer would 
keep production at a fairly reliable figure. But a new firm 
located far down a tiny creek in the bleakest section of Ken 
tucky's foothills could not interest the commission merchants. 
And they held the buying power. 

That was why John T. spent the year 1828 on the road, 
peddling pig iron from office to office, and that was why his 
hair turned white. Today's purchasing agent is often abrupt 
but usually courteous. Those commission merchants regarded 
sarcasm as one of their chief accomplishments. They kept manu 
facturers waiting day after day for a five-minute interview. 
They softened hard-boiled factory managers until they got 
what they wanted at any price they chose to quote. 

Some of John T.'s pig iron could go out by wagons over the 
back-breaking hills to near-by towns which had blacksmith 
shops. That, until John T. bought his interest, was the only 
market the ironworks had. John T. sent forth flatboats, brim 
ful of dull-gray pig, to ground on sand bars and overturn in 
rapids. Crews poled the floatboats down the creek to Licking 
River, thence day after sweaty day downstream to the rushing 
current of the broad Ohio. On the big river the flatboat had 
to go downstream. It could not go upstream unless it was towed 
by one of the new steamboats at a prohibitive price. 

He had to find business downstream. Two or three months 
after him came the cumbersome flatboat, putting in at swarming 
river towns that were hastily being nailed together, unloading 
pig iron at blacksmith shops, at carriage shops, at foundries 
that made iron cooking pots and rifle barrels. He sold to any 
body who would buy two or three hundred pounds of pig. As 
a salesman, he was superb. He oversold his plant to the point 
where he could keep it at capacity for a year. Then he turned 
his whole attention to collecting. 

Businessmen could beat him at that game. His only markets 
were the new settlements, and nobody had any "hard money". 
They all wanted to pay him in scrip, in wildcat bank notes, in 
anything but good money. Solvent factories would not buy from 
him because they had long-term contracts with commission. 


houses. He could see that there wasn't enough of this odd-job 
business to keep his smelter hot, and he laid siege to the com 
mission houses like a general before a walled city. 

Once in Cincinnati, then a good-sized river city, he persuaded 
a new commission house to try him. He sold a staggering order 
of pig and finished iron. He sold bar stock of graded sizes, 
strap stock, castings to dimensions furnished on drawings. It 
was a windfall. Smiling, he hurried home. 

The little plant bustled noisily to work forthwith. Wooden 
patterns were carved for the castings. A small draw mill was 
built for the bars and straps. The order was finished on time 
and delivered promptly. The customer paid the commission 
house in silver dollars, a breath-taking act of business honesty. 

John T. did not know about the silver dollars until later. 
His remittance didn't come. The firm's capital was gone, spent 
in building new equipment and additional payrolls. The firm's 
credit was gone. It could not borrow another dollar and all 
its previous notes were due. Banks at Lexington and at Mount 
Sterling clamored for payment. John T. finally had to go 
and see what had happened. 

The commission house was empty. The whole staff had 
vanished. So had John T.'s money and the hope of becoming 
wealthy in business. 

It was only eight thousand dollars, not enough to wrinkle 
the brow of a modern steel-mill's accountants. To John T., as 
he clamped his trembling hands to his white head in utter 
despair, there was some kind of poetic justice about the disaster. 
It cleaned him out, but it also bankrupted all of his partners. 
After years of squeezing him out of a business that seemed too 
good for a mere investor, they themselves fell victims to a 
swindler who had even outsmarted them. 

The white-hot, roaring flames under the smelting furnace 
died into cold ashes. The mine tunnels fell in, eventually, as 
nature put on a squeeze of her own. Weather curled the clap 
board sides of the mill shack. Today one must be an archaeolo 
gist to find the site. 

There was weeping in the cold, gloomy house at Mount 


Sterling. John T. Mason was sued by the Bank of the United 
States the very bank in which he had once held an honored 
directorship. He was served with judgments. All his equities 
in Lexington property were grabbed up and swallowed. Jack 
son, his faithful coachman for fifteen years, was seized by 
marshals and led away to face the ordeal of the auction block. 

Only Granny Peg and Peff and a little negro boy were left. 
They belonged to Elizabeth. 

Life had to go on, and the Masons existed through that 
tragic winter. John T., with bent shoulders and dragging feet, 
stood in the bare little parlor of his stricken house gazing 
at one of the finest law libraries in Kentucky. The marshals 
hadn't seized that. He still had, in his trained brain, the means 
of making a living. Over the bookshelves hung a certificate 
proclaiming that he had been admitted to practice before the 
Supreme Court of the State of Kentucky. He had almost for 

In winter's fiercest gale, Elizabeth cried out in labor. They 
were snowbound; there was no doctor, no horse to hurry for 
a doctor. John T. dragged himself upstairs like a man going to 
the scaffold. It was a day that haunted him until the end of 
his life. 

Elizabeth lived, but the babe died within a few hours. John 
T. tried to get to the village for a preacher any preacher. 
He failed. There was not one comforting soul. 

With his own hands he built a tiny coffin and dug a fresh 
grave. The three children knelt beside him on the windswept 
hillside while he fumbled in a gilt-edged leather Bible with 
trembling fingers. His voice faltered, then began : 

"I. am the Resurrection and the Life " 

It was the last Mason grave in Kentucky. 



JOHN T. collected his little brood around his sides and grieved, 
Tom packed up his ruffled shirts and satin vest and sadly left 
the Greek colonnade of Transylvania University. Emily's 
year at Madame Mantelli's was up ; she quietly came home, too. 

There was food, and there was wood jto keep them warm. 
The old "Davis place" was regarded as a pretty good home 
for a village like Mount Sterling. In the winter it was dismal, 
but spring stirred the forest to fresh life and dressed the fields 
in shimmering green. Elizabeth planted flowers on the sunny 
side of the gaunt old house. Tom mowed the high grass with 
a scythe. It was a home. 

This old place, so typical of pioneer homesteads, seems now 
to be leaning heavily to the sunless side like a very old woman 
who hates to be gazed at with pity. It was tenantless for forty 
years and nearly fell to pieces. Even for an imaginative mind 
it is difficult to see the Mason children in their billowy, wide- 
hemmed dresses playing in that grim old doorway; to conjure 
up visions of young Tom in tight gray breeches and top boots 
lustily swinging a scythe while Elizabeth carefully pruned 
flowers that have left no trace of their loveliness. 

Before John T. bought it, the house was known as the 
"Davis place". Today what's left of it is still known as the 
"Davis place"; the Mason ownership is just a forgotten inci 
dent in its long and lonely past. Two stories high, made of 
the tiny little brick of colonial times, it reared its severe 
facade in a frown of stern disapproval at the pleasant rolling 
foothills around it. One end of the house is completely blank; 
just a cliff of brick rising at a steep angle to meet a towering 
chimney. There was another chimney at the other end of the 



house to balance it. The front door was just a door, unrelieved 
by porch, architectured entrance or graceful iron handrails. It 
opened, and defied one to go in. 

Windows, half big enough, march stolidly across the front 
of the house. Fifty or sixty feet away there is a tumble-down 
picket fence which might have been there in Tom's time ; no 
body knows. The place has that dead look of an eroded grave 
stone in a forgotten cemetery. If Elizabeth ever made that 
place gay and cheery and bright with spring flowers, as Emily 
says, she was indeed a remarkable woman. 

In the spring of 1829 there was little to do but read the 
Lexington Gazette, a week old, and little to talk of but Andrew 
Jackson and his smashing success in the national election of the 
preceding fall. After the votes were in and the result was 
known, John T.'s lined face relaxed. It was good to talk again 
of familiar things ; good to see one man's dreams, at any rate, 
coming true. Jackson was a name shining over Kentucky like 
a flaming meteor. Jackson was to be the next President. Al 
ready, said the Gazette, he had honored their distinguished 
fellow citizen, William T. Barry, with a cabinet appointment. 
Barry was going to Washington as Postmaster General; first 
man in the country's history to hold cabinet rank as head of the 
Post Office Department. 

John T. was glad for Barry's sake; Tom was glad, too. It 
meant that he wouldn't see his cousin John Barry, his father's 
namesake, for a long time, but that was to be expected. The 
Masons were proud of the Barrys. 

Barry was the Democratic boss of Kentucky during the na 
tional campaign and the appointment was a plain gesture of 
gratitude for services rendered. Tom understood that. He knew 
that Barry had been disgusted at Clay's treatment of Jackson 
in 1824; he saw Clay reaching out a long and powerful hand 
in 1828 to steer the State away from Jackson. Barry's some 
what novel method of carrying the State for Jackson was suc 
cessful. He ran for governor of Kentucky on the Democratic 
ticket and in that capacity built up a political machine that 
rolled ponderously across the prostrate bodies of the Clay 


henchmen. He organized every county; he stumped the State 
from the Ohio River to Tennessee. Clay himself was on the 
platforms, debating against him, fighting desperately to keep 
the Jackson vote down. 

Clay, said Barry, "used the most disgraceful language against 
Jackson, belittling his every achievement and overlooking no 
opportunity to place Jackson in the position of a militaristic 
seeker after power." This is the campaign that flooded Ken 
tucky with handbills scattered broadside by Clay and the 
Whigs. "Coffin Handbills", they were called, with heavy black 
coffin-shaped borders containing accounts of the men Jackson 
was accused of murdering in duels. Clay seriously accused 
Jackson in a speech at Louisville of "murdering in cold blood 
thousands of British citizens, whose only crime was their de 
sire to spend Christmas Eve in New Orleans". Clay was the 
master orator of the age. Barry, a mild, amiable man with 
a ready grin and no great ability as an orator himself, was 
at a loss. 

Barry beat him in one way, and was defeated in another. 
He carried the State triumphantly for Jackson, but lost the 
governorship to a Whig. Thereupon Andrew Jackson ap 
pointed him to a new cabinet post. 

At Mount Sterling these stirring deeds were just surly little 
items in a weekly newspaper to the Masons. They could not 
take any part in the campaign. John T. was burying his eighth 
daughter and twelfth child about the time Andy's cohorts 
streamed to the polls. There is no record that John T. even cast 
a vote in the election. 

Emily, bless her filing-case memory, has given us a few 
gentle hints of that awful winter. Even she is constrained to 
skip over the worst parts. She reports in a rather matter-of-fact 
manner that her mother's health was failing; that Grand 
mother Moir huddled in the chimney corner all winter, that 
Tom was the only lively figure in the family. 

Tom went out determined to find some way to help, and he 
came back the proud possessor of a job in a Mount Sterling 
grocery and general merchandise store. There were only a 


few stores of any kind in the village ; this was the largest. Emily 
doesn't say what salary the young Adonis earned, but he must 
have received some cash because he gave pennies to his sisters. 
They promptly ran down the road to the same store and bought 
candy, so the proprietor regarded him as an asset. 

He got vegetables, flour, lard, bacon and occasionally fresh 
meat. He opened the store every morning, sweeping out with 
a broom made of aromatic pine shoots. He weighed out sugar; 
he bent his back and grew strong lifting barrels and crates. 
Little by little, as spring warmed into summer, Tom's narrow 
shoulders grew wider and muscles of steel strained at his small 

In his own writings he never referred to this experience. 
Neither did John T. Bending and lifting heavy merchandise in 
this general store was a sort of graduate course in human rela 
tions for him. Until he first went to work there his outstanding 
characteristic had been a smooth, frail figure which gave rise 
to legends about his delicate ways. Never afterward did anyone 
dare call him unmannerly names. The general store finished a 
lesson begun in the private school in Lexington. He learned 
how a man feels to fall from wealth and respect to the drudgery 
of a servant; how it feels to be ordered brusquely around by 
an illiterate; the cancerous pain of knowing that his only value 
to himself or the world is the feeble work he can do with his 
hands. If he suffered, he suffered in silence. 

Mount Sterling housewives, bonneted and shawled matrons 
we seem to see clearly now, probably made life miserable for 
him. He thought of his uncle Barry, a Cabinet officer; of Jack 
son fondly calling him "my son"; of Clay and Monroe discuss 
ing with him weighty matters of national import. Then there 
would be a growl from some big-booted, flat-hatted farmer 
with tobacco juice in his beard: "Here, you ! Lift that bar'l on 
my wagon, boy, and be quick about it !" 

With the springiness of youth he grew to like it. Emily says 
he would come home at night whistjing. Once or twice he ex 
perimented with the long rat-tail cheroots tied in fly-specked 
bundles in the cigar case. He filled out fast; his thin body de- 


veloped a little more. In 1835 when he was a hero and ap 
plauded on the streets of Detroit, an artist who had never 
seen him before made a sketch of him in a barber shop just 
because he was handsome and had such a well-developed chest. 
Tom could thank the grocer for the chest, at least 

The store was open until late at night, but the proprietor 
usually let him off early. He walked the two miles home, flung 
his homespun jacket across a chair, took a flickering tallow 
candle and sat down at a table. In the dim yellow light, waver 
ing and dancing before his eyes, he studied. He kept up his 
ciasswork as carefully as if he had to recite all those lessons 
next day. He wrote comments in the margins of his father's 
and grandfather's works on philosophy. They are preserved 
to this day, and readable. One says: "This is silly!" The 
passage, in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nation* is the famous 
dictum holding that any nation's economic resources can be 
exceeded by the spending of tyrants. 

Emily was studying with him. Nobody forced them to study. 
They felt a strange thirst for every available drop of knowl-* 
edge they could squeeze from the family library. Without 
schools, without parental stimulus, without the wearisome 
routine of classrooms every day, these two somehow realized 
that in education lay their hope of escaping from this environ 
ment. They could not have explained it that way themselves. 

Far downstate young Lincoln had begun forming letters in 
charcoal on a coal shovel. When he was about fifteen and living 
in Illinois he borrowed Parson Weems' story of Washington ; 
read it, used it to chink up the wall of their rude cabin when 
the storms came. He had to work with his hands to earn money 
to buy another copy to replace it. Nobody spurred him to 
study. He felt the same craving for knowledge. 

Tom succeeded better than Emily in wrecking the fine old 
books in the family library. Lacking much paper to write on, 
he scribbled comments all over the margins of books and wrote 
detailed reviews of some passages that interested him. He 
was cramming. Opportunity was coming. 


In the spring there was a letter. John T., stooped and 
wrinkled, had aged thirty years. Elizabeth, after twelve chil 
dren, would have been unrecognizable to her girlhood friends 
at Williamsburg. Tom was working at the store ; at home were 
four little girls to play in the yard. When the letter came, 
John T. realized with a sense of humiliation how far he had 
fallen since his prosperous days at "Serenity Hall' 1 . 

William T. Barry was in Washington. Jobs were being 
handed out. He was going to make an effort to secure one for 
John T. A political job, with a salary. To the proud Masons 
it was a far cry from the statesman, the judge, the Senator, 
who served their State from a sense of public obligation. A 
political job, with a salary. 

At "Moirfield", John T. would have torn up such an offer 
with contempt. At "Serenity Hall" he would have laughed 
uproariously, slapped his thigh, rolled up the letter and lighted 
a* Virginia cigar with it. At Mount Sterling he held it in 
trembling hands, and blinked. 

There would be more details. After the inauguration he'd 
know what Barry could do. He would wait. He could do 
nothing else. 

The hilarious inauguration of Andrew Jackson at Washington 
City on March 4, 1829, was one of those spectacles which had 
to be played down and quietly hushed in the history books. 
Rheumy-eyed, irritable old John Quincy Adams was so in 
furiated that he refused to ride to the Capitol in the same 
coach with his victorious successor, John C. Calhoun made 
up his mind then and there to resign the office of Vice-President, 
although he could have held it longer, and became the first 
and only Vice-President to do so. Members of Congress had 
to be there but they hurried their families out of town like 

For a month before the event there had been a quiet, 


sinister invasion of Washington City. From Tennessee and 
Louisiana and Carolina and all the backwoods regions came 
rnoccasined, coonskin-capped wild men, dirty as dogs, carrying 
flintlock rifles and powder horns. Delegations of limping army 
veterans were trooping the muddy streets ; backwoods lawyers 
in tall hats, city politicians with tobacco-stained whiskers, In 
dians, reprobates, swindlers. An eyewitness wrote that the 
whole of the hinterland had spilled over its scum into Wash 
ington. Jackson's biographer, Parton, says that there were 
four thousand of these characters in town; other estimates 

Most of them were there with only one idea jobs ! Spoils ! 
Some of the woodsmen had come to attend a sort of national 
hoe-down: the Great Day, the triumph of a common man. 
Calhoun appealed to a mob of them for quiet around the 
Capitol. He very bitterly shouted that Andy Jackson was the 
most illiterate man who ever aspired to the office of President. 
The crowd cheered. They liked to hear it. 

Jackson had arrived in February and was staying at the 
"Wigwam", a private boardinghouse. Major Eaton, Jackson's 
Secretary of War, was there ; Jackson's nephew, Major Andrew 
Jackson Donelson, was there. So was Peggy Eaton; none of 
them seemed to be able to keep a procession of noisy job- 
hunters out of the front hall. Jackson was sick in body, mind 
and soul ; sick over the sudden death of his beloved wife Rachel ; 
sick over the prospect of a big White House reception without 
her; groaning over the impending inauguration as an anti 
climax; something he didn't want at all. He was sick of raucous- 
voiced beggars stretching out skinny hands for jobs. He wrote 
his inaugural address in this vein, and it reads like it. 

There was a thick ship's cable stretched across the front 
steps of the Capitol part way up to keep the crowd back. The 
mob was orderly until after the oath of office had been ad 
ministered. Then pandemonium broke loose and continued for 
three days. 

When Jackson stepped forward and began reading his ad 
dress, nobody heard a word he said. His voice was low-pitched 


and rough. The crowd was straining at the cable and wrestling 
with the bodyguard to get close enough to the hero to shake 
his hand. When he bowed and retired, the shouting crowd 
shot off squirrel rifles, leaped and whooped like Indians. Jack 
son was guided to a carriage, alone, and the driver set off for 
the White House at a brisk trot. The mob followed. 

At the White House the mob poured in past the door 
guards and tried to follow Jackson from room to room. Serv 
ants tried to decoy the bulk of them outside by setting up great 
bowls of punch and other refreshments on the lawn. There was 
such a press of bodies inside that the draperies were pulled 
down, holes gashed in the East Room rug and chairs ruined 
from hobnailed boots and spurs of uncouth yokels who stood on 
them to see over the heads of the crowd. At sundown the guards 
had the doors protected but some ingenious wag had found a 
window open on the first floor and had put a couple of planks 
up to the sill. More shouting men crowded inside over this 
improvised ramp. 

This episode keynoted Jackson's administration better than 
anything he could have said in his address although he was 
very specific therein. The survivors of the White House soiree 
read his address in the newspaper next day. They saw that he 
had declared firmly that he could not trust any incumbent 
officeholder; that he knew they were all antagonistic toward 
him and his administration ; that they would sabotage whatever 
they could. He said he would exercise his power of removal. 
He did. 

From that moment not one appointive job was safe. Jackson 
quickly began carving up the nation to feast his friends. In his 
first month in office he removed more officials than all his prede 
cessors combined from the day of Washington's first inaugura 

Jackson's biographers say that the sun had not gone down 
on that inaugural before it was known in official Washington 
that Jackson would immediately remove from office every 
official who had opposed him in the election and appoint every 
body who had helped him. Statistics on the mass slaughter are 


unimportant, and have been in dispute ever since. The New 
York American declared in 1830 that two thousand were re 
moved the first year. Major Eaton said that the number was 
six hundred and ninety. Somewhere between these two ex 
tremes lies Jackson's toll in 1829. 

Washington, during his first term as President, refused to 
appoint a friend merely because he was a friend. u You are 
welcome to my house; you are welcome to my heart. But 
you are not a man of business and your opponent is a man of 
business. My personal feelings have nothing to do with the 
present case. I am not George Washington, but President of the 
United States. As George Washington, I would do anything 
in my power for you. As President, I can do nothing." 

During his two administrations he removed only nine office 
holders. Six of them were deputy collectors of customs. One 
was a surveyor, one a vice-consul and one a minister to a foreign 
country, Pinckney, who was thoroughly disliked in Paris. Every 
dismissal was for cause, not politics. 

Adams removed nine, all for malfeasance. Jefferson removed 
thirty-nine, but he had a minor rebellion on his hands which 
accounted for it. He declared in a Congressional message 
that not one removal was the result of a difference in political 
opinions. Jefferson refused to appoint any of his relatives, for 
fear his motive would be misunderstood. James Madison made 
only five removals ; James Monroe, nine ; John Quincy Adams, 
two. The permanency of a Federal appointment was so well- 
established in Monroe's administration that when the Fourth 
Auditorship of the Treasury fell vacant there were, among 
others, five United States Senators and thirty Representatives 
clamoring for it. 

Official heads fell faster in Washington, during Jackson's 
first six months, than in Paris in the days of Marat. A Wash 
ington paper, dated in July, 1829, complained that construc 
tion on half-built houses was at a standstill; merchants could 
neither sell their goods nor collect their accounts ; the city had 
an air of tenseness like that of a place under siege waiting for 
the enemj to smash through the gates- 


Dismissals were cruelly sudden, usually unexplained. Major 
Eaton was Secretary of War. He stalked into the Chief Clerk's 
office and said : "Look here. There ought to be perfect coopera 
tion between a Secretary and a Chief Clerk. I have no loyalty 
from you ; I know that. So I have appointed Doctor Randolph, 
of Virginia, to replace you. Good day, sir." 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs was Eaton's most technical 
staff department. For many years it had been adroitly handled 
by a renowned expert on Indian affairs, Colonel McKenney. 
One morning a disdainful youth walked in and spent some 
time gazing at the portraits of powerful Indian chiefs which 
hung on the walls of the outer office. He looked at the peace 
pipes and other exhibits in the glass cases. Then he came to 
the Colonel's desk and said he didn't think he'd like the office 
after all. 

"What office ?" demanded the Colonel. 

"This office," answered the youth. "I was appointed to your 
post this morning by Major Eaton." He exhibited his letter of 
appointment. There had been no notice to McKenney. Further 
more, McKenney was an officer whose whole loyalty was given 
to his job. He had no political thoughts on any subject. But 
the letter was no surprise. It was a relief. 

"Take it, my dear sir," McKenney sighed. "Take the post. 
The sword of Damocles has been hanging over my head long 

"No," yawned the youth, languidly. "I prefer an auditor's 
office where I can fill out forms." He told McKenney that the 
grizzled old Colonel could have the office back. After stuffing 
the letter in the wastebasket the visitor returned to the Presi 
dent for a transfer. McKenney never learned his name, but 
found that he had presented a pair of silver pistols to the Presi 
dent, once carried by Washington. 

Until the spoils system swept in with Jackson, there had 
been a tradition of culture, and of ability, hovering over public 
service. Public life was a profession like any other, and it re 
quired a long apprenticeship before ability was recognized. 
The ruling class was composed mainly of college men like the 


Adams family, Jefferson, Monroe, the Masons of Virginia, 
men who knew the disastrous lessons of history. 

"The nation/' mourned a Philadelphia newspaper, "has al 
ways been served, and served ably, by its elite. It is now being 
mangled by its refuse/' Even Clay, from sour retirement at 
"Ashland", wrote that the fact of a man's holding office under 
Jackson's administration was prima-facie evidence that he was 
one of three types: an adventurer, an incompetent or a 

Opinions differ, but I believe Barry began dickering for a job 
for John T. Mason in June, 1829, and kept at it until the fol 
lowing spring. 

Hemans says John T. "either sought or had offered to him" 
a political post at that time. The distinction is academic, a 
titbit for the delectation of scholars and librarians. The fact 
is that John T. began perking up and regaining some of his old 
verve as soon as this prospect dawned. 

Barry knew all about John T.'s manifold misfortunes, and he 
occupied a rather exceptional position in the Cabinet which 
made a request from the Postmaster General very difficult to 
ignore. He and Catherine Mason Barry were Jackson's bene 
factors, many a time. Even a century cannot stamp out the 
memories of Jackson's cabinet troubles early in his administra 
tion. Major Eaton started Washington gossips on the first of 
all Washington merry-go-rounds when he married a flip young 
widow, daughter of the "Wigwam's" proprietor and recent 
widow of a paymaster in the navy. Her name was Peggy 
O'NeiL As Mrs. Eaton she was a Cabinet wife. Immediately 
Mrs. Branch, Mrs. Ingham, Mrs. Berrien and almost every 
body but Mrs. Barry marched on the White House to protest 
against receiving such a creature socially as an equal. Catherine 
Mason Barry was a great lady. She was, furthermore, a Mason 
of Virginia. Her social position was so secure that she could 
well afford to ignore the others and keep herself thoroughly 
clear of I' affaire Peggy. She received Peggy at her home and 


she was the intermediary who finally restored peace in the 
official family. 

Jackson almost wept on Mrs. Barry's neck in gratitude. 
Her husband rubbed his hands in glee. He waited for I' affaire 
F* e ffffy to run its ridiculous course. When it was graciously 
settled, and Jackson was deeply grateful, the wily Postmaster 
General mentioned John T. 

Barry was never a statesman, but he had few equals as a 
practical politician. He elbowed the President out of direct 
control of the Eaton situation and it became so desperate that 
it very nearly led to a majority of Cabinet resignations. At the 
proper time he stepped in and took the bows, and presented his 
bill. The whole strategy was a build-up to get the President 
into the proper frame of mind for appointing John T. to a 
major political post. If John T. had mounted a horse and 
hurried straight to Washington during the summer of 1829 
he would have been competing for meagre handouts against 
the riffraff of the nation. When that problem was gradually 
lessened, and Jackson's Cabinet fight was over, Barry could 
corner Jackson and gain his consent. What Barry really wanted 
was a Territorial Governorship for John T. He couldn't have 
that. Every such executive post had its rightful claimant : men 
who had accomplished as much for the Jackson cause as Barry. 

John T. had done nothing in the campaign. Gaining an out 
standing administrative job for such a man amounted to a minor 

Barry couldn't say, in the fall of 1829, just what he could 
do for John T. Suddenly a vicious winter fell like a blow. Moun 
tain trails were impassable. Barry could keep the bill unpaid 
until spring. 

As soon as the March floods had cleared the trails, John T. 
began preparations. Tom was going, too. Both needed new 
clothes, new horses, time to prepare for a White House con 
ference. Accident postponed the necessity for speed. The 
accident unluckily befell Jackson, and it happened in the self 
same "Wigwam" which had brought down so much trouble 
upon him. 


In April, Jackson began feeling a return of the dizziness 
which was one of the reminders of his Florida campaign. One 
evening after he had appeared at a public dinner in Washing 
ton, a flock of noisy office seekers followed him home. He was 
on fo,ot; he hurried around a block and tried to gain the sanc 
tuary of the "Wigwam" instead of the White House because 
it was closer. He arrived out of breath with the howling crowd 
almost at his heels. Major Donelson slammed the front door 
and Jackson wearily began climbing the stairs to his old room. 
At the topmost stair the stairway was dark; Jackson instinc 
tively felt with his foot for another step and tripped. He fell 
headlong down the stairs. 

During the fall he suffered a double hernia. Many years be 
fore he had fought a pistol duel with a fiery Southerner named 
Dickinson, and a pistol ball had ripped his abdominal wall from 
side to side. Clumsy surgical stitching had left an insecure 
peritoneum. It ruptured horribly, spilling the old man's in 
testine out on the floor. Surgeons sewed it up again and Jack 
son was in bed only three weeks. But he never was well again. 
Pain and frequent bedridden convalescences followed him to 
the end of his days. 

Young Stevens Thomson Mason, eighteen years old and swing 
ing a manly pair of arms, gazed serenely from the Barry door 
way at Washington City. He had a new coat, a silk hat nearly 
two feet high and a shirt with a ruffled front. His boots were 
polished every day by the Barry house slaves. With care he 
arrayed himself to the last detail, smoothed the wrinkles out 
of his satin vest, pulled down his coat in the front and gave his 
hat a quick pat to the correct rakish angle. Thrusting a lace 
handkerchief nonchalantly into his cuff, he took a walking 
stick from the bowing slave, stalked out of the Barry door 
and headed for the shopping section. 

John T. was closeted in nervous conference with Barry most 
of the time. The President was very difficult to see. He was 


back at his desk, but irritable to an astonishing degree. Scores 
of people were trying to get past Major Donelson, who acted 
as secretary, into his office. They were being turned away. 
The White House was a place of mystery. Jackson was trying 
to keep the seriousness of his injury a secret. 

Finally there was a note, delivered to Barry's office by mes 
senger. The President, wrote Major Donelson, would see 
Barry and John T. Mason at two P. M., May 18, 1830. No 
record of the interview was kept. Colonel McKenney, still the 
famous chief of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was outside in 
Donelson's office while Barry, together with John T. and Tom, 
were in conference with the President. He wrote in his memoirs 
that when they had left he found Jackson writing busily at his 
desk, spectacles, on his nose, blunt and impersonal in manner 
as if he were trying to write down something before he for 
got it. 

Some weeks before, another bureau chief had told Colonel 
McKenney that he had better make some appointment and see 
the President in order to clear the prevailing impression that 
he was disloyal. He wrote that he had just entered when he 
perceived that the President was busy, and started to leave. 

Jackson looked up over the top of his spectacles and said : 
"Come in, sir, come in." 

"You are engaged, sir?" asked McKenney, 

u No more so than I always am, and always expect to be," 
sighed Jackson, drawing a long breath and giving signs of 
"great uneasiness". 

The uneasiness was obviously an abdominal cramp, coupled 
with the sudden realization that Barry had put something 
over on him. Jackson had forgotten about John T. Mason as 
soon as he had left "Serenity Hall" eleven years before. To the 
President he was just another office seeker without any proof 
of service to offer; nothing whatever to recommend him ex 
cept Barry. Barry usually was devious about coming to the 
point, and poor old Andy Jackson, suffering with a sore ab 
domen, no doubt thought at the beginning of the visit that 
it was purely social. 


When the conference got down to the point of the visit and 
Jackson discovered what Barry really wanted, he must have 
been at a loss. Hastily he thumbed through reports of jobs 
held by Whigs deputy collectorships, marshals' badges, clerk 
ships. Barry was contemptuous. It would have to be better 
than that. What, then? A foreign ministry? No, too expensive 
to maintain. The salary was the chief factor a job with a fat 
salary. A Territorial Secretaryship. 

Scant wonder that the President felt "great uneasiness'*. 
John T. did not rank high enough by several thousand votes 
for a post of that magnitude. He couldn't say no, bluntly. He 
was a fool to grant it. A Secretaryship was craftily pushed at 
Jackson with a demand for appointment. It was only slightly 
lower in magnitude than a Governorship, and because a Secre 
tary was an acting Governor in the Governor's absence it paid 
almost the same salary. Territorial Secretaries ranked on an 
equal plane with Bureau Chiefs and Assistant Secretaries of 
Federal Departments. Definitely no job for a political nobody. 
Yet here was Barry demanding it. 

Wearily he ran his finger down a list of entries. The finger 

"Now here's a situation in Michigan Territory. Do you 
know Lewis Cass, sir? A remarkable man, a fighter. He's a 
corning man. He's the Governor of the Territory. A good 
Democrat, as well. The Secretaryship is held by a Whig named 
Witherell. He must be removed, of course. Have you ever been 
in Michigan, Mr. Mason?" 

"No, sir." 

"Fine. You're appointed." 

When it was over, Jackson probably wondered how it had 

The post paid twelve hundred a year, a tidy sum for a 
frontier town like Detroit. It was a comfortable living for those 
days. John T. breathed easier. When Colonel McKenney came 
in and saw Jackson writing, he probably saw the President 
writing an order to the Secretary of State to prepare the com 
mission for his signature. Nothing else would explain the speed 


with which such an important post was disposed of. Congress 
was adjourned at this date; it would meet again in the fall 
and John T. would be forced to hurdle the high fence of Con 
gressional confirmation. Until that time, he was safe. 

There were fees, travelling expenses, other "forms of 
emolument" as the Treasury Circular described the frequent 
outside sources of income which Secretaries liked so well. One 
of them was simultaneously a Territorial Secretary at twelve 
hundred a year and Collector of the Port at a thousand more ; 
he was also an attorney and practiced law on the side. In an 
other Territory at this time, a Secretary acted as his own 
Supreme Court justice and collected two salaries. Others made 
money in other ways. 

One of John T.'s most welcome introductions into the service 
of his country was a voucher for travelling expenses to Detroit 
for Tom and himself. There was a one-paragraph notice in 
the Washington newspaper which listed five appointments made 
that same week; John T.'s name led all the rest. Such was the 
confusion in Washington City that nobody paid any partial* 
lar attention either to John T. or to his new position. But, 
on the same day the notice appeared in the newspaper, some 
unknown citizen of Michigan read it and hurried back to De 
troit as fast as possible. 

John T. could not leave immediately. He had to learn just 
what the Department of State expected from him in the way 
of reports. He talked with officials who knew Michigan Ter 
ritory, as to ways of life there. He gazed in awe at great maps, 
and saw Michigan Territory stretching far across the present 
Middle West, including both the modern States of Michigan 
and Wisconsin and part of Iowa. He learned what he could 
about it from the viewpoint of Washington bureaucrats. It 
was little enough. 

Colonel McKenney had been there. He knew Cass; he ad 
mired him deeply. 

He told tales of Pontiac and his men; of the treachery of 
all Indians and of Tecumseh in particular. He swept his arms 
in eloquent gestures. John T. saw swift-running rivers cutting 


murmuring trails through the forests of oak and tamarack. 
He saw Hurons and Pottawatomis lurking behind every tree. 
McKenney nonchalantly went into detail about Cass's bravery 
in going alone and unguarded into the depths of this primeval 
forest to consult with the suspicious chiefs. 

John T. did not care for such graphic description. This 
reckless sort of life was just what he had craved while he was 
living in the luxury of "Moirfield". He had whiled away those 
summers dreaming of adventure in the wilds. He had pic 
tured himself, to himself, as a great civilized and trail blazer. 
But McKenney rather deflated the image of himself that he 
had built up. When John T. heard the details of how Cass 
had to travel in the woods, he wanted to change the subject. 
Cass was presiding over a council fire at the headwaters of 
Saginaw Bay at that moment. Chiefs of seven tribes sat stolidly 
around the fire, beady eyes fixed on Cass's flabby jowls. Cass 
was selling them a bill of goods, persuading them to surrender 
their tribal claims to more Michigan territory. He offered 
practically nothing in return. John T. wondered how a man 
could have that much nerve. 

He set off for Detroit in an apprehensive frame of mind. 
There were good-byes, affectionate hugs, handshakes and mu 
tual congratulations. John T. was grateful; the Barrys were 
delighted. John T.'s new horsehair trunk was packed and 
Stevens Thomson Mason, his ruffled shirts carefully stowed 
away, doffed his top hat with an exaggerated gesture. Con 
fidently the pair embarked on their exhausting journey. 

In 1830, Detroit was as far from Washington City, in point 
of time as South Africa is now. Washington to Baltimore was 
a dusty ride in an oscillating baby carriage of a stagecoach ; 
all day as fast as horses could trot over the busy road. Balti 
more to Philadelphia was a little longer and a great deal 
rougher. There were more frequent changes of horses, and 
slower times made. Philadelphia to New York, the busiest 
highway in the new nation, was a succession of inns, frequent 
stops, long delays. In those days, operators of stagecoach 
lines were in the midst of a price war. The threat of the rail- 


road was frightening them all. Canal boats made the entire 
journey at a fare even lower than that in the stages. Stage* 
coach operators also owned the wayside inns, and they had 
been forced to cut the through fare to a point where it repre 
sented a loss to them. So they made it up by stopping the 
coaches often enough for the passengers to visit the taprooms 
at each of their inns. The profit on the rum and whiskey bal 
anced the loss on the stage lines. 

The usual stagecoach time for the ninety-four-mile highway 
journey was four days. A coach that made it in three days was 
known as the u flying machine". Packet boats from Philadel 
phia, down the bay and up the Jersey coast, could equal that 
time for distance more than twice as long. Some years later, 
this exorbitant stagecoach time and the efforts of operators 
to get the passengers drunk en route was one of the chief argu 
ments used for projecting the railroad. The Masons found out 
why a railroad would have to come. It was a great lesson to 
young Tom. 

At New York, there was a rest of a day or so to remove 
the stains of travel and recover from the characteristic head 
ache engendered by a long stagecoach journey. There was time 
for Tom to gaze at the hordes of immigrants arriving in be 
draggled square-rigged ships at Castle Garden. There was 
time for him to saunter up and down the stone-paved sidewalks 
and admire the merchandise on display in Whitehall windows. 
It was his first visit to New York; it was the metropolis of 
the country and Tom, for some reason, always fancied him 
self as an expatriate New Yorker ever afterward. In Michigan 
he committed the political blunder of having all his clothes 
tailored in Manhattan; of sending to stores on Spring Street 
or Maiden Lane for articles which the outraged Detroit mer 
chants were keeping in stock to tempt him. He seemed to know 
everyone of prominence in New York and nobody of promi 
nence in Detroit. That, too, had its aftermath and helped to 
shape his subsequent career. 

Perhaps New York looked like heaven to him after the mud 
and poverty of Washington City. At any rate, it was the start- 


ing point of one of the most delightful experiences of his life, 
the magnificent voyage up the palisaded Hudson. In 1830, 
day-line boats paddled serenely up the river just as they do 
now, A little longer, perhaps; Tom Mason had fourteen hours 
to contemplate the ever-changing beauties of the scene. But 
the boats would have surprised moderns who like to think 
of 1830 as a primitive period. They were ornately scrolled in 
white and gold; they offered singers and instrumentalists to 
serenade the passengers and their ladies, and they sold all 
the latest mixed drinks in their spacious bars. The fare, accord 
ing to the handbills of the period, was ten dollars. That in 
cluded meals, but for an extra two and a half dollars there 
was a "first-class sleeping accommodation" in one of the cabin 

Teeming Albany was the crossroads of the old colonial 
empire. There, amid shouting mobs of "pullers", the Masons 
threaded their way to the famous little gilt-scrolled sign on the 
quay that read: "Erie Canal Company. Passengers Inquire 

It was a long way around. On the map, it appears as if 
the Masons were purposely going as far out of a direct line as 
they could. The casual traveller of today can leave Washing 
ton by bus, train, airplane or motor car and take a straight- 
line route to Detroit that is not as far as from Washington to 
Albany. In 1830, the traveller could have done the same. But 
instead of the luxury of the elegantly adorned Hudson steam 
boats, he could have rolled his bedding and started on horse 
back. There was no other comfortable way to reach Detroit. 
It was a choice of horseback over the mountains and through 
the swamps, or the lazy comfort of the river and canal. 

Five days from Albany to Buffalo was considered good run 
ning time. The passenger barges always had right-of-way over 
the freight scows. At Lockport, where the great i lo-foot locks 
raised the passengers fifty-four feet in five stages, sometimes 
the freighters would have to wait three hours to let through- 
passenger-traffic pass. The passengers rode in barges that 
looked not unlike the lowly freight scows ; blunt-ended, squat, 


perhaps a little trimmer with their green window blinds and 
white paint. 

In the one-room cabin there was a simple curtain stretched 
across the space, amidships. At night all the men slept on one 
side, the ladies on the other. Of course the curtain wasn't 
soundproof, and they could hear each other's snores all night. 
They didn't have beds. But they did boast thick mattresses, laid 
on the floor, which they scrupulously rolled up and stowed away 
in lockers in the morning. Most of the day, weather permitting, 
they sat on folding chairs placed for their convenience topside, 
pointing with gold-headed canes at the items of interest which 
slipped so slowly past. About once an hour, inevitably as the 
barge ground around a sharp turn, there'd be a mad scramble 
for safety on the deck.. "Low bridge!" bellowed from a tiller 
sent many a stiff old dowager flat on her face in a great, un 
dignified hurry. 

This was travel luxury in 1830. There was such a volume of 
it that three years before the canal directors had segregated 
passenger traffic into rigid classes, as on ocean ships. There 
were wealthy tourists by the thousands, from New England 
and the plantations of the South. The Erie Canal and the 
steamers on the Lakes immediately opened to them a great 
dark continent, hitherto the especial province of the soldier 
and the scout. It became fashionable later to make the entire 
journey to Chicago ; lecturers got bookings merely because they 
had been there. Chicago, at the time, was an Indian village of 
about two or three hundred assorted half-breeds nestling 
around a swampy river and a burned old fort. But it was the 
terminus of civilization's transport. Steamboats went there, on 
supposedly regular schedules. Tourist cruises to Patagonia, 
in the same period of the succeeding century certainly aroused 
no such vibrant, breathless feeling of adventure as the great 
Chicago voyage by canal and steamboat. It was one of life's 
rare gems. 

Tourists with money went first-class. Commercial people to 
whom time was valuable and comfort essential always paid the 
premium rate, too. But there was a sort of steerage, a low-rate 


emigrant class that crowded the Erie's narrow waterway for 
forty years. As soon as the Erie opened in 1825, the wave of 
pioneers responded. By the year 1830 it was approaching high 
tide. We have figures in existence today to show the traffic on 
the canal month by month throughout its existence. Four thou 
sand farmer families passed through the canal in July, 1830, at 
the same time the Masons were making their journey. They 
were all westbound in tightly jammed discomfort in the ordi 
nary freight scows. "Flour, wool and hides eastbound; farmers 
westbound" said the boater's manifest. 

Four thousand of them to crowd the tiny decks of the Erie 
steamboats, and four thousand more to join the creaking, 
endless procession of ox-team trains entering Detroit from 
New York and New England by way of Canada. As long as 
the canal and the lake were open to navigation, they'd pour 
their eager throngs in never-ending floods to Detroit ! 

On the lake, during the tedious four-day voyage from Buf 
falo, young Tom must have had plenty of opportunity to talk 
to these hard-mouthed folk and hear their stories. He and his 
father were assigned to comfortable cabins, but the farmers 
slept on their own piles of bags and bundles on the deck. Their 
stories were all alike ; a saga that he was destined to hear 
repeated thousands of times during the ensuing years. "We 
weren't doing so good down home on the farm. We hear there's 
land out here good land. They say a man can git a quarter- 
section fer the askinV 

It was a mass migration unlike anything he had ever seen. 
White-thatched John T., who had sat in front of his law office 
and watched caravans of Virginians plodding toward Kentucky, 
was profoundly impressed. The pioneering and settlement of 
Kentucky went on slowly for more than thirty years. This was 
different. This was a sort of fire hose, aimed at Michigan and 
plunging people into its primitive interior under pressure of 
some new, some utterly unknown driving force. The Erie 
Canal, most expensive public improvement in the United 
States, paid for its entire cost within ten years and made a 
prodigious profit. The traffic on Lake Erie was so unprece- 


dented that by the year 1819 there were four steamboats 
operating; by 1825 there were seventeen, and in 1830 there 
were more than thirty. These companies formed a protective 
association in 1827 to keep the fares up. They succeeded very 

The Middle West, all of five present states, was settled 
and organized into counties and townships within a decade. 
This has been called the swiftest mass movement of a coun 
try's population in the history of the world. Undoubtedly it 
was, until the day of the dictators. 

Tom was not perceptive enough to see the social implications 
of such a prodigious wave of migration. Both he and John T. 
saw it instantly as most mortals would as a gold mine for 
Detroit. That little hamlet, they knew, was the only supply 
center in the region. All these caravans, and the boatloads 
of weary farmers ; every plodding, complaining ox-team wagon, 
had to come to Detroit. John T. was overeager to see the place. 

At dawn, July 8, 1830, Tom threaded his way over the 
crowded deck to gaze at a new world. There, stretching low 
and limitless before him, lay the Michigan shore. The vibrating 
steamboat was pushing hard under a full head of steam against 
a vicious current. That would be, he thought, the mouth of the 
Detroit River. 

Low land, and marshy, a tangle of tamarack and pine, 
confronted him. They were dwarf trees, not the tall pines of 
Kentucky. There were clouds of buzzing insects. As the boat 
struggled upstream against the current he saw a sandy island 
hugging the Michigan shore, a very long island. Out of a white 
washed shack in a disreputable state of neglect came a scrubby 
peasant, to laugh up at the towering deck and shout gibberish 
in an unknown tongue. He waved, and the boat's whistle gave 
a disdainful toot. Then he had glided astern. Far up toward the 
northern tip of the island there was a lattice windmill, which 
to Tom looked like some pictures he had seen of Holland. 

Caught in midstream, the boat chuffed and puffed valiantly. 
Tom could see the foaming wheels gaining, foot by foot. He 
looked ahead, at the placid expanse of bright river marching 


straight into the horizon. John T., white hair blowing in the 
stiff breeze, was beside him. They involuntarily watched the 

Flat as a billiard table, the land held itself aloof from the 
river on a sharp cliff. A wagon road, straight as two taut 
strings, dwindled together in the distance. On the road was a 
two-wheeled pony cart, the wheels outrageously thick and 
heavy, the pony disgustingly small. It bore no resemblance 
to any vehicle they had ever seen. 

The very atmosphere reeked of strangeness. The boat was 
a little haven of civilization in a sea of unfamiliar things. Fish 
ing boats, queer-looking canoes with triangular sails all patched 
and dyed in violent .colors, looked like something painted in a 
picture. Swarthy men in round black woolen caps hauled in 
their nets rhythmically, paying no attention to the boat. There 
were more of those pony carts on the road. Up ahead, the road 
disappeared into a clump of trees. 

There were twin steeples, holding up their gold crosses in 
pride, just seen above the treetops. The sun caught and 
illumined a little rounded dome, gilded and glowing like gold 
in the morning sun. They saw a stub of wharf. 

Presently the throbbing boat stretched out the grove of 
trees, and there was Detroit. It was so abrupt as to be like a 
conjurer's trick; a village that somebody had pulled out of a 
hat. One moment there was the road, pointing straight ahead 
to a swaying clump of trees. The next moment they were op 
posite a magic town, a town that had suddenly appeared there. 

At the boat's bow, a sailor fired a salute gun that echoed 
and re-echoed among Detroit's handful of roofs. Tom was 
mystified. From the boat's rail he could see both ends of the 
town, upstream and downstream. It was condensed into that 
little frontage as if forced together in a vise. The buildings 
huddled together in upright rows right to the city line, and 
there were cow pastures next door. It was amazing to him. 

People were running down the slanting ramp of a street 
and out on the wharf. They waved. Answering waves came 
from the boat's rail. A bedlam of roared orders from the 


bridge ; clanging of bells below ; backing and churning of frothy 
wheels. Slowly the boat swung in midstream, like some gaffed 
monster. A heaving line snaked out; a heavy hawser crawled 
behind it. There was a bump. Those on board flung out their 
arms to hold their balance. The hawsers coiled over capstans 
on the wharf, checking the boat's drift away from the landing. 
Gangplanks rumbled into position, The captain, mounting to 
his post on the paddle box, doffed his cap and bowed to the 
passengers. That gesture signified the official recognition of the 
known fact that the boat had arrived. 

Tom and John T. looked apprehensively up the steep cobble- 
stoned ramp. They saw a sign: "Thos. Palmer. Lumber." 
Just beyond was another: u American Hotel." They looked 
down at the shouting people on the wharf. No carriages to meet 
the boat; only a few huge-wheeled freight carts and a couple 
of little pony carts. Everybody was on foot; dark-skinned men 
in brightly colored trousers and striped shirts shouted greet 
ings in French. 

A few Americans in rusty stovepipe hats were gazing up 
ward curiously at John T. They said nothing; no word of wel 
come. They just looked at him. News of his appointment had 
arrived before him. 

Tom's first impression of Detroit was unpleasant. 

He was a stranger in a foreign land, populated mostly by 
smelly French fishermen and tobacco-spitting, obscene back 
woodsmen. Detroit was the residence of many persons of cul 
ture ; Tom didn't meet them for a long time. The few white 
men who could talk intelligently were Whigs, and bitterly an 
tagonistic. They regarded him as part of an invading army 
that had captured the city. 

Merchants greeted their customers in French; drivers 
shouted at their shaggy little ponies in French; even the 
haughty Indians spoke French. Whitewashed, thatched cot 
tages, each with a huge crucifix on a pole in front and a promi- 


nent manure pile in the rear, shouted eloquently at him in 
French. On his first exploring saunter down Jefferson Street 
from the Mansion House, Tom stopped aghast. There right 
in the middle of the market square, he saw an ugly oaken 
whipping post silhouetted against the harsh summer sunset. 
He saw a leather-thonged knout hanging beside it, as a warning 
to evildoers. 

The town was so compressed between its mysteriously nar 
row river boundaries that it was growing backward away from 
the river in a straight line. For a town that size, two thousand 
people, it was a madhouse of frenzied street crowds. All the 
stores and buildings seemed to be new. Yet he knew that De 
troit was one of America's oldest inhabited places; at least 
a century and a half of recorded history before his time. 

The laughing, chattering French habitants lived a jubilantly 
carefree life of their own, without disturbing the rest of the 
population. But Tom met more and more sober, whiskery old 
Whigs who seemed to think that Jackson's election tolled the 
knell of American liberty. They told him so at every oppor 
tunity; they predicted doom at his father's coming. News 
papers he picked up in the Mansion House parlor carried 
columns of the most insulting personal slander he had ever 
read. In a Detroit newspaper, a politician who had somehow 
gotten elected on the wrong ticket was a target for the most 
amazing vilification in newspaper annals. He was mildly re 
ferred to as a "black-hearted hypocrite; a knave who filches 
from the public purse; a pious outer shell". On more important 
occasions the editors would go into considerable detail about 
him. He became "that blood-soaked murderer"; "that unhung 
criminal." Tom winced. 

Detroit at that time supported two weeklies : the Northwest 
Journal and the Courier. There was a third, the Gazette, 
which had gone up in flames after some firebug set a torch to 
its second-floor office just a few weeks before the Masons' 
arrival. Both of the survivors insulted each other and all the 
figures in public life. Horsewhipping the editors was part of 
any gentleman's code, a chore that had to be done occasionally. 


Political figures and prominent citizens assaulted editors on the 
street with whips, in their own offices with clubs, upon a sudden 
encounter with a well-placed uppercut; the editor was expected 
to print a retraction. He seldom did. 

Fuller, in his famous thesis, Economic and Social Beginnings 
of Michigan, says that the temper of the time was ungracious 
to a startling degree, and "downright nasty" upon occasion. 
In such a dross-laden melting pot as lusty Detroit in 1830, 
there was neither opportunity nor incentive to be polite. It 
was a wild boom town as crazy as any Oklahoma oil metropolis 
later, and packed with the same frontier characters and 

Violence in thought matched violence in action. Tom Mason, 
faced with this riotous environment, couldn't assimilate it. One 
of the most pathetic passages he ever penned was a graphic 
account of the last public hanging in Detroit, on September 
3Oth, which he had the misfortune to witness because he hap 
pened to be passing in the street when it took place. 

He stood there, biting his lips and clenching his fists, just 
one more stovepipe hat in a forest of them. In the market 
square, an old French building in the middle of Woodward 
Avenue facing Jefferson, a three-cornered gibbet had been 
erected and a platform built. The victim, one Simmons, his 
arms lashed behind him, was marched up the steps to the plat 
form and stood there guffawing down at the crowd, which 
roared at him good-naturedly. The crowd was in hysterics over 
the drunken antics of the Oakland County Scouts, who were 
supposed to provide the martial background on such occasions. 
They were garbed in stained blue shirts and tremendous stove 
pipe hats, tootling on fifes and whanging away at drums without 
any conception of what they were supposed to be playing. 
u Red-nosed and bleary-eyed," wrote Tom, "they made a sorry 
spectacle of themselves. I grant that everyone had a good time 
including the condemned man, who was still laughing when 
launched into eternity." To Tom Mason it was nauseating. 
He never forgot it. 

He left Detroit the following day. After that spectacle he 


craved clean air. He waited until his father's first quarterly 
pay check arrived, on October ist, and left rapidly for Ken 
tucky. Tom was suddenly not a youth any more, but a man. 
The change came about suddenly, not so much as a consequence 
of his environment but because he was saddled with the care 
of the Mason family. 

John T. gave him only enough money to buy a horse and get 
the family to Detroit. Upon Tom's shoulders rested the task 
of collecting the delicate Mason brood and gathering up the 
family possessions. Upon him now, no longer upon his father, 
was the responsibility of conducting them in safety through 
four hundred and fifty miles of mountain and swamp. He 
was called upon to organize another of those Mason caravans 
and command it on the slow and hazardous journey northward. 

To his credit, Torn performed very much better than John 
T. He lost no time in preliminary social observances. He rode 
southward, executed his mission and arrived back in Detroit 
with the family on October 29th. He had to fight a natural 
wilderness almost as difficult as the Cumberland mountains: 
the dreary succession of snake-infested swamps in southern 
Michigan. But the family journals contain no heart-piercing 
accounts of death and disaster such as had overtaken John T. 

He made a map of his route as he rode southward, and 
found all the bad spots. He arranged, on the return journey, to 
pass those points in broad daylight. Hence the journey was a 
slow, but steady, chronicle of progress from one inn to another 
without undue delay. 

He found the old brick house at Mount Sterling deserted. 
A few miles away at Owingsville he located his mother and the 
family at the home of Ambrose Dudley Mann, a young at 
torney who had once been a law student in John T.'s office 
at Lexington. 

Where was Emily's facile pen that day? In all her writings, 
no more dramatic episode could have been entered than the im 
pressions of the family on the day that young Tom Mason 
rode into Mann's dooryard. Did they see the thoroughgoing 
changes in him? Did he still seem like the grocer's clerk who 


had left Mount Sterling six months before? Didn't anybody 
notice his resplendent new clothes? 

Of this there is no record. Tom was moving at such a speed 
that they had scant opportunity to stand at a distance and 
appraise him. There were wagons to be bought; a carriage for 
mother and the girls ; horses, harness, barrels ; the old, old in 
ventory that had become so painfully familiar to Tom's gray 
ing mother. There was the shrill scolding of Granny Peg, 
babying Elizabeth Moir Mason as she always did. There was 
Emily, wrapping blankets around the frail Theodosia while 
old Peff complained and loitered and dodged the heavy work. 
There was chatter. "What's Detroit like? Did you see any 
Indians? Weren't you afraid? Does everybody live in log 
cabins and carry tomahawks in Michigan?" 

At last the chests were loaded, the huge bedsteads carefully 
wrapped and the last crate of books was on the wagons. 
Granny Peg rode with Peff on one of them. Two new blacks 
were coming along as drivers. They had been legally freed in 
Kentucky, but they had to get to a free state somehow to enjoy 
their liberty. Old Grandmother Moir, toothless and fragile, 
wept quietly as she prepared to leave the body of her husband 
forever under the bluegrass. Tom lifted her bodily into the 
carriage with his mother and the girls. He looked along the 
line of wagons, and mounted his horse. 

No backward looks now; no thoughts of the Mason dead 
lying peacefully in many a sad grave. Tom looked resolutely 
forward as he rode slowly through Mount Sterling for the 
last time. In the coach, his mother was silent. Into Lexington, 
past proud buildings John T. once owned. There was the Bank 
of the United States. There was no sound from within. Many 
of the busy people on these streets had once bowed low to young 
Tom as he rode his pony along them. They didn't recognize him 
now, nor did he turn his head. "Serenity Hall" and its gleaming 
lawns belonged back in another world. If Tom and his mother 
were remembering the rich mansion, neither spoke of it. 

Northward, wagons bumping over the dusty road and the 
solemn chants of the blacks perched upon them. Northward, 


facing an uncertainty in Detroit which irritated Tom more 
than he could express in words. But henceforth Detroit was to 
be the Mason home. Whatever happened, ignoring whatever 
disasters the fates held in store for him, Tom Mason did not 
look back at Kentucky. He hoped he never would have to set 
foot in Kentucky again. 



ON APRIL 26, 1830, an incendiary fire which was set in the 
office of the Detroit Gazette swept through an entire block of 
the city. 

The Gazette was the official spokesman for the Democratic 
Party in the Territory of Michigan. Its destruction was known 
to have been engineered by the Whigs, but the name of the 
man who applied the torch remained a secret. John P. Sheldon, 
editor of the Gazette, had been clapped into jail the previous 
year by William Woodbridge after a series of articles had 
held up Woodbridge as a crook who tempered justice with 
favoritism. Woodbridge, the Whig boss of the Territory, 
never was connected officially with the fire "but Democrats 
could not escape the inference. 

As it roared westward on Jefferson Avenue, the fire con 
sumed the residence of Mr. Thomas Palmer as well as his 
office, the store of Major Brooks, the residence of Judge Mc 
Donnell, the store of Mr. Griswold, the office of Dr. Clarke 
and his adjoining dwelling house, and was brought under con 
trol in the building on the corner of Jefferson and Shelby, 
occupied at the time by a Mr. John Smith. 

Six months later there was a community squabble in progress 
over responsibility for this fire. If Tom Mason had taken 
time to read the newspapers after he arrived back in Detroit 
from Kentucky, he would have seen both sides of a controversy 
which had illustrated very well Detroit's amazing capacity for 
producing trouble. He would have read, in print, accusations 
and counterblasts which merely pointed up the temper of the 

The fire of 1830 exemplified the great fiery personalities who 



inspired it. The disaster seemed to the gentle Masons, as they 
walked past the ruins every day, typical of this wild town and 
the wild people who shot and horsewhipped each other; who 
burned their enemies' newspapers (incidentally levelling an 
entire block in the busiest downtown section), and hated each 
other with a viciousness that even appalling acts of violence 
could not quench. 

The fire keynoted the whole town, from its stinking open 
sewer to its' secretive, pompous political bosses. Violence of this 
kind was a natural accompaniment of a frontier people who 
were unrestrained by any noticeable legal authority. The kind 
of people who made up Detroit was seen any day on its streets, 
where the crowds always seemed in such a hurry that they ap 
peared to be on the point of breaking into a gallop. Burly 
pedestrians elbowed each other off the narrow sidewalks into 
the bottomless mud of the streets, then fought about it in 
cursing anger while other people milled about the scene to 
prod them on. 

Mrs. Elizabeth Moir Mason, forty-one and fragile, shud 
dered with the Virginian's distaste for all forms of rudeness. 
She warned the five Mason daughters not to venture very far 
from the safe confines of the Mansion House parlor. From Sun 
shine Sister Mary, aged two, to willowy Emily, fifteen, the 
girls meekly obeyed. They were frightened. 

Tom Mason was out house hunting. His father had no time 
to find a place to live in. Obviously he had not been expecting 
the family for several weeks, and had made no provision for 
their place of residence. Tom knew that John T. was harassed 
and miserable, but he said nothing. John T. did not know how 
to be acting governor; he was just a juicy Democratic lamb 
being led to a Whig barbecue. 

Governor Lewis Cass was still absent on Indian affairs. 
John T. was propelled into the highest executive post in the 
land before he knew where to find a pen or what to do with 
it. Out of earshot, the chuckling Whigs regarded this inex 
perience as a stroke of good fortune. It made all sorts of things 
possible. They manipulated matters so that John T. would 


appear to be ridiculous. The plot appeared to be the familiar 
formula of providing the rope and letting him hang himself, 
whereupon the Whigs could discredit him and block his con 
firmation by the Senate. 

Young Mason knew. How, we don't know. He was quick 
to perceive a situation that only baffled John T. He did not 
warn his father about it apparently because he didn't feel such 
a thing becoming in a son. 

He and his father located a house on West Congress, be 
tween Griswold and Shelby. Right behind the back door was 
the infamous open sewer, wriggling its horrid way obliquely 
across town in a little gully between Congress and Larned. 
Part of this house had been built from material salvaged from 
Fort Shelby, then in the process of demolition and a good 
source of building material. One whole wing of the fort, for 
merly part of the officers' quarters, was remodelled and opened 
as a girls' school. Only the gaunt old main gate was still stand 
ing. Fort Street had not been cut through ; it was an unimproved 

The town fascinated him because it challenged him. It 
seemed like some conglomerate animal, ready to spring at 
him. Because these people were harsh and quick-tempered, he 
knew they expected him to be the same. To be anything else 
would mark him as "different", eccentric. But a frontier town 
is a prolific breeding ground for eccentric characters. Young 
Mason decided to be something else. He fancied himself as a 
bit polished, a cosmopolite who unluckily happened to be 
stranded in a backwoods village. At any rate, Detroit immedi 
ately discovered that it had a Beau Brummell in its uncouth 
midst. The shock was a lasting one. 

Arrayed in his skin-tight black broadcloth trousers and 
flowing cloak, jauntily gesturing with an ebony walking stick, 
Tom Mason sallied forth to explore the town. From the Man 
sion House he could see nothing on the downriver side but a 
spreading log citadel and an open farm. The Mansion House 
happened to be on the extreme western edge of town, at 
Jefferson Avenue and Cass Street. Sauntering down Jefferson 


Avenue and observing with satisfaction how people stared at 
him, he passed rows of cluttered store windows and presently 
arrived at Woodward Avenue. Three blocks. He saw a huge 
street, astonishingly wide, cutting the town in two and running 
straight back from the river toward the distant forest. To 
his right, still in the middle of lower Woodward, was the 
ignoble French Market and its rabble of gesticulating French 
habitants. He continued onward. 

Three more blocks eastward on Jefferson, and he was staring 
at a tumble-down gate in an old pike-pole wall. This, then, 
was the eastern edge of town. It was just six blocks wide on 
the river, a compressed slice of city sandwiched in between 
spreading farms. 

Jefferson Avenue beckoned him onward. A row of little 
whitewashed French farmhouses, guarded by decaying cedar 
palings some ten feet high, relics of the Indian assaults twenty- 
five years before. In the front yard, each proudly displayed 
its moss-grown crucifix as a symbol of its owner's devotion, 
and in the back yard each displayed its towering manure pile 
as a symbol of his prosperity. 

A distance equal to two city blocks east of the gate there 
was a fine clover field enclosed by a rail fence. Returning, he 
noticed that each farmhouse stood at the lower end of a long, 
narrow strip of land, tightly fenced in, stretching away from 
the river road. This, then, was the explanation of Detroit's 
astonishing shape. These ribbons of land were farms forty 
feet wide and more than a mile long. From the rich estate of 
Governor Cass on the west to the Beaubien farm on the east 
was about a five-minute walk. But Detroit was squeezed be 
tween them mercilessly, crowded into a compressed river 
frontage that now stretches seventeen miles and still is not 
adequate. In Tom Mason's day there was room for expansion 
only in one direction away from the river into the woods. 

Back there, the land belonged to the Territory and was 
known as the commons. Although there was nothing out there 
of any importance, streets were ambitiously projected on a map 
and a great city laid out with a width of six blocks. The com- 

Plan of Detroit redrawn from John Mullen's map of ,830; There was 
little above the Campus Martios then; streets were laid out, but they pro 
jected mto the forest. Until 1835 Detroit was squeezed between borders only 
a? streets apart. With the sale of the Cass farm and the final disappearance 
of the Beauben strip the city began to expand swiftly. Mason's Jefferson 
Avenue house and the Masons' first Detroit home on Congress Street have 
been added in redrawing the 1830 map. 


mons contained two buildings : the Territorial capitol and the 
jail. They were about a mile from the river, built on opposite 
sides of Woodward Avenue which, strangely, wasn't extended 
that far. Someday, the Council said, there would be streets 
around them. 

From the river the town marched solidly, row upon row of 
one- and two-story white frame stores and homes, as far as Con 
gress four blocks. There it stopped. The Baptist Church, on 
the northwest corner of what is now Fort Street and Wood 
ward Avenue, was the northern limit of the town. In our day 
that point is in the shadow of the smoky old city hall and has 
been sliced off at an angle for a bus stop. In 1828 the Council 
was seriously criticized for allowing the Territorial capitol 
building to be built so far out in the commons that it was far 
remote from the town and required a long, exhausting walk 
to get there. There was no road to it, nothing but a pathway 
continuing where Griswold Street gave up its wrestle with the 
mud at Congress. It was a good half mile from downtown. 

One can find it on large-scale maps today by indexing Capitol 
Park. Hardly anyone in modern Detroit ever heard of such 
a place. It is a triangular little space at the head of Griswold, 
a block uptown from Michigan, crisscrossed with wide con 
crete sidewalks and boasting a couple of conspicuous comfort- 
station signs. Sunshine rarely reaches it; the towering cliffs 
of tremendous buildings hide it from all but historical re 
searchers and people who are looking for parking places. How 
it could have been regarded, a century ago, as remote from the 
city of Detroit is utterly incomprehensible to today's De- 
troiters. Those who can find it realize that the point is in the 
heart of the sprawling metropolis. Tom Mason and his father, 
John T., frequently waded in mud over their ankles and ex 
hausted themselves trying to walk there from the town. 

They had to walk because Detroit streets were impassable 
for carriages. Their thin wheels would have sunk hopelessly 
to the hubs in the sea of mud that never seemed to dry, winter 
or summer. Gentlemen of affluence who could afford a negro 
boy to hold their steeds outside the building could ride to the 


capitol. In the winter they joined everyone else in carioles, 
the delightful, bell-tinkling sleighs. Most of the year there was 
only one vehicle capable of navigating Detroit's so-called 
streets. It was called many a picturesque name, but we know 
it as a pony cart. 

Elizabeth Moir Mason declined to ride in such a thing, pre 
ferring to walk in dignity. The Mason family never owned one. 
The cart had two wide heavy wheels and a sort of box-like 
body, with a pint-sized pony bobbing about between the shafts 
and a shouting French lad perched on one corner. Tom Mason 
used to watch these ridiculous things maneuver backward up 
to the wooden sidewalk in front of Mr. Gray's dry-goods store 
on Jefferson and Griswold. The boy would jump down, run 
around and drop the tail gate in the rear, then place a wooden 
box on the sidewalk. Ladies of fashion would be sitting on 
hassocks placed over buffalo robes spread on the floor/They 
arose sedately, spread their voluminous hoop skirts, poked 
out an inquisitive pantaletted foot and were gently lowered to 
the box, from which they stepped to the sidewalk. 

He could see these carts, any day, struggling along the 
streets, carrying beautifully gowned ladies and proud young 
officers from the military post west of the town ; officers literally 
gleaming in gold braid and plumes, stroking their luxuriant 
side whiskers and murmuring elaborate compliments. Pony 
carts were part of Detroit, just as was the hurry-hurry atmos 
phere of the streets and the sinister feeling of corruption which 
hung over them. Pony carts took their place with the explosive 
Courier and Journal, the artificially high retail prices and the 
violence of political argument as characteristic phases of the 
town's life. Tom Mason sniffed Detroit in his young nostrils, 
and was glad. There was a place here for him. 

The census of 1830 said that Detroit had 2,222 inhabitants 
jammed into those twenty-four city squares. The real popula 
tion was closer to 4,000. Detroit was also a military post and 
furnishing subsistence to many officers and men; it was the 
Territory's capital and full of jealous politicians with axes to 
grind; it was the division point of one of the busiest overland 


caravans of settlers the world had ever seen, and they attracted 
transient farmers, commission brokers, provision merchants, 
people with something to sell and swindlers trying to get it 
away from them. 

Hotels were so full that a fleet of boats lay offshore acting as 
floating inns. One of them was frozen in the ice during the 
winter of 1832 and used as a newspaper office; it contained a 
complete print shop being sent to Niles. Cholera, which deci 
mated Detroit, swept ashore from plague-infested floating 
dormitories in the river. 

The new steam ferry, established during the year of Mason's 
arrival, shuttled back and forth busily, bringing more and 
more new people into Detroit. Every day during the ice-free 
season, another boatload arrived from Buffalo. 

Every night, or so it seemed, somebody was knifed, shot 
or clubbed; lawlessness was part of the scene. Outrages such 
as these justified two or three lines in the Journal; most of 
that space was taken up with vitriolic denunciations of the 
Council for tolerating such things. There were no city police 
and no provision for maintaining order. Fires, once started, 
scourged the city savagely. Part of it burned down regularly, 
year after year. There was no fire department. 

Some citizens had organized a volunteer brigade which 
formed a line of buckets from the river to the fire. The results, 
in general, were more spectacular than efficient. Tom Mason 
joined this brigade and bought the required pair of buckets 
to keep at his house. Governor Cass had belonged to it for 
some years, paying out considerable sums in fines for not an 
swering calls. 

Detroit had no water supply. Somie homes dug shallow 
wells in their back yards and bought iron pumps, but most 
families carried water from the river in buckets and stored it in 
barrels on their back porches. There were no sewers ; the 
open ditch following an old riverbed through the gully between 
Congress and Larned called sufficient attention to itself without 
going into detail about it. There were no pavements in Detroit 
at all, In 1830, except some cobblestone remnants which sur- 


rounded the French Market, survivors of the fire of 1805 
which had laid the city completely in ruins. 

Detroit was a century and a half old in 1805; it was new 
1830.^ Judge Augustus B. Woodward was one of the more 
conspicuous victims of that disaster. His home was burned, too ; 
he took charge of the homeless citizenry and laid out a new 
Detroit. He laid out a new street at the old market, a hundred 
feet wide and running straight back from the river. He named 
it after himself, with true Detroit aggressiveness. On the 
river bank, crossing this street at right angles, he laid out an 
other. This he called Jefferson, in honor of the White House 
incumbent who had appointed him. Then he gave narrow lots in 
this new area to everybody who had owned a lot previously; 
first come first served. In effect, he said: "All right, boys, take 
it from there." 

Detroit grew helter-skelter within its strait-jacket frontage. 
Charles Larned drew a lot a block uptown from Jefferson and 
the street which was cut through there was named for him. 
Somebody thought Congress ought to be remembered, because 
Congress had given the burned-out town a free grant of land 
on which to expand. So the next street was called Congress. 
There was room for only one street between Jefferson and the 
river. There was no question as to the name of it; a certain 
gentleman owned a goodly share of its commercial frontage 
and it was named for him Woodbridge. 

Not a single structure in town except the blackened old 
French Market was more than twenty-five years old. The 
houses were new and most of the people were new. The place 
had not stopped growing long enough to settle into any tradi 
tional pattern. It was just a brawling, crowded, conniving 
frontier outpost in a new nation. 

Like so many other wild and woolly frontier towns, Detroit 
had courts which were pitifully transparent fakes. It had 
lawyers who could hardly read and councilmen who spoke 
English only with painful difficulty. Its stores exhibited an 
astonishing big-city assortment of fine silks and gleaming silver 
for people with a surplus of easy money. For the hard-pressed 


salaried clerks and petty officials, Detroit was too expensive 
a place to live in. There seemed to be no comfortable middle- 
class mattress to take up the social shock of the structure; 
Detroiters were too rich or too poor and nobody was satisfied. 

Prices on staple foods were too high in a day when a laboring 
man's wage was a dollar a day in dubious paper currency. From 
the Journal of October, 1830: percale shirting, I2>4 cents 
per yard at Gray's; bar iron, 9 cents a pound; nails, n cents 
a pound; tea, $1.00 to $1.25 per pound; coffee, 25 cents. Prime 
beef at retail in the markets, 20 cents. 

On other things the prices were encouragingly low: rum, 
$1.50 per gallon; whiskey, 50 cents per gallon; brandy, $2.00 
per gallon at retail to innkeepers, $1.87 per gallon. 

Microscopic taxes were assessed but few people paid them; 
ten years previously (1820) the town's entire revenue had 
been $250. After that disclosure and its violent aftermath, the 
Council discontinued the practice of reporting how much reve 
nue was turned in. Figures from 1820 to 1860 were very 
difficult of access. This situation fairly reeked of wholesale 
graft. The newspapers harped on that theme constantly. Yet 
John T., as acting governor of the Territory, found that 
nothing had been done and nobody around the capitol building 
seemed interested. 

Into this explosive atmosphere came a stranger empowered 
by Andrew Jackson to act, and inspired by an urge to do some 
thing John T. Mason. In the Secretary's office, politics 
emerged as a form of big business. John T. had never been a 
success in business and his feeble gestures made scant impres 
sion now. Tom Mason gradually grew aware of his father's 
slow progress, but the knowledge came to him slowly, over 
a period of months. 

Winter clothed the unclean city in a spotless mantle of snow. 
On the silent river, boats vanished and the ice rang to the im 
pact of skate blades. Roads froze, and the torrent of migra 
tion dried up. Detroit was lulled into its winter quiet. 

Now came Dr. Douglas Houghton to deliver a series of 
public lectures on chemistry. Now appeared the Thespian 


Corps, a proud-chested group of army officers, reciting "poeti- 
cal, prose and scientific papers". Men of prominence wrote 
and delivered essays on bits of Detroit history before the 
Lyceum and Historical Society. Among them, that year, were 
Major Thomas Rowland, Mr. Charles C. Trowbridge, Major 
John Riddle and Mr. Henry R. Schoolcraft. "Balls and merry 
making/' observed one contemporary, "not uncommonly filled 
the hours of night close to the coming of morning." 

Lamps burned brightly in many-paned windows. The jingle 
of sleigh bells sounded the overture to Detroit's winter social 
season. Then, and not before, the Mason girls could emerge 
in their woolen dresses and new muffs. Then they went forth, 
properly chaperoned by a pale, silent mother, to meet the 
daughters of other good families. 

Tom Mason went out too, but not with mother. He was 
unnaturally subdued during his first winter in Detroit. He was 
not yet sure of himself. He lacked the background he needed 
to appraise this acquaintance or that one. He was searching, 
constantly investigating people to discover where they fitted 
into the political puzzle. 

Once satisfied that a new acquaintance was a friend, Mason 
dropped his inhibitions as casually as he might put aside his 
cloak. More than once he drew a drumfire of sharp newspaper 
criticism. One faded old sheet of newsprint proclaims that 
"the handsome son of our Territorial Secretary has been dis 
playing exuberance of spirits at places where such are to be 
found". That notice probably did him a world of good, and 
no harm. 

He drank, not with the bottoms-up gulp of the provincial, but 
with the slow, easy grace of the Kentucky aristocrat. Through 
out his career newspapers yapped at him because he was seen 
drinking so often. But he was never, even in Whig newspapers, 
accused of drinking too much. He drank because it was a con 
versational ice-breaker; because it was the custom of the day 
and one of its pitifully few amusements; and because, as in 
so many other things, he was good at it. He could appear to be 
drinking moodily and incessantly when he was really executing 


a series of innocuous gestures. His new friends thought he was 
remarkable, because he was a listener, not a talker. He en 
couraged them to bring their bottle and their companions over 
to his table and talk and talk. 

While he was continuing his tavern investigations, the 
Mason girls were being welcomed wholeheartedly and cordially 
into the best homes. Emily and the next younger, Kate, aged 
twelve, were enrolled as pupils in a private school near St. 
Ann's Cathedral, conducted by an order of Belgian sisters. 
As pupils there, they were accepted into little-girl society as a 
matter of course. They met the daughter of Governor Cass ; 
the Joseph Campeau girls, descendants of Cadillac, the brilliant 
daughter of Judge Desnoyer, and children of the Palmers, the 
Witherells, and all the first families. Emily radiantly con 
fided all of it to her diary. She was bursting with happiness, 
as she had been at the school in Lexington. 

u What charming recollections of those days of simple 
pleasures crowd upon me!" she wrote. "Good Father Kundig 
made for us a theatre in the basement of the Cathedral where 
we acted Hannah Moore's and Miss Edgeworth's pieces to 
admiring audiences of parents and friends. My sister Katie 
as Mrs. Battle in 'Old Poz', and Josie Desnoyer as William 
in hat and cravat of her father, a world too wide, and his 
brass-buttoned coat, the tails of which dragged on the floor, 
produced peals of laughter. My younger sister Laura with gilt 
paper crown and scepter and long white gown, was Canute 
bidding the waters retreat. Seized with stage-fright after the 
first scene, she refused to return to the 'boards 1 , when Father 
Kundig gravely announced the 'indisposition on the part of 
King Canute' and prayed the audience to excuse his further 
appearance. Between acts he played the piano, was candle- 
snuffer, proprietor, scene-shifter, everything, with unfailing 
interest and good humor." 

Elizabeth Moir Mason rarely ventured outside her home 
unless to accompany her daughters to affairs around their 
school. At home she had another problem : her invalid daughter, 
Theodosia. It became the family's custom to refer to its five 


daughters. Theodosia was never included in the list of those 
who went places and had a good time. She is a dark page in 
the family's history. In 1830 Emily was fifteen and the eldest 
surviving daughter. Next in order came Kate, who was twelve, 
and Laura, who was nine. Cornelia, born in a rented house at 
Lexington during the worst of John TVs troubles, was six 
that year and the baby, Sunshine Sister Mary, was a dimpled, 
laughing two-year-old. They were the five. 

Kept in a quiet room and waited on constantly by her mother, 
Theodosia hardly had strength enough to make her presence 
felt in the family circle. She was eight years old on December 
6, 1830, just about the time her three elder sisters were taking 
bows in the cathedral theatre. None of the family's friends 
ever mentioned Theodosia; few ever saw her. We do not 
know, a century later, the well-kept secret of Theodosia J s ill 
ness. Whatever it was, it was a family matter and hardly a 
subject for too-close scrutiny. 

However, we know that Elizabeth was hardly out of range 
of the invalid's feeble voice at any time. Shopping had to be 
done ; errands accumulated more rapidly then than they do in 
these days of the telephone. It became Elizabeth's custom 
to give Granny Peg some money and a big market basket, 
and send her forth with a note to the grocer. 

Some of the more perceptive practical jokers in the neighbor 
hood soon discovered that the white-polled Guinea negress 
couldn't resist anything in a bottle. They waylaid her as she 
waddled forth to market, and surreptitiously invited her to par 
take. After she had partaken a few times, with many a sigh of 
pure pleasure, she would break forth into voodoo chants and 
rapid evolutions wherein she was said to oscillate the most 
prominent part of her ample anatomy until she had all the on 
lookers beating out a jungle rhythm and shouting for more. 
Later, Granny Peg would come forlornly home tight as a drum, 
having forgotten entirely what she was sent for. 

Elizabeth properly called her down for it time after time, 
while Granny Peg hung her massive head and begged forgive 
ness, vowing that it would never happen again. Never ! But it 


happened regularly, until Granny Peg had become an estab 
lished Detroit character. 

There was another Detroit that lay behind the store fronts 
and the crowded sidewalks. Just as the fire of the previous 
spring seemed to Tom Mason to be so symbolic of the in 
cendiary atmosphere of the citizens, the peculiar custom of 
moving buildings furiously from place to place typified the 
other Detroit. The city's place in the frontier scheme of things 
was somewhat like those buildings. Constantly changing, being 
yanked and tugged back and forth, subjected to prodigious 
pull and protesting by loud creaks and groans, Detroit couldn't 
even keep its buildings on permanent foundations, let alone 
its policies. 

Peter J. Desnoyer was one of Detroit's ablest citizens of the 
period. When he was seventy-six and a part of Detroit's mo 
mentous earlier history, he told the Free Press that between 
1820 and 1835 the business of house-moving was a major occu 
pation. His first experience with it came when he was five, 
and his father moved all the furniture out of their house and 
dumped it in the middle of Woodward Avenue near Jefferson, 
with Peter deposited underneath the dining-room table so 
they'd know where he was. When the furniture was collected 
again, the house was somewhere else. Mr. Desnoyer recalled 
that not a single structure in Detroit by 1835 was on its original 
foundations, with one exception the Joseph Campeau resi 
dence on Jefferson between Griswold and Shelby. 

After the fire of April, 1830, the Palmers moved what was 
left of their house up to a new lot on the corner of Woodward 
and John R., a suburban estate at the time. Dr. Brown put 
his house on rollers and moved it clear across town to a lot 
he had just purchased in the rear of Mrs. Beaubien's farmhouse, 
just east of St. Ann's Cathedral Charles Busch built a hardware 
store on that site, but in 1832 that was moved, too, farther 


up Jefferson. That one Jefferson Avenue lot, fifty by a hundred 
feet, had four buildings within fifteen years. 

The First Protestant Society bought the disused Military 
Hall of Fort Shelby and slid it down the length of Fort Street 
to become a parish house for their small yellow church at 
Woodward and Larned. Soon it was moved from there to an 
other lot to serve as a city courtroom. The officers' quarters 
at the fort were moved, house by house, by the city to fill up 
gaps in the new streets north of Congress. Even the city itself 
was caught in this craze. Detroit's first fire hall was moved 
at least three times. At one time it occupied the site of the 
old city council hall at Jefferson and Randolph, forcing the 
ruffled city fathers to arise with dignity and cart their council 
hall out into the commons. 

If people didn't like their neighbors, it was absurdly easy 
to sell their lot or trade it for one somewhere else, then move 
the house. These houses had neither cellars, furnaces, plumbing, 
wiring, concrete sidewalks, garages nor air-conditioning ducts. 
Foundations were nothing more than stone supports, easily 
duplicated at any other location the owner might fancy. The 
ease of house-moving gave Detroit an appearance rather like 
the interior of an old-time vaudeville house. With every new 
act there was a new backdrop. 

It contributed to Detroit's air of unreality; it was like a 
city that had been thrust ashore there by some indignant boat 
captain, and which might decide to migrate farther westward. 

That was about all Detroit was good for, in Tom Mason's 
first jumbled impression. He saw the city as a sort of check 
valve in a pipe, passing along people and wagonloads of freight, 
snapping shut when there was a tinkle of money to be heard, 
and steadfastly holding the pipe closed against traffic or un 
complimentary reports going in the opposite direction. 

It was virtually impossible for the authorities at Washington 
to learn what was going on in the Territory. They knew the 
physical facts about it, but were kept in ignorance of the feel 
ings of the people. 



John T. found himself acting governor of a bailiwick which, 
on a map, stretched limitlessly to the unknown western plains. 
It comprised the present State of Michigan, and the present 
State of Wisconsin, an undefined expanse of something or other 
westward of the Mississippi which had been added to it from 
the broken-up Northwest Territory in 1818. Nobody knew 
just how many square miles Michigan Territory contained. 

Michigan Territory before the admission of the state. A sketch map in the 
report of the first State Surveyor, 1837. 


It extended westward from the middle of the Detroit River 
to a point which was always in dispute, but somewhere around 
the upper Missouri River. Michigan Territory thus extended 
from the Canadian border to St. Louis along the Missouri 
and White Earth Rivers, from Lake Superior to the northern 
boundaries of Indiana and Ohio, and from Detroit something 
more than a thousand miles northwest. 

Of that, the major portion was unmapped and unknown 
to all but a few explorers. The Territory which was admin 
istered from Detroit comprised two sections: "the land east 
of Lake Michigan", meaning the present peninsula known by 
that name, and "the land west of Lake Michigan", meaning the 
Wisconsin area from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. 

Beyond the Mississippi, the huge empire of the Northwest 
was merely annexed to Michigan Territory for administra 
tive purposes. It was administered by Federal officials, acting 
under instructions from Washington, independently of the 
Territorial officials at Detroit. 

In 1830 this vast inland empire contained only 32,531 known 
inhabitants. About three thousand of them were in "the land 
west of Lake Michigan". There were new settlements at Green 
Bay and Mineral Point, mostly workers in the newly discovered 
lead mines. The balance were scattered across the lower half 
of the peninsula of Michigan. 

Twelve counties had been organized by that year, and duly 
recognized by official proclamations signed by Governor Cass. 
They had spread westward from Detroit across the State, 
slowly, as more and more settlers took up land and became 
permanent additions to the population. Twelve more counties 
were in the process of organization, but in 1830 had not been 

The organized counties elected their own local constables 
and supervisors. Each county elected a delegate to the Terri 
torial Council. The Council, in turn, elected a delegate to the 
national Congress at Washington who represented the Terri 
tory there but who had no vote. 

John T. was acting governor whenever his superior had to be 


absent. Upon him also descended the responsibility of being 
Indian Agent and administering the affairs of twelve tribes. 
He had the power to pardon offenses against Federal laws; 
the power of appointment of all judges of county courts, jus 
tices of the peace, judges' of probate, court clerks and judicial 
personnel in general. 

He could have been a dictator had he been nervy enough 
to assume command. But he was afraid, timid. The Whigs con 
tinued to run the Territory by merely advising him what to do. 
He didn't know the people. 

The men who knew Michigan best were the woodsmen who 
walked across it. They were the veteran trappers, traders, sur 
veyors, scouts and guides, who felt with their calloused feet 
how the firm land gave way to treacherous swamp ; who saw 
how hills hid deep valleys, and what was at the bottom of them. 
Days into the interior, they were close to the people because 
they were close to the land, and the land created the people. 

After them came the politicians. They fancied that they 
knew more about what the people needed than did the people 
themselves. Their function was to rule. The awful distances, 
the thin sprinkling of settlers, the tortoise-like pace of trans 
portation all these things contributed to a nullification of the 
spirit of democracy although its outward forms were preserved. 
Each isolated county aggressively voted and debated about 
local matters, acting as a separate political unit in a sea of 
forest and keeping local democracy alive. But from Detroit 
came only orders, removals, new appointments, all the symbols 
of a higher administrative authority in which the local people 
had only a theoretical share. 

Politically, Detroit had been a tight dictatorship since soon 
after the election of John Quincy Adams, and the full flowering 
of the local Whig machines. Deroit was only one example of 
small-town Whig machines which collectively ruled the United 
States until the election of Andrew Jackson. Detroit, ruling 
its far-flung province almost by decree, with just a show of 
approval by a complaisant Council, had a boss. The day-by- 
day administration of such a political monstrosity would have 


been impossible without some strong central figure who could 
assume, and hold, command. In Detroit, as elsewhere in 1830, 
the boss was a Whig. His name was William Woodbridge. 

The name Whig was originally an insult. The term had 
come from England, where it had long been a symbol of pom 
posity, ineffectual harrumph-ing and general stuffed-shirtedness. 
During the first decade of the century and shortly afterward, 
it had been used as a Democratic jibe in political handbills to 
describe a sort of unorganized new party that was springing 
up. The party was a direct descendant of Alexander Hamilton's 
Federalists, one of the original participants in our two-party 
system of government. It had been the original conservative 
party of the United States. Its members were men of wealth 
and influence who roundly distrusted the universal franchise 
and believed in the rights of property. After the Burr con 
spiracy the party suffered a serious disaster from which it 
never recovered. It split apart into disputing factions. 

Out-of-power Federalists joined with out-of-sympathy rich 
men during Jefferson's administration to form a sort of nu 
cleus around which a new conservative party appeared. The 
term Whig, at first an opposition insult, eventually appeared as 
the party's official designation on the ballot. 

It was the party of Henry Clay, just as the Democrats were 
the party of Andrew Jackson. The vicious political warfare, 
and the personal animosity, between the two had identified 
the issues with the men. The Whig and Democratic policies 
became whatever Clay and Jackson were trying to promote. 
John T. Mason was the first Democrat appointed to a post in 
Michigan Territory in many years. He became, to the out 
raged Whigs, a symbol of Andrew Jackson and rabble rule. 
The very sight of him aroused die-hard Whigs to fury. 

Governor Lewis Cass was a staunch Democrat. But he had 
been appointed by Madison previous to Monroe's era of good 
feeling, and furthermore he was anything but a politician. 
He was a major national figure. His fame was world-wide. 
At Washington has name was spoken with profound respect. 
Cass was primarily a soldier, who, after a glorious military 


career, had accepted appointment as a territorial governor 
merely to offer his country the further service of exploration, 
colonization, negotiation with suspicious Indian tribes and 
blazing the trail for the long wagon trains of settlers. He sel 
dom occupied his office. When he did, it was to catch up on 
accumulated office work. He left again for the forests as soon 
as he could. 

When John T. arrived in Detroit and introduced himself 
around the capitol building, a form announcement of that 
fact was sent to Cass by messenger. Cass was very busy with 
further negotiations with the Indians of Saginaw Bay. He 
was leading up to his master stroke : the final treaty in a series 
of twenty-one which established United States control through 
out the entire peninsula. It was the climax of fifteen years' 
incessant work. It meant everything in the world to Lewis Cass, 
and to his career. The arrival of a new Secretary was a very 
minor matter, certainly nothing to justify returning to Detroit 
to look at him. 

John T. located the building upon arrival, walked in and 
asked somebody for the office of the Secretary. He was di 
rected upstairs and down the central corridor. The Secretary's 
office was the first door on the left; the Governor's chamber 
was located at the end of the long hallway directly over the 
Council hall on the first floor. 

The timid Virginian entered the Secretary's office and saw 
a florid, but pleasant, middle-aged gentleman of poised and 
distinguished appearance. The man shook his hand cordially. 
He said he was James Witherell, Mason's "predecessor". 
Witherell urged him to be seated ; he was kindly of voice and 
did not appear to be in the least upset over his removal. He 
had expected it, he said, ever since the election of Jackson 
in 1828. 

His first act was a gesture of genuine friendship toward his 
successor. But Witherell, unfortunately, was a mere political 
satellite of the Whig boss. John T. had not been in the building 
a day before he discovered that sad fact. Well-meaning people 
told him that Woodbridge cracked the whip ; Woodbridge 


held the Territory in his pocket; Woodbridge was the man 
to see before anything could be done. 

When John T. first gazed upon this awesome figure, he be 
held in Woodbridge a character totally unlike anything in his 
wide experience. Nobody like Woodbridge had ever held public 
office in Virginia, nor in Kentucky. There have been few like 
him in the history of the nation. 

William Woodbridge had lived a tragic life, and reflected 
his early hardships in everything he said and did. He was a 
professional politician, one of the first in the Northwest. He 
was really a generation ahead of his time, for it was Wood- 
bridge who introduced boss rule to Michigan and who proved, 
as other bosses have proved, that his way was the most efficient 
way. It was frequently cruel and always secretive, but it ad 
ministered the Territory smoothly and profitably for his men. 

Fever and coarse food had weakened him until, in 1830, he 
was a walking skeleton. Stooped and sinister, white hair 
straggling down over his ears in imitation of his beloved patron 
Clay, sunken cheeks, harsh lines in his parchment-like skin, 
Woodbridge looked like an aged wSvengali. He stared forth 
from watery, myopic eyes and had no teeth, so that strangers 
often assumed that the poor old man was on the verge of tears. 

This appearance of senility was startlingly at variance with 
Woodbridge V true condition. He found it useful when he 
wanted to arouse sympathy in someone, as he did when Jack 
son's vengeance finally caught up with him two years later. 
He whimperingly told the Detroit bar, solidly Whig of course, 
that it was too bad that Jackson had seen fit to remove him at 
his advanced age when he was "too old to seek new fields". 
He referred to the notice as a "contemptuous ejection"; the 
lawyers wept. 

He was not too old, nor was he weak physically or mentally. 
He was exactly fifty in October, 1830. He looked eighty. He 
had the surprising strength, and the premature appearance 
of old age, so characteristic of the true pioneer. Woodbridge 
was weeping alligator tears in 1830 about being old; he out 
lived both the Masons, father and son, and held the governor- 


ship himself long after they were disposed of. Woodbridge 
rounded out a half century on the public payroll as a United 
States Senator almost until the outbreak of the Civil War. 

He was a man in whom the fires of revenge were fed slowly, 
carefully and incessantly. He had never seen John T. Mason 
in his life until he stealthily appeared at the door of WitherelFs 
office while the two were chatting. He had nothing whatever 
against John T. as a man. But Woodbridge was utterly in 
capable of distinguishing between a personal and a political 
enemy. John T. was Jackson at his worst, to Woodbridge. 
He was a scoundrel, a usurper, a pretender who had grabbed 
power through some hideous coup ft etat, a foe to be hounded 
and persecuted without a moment's relief. Someone had come 
hurrying to Woodbridge with the news of John TVs appoint 
ment. Woodbridge was ready. He had been ready a long time. 

During the violent presidential campaign of 1828, Wood- 
bridge was fighting hard and well for the Whigs. But he was 
a shrewd political analyst and a judge of trends; he knew 
there was a widespread outcry against Henry Clay. Secretly 
he expected Jackson to be elected. So he quietly built himself 
a storm cellar for the blow he knew was coming. 

He had to sacrifice Witherell, but what of that? Witherell 
was a justice of the Territorial supreme court, highly-educated, 
able, fair, a jurist who had won respect from everyone. Wood- 
bridge, although the holder of a law degree and thoroughly 
grounded in legal procedure, was essentially a politician. He 
had been a State representative in Ohio before migrating to 
Michigan. He had campaigned for offices like prosecuting 
attorney and State Senator. Most of his adult life had been 
devoted to campaigning and political horse-trading. 

In 1828 he had been Territorial Secretary for fourteen 
years. For part of that time he had simultaneously held the 
post of Collector of the Port, at an additional salary and a 
three-and-a-half-percent rake-off on imports; he conducted a 
lucrative private law practice besides and owned valuable down 
town business property. In that year, before the election, he 


called Witherell in and forced the judge to change places with 

Thus Witherell became Secretary and Woodbridge sat 
serenely upon the Supreme Court bench, where the "spoils 
system" axe would probably miss him. It was WitherelPs 
name that Andrew Jackson read in his list of prominent Whig 

Woodbridge was not a success on the bench. His political 
partiality was demonstrated more than once; he jailed people 
who accused him of favoritism and in general behaved badly. 
But he clung to the job. 

After John T. and his son Tom had come to know Wood- 
bridge better, they realized that such actions were quite in char 
acter. His manner of speaking stamped him as a man who might 
do anything. He would simply stand and stare at a man for some 
time before replying to a question, wobbling his toothless gums 
and blinking his weak eyes as if he couldn't quite summon 
the strength to make himself heard. Finally, when he spoke, 
his voice would be low and mumbling. He used the most 
elaborate, formal phraseology, never asserting anything boldly 
but managing to convey a hint. 

"I humbly beg you to excuse me on that point; I have in 
sufficient knowledge of it to justify an opinion. . * . My ex 
cellent colleague, Secretary Mason, who really knows much 
more of this matter than I, will doubtless enlighten you. . . ." 
He was a stickler for verbal bowings and scrapings. He fre 
quently arose and stalked indignantly from a room if there 
was the slightest hint of profanity or obscenity. He never 
spoke ill of any man, a point oft quoted by historians. But 
he could verbally slit a man's throat with the gentleness of a 

This was Woodbridge, the Whig boss, the man John T. 
had to fight and beat if he expected to hold his new job. In 
this, as in so many crises in his life, John T. Mason entered 
battle practically weaponless. He was really incapable of this 
sort of thing. It never occurred to him, as it did to his son 


Tom almost instantly, that Woodbridge would have a trap 
baited for him and would propel him toward it with courteous 
bows, mumbled compliments, innocent little gestures. 

Gradually John T. Mason began to see the wolf behind 
Woodbridge's grandmotherly make-up. When he did, he un 
consciously changed the history of the Northwest for the next 
hundred years by an act of reckless, adolescent impulsiveness. 

Just before Christmas, 1830, Cass returned to Detroit. 

The Governor's entry into the city was hardly a triumphant 
procession. The great man and his suite, almost frozen, ears 
wrapped in rags and leather boots stiff with ice, crawled wearily 
into town astride horses so exhausted they could hardly move. 
Cass retired to his bullet-scarred log mansion on the river bank 
next door to the Mansion House, on Jefferson, to thaw out. 
There was a notice in the newspaper stating that he had re 
turned, but no word of what he had accomplished. 

Cass was rubbed back to life for a few days, and presently 
rode to the capitol building on a fresh horse. John T. was 
overwhelmed with relief. Here was a fellow Democrat; here 
was a friendly superior to take over the reins of office and 
protect him. Cass's greeting was friendly, but not effusive. 
John T. said that he wanted to sit down with him at once 
and tell him of all the pitfalls set before him by Woodbridge 
and his cohorts. 

The Governor was sorry, but that would have to wait. He 
had just returned from a most important mission. The authori 
ties in Washington, especially Colonel McKenney, would need 
to be informed at once as to the feeling among the Indians 
about relinquishing all the tribal claims to the lower peninsula. 
Then, he said, he must prepare his annual message to the Coun 
cil and draft the administrative program for the ensuing year. 
Some other time. 

John T. received the impression that Cass knew all about 
Woodbridge and wasn't alarmed. It was plain that Cass 


couldn't be bothered with petty political squabbles and declined 
to soil his hands with them. 

However, Cass's coming was a boon. It meant that out-of- 
state sheriffs and delegates and judges and people with griev 
ances were no longer shunted to John lYs office by the wily 
Whigs. They all wanted to see Cass, now. The Secretary was 
spared the risk of appointing people, week after week, to jobs 
he never knew existed and which in some cases probably didn't. 
Cass seemed to know every citizen of the Territory by his first 
name. Looking over a sheaf of new appointments, he would 
bark out orders. 

"No, not that man. Last year the Pottawatomis com 
plained to me that he had sold them flintlock muskets that al 
ways misfired. He got them at an auction somewhere; just 
junk. He's a swindler, and he gets no appointment from me. 
Present my regrets to the county board; advise them to nomi 
nate an honest man. Now, this boy's all right. I know his 
people; I danced with his mother two years ago at the village 
of Ann Arbor." 

On December 2Oth, a committee of five citizens of Jackson- 
burgh arrived with a petition asking that an appropriation be 
made for repairs to the Territorial Road passing through that 
village. And Cass was furious, says a faded old letter of the 
period. "I surveyed that road myself in 1828; your town 
sprang up after the road was completed. What have you done? 
You have not yet built so much as a bridge across the Grand 
River at your village." 

John T.'s office had been crowded with people like these. 
He didn't know them; he had no answer that would satisfy 
them. He loved to watch Cass, the master, bring these people 
up short with blunt truths about themselves and their motives. 
It took Cass about thirty seconds to dispose of a demand which 
would send John T. pacing his office floor in worry for thirty 

.General Lewis Cass was about five feet tall and built like a 
pickle barrel. Bulbous nose, double chin, high collar that came 
up the sides of his fat neck and looked strong enough to choke 


him; extremely short legs that gave him a noticeable waddle. 
His usual costume included an ill-fitting tail coat that hung 
on him like a tent and seemed about three sizes too large. It 
protruded out in front of his rounded stomach and dropped a 
pair of enormous coat tails almost to his heels. The coat be 
came one of Michigan's great puzzles. Cass wore it while an 
artist painted his portrait for the capitol building. For some 
fifty years it aroused endless debate. Later generations vowed 
that no man would wear a garment like that; it was assumed 
that the artist was afflicted with double vision or a slapstick 
sense of humor. It made the great man look like a German 
comedian, they said. Nevertheless Cass wore it, and he did 
look like a comedian in it. 

His contemporaries adjusted themselves to the sight of 
General Cass waddling down Jefferson Avenue dragging these 
out-size coat tails in the mud. They did not see anything funny 
in the spectacle. Other people wore costumes much funnier. 
They saw only Lewis Cass, Michigan's foremost citizen and 
America's most valuable Indian expert; Cass, the patient 
explorer and trail blazer who pointed out places to build cities 
and built roads to realize them. People made room for Cass 
on the crowded streets, and bowed to him with deference as 
he passed. 

When Cass raised his short body into the governor's chair, 
Woodbridge went into an eclipse. That was one consolation, 
John T. told himself. There was no question now as to who 
held the Territory in his pocket. Woodbridge paled into in 
significance beside Cass's impressive public stature. He shrank 
to the figure of a grumpy old politician who knew how to keep 
silent when the "Genr'l" was in the capitol. 

With Woodbridge quiet, and Cass making all the decisions, 
John T. could sigh with relief and relax. The corridor outside 
his office was still full of jostling people with grievances, but 
none of them came to see him. They were waiting their turn 
to see the "Genr'l". John T. had a massive piece of furniture 
in a corner of his office which was called, appropriately, a secre 
tary. It was eight feet high and built of solid, enduring Michi- 


gan walnut; bookshelves above for the calf-bound legislative 
acts and a desk below with a smooth leather top for him to write 
on. John T. could tilt back his chair and put his feet up on it. 
That was about all he had to do after Cass's return. 

Frequently there would be a stentorian roar, echoing down 
the corridor. u Mr. Mason 1" Down would come John T.'s 
feet, to patter along the hall to Cass's chamber. "Yes, sir?" 
u Mr. Mason, kindly prepare thirteen letters at once, to the 
following-named justices of the peace " 

John T. burned. That was a clerk's job. 

Presently appeared his handsome son, Tom. The next time 
that bellowed "Mr. Mason I" rolled down the corridor like the 
echo of a cannon shot, young Tom urged his father to keep his 
feet up on the secretary's smooth desk top. u Let me answer 
that one, Father." 

John T. was all too willing. So was Tom Mason. Cass ap 
parently liked him because he would soak up information like a 
sponge. He wanted to know all about everything. He was de 
termined to keep his father in his office, secluded, as much as 
possible. He evidently believed that the less John T. did, the 
fewer things he could be blamed for later. The post of Terri 
torial Secretary bore no appropriation for office help, but 
young Mason didn't object to working free. He knew that 
sooner or later John T. would commit a political blunder that 
would give Woodbridge his opportunity to arouse the people 
against him. To prevent that, young Mason determined to learn 
the routine of the Secretary's office thoroughly, and handle as 
much of it as circumstances would allow. 

In one of those intuitive flashes, young Mason had seen 
trouble ahead. Perhaps he never put it into words. But his 
subsequent moves, throughout the winter of 1830-31, seem 
to bear out the belief that he was proceeding step by step along 
a prearranged schedule. He was trying to pull Woodbridge's 

Mason knew that the climax of John T.'s career would come 
at the moment his name rolled forth from the lips of the Senate 
clerk on a motion for confirmation. Woodbridge would be 


ready with strong Whig support to block it. Mason knew, or 
thought he knew, a way to get it through. His success would 
depend upon John T.'s acts and mistakes during his brief term 
as a recess appointee. 

As long as John T. had nothing to do, he loomed up as 
quite an imposing figure of a Secretary. So Tom Mason 
worked, as he had not worked since his days as a grocery clerk, 
when he kept up his college studies by flickering candlelight 
after the store was closed. He started at the bottom, with the 
simplest official chores. He copied letters and affixed wax seals. 
He filled inkwells. He shadowed John T. constantly, and won 
a place for himself with Cass. He pumped information from 
the other clerks; found out from them how certain routine 
chores were done. 

Commissions appointing some black-bearded settler as a 
justice of the peace began filtering into the townships in Tom 
Mason's beautiful copperplate script. Letters from Cass to 
bureau chiefs in Washington concerning the day-to-day de 
velopments in the Territory Tom Mason penned them, too, 
and learned from them many a lesson in statecraft. 

Many years later it appeared that Cass had taken a liking 
to young Mason from the start and was secretly encouraging 
him. Tall, straight, with luxuriant wavy black hair, and a 
languid, aloof gaze that Cass found very useful, Tom Mason 
became a familiar character around the capitol building. Cass 
adopted him as a sort of unofficial greeter. He was a go-be 
tween to sort out callers who were really important from the 
riffraff who merely wanted something. 

Cass bore a general's commission in the regular army and 
had been a famous military figure ever since the War of 1812. 
He was the military administrator of Michigan before it had 
any civil organization. He knew what a comfort an efficient 
aide could be. He valued a man who could get things done 
without repeatedly asking elementary questions. He noticed 
that he never had to repeat instructions given to Tom Mason. 
He never complimented him, as far as records show. The 
busy old general growled out a succession of orders, then sat 


back with the confidence of a man who knew that those orders 
would be carried out with no blunders. 

Then, afterward, there were the long, lamplit evenings. 
What Tom Mason did for recreation, no one knows. Most 
of the time he was studying. But there were occasions when 
he put aside his books and sauntered downtown, dropping in 
at various clubs and taprooms in his easily recognized gleam 
ing silk hat and ruffled opera cloak. He didn't like to go hunting 
because it entailed considerable physical discomfort. He in 
dulged in no outdoor sport, winter or summer. Euchre, the 
drawing-room craze of the period, bored him. Occasionally 
on fine days he and his firm-chinned sister Emily would saddle 
borrowed horses and ride out the River Road; a chance to 
let their horses amble along while they talked confidentially 
about family matters. 

Tom Mason was a city-dweller who never enjoyed the 
pioneer's harsh contact with primitive life. He acquired a wide 
repute throughout Detroit as a bon t vi e vant and drawing-room 
decoration. He was polished and suave; he had a vocabulary 
richly embellished with long words that sounded dignified 
and complimentary; he usually looked bored and hard to 
amuse. Perhaps for that very reason, hostesses eagerly sought 
him out and surrounded him with people. He quickly dominated 
a drawing room, not so much because of what he said as by 
the sophisticated, weary way he said it. 

Detroit had never seen such clothes. Linen sparkling white; 
just a touch of starch in the ruffles to make them stand out 
stiffly. Coats black or dark-blue, always fine broadcloth; cloth- 
covered buttons instead of the popular brass buttons, because 
he regarded such things as a breach of good taste. Mason's 
coats were built up just a trifle at the shoulders to conceal 
their pronounced slope. They were smooth and wrinkle-free. 
They were superbly tailored so that the tails draped straight 
and free. He did not introduce the Belgian lace handkerchief 
to Detroit Governor Hull had worn one. But Mason knew 
more ways to gesture nonchalantly with this bit of finery than 
anyone other than Beau Brummell himself. When he took 


his satin-lined, three-valance cloak from his black servant, 
fastened his white gloves, patted his towering silk hat care 
lessly down upon his luxuriant black curls, at a precariously 
rakish angle, then caught up an ivory-headed walking stick 
and stalked forth into society, he was a figure to make any 
one stare. 

He had found that it was no more expensive to order his 
well-draped tail coats and tight trousers from New York 
tailors than to buy them at inflated Detroit prices from mer 
chants who did not know the art of fitting. If General Cass 
were an example of what a Detroit tailor regarded as a suit 
of clothes, Mason's well-arched eyebrows expressed what he 
thought about that. 

One of Mason's chief forms of usefulness around the capitol 
building was to provide an awe-inspiring fagade behind which 
Cass could assume a certain dignity before people saw him. 
Provincial taxpayers, with the dust of days heavy upon their 
clumsy homespun, came storming into the capitol and en 
countered the Mason magnificence. They sensed that he must 
be somebody vastly more important than anyone in a home 
spun jacket could be. And when Mason gazed down at them 
from his nearly six feet of stiff-backed, heavy-lidded indiffer 
ence, inquiring in a silken voice how he might be of service to 
them, the angered citizens frequently stood and gulped. 

This was a pose completely artificial to his true nature, but 
he made use of it. He was eager to learn everything, and 
friendly to anyone who could teach him. He was deeply sincere 
about his love for what came to be known as the great game 
of politics. To him, outwitting Woodbridge was a major career, 
ranking with Cass's conquest of the Northwest. He became 
a political checker-player instead of a grand strategist of Cass's 
stature because he learned the game through tactic^ instead 
of strategy. Occasionally he could put on a frosty front and 
chill a noisy caller. But his weakness was in the opposite direc 
tion. He was overanxious. 

He acquired a habit of dashing about the building and about 


Detroit, debating with anyone on any subject so long as it was 
political. He gave forth impulsive opinions where none had 
been asked; he fancied himself as one of the powers behind 
Cass's carved oaken chair. Even John T. heard frequently 
that his handsome son talked too much. 

Mason, perforce, subsided and merged into the background 
as soon as the Territorial Council convened early in January, 
1831. Cass had spent a good deal of time preparing his annual 
message and being very secretive about it, which spelled trouble. 
In the opinion of the older clerks, that meant that he was about 
to reveal something. 

Mason was not overly impressed by the thirteen stiff- 
whiskered old provincials who appeared and took their seats. 
He didn't know any of them by sight. By name, he recognized 
them as the delegates from the twelve organized counties in 
Michigan, plus one from "the land west of Lake Michigan", 
now Wisconsin. The Council met only once a year and then 
only for a few desultory weeks. It usually acted as a sounding 
board through which the administration could seek answering 
vibrations back in the townships, and as a means of attracting 
attention to grievances which Woodbridge and his helpers 
had managed to conceal from Cass. 

A resolution was passed at this session calling upon Congress 
for four townships out of Cass's new land grant to support a 
silk industry. "The peninsula, on account of its locality, requires 
that its inhabitants should be engaged in some branch of in 
dustry," it compkined, adding that Michigan was so far away 
from factories that its farmers had to pay two freight bills 
on everything ship their produce to Eastern markets and 
import the small amount of manufactured goods it brought. 
"The common productions of the agriculturalist poorly pay 
for the labor they cost after deducting the cost of transporta 
tion." It was felt that a silk industry would be one step in the 
right direction; Michigan ought to manufacture something. 

A lengthy discussion about exorbitant transportation costs 
ensued. The delegates decided that the Territory needed more 


roads, bigger Federal appropriations. This was not original 
enough to impress Congress, so the delegates wondered what 
else they could ask for. 

They decided that a system of canals across Michigan, 
from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan, was the country's crying 
need. These were to be constructed, of course, at the expense 
of the Federal government as a means of stimulating com 
merce between the East and the region farther west. There 
was many a glowing reference to the natural valley between 
Saginaw Bay and the headwaters of the Grand River. "Nature 
appears to have pointed out this connection," hinted the resolu 
tion. It was prepared and forwarded to Congress. No one 
heard of it again. 

Cass's annual message went into detail about something 
much more practical. The States of Ohio and Indiana, he said, 
were encroaching year by year upon Michigan and "pushing 
their territory northward into areas which are the property of 
citizens of Michigan Territory". This ought to be stopped at 
once, he said. He urged a Council inquiry into the matter of 
boundaries, forthwith, and a study of how best to see that those 
boundaries were protected. This was Mason's first introduc 
tion to the boundary dispute, a keg of political dynamite which 
blew up under him some years later. 

While the Legislature was still in session, Mason's attention 
was drawn elsewhere. His father, side-tracked into oblivion, 
had been sitting there in his office, feet up on the desk, looking 
out of the window. He had been thinking. That was fatal to 
Tom Mason's whole scheme. 

When he heard about it, the son felt again that taut sensa 
tion of apprehension, of disasters to come. Whenever John T. 
had too much time to think, he invariably did the wrong thing. 

John T. had been thinking how much he hated his job, and 
how bitterly he detested politics in general. He saw quickly 
that, with Cass firmly established in the governor's chair, the 
Secretaryship was not an administrative post at all but just 
a glorified clerkship. It was a daily drudgery of routine, of 
writing out proclamations and appointments, and of jumping 


when Cass roared. John T. didn't know when Cass proposed to 
go out of town again and restore him to command. But if he 
did, John T. would quickly feel the point of Woodbridge's 
stiletto between his ribs. Either way, John T. was thoroughly 
disillusioned and disgusted with his job. He was sick of being 
a target for both Woodbridge and Cass. 

But there was the family to support. Himself and Elizabeth, 
old Grandmother Moir, Tom, invalid Theodosia, five growing 
girls and three dependent blacks. On twelve hundred a year 
it was an everlasting grind which kept him on the verge of 
poverty. Into John T.'s mind there floated a vision which he 
had seen before : money, great piles of money. He wanted to 
quit, to go plunging into something else and make himself 
rich again. 

He had been thinking, he told Tom, about Tom's famed 
grandfather, the first Stevens T. Mason. Well, he went on, 
the distinguished senator had left a bequest which had come 
down to John T. when the will was probated. It was some sort 
of land grant in the South ; the grant was not specific but as far 
as he could see the land was in Texas and just north of it, in 
the Red River Valley. Ah ! That was where John T. longed 
to go. 

Michigan Territory was a blind alley and never would 
amount to anything. But down there a man could get rich I 
It was new, unorganized, unexploited, just the kind of virgin 
land where fortunes originated. 

It had been granted to Colonel Stevens T. Mason by a grate 
ful Continental Congress as a reward for having served with 
distinction as Washington's aide throughout the Revolution. 
The subject of Texas was getting a lot of newspaper space 
just now, John T. told his son. He had checked up this grant 
and found that it was perfectly valid, with one trifling excep 
tion the territory containing it was no part of the United 

It might go to Texas and eventually be returned to Mexico. 
In that case it was worthless. But if Texas someday came into 
the Union, John T. would be rich. 


He wanted to go to Washington and talk it over with Andy 
Jackson. He knew that Andy was more than anxious he was 
eager to start something which would bring Texas into the 
Union. He was said to be plotting outright revolution. He 
had emissaries there reporting to him from every section. Sam 
Houston, one of Jackson's most intimate friends, was leaving 
Tennessee for Texas, and was regarded as a sort of ambassa 
dor from Jackson to see what could be done openly or sub- 

Maybe John T. rubbed his chin thoughtfully maybe if 
Andy Jackson knew that John T. had this big land grant there 
and thus a legitimate reason for poking his nose into the region, 
maybe Andy could find something for him to do. 

"But what about us?" demanded Tom. "Who's going to 
take your post? Who's going to support the family if you 

"You," said John T. And he chuckled. 

Washington was as infernally hot in June, 1831, as it always 
has been every June. John T. Mason, Secretary of Michigan 
Territory, and his son, Stevens T. Mason, were guests at a 
new Washington hotel. For six weeks previous to their de 
parture there had been whispered confidences and quick visits 
to prominent men. Tom Mason, the son, was the subject. It 
was hinted that he might become Territorial Secretary, and 
what did they think about such an appointment? Some of them 
thought it was all right, because Cass could supervise him. 
Others didn't think so ; they feared a good deal of opposition 
when it became known. 

Cass himself had been in Washington twice; in May for a 
few days, then he returned in June for a long stay which lasted 
until late in July. He had been in conference with the President 
every day, for hours at a time. He explained these lengthy 
visits by saying that, after all, he had been in the forests for 


fifteen years and had a wealth of information about our north 
west frontier. 

Cass's biographers interpret these visits somewhat dif 
ferently. They agree that while the pudgy military hero might 
have reported on the progress of colonization, he was actually 
forced into politics for the first time in his long career. He and 
Jackson were wading in political details up to their ears. The 
whole subject of the Northwest's party structure was thor 
oughly canvassed. It was after one of these White House 
visits that Cass had suggested in a letter to John T. that it was 
now time to come to Washington and bring Tom. 

If there had been any observant Washington columnists in 
those days they would have rushed frantically to their type 
writers. It was as plain as the wart on Cass's face that there 
was a deal in the wind. 

Late in June they arrived, and found Jackson very cordial. 

This surprised Cass, who had a rather indifferent opinion 
of John T.'s ability. It would have surprised Cass again to have 
read the wily Jackson's mind and see why he was so glad to see 
John T. His mysterious land grant gave Jackson the wide-open 
opportunity he had sought for years to place a secret agent 
down there among the Cherokees on the Texas border. In 
truth, Jackson was delighted. John T. didn't have to be a genius 
to make himself invaluable to Jackson in the South. 

In making it possible for John T. to leave for the South, 
Jackson had to scramble up the entire administrative organiza 
tion of Michigan Territory. He made several moves of national 
importance, and made them quickly. 

He saw in Cass the ideal national figure to add prestige to 
his sadly battered cabinet. Major Eaton resigned forthwith, 
and Cass was promised the post of Secretary of War but 
warned to say nothing until the formal announcement was re 
leased from the White House. Cass accepted on those terms, 
and held his tongue until Major Eaton could find a larne ex 
cuse for quitting the cabinet which he had done so much to 


No successor to Cass as governor of Michigan was selected. 
Jackson received John T. and Tom Mason in a long private 
interview, ignored the father while he chatted with the son 
and beamed radiantly upon him. The childless old man "loved 
Tom Mason like a son and told him so; repeated again and 
again his protestations of confidence and affection", according 
to Lawton Hemans, whose intensive research into Mason's 
career was published years later as an official state document. 
Jackson remarked that every time he saw Tom Mason he ad 
mired him more deeply. Jackson thought he was a genius; 
a brilliant exception to all rules and the best possible choice 
for Secretary. 

In avoiding the selection of a successor to Cass, Jackson 
told Tom" Mason that he wanted the youth to assume bold 
command and run the Territory. He should hot be hampered 
by a political superior, who, after the triumphs of Cass, would 
have had scant chance to assert any actual influence anyhow. 

Thus, in mid- July, 1831, the White House released the fol 
lowing interesting information : 

Major Eaton had announced his resignation from the cabi 
net. To replace him as Secretary of War, the President had 
appointed General Lewis Cass of Michigan Territory, out 
standing hero of the War of 1 8 1 2. 

John T. Mason, Secretary of Michigan Territory, had sub 
mitted his resignation in order to accept appointment as a 
brigadier general of volunteers. He would leave at once "upon 
an undisclosed mission" for the President. 

Stevens T. Mason, son of General Mason, had been named 
to succeed his father as Secretary of Michigan Territory. 

It must have required several days for Tom Mason to catch 
his breath. 

During those days he was a guest at the White House fre 
quently, a dinner companion of the President and often seen 
at his side whenever the feeble old man rode through town in 
his open landau. It is apparent that Tom Mason would rather 
have been at the hotel arranging family matters with his father. 


But Jackson seemed to cling to him, insist that he stay beside 
him and listen. The last thing Jackson said was : 

"Now, Tom, write to me. Tell me everything that's going on 
out there. I want to hear from you frequently, not just official 
reports but anything you can think of. I'll back you to the 
limit, boy. Assert your authority and if you get into trouble, 
notify me!" 

The youth bowed politely, and promised. 

General John T. Mason sat in his hotel room regarding his 
certificate of appointment with astonishment. He was exultant. 
u Told you so ! Told you Andy could find something for me to 
do down there!" 

But young Mason was not very happy. He bade his father 
farewell there in Washington and hardly ever saw him again 
afterward. He didn't know just what to say to his mother; 
how to explain matters. 

John T. didn't care he said he'd be back in a year and 
she'd get along very well for that brief time. Tom wasn't 
so sure. 

He left Washington on July I3th and arrived back in De 
troit on the 24th, with a two-day stop in New York where he 
was fitted for more new clothes. The news was not yet made 
public. He hurried straight to his home and left instructions 
that no one should be admitted. The following day, July 25th, 
Lewis Cass returned to Detroit to wind up his affairs and pre 
pare to move his family to Washington. Mason waited for 
Cass to make the first move. 

Accordingly, Cass summoned reporters from the Courier 
and the Journal and the newly established Free Press , which 
made its bow to Detroit in that month of July, 1 83 1. He called 
the meeting in his own office. 

Mason could sense the astonishment of everyone present 
when Cass casually read through the list of changes. Out of 
deference to Cass, no one present commented upon the change 
in Secretaries. Cass said that Mason's appointment was the 
President's own decision; he added that Mr, Jackson had com- 


plete confidence in the young man. It was also his own wish, 
he said, that every citizen of the Territory offer Mason his 
cordial and complete support. 

Cass then exhibited Mason's enscrolled commission, a huge 
parchment diploma bearing the Great Seal, the prominent 
signature of Andrew Jackson, and inscribed by the Secretary 
of State and dated July 12, 1831. He wanted everyone to be 
satisfied that Mason had been officially appointed and was en 
titled to assume the authority of the office. When everyone 
had viewed it in silence, Cass commanded Mason to stand. 

There, in the Governor's chamber of Detroit's little brick 
capitol, Lewis Cass himself administered the oath of office. 
Stevens T. Mason towered over the squat little figure of Michi 
gan's greatest citizen, who stood now with a Bible in one 
hand and his other upraised. The official witnesses and invited 
guests noted how Mason's chin was firm and his shoulders 
thrown back as he gazed over Cass's rounded head toward the 
flag of the Territory standing behind the Governor's desk. 

"Do you solemnly swear to uphold and defend the Constitu 
tion of the United States, to protect the same against all 
enemies, to administer this office " 

It was hot in the room. There were beads of moisture on the 
new Secretary's forehead as he heard it through to the last 
mumbled word. 

"I do." 

Cass extended his hand. "Congratulations, Mr. Secretary." 

"Thank you, sir." 

He was nineteen years, eight months and twenty-eight days 



SECRETARY MASON sat at home, reading the newspaper. In 
his hand he held the Detroit Journal of July 27, 1831, fresh 
from the clanking press. The front page was a jumble of tiny 
one-column advertisements, few of more than one inch in 
length. All of them were printed in a type so fine that close 
study of a single column is enough to induce eyestrain today. 
Stevens T. Mason had no difficulty in reading that particular 
issue. He saw his own name in heavy capitals, enclosed in a 
black-bordered box which looked strangely like a funeral 

"Late Advices from Washington," he read. "Appointment 
by the President of Stevens Thomson Mason of Kentucky to 
be Secretary in and for the Territory of Michigan, in place of 
John T. Mason, resigned." 

Below stretched a long column of solid type, unbroken by 
paragraph indentations. It was full of ponderous words and 
smouldering with bitterness. News of the ceremony in Cass's 
office two days before had come in just as the compositors 
were making up the forms. This attack on Mason looks as if 
it had been composed by the editor himself, setting it in a 
type stick as he went along. He didn't have time to write it. 

"We had scarcely dismissed the reflections incident to. the 
translation of Governor Cass from this Territory to the War 
Office when we were startled by the above communication in the 
Washington Globe. We could hardly credit the evidence of our 
senses, and, in common with the body of our fellow-citizens, 
who were with one accord assembled on Saturday evening last, 
in consequence of the intelligence, determined to wait for fur 
ther information. The boat of Sunday which brought the Secre- 



tary-elect dissipated all uncertainty. And now since he has been 
given the oath of office, there is no doubt." 

Charlie Cleland probably wrote it; he had moved back to 
the Journal from the brand-new Free Press after a few bitter 
months. Charlie wore a battered plug hat and chewed scrap 
tobacco while engaged in his more vicious literary endeavors. 
Charlie undoubtedly read the foregoing paragraph over, up 
side down and backward as it lay there in his composing stick, 
squirted a brown stream in the general direction of the spittoon, 
and decided that it needed more punch. His next paragraph 
was more characteristic of him : 

"Be it remembered, ye Citizens of Michigan, that General 
Jackson has appointed to be Secretary of your Territory 
STEVENS THOMSON MASON, late of Kentucky, a young 
gentleman who, whatever may be his amiable characteristics, 
will, if he lives to the month of October next, be twenty years 
of age and no more " 

There were fourteen lines, getting more denunciatory as 
Charlie threw rhetoric to the winds and indulged in pure muck 
raking. At the bottom of the page he ran out of room, ending 
apologetically thus : 

"We have not patience nor space for further remarks this 
week, and will simply commend to our fellow-citizens, in and 
out of the Territory, the proceedings of confessedly the largest 
and most respectable and harmonious public meeting that ever 
convened for any purpose in the city of Detroit." 

Mason looked through the rest of the eight-page issue, but 
there was no report of a mass meeting it it. It must have oc 
curred the day his boat arrived. While he wondered what had 
happened, there was a determined knock at the door. Five 
burly men entered, glowered at him, and sat down. 

From them he obtained, fact by fact, the story of Detroit's 
largest spontaneous public meeting. They had been appointed 
a committee, they said, to come and inquire from him as to 
the truth of the "charges" brought against him at that time. 

Saturday night, before his steamboat had reached the mouth 
of the Detroit River, people began milling around in the tall 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 143 

grass of the Campus Martius. Other people came there must 
have been more than two thousand. They had been receiving 
word-of-mouth bulletins on what had happened at Washington, 
and they were not going to stand for it. A purely natural feel 
ing of anger had been kindled at neighborhood meetings; all 
of these meetings had spilled over into a monster demonstra 
tion in the empty Campus. There were shouts, brandished fists, 
threats of violence. That situation had all the ingredients of a 
tar-and-feather mob. The atmosphere of violence grew upon 
its own momentum, just as the crowd grew as everybody in 
town hurried thither to see what the excitement was. 

Not even the gravest crises in the city's history had brought 
out a swelling mob like that. Some of the leading citizens of 
Detroit were there, and they hurriedly endeavored to steer the 
mob away from violence and turn its demands into an orderly, 
decorous demonstration of citizens. 

Mason was told, as he listened in astonishment, how the 
crowd had been lulled into a respectful silence by the pleadings 
of Andrew Mack; how Mack and Oliver Newberry and the 
others had pleaded for a hearing. They were not acting in de 
fense of Mason, but in defense of Detroit's good name. They 
were fearful of a riot which would have disastrous conse 

Spokesmen for the citizens, in the crowd, had nominated 
Mack and Newberry and these others as a committee to inter 
view Mason and find out what he was going to do. They were 
to report back, at another mass meeting on Monday, the 
evening of the day the Journal appeared. 

Mason looked them over. Andrew Mack, Oliver Newberry, 
Colonel McKinstry, Shubael Conant and "General" John E. 
Schwartz, a valiant soldier in the War of 1812. Honored 
citizens all; stalwart, successful, luxuriantly bearded, the kind 
of men to whom a crowd will always turn for leadership. They 
were all die-hard Whigs and good friends of Woodbridge. 

Mason, caught without a prepared reply, said the first thing 
that came into his head. He readily admitted that he was only 
years old. But, he said, the President knew that when 


he appointed him; he had warned Jackson that trouble was to 
be expected and that Michigan people would not like the im 
plication of such a selection. He agreed with the committee 
that it was indeed a puzzle to know what to do. Did they have 
any suggesions ? 

"You cannot serve as Secretary in any event," Shubael 
Conant declared. 'The law adopted by the Territorial Council 
provides that all administrative officers must be voting citizens, 
own property, have a stake in this community." 

"The President," replied Mason, coldly, "is not responsible 
to the Territorial Council for his appointments. The Senate 
has the power of confirmation or denial; beyond that, the 
President is supreme." 

That was so, they admitted/Mack said at once that he was 
favorably impressed and would support Mason. The others 
were not sure. Newberry intervened with a plea for sports 
manship. He said he didn't think it was a crime to be a minor. 
Shubael Conant and Colonel McKinstry remained frigid. 
Mason instantly sniffed a Whig manipulation of the meeting 
and a pretense of nonpartisanship by appointing a pair of open- 
minded citizens to the committee who, nevertheless, would be 
in the minority when its report was drafted. 

Word of the dilemma had spread in all directions from De 
troit as fast as spade-bearded farmers could larrup their horses 
down the rutted roads. Indignation meetings appeared at Pon- 
tiac, Saginaw and Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor Emigrant lashed 
out at Mason sarcastically, referring to him as "the stripling." 
It was a nickname which clung to him. 

Mason stayed quietly at home. He made no answer to the 
fantastic charges and accusations which were buzzing around 
his head. He did not appear at any of these neighborhood 
indignation meetings which followed the demonstration in 
the Campus Martius. He said nothing. 

On August 2nd, at the height of this hostility, Mason's 
next-youngest sister Cornelia died suddenly. Her death pro 
vided him with a valid excuse for staying indoors and out of 
sight. It postponed his inevitable appearance in his father's 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 145 

erstwhile office at the capitol building. And, while at home, 
it gave him a welcome opportunity to analyze the situation 
and come to some decision about it. 

A century after her death, Cornelia Mason is just a faded 
entry in a mammoth family Bible which once belonged to Mary 
Armistead Mason and had become John T.'s index of geneal 
ogy. Two parallel dates: "born died.' 5 There is no likeness 
of her ; no record of why she died or any scrap of illustrative 
anecdote about her. She was six years old, a confused little 
girl born into a distraught household at Mount Sterling who 
never knew why her family was different from other families. 
Her only contribution to the saga of her brilliant brother was 
the morbid fact that her death was a boon to him. It gave him 
a chance to make a series of quick, bold moves which other 
wise would have been spotlighted with hostile publicity. 

While family arrangements for Cornelia's funeral were in 
progress, Mason was seated at his polished rosewood desk, 
writing. He straightway notified Andrew Jackson in a personal 
letter that the fat was in the fire just as all hands had predicted, 
but that it was nothing serious. He came directly to the point 
and wrapped up the situation in a few deft phrases. 

"Upon my arrival at Detroit I found that news of my ap 
pointment had preceded me by a day, and that certain persons 
had gotten up an excitement against my continuance . . . the 
motives which originated this course are obvious. . . . I have 
been beset by a sort of inquisitorial scrutiny, and finding nothing 
to rest upon but the fact of my minority, I have been asked to 
relinquish the office. To this I replied that having received my 
appointment from you, no power but that of the constituted 
authority would drive me from my place, nor would I yield it 
except to your wishes." 

He reported that the whole course of the demonstration 
led him to believe that it was a Whig trick to embarrass Jack 
son's administration. He said that Jackson himself had never 
been noted for yielding to Intimidation and that he had no in 
tention of yielding to it. In his opinion, Mason continued, 
the whole thing was a build-up to force Jackson to appoint a 


Governor. "My opponents," he wrote, "made their objections 
as if I was in fact appointed Governor and would continue to 
discharge his duties for years. This difficulty, I trust, will 
soon be removed." 

While he wrote, Mason meditated upon Jackson's strange 
whims. He remembered the old man's last words to him at 
Washington a fatherly gush of affectionate praise. "Let me 
hear from you frequently," Jackson had urged. Mason, 
thoughtfully brushing the tip of his long quill pen against 
his beardless cheek, added a personal paragraph : 

"I write you this as due the confidence you have reposed in 
me; and especially due to the wish (equal to a command with 
me) to hear from me frequently. / see my way clear. I feel a 
confidence in maintaining myself against all opposition if sus 
tained by you, of which I feel a perfect assurance." 

John T. could never have written such a letter. At any rate, 
he never did. Beardless youth though he might be called, 
stripling though he was in print, Mason's mind was here shown 
as the brilliant, analytical mind of a mature judge of popular 
trends. In his estimation of the politically inspired mass meet 
ings Mason was thoroughly correct. They drafted a bundle 
of protesting resolutions, forwarded them to the White House, 
and vanished. Opposition was kept alive by the Woodbridge 
faction, but not for very long. 

Mason, even before he had assumed his office, made a bid for 
popular support which infuriated Woodbridge. After having 
dispatched his letter to Jackson, Mason straightway wrote 
another. This he sent to the Journal, the sullen Whig mouth 
piece which regarded him as an imp of His Satanic Majesty 
by special appointment. Mason cleverly changed his whole 
literary style, donned the humble guise of a confused but well- 
meaning youth and threw himself upon the fair-mindedness of 
the people/The letter appeared in the issue of August 3rd, 
the day after Cornelia's death. 

"To the public: It is now more than a year since my father 
emigrated to this place. . . ." 

Either M%$on was too naive tP realize what he ^as doing, 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 147 

or he was too clever to miss a golden opportunity to put his 
case before the public at a time when everyone would see it. 
He was the sensation of the Territory. Settlers talked of 
nothing else. He knew he would have an audience. 

He went into considerable detail about his father's troubles 
acting as Governor in the absence of Cass ; recounted how he 
had been a sort of clerk to his father and to Cass, had learned 
the job, had come to feel that he was a citizen of Michigan 
and wanted to be regarded as such. Then, he continued, his 
father was suddenly called away to the South, saddling "his 
only son and oldest child with the responsibility for the well- 
being of a family of seven females (written before Cornelia's 
death) and a large household. To their comfort it is well- 
known that even the petty emoluments of this office are es 

In other words, the family was left fatherless and the boy 
had to go to work. So he had been appointed Secretary and 
Acting Governor, and the salary was far from petty as living 
costs were figured a century ago. It was a very comfortable 
living. To play down that fact, Mason referred to it as a "petty 
emolument," sending settlers scurrying for the dictionary. 

He played down his own ability just as consciously. "That 
there are many in the Territory of higher qualifications, upon 
whom the appointment might have been conferred, is broadly 
and fully conceded." He brought up all the objections, one at 
a time, and answered them. He mi^ht have to exercise the 
powers of Governor occasionally. Suppose the reader himself 
were suddenly thrust into that situation. What would he do ? 
If he were sensible he'd ask advice. He'd consult with the 
wisest and best minds of the Territory. And that was just 
what Mason proposed to do. A young man with the boldness 
to act, and with capable advisers to guide him, was the best 
kind of administrator. "The oldest," remarked Mason, "ask 
advice. The difference is, youth yields to advice; age seldom 

or never." 

This letter seemed to catch the public fancy. It was widely 
reprinted all over the United States. In Detroit the Free Press 


reprinted it verbatim without comment, but no comment was 
needed to impress Mason's personality upon the people of De 
troit. Grumpily, the Journal admitted on August loth that 
Mason might have something there. That point about youth 
yielding to advice, the Journal thought, might be construed to 
mean that Mason had employed a ghost writer to turn out that 
communication. It seemed a little more effective than a 
"stripling" could produce; perhaps his father had helped him 
with it. Mason might have given the final draft a few touches, 
remarked the newspaper. The Advertiser, losing circulation 
rapidly since the advent of the Free Press, put in a whack of 
its own. But the best quip of the week came from Sheldon 
McKnight in the Free Press; a wit somewhat resembling 
that great newspaper's own Malcolm Bingay of today. Mc 
Knight was intrigued by Mason's frank statement that he 
needed the job because he had a family to support. "To decline 
a lucrative post tendered him without solicitation," commented 
McKnight, "would have argued a degree of discretion very 
uncommon at the tender age of the Secretary and Acting 

Immediately, Mason emerged from the confines of his house 
and began making personal calls upon Detroit's influential 
people. He selected them carefully, after a close estimation of 
the weight a good opinion from each would carry. He saddled 
a horse and rode to the village of Mt. Clemens to visit its 
founder and chief citizen, Judge Christian Clemens. That 
worthy was thunderstruck upon discovering his visitor's iden 
tity. The Judge had inadvertently acted as a committee mem 
ber during one of the local indignation meetings; 'whereupon 
Mason asked him point-blank just what the Judge had against 
him. Judge Clemens never expected to be investigated merely 
for serving on a committee, and he was deeply impressed by 
Mason's open bid for help. There was a long, friendly inter 
view. As he mounted his horse to leave, the Judge came out 
to the road to see him off. "Go to it, boy," he smiled. "Do 
what is right. Up here, we'll back you." 

"That's fine of you, sir," bowed Mason. "I am grateful." 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 149 

Mason procured copies of all the resolutions drafted by 
these meetings. He went over the names, and listed every 
known fact about those men. He discovered a curious thing. 
All these meetings had the appearance of spontaneous origin, 
and were attended by many registered Democrats who sincerely 
opposed Masons appointment. But the members of the resolu 
tions committees were all Whigs. The fine Italian hand of 

Signatures of men not known to be part of Woodbridge's 
machine meant opportunity for Mason. He personally visited 
them all, sitting down with them in their parlors, frankly ad 
mitting that he didn't know everything, openly asking for sup 
port and help. He made firm friendships which lasted as long 
as he lived. Even conservative Whig families like the New- 
berrys, the Thomas Palmers, the Andrew Macks and the Ben 
jamin Witherells were won over by Mason's personal charm 
and his prolific fund of compliments. He told them he was 
nothing, but they were mighty. He asked their help. There 
was really no way to refuse it. 

Within a few days this campaign began bearing fruit. Op 
position to Mason in Detroit collapsed like a windbag, which, 
in fact, it was. His campaign to popularize himself had been 
a necessity, at first. But he made such progress with it that he 
never entirely abandoned it. He was always eager to convert 
a possible enemy. He rode many weary miles, for years, for 
the satisfaction of debating in person with some person who 
had been quoted as disparaging him. Usually he won, and the 
world loves a winner. 

Andrew Jackson was a man to whom indecision was a vice. 
Mason was notified by letter that Jackson had given thought to 
his plight and had answered his request. On August 6th, prob 
ably the same day that Jackson received Mason's personal 
message, he appointed a new Governor for the Territory of 
Michigan. The official announcement in the Washington Globe 
appeared the same week. Jackson had appointed George B. 
Porter of Pennsylvania. Mason didn't know him; no one in 
Detroit had heard of him. 


The papers of August lyth carried news of the appointment 
clipped from the Globe, but Porter didn't arrive. On September 
I9th he leisurely stepped ashore from the antique Henry Clay 
and asked someone for a carriage. There was not a public 
conveyance in Detroit. People walked, a form of locomotion 
Porter found distasteful. 

He was just another deserving Democrat like John T. He 
had never achieved anything in his life which could have justi 
fied such an appointment. He, like John T., had been selected 
by pressure of Jackson's clique, because of his famous name 
and his family's prominence in its own state. 

He came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the heart of the 
rich old Dutch farming country. His father had been General 
Andrew Porter, able commander in the Revolutionary War. 
His brother, David RittenhouSe Porter, current governor of 
Pennsylvania, was one of Philadelphia's great gentlemen. Out 
side of those connections George Porter himself had nothing 
to recommend him. It became evident to Mason that Jackson 
had appointed a stooge, a name to carry the nominal title of 
Governor while Mason worked without interruption. 

Porter was tall, exquisitely tailored, very wealthy, inclined 
to snobbishness and described by Fuller as a bon vivant thrust 
into a frontier town. On his great estate near Lancaster, Porter 
raised blooded stock and took prizes at county fairs with it. 
He brought a boatload of pedigreed stud stock with him, and 
was amazed to find that Michigan regarded horses purely as 
a means of pulling or carrying something useful. 

When he and his lady had walked through Detroit's teeming 
streets to the sanctuary of the Mansion House, Porter lan 
guidly went out and bought a house. The only one available that 
week was the historic Hull residence on Jefferson and Ran 
dolph, the first brick house in Detroit built after the fire of 
1805. It was in a bad state of repair but because it had been 
so closely bound up with Detroit's history the owners asked a 
fancy price. Porter paid it. He attempted to live in it for about 
two weeks, but found that it would be very expensive to change 
it enough to suit his taste. 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 151 

His chief interest in Detroit was its possibility of profit 
through real-estate speculation. He cast about, and located a 
350-acre farm on the river a few miles below the city. This he 
bought for six thousand dollars, and immediately subdivided 
and sold all but seventy-five acres of it for enough so that his 
river-front estate actually cost him nothing. He moved his 
blooded horses out there and planned to build an imposing 
mansion, the finest and most expensive in Michigan. Architects 
were consulted. Plans were hurriedly sketched for his approval. 
Materials were purchased. Then George Porter and his lady 
sailed away again, and did not come back to Michigan until the 
following June. 

On his seventy-five-acre estate, barns were built and prepara 
tions made for the construction of the mansion. The tract 
stretched along the river from what is now 22nd Street to 25th 
Street. It was to be all lawn then. The city was very proud of 
it and Porter was regarded as the ideal figure of a Governor. 
He had long wavy sideburns which framed his thin face and 
gave it impressive dignity and maturity advantages that 
Mason obviously lacked. 

Because he had an atmosphere of solid citizenry about him, 
Michigan tolerated more breaches of official duty from George 
Porter than from any public official in the city or Territory. He 
was annoyed at his appointment but could not gracefully refuse 
it. Thus he stayed away as long as possible, returned for a few 
wefeks and left again. His salary went on a subject of con 
siderable newspaper speculation in December, 1831, after he 
had held office five months and not served more than three 

In February, 1832, the Senate dutifully confirmed Porter's 
appointment and thus brought him to the attention of Detroit 
papers again. In the Journal of February 22, 1832, Charlie 
Cleland was in good form : 

"A letter has been received in the city which states that the 
nomination of Gov. Porter has been confirmed by the Senate. 
It is, if we mistake not, about six months since this gentleman 
received his appointment as Governor of the Territory of 


Michigan, of which he has spent among us some six weeks or 
thereabouts; it certainly takes him a long while to look after 
his one client in Pennsylvania. Must be a case in chancery. 
We wonder if his pay goes on regularly meanwhile ?" 

Behind this midwinter appearance of quiet, Mason was work 
ing hard to build a wider tolerance of himself among Michigan 
leaders. During the winter he had very little to say, and was 
seen in public only infrequently. In the fall he had tried to rent 
his Congress Street house and had moved to a new three-story 
brick dwelling at 303 East Jefferson, a newly opened section 
of the Baubien farm. The details of arranging for the purchase 
of this house had to be arranged by correspondence with his 
father, because even though he might be Acting Governor, 
Mason was too young to sign a land contract and a mortgage. 

Every Sunday he attended the graceful little Episcopal 
Church of St. Paul's at Woodward and Larned, escorting his 
tiny, heavily veiled mother. No roistering in the public taverns, 
no moody drinking. In his office he declined to take any position 
on administrative matters on the ground that the Council was 
not in session and he had not enough experience to initiate a 

He was afraid afraid of Woodbridge. Any little embar 
rassing incident would have been built up into something that 
would have alienated support from him in Washington and 
switched a few votes to the Woodbridge bloc in the Senate. 
His own confirmation motion was due soon. Well he knew 
that the Whigs in general were going to do everything possible 
to block it. Mason, as a popular character, was receiving too 
much friendly newspaper space to suit the Whig Party na 
tionally. They realized that a new national personality was 
being built up ; that Mason's hold on the public fancy was 
bound to help Jackson and the Democrats solidify their gains 
made in the election of 1828. The year 1832 being another 
presidential year, Whigs rallied to Woodbridge's support in 
an effort to discredit young Mason in the Senate. 

Letters were moving back and forth between Washington 
and Detroit all winter. Uncle William T. Barry left his office 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 153 

in the Post Office Department and was seen deep in confer 
ences on Capitol Hill. Colonel Richard Johnson of Kentucky 
was probably the second-biggest popular hero of the War of 
1812 next to Jackson himself, and he threw his great influence 
to the side of the young Secretary. Jackson cracked the whip 
over his top-heavy Senate majority in no uncertain terms. In 
May, Stevens T. Mason was triumphantly confirmed. Wood- 
bridge's sunken cheeks dropped lower, but his bright eyes 
gleamed more icy than ever. 

Woodbridge had reason to add an intense personal bitter 
ness toward Mason to his obvious political opposition. Just 
as the Senate battle over confirmation votes was at its hottest, 
in February, Jackson removed Woodbridge from his sinecure 
on the Territorial Supreme Court. All three Whig appointees, 
Solomon Sibley and Henry Chipman too, were ousted by direct 
Presidential edict. Woodbridge took this inevitable move as a 
direct affront by the President at Mason's demand. Immediately 
thereafter, what was left of the Whig opposition to Mason in 
the Senate disappeared. This only established Woodb ridge's 
suspicions as facts in his hate-filled mind. He thought that 
young Mason had outwitted him. 

For the first time in more than twenty years, Woodbridge 
was off the public payroll. He was given a consolation dinner 
by the Detroit Bar Association, a sort of testimonial. Mason 
was present, and delivered a brief pep talk on "party spirit" 
which launched the program on a note of optimism. Then 
Woodbridge arose. In his characteristic attitude of self-pity he 
almost wept over his plight and referred to it as a "contemptu 
ous ejection". He sneered at the calibre of Jackson's appointees. 
He begged for sympathy. He publicly asked himself what he 
had ever done to deserve this. It was all very impressive and 
some of the lawyers were in tears. They presented him with a 
resolution saying that he had their undying admiration. 

That was too much for Ebenezer Reed, a vitriolic news 
paperman who was present. Reed had lost one good job when 
the Gazette mysteriously burned just after it had exposed 
Woodbridge. Reed still believed that Woodbridge had ordered 


it destroyed. Reed had seen Woodbridge send another Detroit 
newspaperman to jail because he asked some pointed questions 
about the bitter jurist's official conduct. And now Reed sat in 
the Mansion House dining room listening to Woodbridge feel 
sorry for himself. 

In a letter to the Free Press appropriately signed " Con 
sistency", Reed let him have both barrels. "Can it be possible 
that all this honeyed adulation is sincere? Did the reformed 
judges really look serious when they performed their parts 
in this melodrama? Mr. Woodbridge said that he hoped to 
find something in his official life which would make him a wiser 
and a better man. Had he been a wise man, and consequently 
a better one, he would never have been a judge on the bench 
or he would still have been there, secure in the affections and 
respect of the people. But he has chosen to depend upon the 
semblance of virtue rather than its substance. His fate is like 
all others who have based the fabric of their reputations upon 
mere shadow." 

The readers applauded Reed. Other letters showered into 
the newspaper offices, containing anecdotes about Wood- 
bridge's judicial highhandedness. Some of them were written 
by the selfsame lawyers who signed the resolution of admira 
tion. They were enough to impeach him, had Woodbridge 
still occupied the bench. But he was a private citizen again 
and could send no one to jail. For some two weeks the news 
papers of Detroit indulged in an orgy of Woodbridge-baiting 
which indirectly helped to swing even Whig readers away from 
him and toward Mason. The rivalry between the vengeful 
old man and the aggressive youth had reached a point where 
it was one of the spectacles of the community. It was out in 
the open now, and involuntarily the community began to take 

In such a battle, personal popularity decides the issue. Wood- 
bridge could never win that sort of campaign. Mason couldn't 
lose; people liked him on sight and seem to have adopted him 
as a sort of community mascot. They urged him on. 

His only public battles with Woodbridge were fought in 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 155 

the columns of the newspapers, when he occasionally rapped 
something the Whigs had done. These he signed "Aristides", 
hiding behind that famed Greek's scanty tunic because he didn't 
want to declare open war by signing his own name. 

War is a grim business, except sometimes in retrospect. When 
the spectre of an armed enemy begins casting a shadow over 
a land wrung from nature by human sweat and courage, homes 
are dark with fear. The very difficulty of defending such 
sparsely settled farms gave the spectre a heart-stopping solidity 
for people whose nearest neighbors were miles away. 

The oft-repeated bromide concerning political bedfellows 
could have referred to no more strangely matched pair then 
Stevens T. Mason and one Ma-ka-tai-she-kia-kiak, a Sac Indian 
with a shaved skull and one belligerent black topknot sticking 
straight up from the top of it. The Indian rudely pushed the 
political conventions out of the public mind and replaced Jack 
son as the most hated man in the country. With him he dragged 
Mason into more publicity. But Mason liked it and cultivated 
newspapermen all the more. 

This Indian was living quietly on a reservation on the west 
bank of the Mississippi River opposite upper Illinois. His only 
trouble was a consuming curiosity about what was on the other 
side of the river. Early in 1832 he gathered some reckless 
braves from several neighborhood tribes and crossed the river 
to explore the new settlements. 

The settlers recognized him immediately as the notorious 
Black Hawk, a renegade who had never been a tribal chief in 
his life but who was a veteran at stirring up trouble. Black 
Hawk was sixty-five years of age in 1832 ; copper face deeply 
lined, scars all over his skin, very erect in bearing and defiant 
in manner. He was a veteran of the British payroll in the War 
of 1812; he took a few scalps in the River Raisin massacre 
and at Maiden. He survived the disaster of the Battle of the 
Thames when Chief Tecumseh was killed. He had been 


banished to this reservation and told to stay there. He should 
have been hanged. 

In one of his first raids on the border settlements he stole 
a blue broadcloth coat with bright brass buttons, and a pair 
of doeskin trousers. This outfit made him look like a sunburned 
German burgher at a Turnverein meeting, especially after he 
had added a tall beaver hat and began wearing ruffled shirts. 
The brass buttons on his coat were visible through rifle sights 
at quite amazing ranges, which is perhaps the explanation 
for the odd fact that Black Hawk did no fighting in the Black 
Hawk War, but acted as a sort of generalissimo who got the 
others into trouble. 

Throughout the vast plains of the Middle West, ranging 
a thousand miles through forests and raw log settlements, the 
name Black Hawk spread terror. People visualized him as a 
half-naked savage galloping furiously on a painted pony, 
brandishing a rifle and yipping war cries at the head of all 
the downtrodden Indians in the West. They thought he was 
a sort of George Washington of the Indians, leading them to 
bloody revolution. 

The times cried aloud for a tabloid, which would shortly 
have debunked him as the half-pint Villa which history says he 
was. People had no way of following a sudden outbreak with 
accuracy. They were afraid of the potential danger of a situa 
tion dramatized and typified by Black Hawk. Their runaway 
imaginations produced the phenomenon we call the Black Hawk 
War. It had all the future stars of the following two decades 
inconspicuously acting as extras in its cast. Lincoln was about 
Mason's age; he had just turned twenty-one and was trying to 
drill a voluntary company at New Salem. Jefferson Davis, 
Zachary Taylor, senators, ministers took part everybody 
but able soldiers. 

The military situation was simple. This was not a war, 
implying an organized army with its supplies and reserves, 
threatening a given point with a known objective. It was a 
series of border raids on the settlements of northern Illinois. 
The remedy was a regiment of cavalry. 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 157 

But there was no cavalry ready to defend the threatened 
points. The settlers were attacked in typical Indian fashion, 
at night, as they slept. Black Hawk burned a line of cabins, 
massacred and pillaged in savage fury. Then he and his men 
vanished, to reappear at some other point the following night. 
Long wagon trains of refugees began appearing at the stock 
aded forts up and down the river. There, volunteers grabbed 
muskets and allowed that they would stuff Black Hawk and 
mount him in the local courthouse as a warning to obstreperous 
redskins henceforth. 

But a few dozen of the intrepid settlers chanced upon several 
hundred aroused redskins. They were massacred. Once more, 
white scalps dripped red at the belts of painted Indians. The 
few survivors galloped like mad to the nearest fort, where they 
bellowed at the top of their lungs that all the Indians in the 
world were on the warpath. Settlements in the path of this 
sweeping raid were evacuated overnight, producing creaking 
processions of wagons which Black Hawk found loaded with 
loot and completely helpless. 

Murdered men, corpses of ravished women and mangled 
babes, blackened ashes of newly built cabins left a trail behind 
Black Hawk's redskins. With every telling, the horror grew. 
The Governor of Illinois appealed for help to the Federal 
government. Jackson ordered all states to raise troops ; asked 
governors of states and territories to sign proclamations of 
war at once. The army was mobilized. General Winfield Scott 
got up off his polished oak chair and took the field. Mason was 
one of the first governors to receive notice that he must furnish 
troops. He became suddenly aware that he was Acting Gov 
ernor, that he had the power of commander-in-chief of the 
troops to be raised, and that he was a pretty important fellow. 

Messages arrived in Detroit full of hysteria, trying to de 
scribe the outrages committed by the bloody Black Hawk. 
The terror was real; the reports were even more terrible than 
the facts. Local companies of guards were formed in the Wis 
consin portion of Michigan Territory to protect the valuable 
lead mines against the Winnebagoes, who were reported to 


have joined Black Hawk. In Michigan the Pottawatomi 
were undecided as to whether to go on the warpath with him 
or not. The southern settled area immediately demanded pro 
tection. Mason had to provide it. 

He proclaimed a state of emergency and ordered out the 
volunteers who were asked to respond. The few troops of the 
regular army in Michigan were mobilized at the same time by 
orders from the War Department. There were not very many ; 
mostly staff officers assisting in the demolition and auction of 
Fort Shelby, and two companies of infantry quartered on the 
edge of town. General Hugh Brady was ordered to assume 
command of this force and proceed to the mouth of the Chicago 
River, to the village of the same name. 

Brady left at once, accompanied by his aide, Lieutenant 
Elector Backus, and the troops. After they had gone, Mason's 
problem centered around the Territorial Militia. In command 
was a crusty old curmudgeon named General John R. Williams, 
a leading citizen of Detroit, amassing wealth from trade with 
the flow of settlers and conservatism from his close friendship 
with Woodbridge. He had long been contemptuous of Mason. 

He said he wouldn't move until he had been duly notified 
by the Governor. And he made it plain that young Mason was 
not the Governor and that he had no ex officio power as com 
manding officer. Mason, thus rudelv awakened from placid 
routine, was confronted with a challenge. 

It was plainly his responsibility to see that Michigan men 
were rushed to the aid of Illinois with all possible speed. Faced 
with the irascible old General's indifference to his proclama 
tion, the matter became a test of strength to see just what 
Mason was going to do about it. 

On May 22nd he issued an official proclamation directing 
General Williams to "raise such a number of volunteers as in 
his opinion might be necessary." The document ordered Gen 
eral Williams to proceed with this force to Jonesville, a settle 
ment far down on the Chicago turnpike. There he was directed 
to rendezvous with General Joseph Brown's force of volunteers 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 159 

which was coming from the other outlying areas of the Ter 
ritory. The order named General Brown as head of the unit. 

To this order he affixed the Territorial Seal and rushed it 
downtown to the Williams residence at the juncture of Wood 
ward and a curved alley which was subsequently named John 
R.'s Street, now John R. There was just a chilly silence from 
within the mansion. The following day Mason heard indirectly 
that the General had remarked that volunteers were not com 
ing in fast enough to make such a force practical, and that he 
didn't see any use in it. Mason immediately issued an executive 
order to General Williams as Acting Governor and Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the militia, a power which the General 
said he did not rightfully have. Anyhow, Mason thus exercised 
the powers of the office by calling out all units of the Territorial 

The officers and men of the militia seemed to regard Mason 
as the boss. They obeyed the order. He sent a copy of it to 
Williams with this letter : 

"You cannot but be aware that delay is only calculated to 
give rise to false and unfounded reports. These may possibly 
have an injurious effect upon emigration to this Territory. 
It is expected that you will use every exertion to meet General 
Brown forthwith and that you will not return to this place 
until every shadow of danger from hostile Indians on the 
frontier has been removed." 

Mason got to all the Detroit newspapers with his copy of 
the order and the accompanying letter first, before the ruffled 
General could think of anything to say. General Williams had 
been one of the founders of the Free Press only two years 
before. He could not stomach the thought, perhaps, of being 
lampooned in his own publication. The tub-thumping Charlie 
Gleland, who had no love for Williams, had gone to work for 
the Free Press that month. And Williams, being a pompous 
man, feared ridicule. 

Reluctantly he penned an order, dated May 23rd, calling 
out one regiment of infantry, a battalion of mounted riflemen 


and the ornamental Oakland County Scouts, Detroit's cere 
monial fancy-drill company. They were to assemble at Ten 
Eyck's, a tavern on the Chicago turnpike which was the genesis 
of today's city of Dearborn. The order specified one P. M., 
May 25th, which was Sunday and would interrupt everybody's 
Sunday dinner. The entire command was there on time and the 
General, perforce, had to go. 

As the small force trudged along the dusty clay road it 
accumulated volunteers from every hamlet and settlement. 
Volunteers were not as slow in responding to Mason's procla 
mation as General Williams had believed. Five more companies 
of volunteers met the force at Jonesville and were absorbed 
into Williams' 8th Michigan Regiment. They came from Clin 
ton, Palmyra, Adrian, Blissfield and Tecumseh, towns in a sort 
of triangle in the extreme southeastern corner of the State. 

General Brown arrived in Jonesville with his regiment on 
time, completing the rendezvous the way Mason had planned 
it. But while the force rested, General Williams had to ride 
back toward Detroit to muster in more volunteers at Saline, 
who loudly protested at being left behind. The spirit of high 
adventure was burning in these bovs' hearts. They were the 
typical American boys who sprang to arms overnight; they 
sang and wrestled and loaded themselves down with all sorts 
of old-fashioned weapons which they thought might come in 
handy. They were going to fight Indians. They were going to 
have a whale of a time. 

The only adventure they had was a long dusty march home 
again. Mason had no more than drawn a sigh of relief at 
General Williams' departure than a breathless messenger gal 
loped up to the little brick capitol building, tethered his horse 
4 to the hitching rail outside and hurried to Mason's office. He 
bore a letter from the commander of the regular army forces 
at Chicago, who stated that Scott had sent a large detachment 
of infantry and cavalry overland to Fort Dearborn, by way 
of the lake and the road across Ohio and Indiana/They had 
arrived, he said, and they were strong enough to handle the 
situation easily. Michigan troops should be called home at once. 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES l6l 

In a daze, Mason penned a letter to General Williams and 
sent it after him by another messenger. The letter caught up 
with him at Saline, where he was still mustering in the volun 
teers who were said not to be coming in very fast. He had 
not even had time to start in the direction of Chicago. 

There was a good deal of disappointment in Detroit at this 
turn of events. Another public meeting popped up, composed 
apparently of relatives and friends of the soldiers who de 
manded that they be allowed to fight. Detroit seems to have 
been as volatile as a labor union; every unwelcome announce 
ment precipitated a crowd of noisy people who howled for 
something to be done about it. They violently denounced any 
one who might be held up as a scapegoat. While this meeting 
was denouncing Mason, another letter arrived and was read 
at the scene. This was written by General Williams, and ad 
dressed, not to Mason, his immediate superior, but to'Cass, 
at Washington. "The orders of the acting Governor are in 
consistent, contradictory and incompatible with military rules I" 

The crowd roared. Mason sent word to it, answering in 

"Should we have to march again from this quarter, the gen 
tlemen who fight the battles of the country at public meetings 
will be the first to go, if it can be effected." 

The crowd laughed, and the Black Hawk War was over. 
The weary troops staggered back into town and were dis 
missed. General Williams and General Brown rode on to Chi 
cago without them, where the few dozen inhabitants of that 
swampy village gave them a rousing welcome for their well- 
meant gesture. Mason and his fight with Williams became 
Michigan's only contribution to the war. There were some 
twenty big-city dailies in the country which regarded Mason 
as good copy and gleefully built him up as a sort of political 
David, entering battle against the Whig Goliaths armed only 
with his nimble brain and aggressive boldness of action. Every 
little incident wherein he set his enemies back on their haunches 
got an abnormal amount of newspaper space. The country was 
aching for someone to lionize. It was a country in another cen- 


tury, ninety-five years before Lindbergh, but people were just 
about the same. 

The Black Hawk War gave him victory in a preliminary 
skirmish and prepared a place of command for him. He was 
forced by Governor Porter's absence to lead Michigan people 
through one of their blackest hours. Hardly had the exhausted 
troops returned home when another war began a war a hun 
dred times more deadly than anything Black Hawk could at 
tempt. Mason found Michigan people ready to accept him, 
and to follow him. When he saw what he was facing he plunged 
in and fought. They loved him for it. 

The good ship Henry Clay was a wheezing old side-wheeler 
ruggedly built along the general lines of a garbage barge. 
Down in its vitals was a thumping little steam engine which 
banged and bumped happily along, day and night, while its 
rickety cabin abaft its tall smokestack squeaked and shivered. 
Jammed into its cell-like staterooms were people of conse 
quence. Porter had sailed on it; so had John T. and thousands 
of other notables. For fifteen years it had been pounding over 
Lake Erie from Buffalo to the Merchants' Wharf at the foot 
of Bates Street, Detroit. The passage was advertised as "fast 
express and mail schedule"; two and a half days. If a sudden 
wind sprang up, whipping the shallow lake into a series of 
sickening ground swells, the ship put in at some harbor and 

Sometime during June, 1832, the Henry Clay joined the 
army. An officer was sent to Buffalo to arrange for four steam 
boats to move more troops to Chicago, there to act as reserves 
if the initial force had trouble cornering Black Hawk. In addi 
tion to the Henry Clay, this officer chartered another antique, 
even older and more decrepit. She was the Superior, second 
steamboat on Lake Erie and the proud possessor of the little 
potbellied engine which had been salvaged from the wreck 
of the historic Walk-in-the-Water. Both boats should have 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 163 

been in some museum instead of acting as troop transports. 

The other two were newer and better ; the Sheldon Thomp 
son and the William Penn. Early in July all of these were filled 
with infantrymen from Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and 
weighed anchor for Detroit. They arrived in the midst of a 
Fourth of July celebration. They disgorged their troops, and 
uniforms mingled with homespun and gingham as the populace 
made merry at the traditional barbecue and picnic at the Cass 

At nightfall, the troops were recalled to the transports, 
which were tied up at the Merchants' Wharf dock. That night, 
two cases of Asiatic cholera were discovered among the men on 
the Henry Clay. The army doctor immediately identified the 
disease. He fled ashore and sought refuge in a hotel, on the 
plea of a sudden illness. Aboard the old vessel, panic appeared. 

Cholera swept through its crowded holds like incendiary 
fire. One of the victims died in convulsions before daybreak; 
by the time two Detroit doctors could be rushed aboard there 
were sixteen cases. The physicians, Dr. Randall S. Rice and 
Dr. John L. Whiting, shouted at the terrorized soldiers to lift 
those men out of the crowded steerage and get them ashore 
anywhere. They were carried into a dockside warehouse leased 
by the army quartermaster's department, but eleven of them 
died rapidly and the Henry Clay had become a floating death 

The busy treadmill of routine life in Detroit stopped, para 
lyzed. Silent groups of people came and stared down at the row 
of lifeless bodies, bloated and discolored, as they lay on the 
ground outside the warehouse. The steamboats had all been 
ordered away from the dock and were chuffing up the river in 
a smoky line, ordered to anchor in the lee of Hog Island (Belle 
Isle) until the curse could be controlled. But orders were 
switched in the excitement, and new papers were carried aboard 
ordering the whole flotilla to proceed around the chain of lakes 
to Chicago. No steamship had ever churned the waters of Lake 
Michigan; the skippers had never heard of Chicago and didn't 
know how to get there. But they started. 


The Henry Clay got as far as Fort Gratiot, a few miles 
up the course on the shore of Lake St. Clair. Then it was forced 
to put in for wood and water. 

"Conditions," testified Captain Walker, the skipper, "were 
indescribable. As soon as we touched the dock, every man who 
could move jumped ashore, hoping to escape from a scene so 
terrifying and appalling. Some fled to the fields, some to the 
woods, some just lay down on the dock and died. Bodies were 
found in the adjoining fields for months afterward. We do not 
know how many victims perished in that way." 

The William Penn had to turn back. A camp for its stricken 
men was set up at Springwells, and about half of them sur 
vived. Of the 850 men aboard the four vessels, less than 200 
ever reached Chicago. 

Even before the Henry Clay had left the dock, cholera had 
struck Detroit like a lash of a whip. The first two victims died 
July 6th; thereafter cholera swept across the entire city within 
two more days. 

Mason offered the unused top floor of the capitol building as 
a temporary hospital, but medical care could not help much. 
On July 1 8th there were twenty-eight deaths and on the 2Oth 
the toll was thirty-two. Normal life had come to a complete 

Stores were closed, offices left vacant, warehouses aban 
doned with wide-open doors and none to pilfer them. Every 
citizen who had a wagon which would hold his family and a 
few physical necessities fled the city by any road that was open. 
The people, fear-crazed, who could not leave, locked their 
doors and shuttered up their windows as if cholera were some 
kind of burglar. Over the city hung a blanket of eye-stinging 
black smoke, rising from pitch-pine knots burned in alleys and 
on street corners, which some unremembered healer thought 
was a preventative of contagion. 

Church bells tolled almost continuously, solemnly announcing 
the passing of a beloved communicant. At night, in this pall of 
smoke, carts would be drawn through the streets, accompanied 
by bell-ringing wardens, calling: "Bring out your dead! Bring 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 165 

out your dead!" Then doors would cautiously open and in the 
dim yellow glow of whale-oil lamps dark shadows would slowly 
move across the wall. Loved ones who fell victims to the dread 
scourge were carried out and dumped into these carts as un 
ceremoniously as so much cordwood. They were buried in 
deep ditches dug in the commons, unmarked and unseparated. 

Cholera struck with such swiftness that it was like the at 
tack of an unseen army. A man helping to load the death carts 
would be seen to put his hand to his spinning head to steady 
himself, then sway and fall. In an hour he would be dead. Emily 
Mason sat out on the front steps talking to a young man just 
arrived from Boston. Granny Peg brought the youth a mint 
julep, which she said she had heard was a preventative of 
cholera. The handsome young Bostonian said he thought there 
was no more pleasant way to ward off cholera than through the 
medium of a julep. A few hours later he was dead. Granny Peg 
died the next day, in Emily's arms. The household was hungry; 
no one had the courage to try to find a grocery store that was 
open and the valiant old Guinea negress set out alone. She 
came back with food, and her loyalty cost her her life. 

Throughout the city there were courageous souls who joined 
Mason in organizing a strong fight against the scourge. They 
flung caution to the winds. They drove the wagons which car 
ried stricken people from disease-free homes to the impromptu 
hospital in the capital building. They distributed supplies and 
food and medicine. They were everywhere, sending help to 
those who could be saved, defiantly ignoring the ever-present 
threat of unseen death to bring a little aid to total strangers 
who still had a chance for life. 

Women from fine old French families worked side by side 
with sailors from Lake Erie freight scows. The Desnoyers, 
the Dequindres, the Campeaus, the Beaubiens, and many more, 
organized a quarantine camp in a Beaubien lot just east of 
the Campus. Father Martin Kundig and the Sisters of Mercy 
labored frantically, without rest, dosing calomel and ipecac 
into the mouths of fever-stricken strangers, bathing them, wrap 
ping them in clean sheets after the recurrent seizures of diar- 


rhoea which were among the first definite symptoms of the 

Word came that Father Gabriel Richard had been stricken 
after having gone vigorously into a disease-ridden shack near 
the Campus to administer extreme unction to someone who 
had called for a priest. But the valiant crew couldn't stop then 
to mourn. Father Richard died, Michigan's most venerated 
sacrifice to the scourge. Every Catholic in Detroit, instead of 
weeping, raised his head and plunged deeper into the filth and 
misery to save what he could. Father Richard's spirit is part 
of Detroit to this day. After a month of terror, when Detroit 
had lost a tenth of its population and the scourge had run its 
course, Detroit realized the magnitude of its loss. Father 
Richard and Cadillac were the real builders of the city. 

Father Richard designed and partly built the cathedral of 
St. Ann's. He and a protestant minister named Reverend John 
Montieth founded the forerunner of the University of Michi 
gan, where the versatile priest was professor of four different 
subjects. He was the first .delegate from Michigan Territory 
to the national Congress, the only Catholic priest who has 
ever been elected to that body. He did about everything that 
needed doing, and it was from Father Gabriel Richard, a 
vigorous Franciscan monk in a brown robe and sandals, that 
Mason obtained the beginnings of his enduring educational 

Mason interrupted his debut as Acting Governor before the 
Territorial Council when the disease struck. He had just de 
livered a nicely phrased annual message to that body and out 
lined two possible legislative movements when he saw that 
the time for speeches was past. In the message he made a plea 
for a public school system and subconsciously laid the founda 
tion for continuing Father Richard's brilliant beginnings. But 
the message is forgotten today, a breath of pure air in a stink 
ing monsoon of disease. 

When the full force of cholera's impact was felt suddenly 
on July 1 8th, Mason was confronted with the first of the in 
evitable signs of breakdown in public authority. In times of 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 167 

panic it is every man for himself, and no one is more prone to 
act with utter independence than a homesteader. It was vital 
to Detroit's safety that the roads be kept open, in order that 
supplies of medicines and food for the besieged inhabitants 
might arrive in time to do some good. But the terrorized vil 
lagers on the roads leading out of the city immediately erected 
blockades and guarded them with guns. Nobody knew what to 
do. If anything were to be done, Mason would have to do it 

He left his own family to get along as best it could, and 
took to the roads. He was everywhere, galloping far out into 
the oak openings where only isolated cabins had been located. 
He turned up as far west as Niles, a hundred and eighty miles 
from Detroit, almost across the State. 

Pontiac, on the north, called out its company of militia and 
stopped by force any attempt to enter that village from De 
troit. Ypsilanti posted armed guards at its barrier across the 
Chicago turnpike. One of the hotheads of this band shot the 
lead horse of the mail coach on July xoth as its driver sat on 
his box arguing about the necessity for the mail to go through. 

Mason himself was caught in this speed trap at Ypsilanti. 
On July 1 4th he came galloping along the turnpike, his satin- 
lined cloak flying out behind his shoulders, stovepipe hat 
crammed down upon his wavy hair, a iong Virginia cigar 
clamped between his teeth. He was brought up short at the 
barrier. He demanded that he be allowed to pass, and a deputy 
sheriff named Eliphalet Turner brusquely told him that if he 
did, he woulcl be shot. 

The barrier was the object of Mason's visit. He looked down 
into the barrel of Turner's musket, wheeled his horse and 
started away. But he detoured around the barrier and sought 
out an Ypsilanti resident named Samuel Pettibone, asking for 
directions on unfrequented roads to reach Mottville, where 
Mason was to distribute emergency proclamations to the en 
tire southern tier of counties. Pettibone got him safely out of 
town and Mason was well away, riding hard, when Turner 
suddenly appeared out of nowhere and overtook him on a 



faster horse. The deputy grabbed the bridle and lugged the 
Acting Governor back to town under arrest. In the courtroom 
of the local justice of the peace Mason angrily revealed his 
identity. Then he was given permission to pass. Livid with 
rage, he turned to Turner and shouted : 

"I haven't time to take up the matter now, but you'll hear 
from me again!" 

Turner's eagerness to make a pinch cost him his job, and 
his boss's job as well. Mason had no more than reached Detroit 
again from Mottville than Eliphalet Turner and Sheriff Worth- 
ington were both summarily removed from office by an execu 
tive order. Mason had found that Governor Porter had chosen 
this particular moment of chaos to return to his so-called duties. 
The only thing Porter did during the cholera epidemic was to 
sign this removal order. But Mason was everywhere at once, 
appearing suddenly in some barricaded village like a ghost, 
gathering sheriffs and justices to enforce his proclamations, de 
stroying the barriers, then galloping off again with only his 
well-remembered flying cloak and tall hat visible. 

At Marshall, a village about midway across the State, he 
found that out of seventy people in the town eighteen were seri 
ously ill with cholera and eight had died. It was about what he 
had expected to find. Jacksonburg had five deaths to report 
as he passed through en route to Detroit on July 20th. When 
he arrived in the city he found that the tolling of those church 
bells was shattering what was left of the population's nerves 
and they had had to be discontinued. But the death list had not 
slackened. The toll for July was nearly five hundred; in 
August the fight against the plague began to make progress. 
With the coolness of September, cholera disappeared. 

No one in Detroit could explain how it happened to break 
out there. Blame was shared equally .between 'the rotten steer 
age floors of the Henry Clay and the crowded conditions among 
its troops which made practices of sanitation difficult. Where 
it came from originally was in doubt. There had been known 
cases of cholera traceable to fever-infested ships from the 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 169 

Orient docking at United States ports, but the disease did not 
reach epidemic proportions at any of these seacoast cities. 

When it was all over, the memory of that long-legged young 
man on a galloping horse, cigar clamped between his teeth, 
returned many times to Michigan people. They remembered 
the quick, authoritative way he set about calming village panics; 
how he ordered the sheriffs and the justices of the peace around 
in a hurry and made them like it. He reminded them of Cass, 
and like that great figure legends began to be told about how 
he had been put to work by a busy doctor at Marshall in a 
futile attempt to save the life of Mrs. John D. Pierce, wife of 
the village pastor. When the doctor realized who Mason was, 
he apologized. "Go on, doctor," said Mason. "I am here to 
learn, not to teach." 

"God bless you, Governor," said the doctor. To those people 
he was always "Governor". They seemed never to have heard 
of Porter. 

In August, just as cholera was yielding to frenzied attack, 
General John T. Mason unexpectedly returned to Detroit for 
a visit. The city was delightful in winter and the General did 
not appear to have anything in particular to do, so he stayed 
until the following February. 

So far had his able son progressed in one short year of public 
administration of John T.'s erstwhile job that John T. himself 
was treated somewhat like a stranger by those who once knew 
him. It must have seemed more like a decade than a year to 
Tom Mason if he had time to reflect upon it. And the son 
must have seemed like a different person to the returning 

We have no accurate records in the Mason correspondence 
as to the state of their regard for one another at this period. 
Whatever John T.'s failings might have been in his public 
dealings, we know that his family always adored him. They 


often quoted some offhand remark of his to point up some 
patrician principle. They marvelled at the sustained silence of 
their mother, but her contented sighs at John T.'s return were 
as descriptive as a poem on the subject. She had been writing 
him occasionally, and in her letters she was voluble. Moreover, 
she was capable of graphic description. She had a spiritual bond 
with John T. that she never shared with any of her children. 
Most of herself was her husband's. During his. absence she 
was a widow. 

Upon his return, Elizabeth Moir Mason doffed her widow 
hood and became a wife again. The house was a happy place; 
Emily was seventeen and beginning to attract a share of adoles 
cent attention, and the younger girls were noisy and active. 
Tom Mason continued to be the head of the family, with John 
T. in the position of a welcome guest of his mother's. But 
John T. liked that. 

His return might have brought to Tom Mason's mind an 
incident which occurred at the time of his appointment a year 
before. To many Detroiters it illustrated the basic differences 
between father and son, but highlighted their deep affection for 
each other. While Tom Mason was being tried by proxy at 
public meetings, some difficulty over shipment of John T.'s 
papers and effects developed which did not yield to attempts 
at solution by correspondence. It became necessary for John 
T. to come home again and locate whatever it was that Tom 
couldn't find, which he did without any public notice. The Free 
Press, of August 10, 1.831, says that Mason might have had 
some help with his famous letter "To The Public" because his 
father was in town that day. But the letter was written before 
John T. arrived. He departed immediately afterward, but 
stayed long enough to attend his son's invitation dinner at a 
Detroit hotel, at which some Whig lawyers were present. 

At this dinner, when toasts were proposed, one of these 
Whigs decided to be a bit subtle. "Gentlemen," he said, "I give 
you Mr. Stevens T. Mason, the ^-Territorial Secretary." 

"No, no!" interrupted John T. He was trembling. "Give 
the boy a chance! Don't hang him without a hearing!" 

1831-1834] THE BEARDLESS MOSES 171 

Fifty years went by before one of the other guests at the 
dinner wrote his memoirs. He said that Stevens patted his 
father's hand reassuringly and sat there, gazing with complete 
amiability upon the speaker while his father gurgled with sup 
pressed anger. The speaker did not obtain any seconds to his 
toast and he sat down, somewhat red of face. Young Mason 
had rigid control of this situation without a spoken word, while 
his father would have been trapped into a loud-voiced argu 
ment which was exactly what the lawyer wanted. 

A year later, Stevens was still figuratively patting John TVs 
hand, and held rigid control of the Territory's administration. 
In October he observed his twenty-first birthday, which there 
upon qualified him as a voter in the far-flung frontier prairie 
over which he had achieved supreme influence. He cast his 
first ballot as a voter on October 23rd, backing the losing can 
didate in a three-cornered fight for the office of Delegate to 
Congress. While he made no attempt to campaign for his 
party's choice, Austin E. Wing, out of this campaign came a 
slogan which once more brought Stevens T. Mason to the 
front pages of America. The Ann Arbor Emigrant haughtily 
referred to Wing as "a protege of the Boy Governor". And 
Boy Governor Mason remained as long as he held office in 
Michigan, in every newspaper. It made him so angry that when 
he discovered the ieditor of that newspaper on a street in De 
troit, Mason attacked him with his fists and gave him quite a 
beating. It was this story that was widely reprinted in New 
York and Boston and Washington. City editors got it out of 
the Ann Arbor Argus, a rival paper whose editor chuckled at 
how ". . . the stripling, the Boy Governor if you please, was 
man enough to give him a sound cuffing." 

In April of the following year, 1833, Detroit was so pleased 
at Mason's new-found manhood that its citizens elected him to 
the important municipal post of Alderman-at-large, represent 
ing the entire city on the governing board. He was nominated 
and immediately elected to the exclusive Detroit Young Men's 
Society. He was elected to the volunteer fire brigade, and was 
called out of bed to haul a little four-wheeled pumper over 


Detroit's muddy streets. "Hardly a week passed," says Emily's 
diary, "that did not see our home extending its hospitality 
to notable men who had come from the east and had stopped 
in Detroit to make themselves known to the 'Boy Governor' 
as my brother was known." 

Lieutenant Jefferson Davis was making a roundabout jour 
ney of the principal cities with the captive Black Hawk, who 
was entertained at Mason's home with his entourage. The 
sinister Black Hawk and his steel-muscled warrior son slept 
in Mason beds that night, thus making more than a parable 
about political bedfellows. Mason was reported as very cordial 
to the old Indian. Indeed, he had reason to be grateful. 



THE YEAR WAS 1833, and the Mason star was in the ascendant. 
He was emerging into the national spotlight at a time when 
things were dull in the newspaper offices throughout the larger 
cities. Editors welcomed a colorful personality. Out there on the 
Western frontier they saw a popular youth who somehow 
had inspired a fanatically loyal following, locking horns with a 
sour old politician who knew all the answers and who was any 
thing but popular. Later in the century, young Abe Lincoln 
found himself the center of national attention during his de 
bates with Douglas, for somewhat the same reasons; The 
appeal of each personality was the same : an audacious young 
man flinging down a challenge to an established political ma 

In the cracker-barrel debates which followed each news 
paper account of Mason's doings, throughout the East, he 
was talked of as a "coming man". His name personified Michi 
gan. His personality was the personality of the tough young 
Territory. His meteoric rise to fame illustrated how rapidly 
Michigan was acquiring solidity and stature. 

In the Baltimore papers, accounts of Mason's doings with 
the Whigs and his rout of old General John R. Williams, 
filtered into Virginia and the Mason clan was glad. In New 
York, the great Washington Irving made a note of the young 
character at Detroit, and filed it for future reference. Mason's 
morning mail was full of letters from strangers everywhere 
who wrote him gushing letters as they write today to any 

He was twenty-one. He looked it, but acted and tried to 


appear older. He was somewhat like those army pilots of the 
recent war who went from high school to colonel's eagles be 
fore they had much fuzz to shave. 

His nominal superior, Governor Porter, was always absent. 
Few people had ever seen him. Mason was addressed as "Gov 
ernor" both publicly and socially. He sent bills to the Ter 
ritorial Council and signed appointments. He reported to the 
various Bureaus at Washington, and kept a tight hand over 
county sheriffs who were too officious. He was Governor in 
fact, and in the hearts and minds of his thinly settled colonies 
of people. 

Michigan Territory stretched far, far beyond the peninsula 
wherein the handsome youth found himself in power. Across 
the big lake and far to the forested west, his influence was 
slight. The trappers and miners out there wanted a complete 
separation from him. Not because of any disapproval, but they 
could not see how he could administer a vast wilderness which 
he had never seen and knew nothing about. No one knew much 
about those areas, except the Sioux and Blackfeet. 

Mason agreed with them wholeheartedly. Acting probably 
on some excellent advice, he threw his support behind the elec 
tion of a Territorial Delegate to Congress who would come 
from the Wisconsin area and would represent it exclusively. 
He was trying to stimulate sentiment for statehood. If he 
could get Michigan admitted to the Union, that would leave 
the Delegate undisturbed and still functioning. It would be 
an argument for Congressmen to mull over. They might help 

There was great support for Mason's plan, and some opposi 
tion. The opposition came from the Whig crowd, as usual, 
but it was based on sound economics. As a Territory, Michigan 
got a $10,000 Federal appropriation for administrative ex 
penses each year, and nearly lived on it. As a State, she would 
have to raise about three times that sum from the impoverished 
settlers and villagers by taxation. The pioneers out there in 
the tamarack swamps were having a hard enough time clearing 
and draining their land, and fighting fever. A money levy upon 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HPTSPUR!" 175 

them would hardly be met with a cordial cheer, yet many set 
tlers were loudly in favor of it. 

Some time during the spring of 1833, Mason decided that 
the time had come to begin fighting for Michigan as a State. 
He knew the battle would continue for several years. The 
60,000 minimum population that Congress insisted upon was 
almost within sight. Another year or two of migration such 
as he had seen in 1832, and his goal would be reached. 

He was thus, in April and May, 1833, in a dual position of 
almost comic contrasts. One phase of his life was that of the 
statesman, leading his people literally out of the wilderness 
toward the promised land of statehood and prosperity. He 
was successful, famous, popular. His enemies were muttering 
and plotting in political exile. The other phase was that of the 
pink-cheeked youth whose mother, that very month, startled 
him by presenting him with a baby sister. In this phase he was 
the young fellow who worked in an office during the day and 
came home to study at night, and who occasionally took his 
sisters out to dinner at the Mansion House. He was the boy 
who aroused all sorts of hopes in the hearts of impressionable 
girls and their mothers; the frustrated, overgrown kid who, 
the preceding winter, had gone down to the Detroit River 
incognito and stayed up late sliding down the steep banks onto 
the ice on a child's sled. 

He had more self-discipline than his father. He never mixed 
his twin personalities. In his office he really ran the Territory, 
and Governor Porter's office was like a tomb. Evenings, he 
took Porter's assistant downtown to Uncle Ben Woodworth's 
Steamboat Hotel bar, and plied him with ale and questions 
about the law. The assistant was a young Philadelphia lawyer 
named Kintsing Pritchette, whom Porter had appointed as his 
secretary because of personal liking for him. Pritchette was 
glad to become Mason's law tutor. He was, like Mason, an 
opportunist. He could see by now the relative importance of 
Porter and Mason in the Territory. Hence, he helped Mason 
at every opportunity and was ready with advice both legal and 


At Uncle Ben's taproom it was the custom for each little 
group to select a corner, or a table, or a little space of its own. 
Some cliques were heavy drinkers. Some were noisy. Others 
preferred to drink even deeper of the atmosphere of the famous 
pioneer inn overlooking the wide river. 

Mason was one of the latter. So were a few others like 
himself, such as Colonel John Norvell, George Palmer, Major 
Isaac S. Rowland and Pritchette. This quintet became an estab 
lished barroom club. It met every night. It was actually a law 
school. Pritchette was coaching Major Rowland and young 
George Palmer as well as Mason for the bar examination to be 
held that autumn. Each of the three had personal reasons for 
his choice of this form of legal study instead of the more formal 
reading of law in some attorney's office. 

Norvell was the postmaster of Detroit, newly appointed to 
replace the venerable Whig, James Abbott, who had held the 
post for twenty years. Never previously acquainted in the city, 
he was thrown by politics into the company of the most promi 
nent Democrat in the community, who was Mason. He was a 
big, handsome, virile man in his middle thirties, who was mar 
ried to a girl said by Emily to be "the prettiest woman who 
ever set foot in Michigan Territory". The Norvells visited 
at the Mason home, and vice versa, constantly. The friendship 
between the young postmaster and the even younger Secretary 
and Acting Governor was a lasting one. 

Georgie Palmer was the son of the distinguished old Detroit 
clan, the Thomas Palmers. He preferred to study law with 
Pritchette mostly because his familv had a low opinion of his 
abilities, and he was trying to show them that he could accom 
plish something on his own. Ike Rowland, a man of self-made 
success, was a Michigan-born pioneer whose chief interest in 
life was the regiment of Michigan Volunteers, in which he was 
a battalion commander. He was only a year or so older than 
Mason, a superb physical specimen, and had led an adventurous 
life which made him seem like, a storybook hero to fifteen- 
year-old Kate Mason. 

The Boy Governor's barroom law school didn't hold forth 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR I" 177 

as regularly as it should have. He was interrupted periodically. 
The baby born to wrinkled Elizabeth Moir Mason on April 
5> J 833, was stillborn and he had to arrange a small funeral. 
In May, funds arrived unexpectedly from John T., paying 
semester's tuition for Emily and the next youngest sister, Kate, 
at Miss Emma Willard's Select School for Young Ladies 
at Troy, New York. At that period it was the most fashionable 
finishing school in America. The girls were thrilled. Mason 
arranged a trip which took him with them to Philadelphia, 
Washington and New York before reaching the school. 

He must have received a very cordial welcome in Washing 
ton. His notes say nothing about a White House visit, but old 
Andy must have known he was in the city. After making the 
rounds of all the offices, he continued to Troy and returned to 
Detroit about midsummer. 

Cholera was the biggest fear in his mind. For some strange 
reason, the dread disease by-passed Detroit in the summer of 
1833, but struck at Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio, and 
other points along the Ohio River. A big circus and a theatrical 
troupe, booked for that area, were marooned in Detroit. The 
summer was a happy one, broken by a flurry of excitement in 
June when a fugitive slave arrived in town via the "under 
ground" with an irate owner two jumps behind. The owner 
was trying to head him off before he reached safety in Canada. 
The slave was a good public speaker. He aroused all the 
negroes in Detroit, who rushed to his defense. In the ensuing 
melee the sheriff was badly wounded and a miniature riot 
shattered the summer peace. This did not touch Mason's Ter 
ritorial administration but it provided the subject of some 
interesting letters which he wrote to his sisters at Troy. 

"He was handsome," sighed Emily, to her diary. People 
wondered why Mason didn't marry, or at least select some girl 
and give her an opportunity to preen herself with the dream 
that some day she might become the new State's first lady. 
They couldn't understand why he frittered away the long 
moonlight nights in Uncle Ben's barroom. The papers thought 
he was a heavy drinker. Emily herself, not knowing what was 


transpiring at the barroom, complained that Mason was a 
"social votary . . . given to conviviality." 

At twenty-one he was still a bit under six feet, but had filled 
out very satisfactorily. His dark-brown hair, almost black, 
worn somewhat full as was the fashion, waved from front to 
back. He had the clean, regular features of a romantic actor, 
that impression being heightened by a pair of black, neatly 
arched eyebrows that looked almost too perfect. His nose was 
straight, his strong chin cleft with a dimple, and his blue eyes 
were framed in thick dark lashes almost like a girl's. Careful 
training had forced him to carry his lithe body stiffly erect, 
head held high. That classic posture seemed even more statu 
esque when viewed in the decorative clothing of the period: 
black broadcloth tail coat, high silk hat, valanced cloak, stiff 
shirt front and black satin neckstock. He was a figure to set 
many a girl's pulse pounding, and young swains' tongues to 
sarcasm. He knew it, and often purposely appeared with his 
wavy hair in great disarray and wrinkles in his satin vest. He 
thought that the men who came to see him would resent it if 
he were too well-groomed. There are sketches of him which 
show his hair pulled forward in awkward blobs around his 
ears. Others show it plastered flat on his high forehead as if he 
purposely were trying to look older and partially bald. His 
official State portrait depicts him thus. 

These tricks succeeded merely in making him look drunk, 
but he evidently preferred that to looking too handsome. Emily 
shared the prevailing opinion in Detroit about his nocturnal 
habits. People who saw him almost daily marvelled that after 
a night of debauchery at Uncle Ben's barroom he could appear 
pink-cheeked and amiable the next morning. Ike Rowland 
and Norvell kept the secret whenever they came to the Mason 
home, which was frequently. During the girls' absence, Row 
land had forgotten all about Kate. But she had not forgotten 
him. Letters from the girls at Troy poured in, many of them 
addressed to the Major. Rowland wrote that she ought to be 
come a writer. Years later, she did. She signed her books "Kate 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 179 

Mason Rowland", just as she knew, at the age of fifteen, that 
she would. 

"Tom," wrote Emily, "had scant time and less inclination for 
affairs of the heart, though so handsome, so gay and so amiable 
as to be much in demand and admired by the ladies." Emily 
didn't mention the state of his bank roll, or the fact that Mason 
couldn't afford to buy a girl a ring or anything else that cost 
an important sum. He himself was probably painfully aware of 
this condition. It may have been a big factor in his determina 
tion to side-step what Emily called "affairs of the heart". 

One way to make enough money to support the family and 
still have a wife, he felt, would be to engineer the formation 
of the State government as soon as possible. If he could get 
himself elected to the Governorship and collect a handsome 
salary each quarter, many of his most pressing troubles would 
be over. The people were ready for it. The time was now. 
Washington was receptive. 

The more young Mason meditated on the task of building 
a State government, the more the idea fascinated him. It was 
an unparalleled opportunity for a young man. He would be 
the progenitor, the father of everything in the State, the name 
sake of all the new accomplishments. His name would live. 
He sat back in his big office chair and dreamed of what he 
would do with his State, and his people. 

His mind began framing the preamble to the Constitution. 
He wondered about a State seal. What great scholar would 
furnish an impressive Latin motto? Who would select the 
State flower, the State animal, the State nickname ? He would. 

Daydreaming was a harmless pastime. Making these dreams 
come true would take work. Mason was prepared to work for 
the realization of his goal, but first he had to plan carefully 
the sequence of moves that would culminate in success. "First 
things first" became his motto. He knew he could meet the 


Congressional minimums as to population and plan of opera 
tion. The next question was that of the boundaries of his new 
State. There he ran headlong against one of the sorest politi 
cal disputes of the nineteenth century. Specifically, the southern 
border of Michigan Territory? where it adjoined Ohio, had 
been the subject of political and private friction ever since Cass 
warned him about it in 1830. 

During the winter of 1833-34 he stayed much at home, 
making up his mind how to attack this problem. He began to 
see it as the climax of the whole battle. If he could win the 
border dispute, he could win admittance for Michigan as a 
State. Success in this controversy meant success in everything. 
Conversely, if he failed there, he would lose all hope of getting 
Michigan admitted during any period in which he would hold 

He could not concentrate his whole attention upon it dur 
ing the winter. He was admitted to the Michigan bar on De 
cember n, 1833, along with Georgie Palmer and Major Ike 
Rowland, which called for a whopper of a celebration in Uncle 
Ben's taproom and called down the Whig newspapers upon 
his head in consequence. The year 1834 began with a fresh 
series of family disasters which upset his schedule entirely for 
weeks at a time. 

While the two eldest girls were at school in Troy, Mason's 
mother had been plunged into inconsolable grief by the death 
of "Sunshine Sister Mary", aged five, the youngest. She, accord 
ing to many contemporary accounts, was a chubby, lively little 
thing who bore the name of Elizabeth Mason's first child, who 
had died in Kentucky at the age of twelve. The saddened 
mother never completely recovered from this tragedy, the 
nature of which is a complete mystery. The family name for 
her, "Sunshine," is graphically descriptive of the sweet little 
girl she must have been. Mason, of course, cancelled all social 
appointments and went into mourning. 

During the same winter the invalid daughter, Theodosia, 
aged eleven, died mysteriously, too, on January 7, 1834. The 
secret of her affliction went to the grave with her. It left the 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 181 

brave Elizabeth Mason staring almost incredulously at the 
great gold-hinged family Bible, which showed the pitifully 
brief annals of the thirteen children she had borne in twenty- 
two years. In midwinter, 1833-34, four were alive: Stevens T., 
Emily, Kate and Laura. 

John T. was in Cincinnati en route southwest from Wash 
ington. He wrote her to come and spend a few quiet weeks with 
him. Sister Laura, aged twelve, became a pupil in Father Kun- 
dig's new convent school outside Detroit. Mason was alone in 
the house. The family was reunited in March, when the two 
older sisters returned from Troy in Mason's two-horse sleigh 
after a three-week battle with blizzards. Elizabeth tried to 
show a little cheerfulness, but failed. She was very weak. 

Mason had a long and serious talk with Emily, who straight 
way took over the household. She became his official hostess, 
and a sort of secretary as well. Her diary at this period is full 
of notes on the visitors who came, what they ate, what they 
said. She reports that her mother was fighting against the 
temptation to give up and become a bedridden invalid. Eliza 
beth forced her to get up and go through the motions of wel 
coming guests, but all of them could see the strain it caused. 

In the spring, Mason was able to turn his attention once 
more to the business of the Territory. Governor Porter, who 
is a dimly seen background figure during this period, had his 
brief moment in the spotlight very early in the year. He re 
turned from Pennsylvania in midwinter to collect a large sum 
in back salary, and to discharge the only real official function 
he could not delegate to Mason. This was the annual message 
to the Council. In January, 1834, Porter produced a document 
which sounds to us of this generation quite New Deal-ish. 
He was interested in the first attempts to combine little local 
railroads into statewide trunk lines throughout the East. He 
thought that, because of the cost, it was a task beyond the re 
sources of private companies and ought to be undertaken by the 

In his message he went over the old familiar praises of the 
Michigan topography, with its transverse rivers seemingly 


made for commerce and transport. He brought up an impres 
sive array of arguments about how the railroad, as a public 
project, would stimulate the sale of public lands, develop new 
cities, provide employment, and create traffic for itself. 

Mason listened to this message, and was stirred. He was 
convinced. Coupled with his task of creating a new State, now 
came the equally difficult task of creating a great railroad 
system, out of nothing. He did not know the elemental facts 
about railroads, or about any engineering problem. He did 
not have John T.'s economic training. But he had an intuition, 
and impulsively he backed it. 

Porter's message went a great deal further than mere rail 
roads, demanding money for improvements in rivers and har 
bors, for canals, and for all sorts of projects with fat Federal 
payrolls. Mason recognized these demands for the treasury- 
tapping political pap they were. But the railroad idea took pos 
session of him from that moment. He began to dream again, 
conjuring up a vision of what Michigan would look like fifty 
years hence, with railroads winding between busy new cities, 
serving a happy and prosperous populace. Dreams always pro 
duce visions like that. 

Somebody should have warned him. The vision was eco 
nomically sound, and the railroad had to come some day. Mason 
thought he could do anything. He had the imagination to see 
what had to be done, and the ability to get it done. But he 
lacked the experience to protect himself from the political 
wolves who were to attack him incessantly before that rail 
road ever crossed Michigan. That railroad, which he helped 
so much to create, eventually killed him. If he had not at 
tempted to finance it, he might have lived to be ninety, like 

Suddenly, Governor Porter died. Mason heard about it on 
July 6, 1 834, almost at the moment his death occurred. Porter 
was supervising construction on his new house, below the city 
on his new park-line farm. He had contracted a strange illness 
while across the lake in Wisconsin, on a treaty dicker with the 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 183 

Winnebago Indians sometime during March. He did not seem 
to be ill when he returned, but abruptly he was dead. 

Mason quickly arranged the necessary formalities and the 
notices of official mourning. He was Governor now, in sole 
command. At the news of Porter's death, Mason went up 
several notches in prestige. People looked to him to bring 
their demand for State government into reality, and to do 
something about the appalling condition of the roads through 
out the Territory. The logical climax of that quest, of course, 
was the railroad. 

The Council worked with him smoothly and swiftly. Char 
ters were granted to two new railroad companies which were 
to build sections of the state-wide system. Engineers were em 
ployed on contract to drive a survey for the trunk line across 
the peninsula from Detroit to St. Joseph. 

There was not a foot of railroad track, nor any rail vehicle 
in operation, in the whole peninsula. Some companies had been 
chartered* previously, but political squabbles of various sorts 
kept them from completing their work. One company was 
grading its right-of-way between Adrian and Port Lawrence 
(Toledo), but had not finished. Public interest naturally cen 
tered on the "big line", the cross-country road that was to 
connect Detroit with Chicago via St. Joseph. 

There were two possible routes. The old road known as the 
''Chicago turnpike" swung straight southwest from Detroit 
and angled through the Irish Hills to Coldwater. Thence it 
was more or less guesswork and gamble with the swamps for 
many miles, until it gave up altogether in the sand dunes at 
the lower end of Lake Michigan. A detour had been con 
structed which went through northern Indiana, and eventually 
provided a wagon trail all the way to Chicago. It was the 
shorter of the twd routes, but because a goodly share of it lay 
in Indiana, and more practically because it avoided all the new 
towns, it was not considered as a public project by the citizens 
of Michigan. 

The route selected was the old Indian trail between St. 


Joseph and Detroit, packed hard by the moccasined feet of 
Indians for a hundred and fifty years as they made their fre 
quent pilgrimages to Maiden, Ontario, to receive presents 
from the British. Alongside it and sometimes over it, Governor 
Cass had hewed out a lane which he called the "Territorial 
Road". On this road were rapidly expanding settlements every 
few miles. Some of them in 1834 were good-sized towns: 
Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Dexter, Chelsea, Jackson, Marshall, 
Battle Creek, Bronson (Kalamazoo) and St. Joseph; it carried 
the vast bulk of Michigan's commerce. 

The engineers' survey ended the line at St. Joseph and 
recommended a fleet of steamboats for the short voyage to 
Chicago. Technical skill of the time was baffled by those sand 
dunes, which wandered like enormous whales over some hun 
dreds of square miles, never still. Since the road could not 
go through them, the steamboat was a satisfactory answer. 
The project aroused enthusiasm because this entire route lay 
in Michigan. 

The condition of this road in 1834 was almost indescribable. 
In good weather a traveller could find traces of wagon tracks. 
In foul weather he could not locate any part of a road. Volun 
teer parties of settlers built bridges over the worst rivers, 
but freshets washed them out. The miles of swamps were snake- 
infested and disease-ridden. Mud was a constant curse. In 
1834 some people pushing westward from Detroit in a wagon 
got as far as Dexter. Then : 

"There is an extensive marsh on the road near Grass Lake 
in Jackson County. It gave us much trouble. We had not made 
more than half the distance across it when we were brought 
up standing, or rather sticking, in the mud. Thinking to lighten 
our load we all got off and waded through, happily escaping 
the venomous fangs of the snakes with which the swamp is 
thickly infested." Four yokes of oxen could not budge the 
wagon, and the occupants were getting hungry. "Totally un 
conscious of how far we were from a human habitation, we 
waited. Eight o'clock in the evening found our teams mud- 
bound, and ourselves perched on high ground bedrabbled with 

1834-1835] U THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR !" 185 

the soil of Michigan." In the morning, seven ox teams hauled 
the wagon free. 

A stage line operating over the road in 1834 promised to 
make the distance from Detroit to St. Joseph in five days, "in 
fine weather'*. In rotten weather, the drivers just gave up 
wherever they were, and waited. The road from Ypsilanti to 
Ann Arbor was "whitened by the ribs of rotted wagons and 
broken wheels" abandoned everywhere. The Detroit Adver 
tiser, horrified by this vista, said that the wreckage of smashed 
vehicles made the road look like "the route of a retreating 
army". The road was so bad between Jackson and Marshall 
that "inns thrived at two-mile intervals". 

The railroad had to come, and soon. Dr. Fuller's thesis on 
the subject says that as soon as Stephenson's Rocket had made 
the first practical rail journey in England, agitation for rail 
roads broke out in Michigan. In 1834 only a few miles of ex 
perimental railroads had been built in the East, but the craze 
for them hit Michigan suddenly, keynoted by Governor Por 
ter's message, and followed through with frenzy by Michigan 
promoters. The Detroit Courier advised Eastern capitalists 
who had missed the train in the East when railroads were be 
ing organized there "to bring their funds hither and forthwith 
take preliminary steps to invest the same in the railroad be 
tween Detroit and Chicago". 

Chicago became a magic word in America with the demon 
stration that railroads were practical. Lake Erie steamboats 
and Detroit's outfitting facilities had channeled the bulk of 
Western emigration through the city, but the condition of the 
road was discouraging the flow. More and more emigrants 
were landing at Port Lawrence and taking the military turn 
pike to Chicago. Detroit promoters demanded that something 
be done at once. 

Mason was freed by Porter's death from the restrictions 
placed upon a "Secretary and Acting Governor". He had been 
in power most of the time for the past three years. His achieve 
ments and personal popularity had, by that time, taken most 
of the bitterness out of the fact of his position on the part of 


suspicious old Whig officeholders in the townships. He was 
approaching his twenty-third birthday. He had the scene set 
and the props in place for his greatest performance. The cast 
was ready. Everything seemed in place. 

Before he could raise the curtain, he was plunged into a new 
disaster. During the first week of August, 1834, Asiatic cholera 
hit Detroit the worst blow in her entire history. It scourged 
the city and the Territory for five weeks. Detroit lost an offi 
cially tabulated seven percent of its population during August, 
and the Historical Commission records claim as high as ten 
percent. Everyone who could pack a few belongings fled the 
accursed city. Epidemics broke out simultaneously at Ann 
Arbor, Ypsilanti and Pontiac. 

Mason's father had remained at Cincinnati, just resting, 
all spring. He now appeared in Detroit and whisked away the 
invalid mother and the three girls. Hospitals were set up in the 
churches. The top floor of Mason's capitol building was pressed 
into service again. Nowhere were there medicines enough or 
doctors enough. The awful suddenness of the plague seemed 
like a special curse to the frightened citizens. There would be 
suddenly a feeling of dizziness, a fainting attack, horrible ab 
dominal gripes, nausea, diarrhoea, then coma and the stiff re 
lief of death. 

Streets deserted, stores closed, boats warned away from the 
docks, Detroit staggered along as if she were herself a victim 
of the dread plague. On August i6th, exhausted Dr. Rice 
stumbled into his office in a building on the present site of the 
First National Bank. Thirty-seven victims had died that day, 
and the doctor was at his wit's end. 

"Everybody's dying," he sighed. "Every one of us will die. 
Two years ago I bled all my patients and most of them re 
covered. This year, every one I have bled has died just the 


A youth named Robert Turner was scurrying about, making 
some notes for a newspaper article he hoped to sell. He thought 
he would die, too. He described the insidious way the plague 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 187 

seemed to creep up and down the river, touching the docks, 
warehouses and even the ships lying at anchor. 

"Men fell as if struck by lightning," he wrote. "When at 
early dawn the old French carts could be seen In line, like the 
commissariat of the Grand Army of Napoleon, stretching 
away to the old cemetery, a fearful line of festering corpses ; 
when all men, no matter how brave, seemed appalled, when 
we had no hospitals, no asylums, no place of refuge for the 
sick and the dying, Father Kundig, God bless him, improvised 
a hospital on North Grand Avenue. He summoned to his aid 
the fair daughters, sweet young girls, of the Desnoyers, the 
De Quindres, the Campeaus, and organized them into a splen 
did corps of Sisters of Mercy. There, day and night, amid 
filth and misery, faced with death in its most frightful form, 
they fought. When death came, they gave to the poor, the 
hungry and the lost, the last beautiful rites of their Church." 

Judge WitherelFs wife died. General Larned, the old pio 
neer, died. Hundreds of lesser-known people died. But Robert 
Turner lived to be eighty. He remembered a man and wife 
during the epidemic of 1834 who had newly arrived in Detroit. 
The man left his wife for three days, to look for a place in 
the country. When he came back, his wife had died and had 
been buried and he could not locate the grave. Another man 
sent all his family to a place of safety outside of town. He re 
mained to help the emergency workers, believing that he would 
be stricken any time. All of his family were killed by the plague, 
but he survived. Even the doctor who treated him died. 

Throughout the epidemic of 1834, the crooked open sewer 
which modern doctors blame for the epidemic crawled and 
wriggled its way across town, ignored. It was not Mason, 
but a Dr. Whiting who called his contemporaries' attention to 
it in the belief that in some way, not then known, it was the 
source of these recurrent epidemics. Dr. Whiting practiced 
medicine for fifteen years in Detroit, including the two epi 
demics in 1832 and 1834. When he started In earnest to fight 
for a water supply, and piped sewers, and a cover over the 


polluted creek, cholera disappeared. Cases of it have been 
known since, but never again did it reach the deadly menace 
that it became in August, 1 834. 

Mason did not know why he lived through that month. 
In September the falling temperature had a magic effect upon 
the disease, and by October it had vanished. Nobody knew 
where it came from, or how to fight it. Mason did not profess 
to know. He had been exposed to it every day since the epidemic 
broke out, but in some manner had never contracted it. He did 
what little a layman could do, by straightening out arguments 
between rival volunteer organizations with divergent ideas, 
and by organizing supplies of clean linen and medicines from 
outlying towns. In October, 1834, he sat at his desk in his 
little Jefferson Avenue home. It was over. He was still alive. 
The rest of the family was in New York, whither they had gone 
with John T. to help him spend some of the money he was 
making from his Southern ventures. He tried to tell them about 
the epidemic, but found himself joking about it. 

"The longer I live," he wrote, "the more I hate 'good so 
ciety' as it is now ra^ed. Had I an empire of my own, I would 
as strictly quarantine the approach of fashion as I would that 
of a contagious fever. Both are equally dangerous. One case of 
either thrown into a community will soon spread over it, unless 
in the former instance the constitutions of the citizens are 
sufficiently strong to withstand disease, and in the latter, their 
heads are sufficiently strong to resist the contagion of fashion. 
So recollect, you and Emily are to bring none of the exquisites 
of fashion concealed in your frock sleeves, or I shall follow 
the recent example of Governor Hayne of South Carolina 
and consider it my duty to issue a proclamation against your 
landing in the Territory." 

He had been advised by some impatient soul in New York, 
probably Washington Irving, that the English author, Harriet 
Martineau, was coming, and was planning on staying at the 
Mason home while in Detroit. The correspondent wanted to 
know what Mason was going to do to entertain the great 
and awe-inspiring lady, who was irritable, haughty, and deaf. 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 189 

She went about poking at people with her stout cane and jabbing 
an ear trumpet at them, screeching: "Hey? Hey?" Mason 
was apprehensive. The distinguished lady was then in New 
York and the family had met her. Emily wrote that she was 
a pretty difficult social problem to tackle. Mason replied : 

"I have been daily standing in dread of the arrival of Miss 
Martineau, who I am informed has been invited to take up 
her quarters with us during her visit. I wish her no harm, but 
pray Heaven she may never arrive. Imagine to yourself, Miss 
Martineau among us with our present household; Jemmy the 
dining-room servant, and Ann, her waiting-maid. An earth 
quake would not produce more terror amongst us than her 
presence. Everybody about the house trembles at the noise of 
a steamboat. Even the old gobbler in the yard seems frightened, 
for the knock of Miss Martineau at the door of our mansion 
is the knell of his departure 'to the place from which turkeys 
never return'. If a master's hopes, his servants prayers and 
a gobbler's petitions will avail anything, Heaven will send 
adverse winds to the vessel that bears Miss Martineau to 
our port." 

Heaven duly sent the adverse winds, or in some manner 
scrambled up the Martineau travel schedule, because she did 
not arrive until June, 1835. The awesome Harriet wrote a 
five-volume report called Society in America, and Retrospect 
of Western Travel, in which she said that Detroit "over 
whelmed" her. She had the same effect on the Masons. 

Before her arrival, while the family was still in New York, 
Mason began his long-delayed campaign to settle the border 
dispute with Ohio. He sent a series of letters to governors of 
other States trying to drum up some moral support nationally, 
which he believed would have an effect politically upon members 
of Congress. He was starting a pressure drive on Congress to 
counterbalance the weight of Ohio's senators and representa 
tives, who were determined to keep Michigan Territory out 
of the area under dispute. For example, he wrote to the Gov 
ernor of Virginia : 

"Michigan feels justified in making an appeal to Virginia in 


the fact that she is, in effect, her offspring" since a century 
before Virginia had claimed all the territory around the Lakes, 
then, in 1789, had relinquished it 

"We spring from a noble and disinterested generosity on the 
part of Virginia. . . . Michigan looks to her as a parent, and 
feels a k strong degree of confidence in the belief that her rights 
will be respected. It is with pleasure, Sir, that I address you 
on this subject, from whom candor, impartiality and justice 
can confidently be expected, and if permitted to allude to my 
own feelings, as a native of Virginia, in justification of the zeal 
with which I urge a full examination of the subject by your 
Excellency, under a conviction that you will recommend to the 
legislature of your State the adoption of such measures as will 
be consistent with the rights of those interested." 

His Excellency was appalled, no doubt, by that sentence. 
He went back over it and eventually deciphered it as an appeal 
for support over the border claim. He cautiously replied : 

"I could say nothing more and nothing half so well. Masons 
should never forget Virginia, and Virginia will never forget 
the Masons." 

He promised to look into the matter. Nothing happened, 
except that his legislature passed some "stilted compliments" 
and dropped the topic. 

The Boy Governor was trying to bludgeon Congress into 
validating Michigan's claim for a strip of land between Michi 
gan and Ohio containing the present city of Toledo. The ques 
tion had to be settled for all time before the more important 
problem of statehood could be tackled. The slice of land under 
dispute contained all of present Lucas County and Maumee 
Bay, which was, in 1 835, the best harbor on western Lake Erie. 
Mason insisted with every resource at his command that the 
area was his. 

Governor Lucas, of Ohio, was equally stubborn about hang 
ing on for all he was worth. He had merely moved in and 
settled the area, knowing that it was legally Michigan's. But 
then, as now, possession was nine points of the law. Further 
more, Ohio as a State had a good-sized political influence in 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 191 

Congress whereas Michigan as a Territory had none. The 
inevitable clash between the aged and stubborn Lucas and the 
young and irrepressible Mason began in the form of raucous 
offstage noises and mutual sarcasm. It progressed to pressure 
blocs, political horse-trades and attempts by both sides to out 
wit each other. It gathered momentum as the firmness of each 
leader became evident. In the spring of 1835 it had arrived 
at the now-familiar point where neither side could concede 
anything without losing face. It was war. 

The "Toledo War" is an episode in United States history 
which has puzzled researchers for upwards of a hundred years. 
There is no satisfactory explanation for what happened, or why 
the affair didn't turn into a bloody interstate conflict. The 
records say it was a war. The eyewitnesses remember it as a 
frolic, wherein everybody had a high old time and no one, 
outside of a sheriff or two, got hurt. 

The participants' accounts read like a scenario of an old- 
time Keystone comedy. It had the whole Keystone cast: the 
whiskered cops falling out of windows, the stalwart young hero 
(Mason) , the villain (Lucas) and his angry cohorts, and even 
the traditional "wow finish", complete with hectic chases over 
hill and dale. It was slapstick in that nobody was hurt and the 
props were mostly fakes. Conversely, it was grimly realistic 
in that it caused a terrible commotion in Congress, cost the 
Boy Governor his job, alarmed the nation with the spectre of 
bloody civil war, and as a penalty for starting it, cost Michigan 
the city of Toledo. 

Toledo in 1835 was a collection of marshes, warehouses and 
docks known as Port Lawrence. The name Toledo had just 
been coined by the merchants of Ohio, and the new city was 
starting to be built by the lake. Ohio enterprise had built it, 
and built the roads that led to it from many an inland village 
and pioneer settlement. Wliile legally a part of Michigan Ter 
ritory, Michigan had never colonized the area and was not well 


represented there. Ohio was trying to legalize the acquisition 
of the Maumee Bay area by a bill in Congress. 

Mason had been trying to block a vote on this bill for some 
time. He had the law on his side. Originally, the creation of 
the Northwest Territory in 1787 had fixed the boundary be 
tween Michigan Territory and Ohio at ". . . a line drawn due 
east from the southern tip or extremity of Lake Michigan." 
This line intersected Lake Erie below Maumee Bay, thus 
placing Perrysburg, Port Lawrence and the projected city of 
Toledo in Michigan Territory. It also included a slice of the 
present State of Indiana, with cities like South Bend, Elkhart, 
Angola and many smaller villages. 

At the time Ohio and Indiana were admitted to the Union 
they defined their borders as lines which ran well north of the 
official border. They were able to do it because they had popu 
lated this area and Michigan had not; because they had in 
fluence at Washington and Michigan had none. They were 
admitted with the borders they claimed in their applications. 
Now, in 1835, twenty years later, Michigan was attempting 
statehood and this border question exploded with a bang. 

Mason ordered a new survey run along the line laid down 
in the Ordinance of 1787. The engineer who surveyed it, John 
A. Fulton, made a very detailed study of the terrain, and the 
line came to be known as the "Fulton Line". This was to be 
Mason's southern border, he proclaimed. 

Indiana stiffly reminded Michigan that when she was ad 
mitted, in December, 1816, she had been granted a border 
that ran ten miles north of this line and nobody had com 
plained, hence there could be no yelp about it now. Indiana's 
admission had occurred at a time when old Governor Cass was 
out on one of his Indian forays, and no one had taken the 
trouble to challenge the claim. Therefore, that strip of land 
was lost to the new State of Michigan. Mason did not attempt 
to make an issue of it. 

But Maumee Bay, and the projected port area of Toledo, 
was something else. Ohio had likewise claimed a generous 




K du* OA\ Vvxve ^rmtto S\rtYve. bud t 

The surveyors' sketch accompanying the Harris Line survey of the 
Michigan-Ohio border controversy of 1835. The sketch was the one sub 
mitted to Congress explaining the territory in dispute. 

slice of Michigan Territory upon gaining admittance, and 
Michigan was now challenging the grab. 

In 1816, while the northern border of Indiana was being 
surveyed, Ohio had ordered a new survey run simultaneously. 
The Surveyor-General's office at Washington had sent out 
William A. Harris, with instructions to run the line as set 
forth in the Ordinance of 1787; that is, due east from the 
southern tip of Lake Michigan. Harris, however, for reasons 
which have since been in dispute, ran his line so that it angled 
just a little northward from its starting point, just enough 
so that it came out on the northern tip of Maumee Bay, placing 
the whole port area in Ohio. Governor Lucas was standing 


pat on the "Harris Line", which was Ohio's northern border 
when she was admitted as a State. 

Mason's opening gun in the "Toledo War" was his signa 
ture on a bill passed by the Territorial Council on January 26, 
1835, authorizing the people of Michigan to hold a constitu 
tional convention and form a State government. There was no 
Congressional authorization for such a move. In fact, Mason 
had twice been warned not to try to "burglarize" Michigan 
into the Union with any such pressure tactics. But this time 
he went ahead anyhow. The convention, held at Ann Arbor, 
promptly applied for admission as a State with a southern 
border fixed on the old "Fulton Line". 

Governor Lucas countered this move with the appointment 
of a commission to put up prominent markers all along the 
"Harris Line". Mason replied with a bill in the Council making 
it unlawful for any person, "not a citizen of Michigan Ter 
ritory," to exercise official functions anywhere within its bor 
ders, on pain of a $1,000 fine and five years' imprisonment. 
This bill, signed on February 12, 1835, aroused great indigna 
tion in Washington, where it was viewed as a highhanded at 
tempt on Mason's part to prevent a peaceful solution of the 
problem. It gave him the power of arrest and a whacking 
penalty, which Congress knew he was planning to use against 
the engineers then at Toledo finishing the locks of the new 
Maumee Canal. This canal was an Ohio project and a source 
of pride to the whole State. 

In order to protect the precious canal, Governor Lucas 
grew equally highhanded. He straightway organized the dis 
puted terrain into a new Ohio county, which he called Lucas, 
containing two townships, Sylvania and Port Lawrence. He 
sent a set of county officers, including a sheriff and a judge, 
with orders to hold court there and thus defy Mason's attempt 
to administer it. On February 23rd, the county began to func 

The first round went to Governor Lucas on points. He had 
his boundary marked and his civil officers in possession. Mason, 
spurred to action, took the field as a sort of generalissimo, 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR I" 195 

mobilizing the militia, calling for volunteers, chartering lake 
transports. He dispatched his friend Colonel Norvell post 
haste to Washington, to howl for "protection". 

Mason's strategy was to raise as much fuss as possible, 
hoping to spar for time until Michigan could be admitted as a 
State under her new constitution, whereupon he could appeal 
to the Supreme Court. There he knew he would win a clean 
decision. The Ohio authorities knew it, too. They saw they 
must block that move at all costs. They sharply reminded the 
politicians in Congress that Indiana stood solidly beside Ohio 
on the question; that Ohio had twenty-one electoral votes, 
Indiana had fourteen more, and Michigan had none. 

In the great game of politics, Michigan had no chips. An 
drew Jackson was Mason's friend, but he was also a politician. 
He could not stomach the thought of a noisy bloc of dissenters 
in Congress thwarting him on every proposal, and fighting 
him and the Party in every election. He had to purchase peace 
with this bloc of votes. It was imperative. 

The national press was having a field day over the issue, 
strongly influenced in Mason's favor. Behind the scenes the 
Ohio politicians were lining up a regular blockade in Congress, 
determined to steam-roller their demands through no matter 
how much popular support Mason had. In desperation, the 
President assigned Attorney General Benjamin F. Butler of 
Massachusetts to investigate and recommend a solution. 

Butler investigated. His report blew the lid off the case, 
and destroyed whatever chance there might have been of secur 
ing an agreement by peaceful negotiation. He said Michigan's 
title to the strip was unquestionably genuine. There was 
nothing the President could do in the courts, and if the Federal 
government started to intervene forcibly, its officers would 
probably be shot by partisans of both sides. However, Butler 
continued, "some contingency might arise" which would jus 
tify the President in removing Mason from office. That was 
Butler's solution. He thought Mason "too zealous in enforcing 
what he believes to be the rights of Michigan". Fire Mason, 
he said, and get a yes man in his place. 


When he heard of this brilliant bit of political opportunism, 
Mason was infuriated. From Washington came a succession of 
letters. His friends at the capital were frightened. Colonel 
Norvell wrote: "You must abandon the project in all haste. 
The President will not hesitate to demand your removal." 

Old General Cass, who had seen this problem coming to a 
boil for two decades, wrote philosophically: u This is the most 
dastardly piece of political manipulation I have ever seen. 
Ohio has not a leg to stand on before the courts. Yet you are 
about to be sacrificed to political pressure." He reminded 
Mason about all the votes in Congress against him, and ad 
vised the young executive to approach the problem with the 
"utmost caution". 

Mason saw himself being made the goat in a political frame- 
up. He took counsel. He was going to be fired; he realized 
that. But as he pondered the situation he tried to see wherein 
he could make capital out of it; how to salvage enough to go 
on to fresh triumphs, greater heights. This was not going to be 
the end of him. 

He could not surrender. His pledge to the people prevented 
that, and he was not the kind of man who could give in to 
anything under pressure, or threats. He had to go on. What 
would happen ? 

The Territory was well past the 60,000 minimum popula 
tion demanded by Congress as a condition of statehood. The 
new constitution was neatly inscribed on parchment, and the 
first party conventions were to be held that summer under its 
provisions. Sentiment throughout the counties was running 
wild in all sorts of village demonstrations for immediate state 
hood. The Democratic convention would offer him the Gov 
ernorship, and elections would be held in the fall. 

If he could maintain his popularity at almost fever pitch 
throughout the summer, he would be unbeatable. He would 
delay; he would keep the agitation going, and he would not 
concede an inch. He would rally the whole Territory behind 
him, or as much of it as he could mobilize. And he would make 
a noise like a big army on the march, to keep a desire for open 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 197 

hostilities in the hearts of Ohio people sublimated as much 
as possible. 

He said nothing to anyone about his plans. Immediately after 
the receipt of these warnings from Washington, events in 
Michigan moved rapidly toward a military outbreak. Troops 
drilled; supplies were procured. General Joe Brown galloped 
to remote farms and settlements, waving a manifesto from 
Mason calling up troops for a war with Ohio. With yells and 
virile roars, the men responded. 

Out from Washington came two worried mediators, Richard 
Rush of Philadelphia and Benjamin C. Howard of Baltimore. 
They interviewed Mason at Detroit. He told them he would 
hold operations in abeyance until they could call a meeting 
with Governor Lucas, at which the problem might be settled 
across the tabl^ In the meantime, however, he insisted that 
Ohio remove its civil officers and others claiming jurisdiction 
from the disputed territory. 

Governor Lucas told the mediators bluntly that he was con 
ceding nothing and would not even discuss arbitration. He had 
plenty of political influence, and was at the moment reading 
pledges of support from more Congressmen at Washington. 
He said he would do all right unless the Federal government 
intervened, which he feared would provoke warfare. 

Since arbitration had failed, the mediators returned to De 
troit and told Mason the sad story which was the real reason 
for their visit. They had a personal message from the Presi 
dent. In it, Jackson renewed his personal affection for Mason 
but warned him that he would have to surrender to Ohio un 
conditionally. The method the mediators recommended was 
simple. Michigan was not to attempt to enforce the Act of 
February I2th, the one containing the heavy penalty for the 
attempted exercise of official functions by non-citizens of Michi 
gan Territory. Just forget that, they told Mason. Don't en 
force it ; allow Ohio to finish its canal and build up the area, 
and Jackson would reward him later with a generous land 
settlement for his new State in place of the Toledo area. 

Mason was sorry, but he would not wink at non-enforcement 


of laws because somebody told him to. Not even the President 
had the right to require that of him. "I owe Jackson every- 
thing," he said, "but even the President must execute the duly 
voted laws of the nation." Furthermore, if Jackson thought 
he was just a political puppet who could be manipulated that 
way, then the President ought to remove him and appoint some 
one else. He finished with this sentence : "I will submit to my 
fate without a murmur, and even be satisfied with the result." 

Messrs. Rush and Howard returned to Washington in awe 
of him, convinced that Stevens Thomson Mason was the most 
conscientious man ever to hold public office. They reported to 
Jackson that he had, in effect, told them to go jump in the lake, 
Jackson had no alternative but to act. 

He knew Mason was right, and that Michigan's case was 
legally bombproof. But he would have to gQ. Jackson, with 
Mason's scalp figuratively at his belt, went forth to purchase 
political peace with those thirty-five electoral votes. 

Mason knew that formal notification of his dismissal was 
only a matter of time. He was given a tremendous ovation at 
the Democratic State convention at Ann Arbor, and nominated 
by whooping acclamation to be the first Governor of the State. 
Quietly he strengthened the sheriff's posse in Lenawee County, 
Michigan, near Toledo, to the size of a company of infantry. 
This posse caught some of Lucas's surveyors running their 
marker posts well within the Territory, and took them captive 
to the town courthouse at Tecumseh, where they were tried 
under the new law. 

The surveyor himself and three rodmen managed to escape, 
and ran terrorized through the underbrush to distant Perrys- 
burg, Ohio, yelling that they had been kidnapped and held for 
ransom by a party of armed thugs who wore uniforms and 
looked like an army. 

Excitement ran high throughout Ohio. Mobs gathered. In 
Washington, as fast as the news could get there, the Ohio 
delegation screamed civil war. This was the pretext Jackson 
needed to remove Mason. He demanded an explanation via 
military courier. Mason sent him the sheriff's report, which 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 199 

denied that the expedition was military in character. The re 
port described how the Ohio escapers ripped their clothes 
trying to get through the bushes, lost hats and even shoes in 
their haste, and stated that : 

". . . the surveyors' fugitives made good time through the 
swamp and arrived in Perrysburg the following morning with 
nothing more serious than the loss of clothing, including a pair 
of Major Stinckney's breeches a pair without a patch." 

Major Stinckney, an officer in the Ohio militia, had a farm 
near Perrysburg. His strapping six-foot son, Two Stinckney, 
was a bully. His father, being a military man, called off his sons 
by the numbers, and this happened to be the second. Two 
Stinckney had been in the party with his father, protecting the 
surveyors, when the posse came along. He was ridden on a 
rail back to Ohio, and there unceremoniously dumped off. The 
people of Ohio took it as a personal insult. 

A couple of days later, the Major himself was nabbed while 
riding a horse on reconnaissance some miles inside Michigan's 
area. The posse trussed him up with ropes like a big-game 
specimen, and carried him fourteen miles to the courthouse 
at Monroe. In this fracas, Two Stinckney stabbed a deputy, 
who was the only casualty in the war. 

However, on July i8th, a Michigan posse of more than 
two hundred and fifty well-armed men swaggered into Toledo 
and arrested all the Ohio officers visible. Several, in fact a 
good many, escaped to Perrysburg. Some of them got thei*e 
only two jumps ahead of this commando raid, and magnified 
the tale to sound as if the whole population of Michigan was 
on the march. 

About August 15, 1835, Mason heard in Detroit that the 
Ohio militia had been called out and was marching to Toledo. 
The report was untrue, but he had no way of checking it. He 
sent word to his own commander, General Brown, to move 
forthwith to Toledo and hold it until further orders. With 
the order he instructed Major Rowland to place into operation 
the staff plan for such a contingency which the militia had 
evolved many months previously. Troops converged on Toledo 


simultaneously from three directions. Loaded steam transports 
appeared offshore. Ohio's spies galloped furiously back to 
Governor Lucas with this information. Straightway, as Mason 
had foreseen, the enthusiasm for battle on the part of the 
Ohio boys cooled noticeably. 

Governor Lucas's plan called for the arrival of his troops 
at Perrysburg on September 5th. On the morning of Septem 
ber 2nd, Michigan troops were holding Toledo and were de 
ployed in battle formation around it. The Ohio scouts reported 
the formation, and the Ohio men stayed well back. 

Mason was on horseback, dashing in and out of General 
Brown's camp, and responding to the cheers of the men. He 
took a subtle part in the game himself. He wrote to Ike Row 
land, newly promoted to colonel : 

"Colonel Rowland: Have all the ammunition forwarded 
by tomorrow's boat. Do not forget the six-pounder. We have 
balls here. Mason." 

This sinister-sounding dispatch promptly found its way into 
enemy hands, as Mason no doubt expected. The records do not 
mention any six-pounder, and he probably didn't have one 
and wouldn't have known what to do with it if he had. But the 
letter sounded mighty confident. It served its purpose. 

South of Maumee Bay, the Ohio forces were dubious. They 
were not as anxious to invade Michigan as they had been. 
They were outnumbered, and apparently bewildered to find 
themselves opposed to a formidable army and a fleet of trans 
ports, when they had expected to find a sheriff's posse. On 
Sunday, September 6th, the situation was extremely tense. 
If a sudden shot had been fired, a massacre would certainly 
have resulted. The Ohio commanders reviewed their instruc 
tions. They were to proceed to Toledo, and there hold a session 
of the Lucas County court, and produce witnesses and records 
to testify that said session has indeed been held. 

About midnight that night a party of cloaked horsemen 
might have been seen filing slowly and silently past the sleeping 
Michigan troops. It was composed of the judge of the new 
court, his bailiff, the reporter, the sheriff and various witnesses. 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 201 

Like so many ghosts they slipped into the slab town of Toledo. 
They found a building that was empty, and gained entrance. 
Carefully blacking out the windows, they lighted a tallow 
dip and proceeded to hold a court session. By three o'clock in 
the morning the clerk had finished writing the record, the dip 
was snuffed out, and they cautiously returned to the street. 

Someone remembered that there was an inn near by. Was 
anybody thirsty? What a question, they muttered. They awoke 
the landlord and made him come down and open the bar. He 
filled big mugs of good Toledo beer. The party was just at the 
"here's how" stage when some local yokel with a sense of 
humor burst in and bellowed at the top of his lungs that the 
"Michiganders" were coming. The court cast took off from 
there in all directions, through the windows and out of the 
back door. 

For four days the Michigan forces were unaware that Gov 
ernor Lucas had outwitted them. They were drilling, cheering, 
yelling obscenities at the muttering Ohio men. More than two 
thousand strong, they were eating all the stored food of 
farmers for miles around. Everybody was having a good time, 
until September i oth. 

On that day, Mason was riding a black horse around the drill 
area about noon, while the marching men were forming up 
for a formal review. The ranks were finally quiet, when a 
dramatic coincidence occurred. A mounted messenger dashed 
up, horse and rider breathless. "Sir, a message from Washing 
ton." Mason's hand was steady as he ripped open the large 
sealed envelope. His classic features betrayed no emotion. 

Then he held up his hand for silence. 

"Men," he announced. "I'm not Governor any more. This 
letter says I've been removed for being too zealous in Michi 
gan's cause." 

In utter, supine silence the men blinked at him, openmouthed. 
He was seen to hand the reins of his horse to an orderly, dis 
mount, and stride into General Brown's tent. Before anyone 
could think of anything to say, the General emerged. 

"You're all dismissed," he said. "The war's over. Go home." 


That was the end of the Toledo War. 

General Cass said that Jackson had "tears in his eyes" when 
he signed the removal order. Cass said further that he walked 
up and down, shouting at "that young hotspur governor" who 
had gotten him in such a predicament. The letter let young 
Mason down very gently indeed by reminding him that since 
Porter's death there had been no regularly-appointed governor, 
and that the President had let matters drift along because 
he did not like to fill such an important post by a recess appoint 
ment. But now Congress was in session again and would shortly 
recommend a new Governor. Jackson had appointed John 
Scott Horner, of Warrenton, Virginia, to Mason's post, and 
removed Mason so that Horner might have a free hand to 
select his own policies. 

Mason quickly discovered that this peace offering cost the 
President a high price. Ohio was immediately mollified by 
Mason's removal, but no able Democrat could be found who 
was willing to follow the popular figure of the Boy Governor 
on the Michigan stage. Most of them realized that the ap 
pointment was only temporary, and would terminate with the 
admittance of Michigan as a State. Those to whom it was 
offered quickly turned it down, adding to Jackson's embarrass 
ment. Mason heard from one such potential appointee, Charles 
Shaler, of Pittsburgh, but did not know who Horner was. No 
one had ever heard of him. Apparently he filled the bill; an 
unknown, a Democrat, and a man who didn't read the news 

Detroit was going wild. Some stores were draped in mourn 
ing; others were treating all comers to free beer. Banquets 
were held in every hotel in town, all toasting Mason and pass 
ing laudatory resolutions. Mason's mere appearance on the 
street was the signal for a crowd to gather and cheers to follow 
him. The Council passed a special resolution hailing him as a 
hero. The leading citizens of the city gathered at the Mansion 
House to honor him, presenting him with an engraved scroll 
which commended him for the "able and satisfactory manner 

1834-1835] "THAT YOUNG HOTSPUR!" 203 

in which he had discharged his office since his appointment", 
and testifying to the citizens' "high sense of gratitude". The 
same man, David C. McKinstry, who had led the mass meeting 
against him at the time of his appointment, now headed the 
testimonial committee. All the clubs were holding 'Victory" 
dinners, and making up rhymes about Mason and his adventures 
with Lucas. One of them, well-remembered, went like this : 

"Old Lucas gave his orders all for to hold a court. 
But Stevens Thomson Mason he thought he'd have some sport. 
He called upon the Wolverines and asked them for to go 
To meet the rebel Lucas, his court to overthrow." 

There were about twenty verses, describing the ridiculous 
adventures in the so-called war. It was Mason's great day. 
He was the greatest popular figure the Territory had ever 



THE NEWS or Homer's appointment as Acting Governor of 
Michigan Territory was spread from town to town by tolling 
bells and funeral-draped wagons. For several days the citizens 
couldn't understand it. Andy Jackson was the great national 
hero of the period, just as Stevens T. Mason was the dominant 
personality of the Territory. Friction between them, culminat 
ing in angry words and abrupt dismissal, was something that 
just couldn't happen. In the Pioneer and Historical Collection 
files are old letters from wrinkled septuagenarians who told of 
their stunned astonishment when the saw news came. To some 
of them, names like Jackson and Mason belonged together 
and stood for the same kind of leader. Citizens of the ham 
lets met in the public squares, and at the homes of the chief 
citizen, wondering what the world was coming to. 

It occurred to many of them that elections weren't very far 
off, and Michigan thus had a chance to make things up to 
Mason. He had been the victim, and had taken it like a man. 
But he was a sacrifice to an ideal : he represented their wishes 
and their feelings. What had happened to him came about 
because he chose to be loyal to them rather than to the man 
who had originally appointed him. So, inevitably, Mason had 
been punished humiliated by the wily Mr. Butler for cham 
pioning the plain people. But the great day was coming! They 
were going to elect a Governor pretty soon. That would be the 
day they'd tell the Boy Governor how much they admired his 
pluck and gumption in telling off old Lucas. 

Gossip between neighbors waiting for the cascade of golden 
grain to pour into the grist-mill hopper, to be exchanged for 


1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 205 

sacks of flour; talk in the village store, and on the veranda of 
the pillared courthouse the voices of the plain people, telling 
of their fondness for Mason and their feeling of obligation. 
There would be prematurely old farmers, holding up a Balti 
more or New York paper to the feeble glow of a tallow dip 
and reading therein, by the miracle of the Federal post road 
only two weeks late, that Mason's plight had aroused deep 
feeling in the East. Michigan men in Washington wrote to the 
little rural weeklies that Mason was the universal topic there, 
and that everyone was looking to Jackson for an explanation. 

The aged President had nothing to say. Neither had Gov 
ernor Lucas. Maps were pored over in the Surveyor General's 
office, and a basis for a land settlement with Michigan worked 
out, as a compensation for the impending loss of the "Toledo 
Strip". Jackson well knew, from the volume of correspondence 
pouring in, that Michigan was going ahead with statehood 
plans regardless of his advice, or Cass's. He could have 
stopped Mason's share in it with a word, but he preferred to 
keep silent. A big showdown was coming up in Congress, and 
Jackson decided to stay neutral. 

In Washington sat Lucius Lyon, Michigan's voteless dele 
gate. To his office came Senator Preston of South Carolina, 
a politician who had been one of the ringleaders in the anti- 
Michigan Congressional bloc. It was too bad, opined the Sena 
tor, but that was politics for you; always two sides, and im 
possible to satisfy everyone. But Michigan stood to gain a very 
practical reward if things didn't go too far yes sir, a very 
practical reward. Lyon ought to write Mason and advise him, 
in defining the borders of his new State, to concede the "Toledo 
Strip" to Ohio but to claim as compensation a vast timbered 
wilderness north of Mackinac and encompassing the whole 
southern shore of Lake Superior. All the land included in a 
tremendous triangle formed by Lake Michigan, Lake Superior 
and the Menominee River would be granted to the new State 
as a bonus for keeping quiet and not raising a fuss over Gov 
ernor Lucas's occupation of Toledo. 

As a compensation for the priceless harbor area and river 


highway at Toledo, such a proposal was insulting. The Senator 
felt secure enough to offer it anyway, in the name of his bloc of 
colleagues who were fighting for Lucas in Congress, knowing 
that Lyon couldn't do much about it. Lyon indifferently wrote 
of the offer to Governor Mason at Detroit, saying that in his 
opinion the only beneficial result to Michigan of this offer was 
the hint that, if accepted, it would lead to the removal of the 
Territorial government from Detroit and the establishment of 
a new Territory of Wisconsin across the lake. 

In Detroit, Mason paced his hearthrug at home, and pon 
dered. He sought out old Indian reports of the region, which 
were vague. He talked to Henry Schoolcraft and a few old 
pioneers who had been up there. They advised against including 
the area in the new State ; it was entirely wild and could never 
be adapted to settlement. In taking it, Schoolcraft said, the 
State would have to drop all claim to the "Toledo Strip" in 
exchange for a series of mountain ranges with deep, inaccessible 
valleys which would need a small army of marshals, surveyors, 
administrators and road builders merely to control. Mason 
believed it could not be settled during his lifetime and probably 
not within that of the following generation. 

During this period of indecision, more letters came. Mr. 
Lyon was showing considerable interest, not to say enthusiasm, 
for the venture. He had heard that the unknown land was a 
rich virgin timber and hunting area, with easy transport on 
Lake Superior and up the river to most parts of it. It was a 
whole new frontier, ready for exploitation. "I, for one," he 
remarked, "shall go in for all the country Congress will give us, 
west of the lakes. We will take advantage of it and let the 
Devil take the hindmost, as the gamesters say. We can raise our 
own Indians for all time to come, and even a little bear meat 
for delicacy." 

Mason had a feeling that Lucius Lyon knew something about 
this area that he did not want to describe too fully. Whatever it 
was future fishing revenue, rich contracts with Astor's North 
west Fur Company which controlled the trading post at Macki- 
nac Island,, or perhaps mining in the mountains- Lyon knew 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 2O7 

something no one in Michigan then understood, Washington 
was a good place to pick up inside information of that kind. 
Lyon kept referring to this proposed grant as the "Upper 
Peninsula of Michigan" in his correspondence. It was nothing 
of the kind; neither a peninsula nor upper. It was a stretch 
of land between the Mississippi and Lake Michigan, bordered 
on the north by Lake Superior. The southernmost tip of the 
area came well down the western shore of Lake Michigan, 
almost to the settlement at Green Bay. For convenience sake 
Mason adopted the term, and it remained. 

Engrossed as he was in the obstetrics of Michigan's birth, 
Mason had forgotten that he was just a private citizen, out of 
power. Everyone had been calling him Governor Mason since 
the Toledo skirmish, and he indeed felt that he was in fact 
Governor of what, he could not have said. On September 19, 
1835, he was yanked back to the realities of the situation by 
the arrival of John S. Horner, the new Acting Governor of 
the Territory. 

Carpetbag in hand and a sour expression on his round face, 
Horner made his way immediately to the vacated office in the 
capital building occupied so long by Mason. No one paid the 
slightest attention to him, even after he had announced him 
self several times to the staff. He was there, he said, as the 
representative of the Federal government and here was his 
letter of appointment. He was now taking command. No one 
appeared to have heard him. Horner was a short fellow, 
middle-aged, stout and double-chinned. He had a rasping, 
martinet quality which grated on people. When he finally 
was forced to call at Mason's home and ask for a formal in 
troduction to his office force, Mason at once thought him 
opinionated and stuffy. But perhaps the young Moses* opinion 
was biased. 

Horner impressed Detroit as a stuffed shirt, and was coldly 
ignored. No doubt he was doing all anyone could in a situation 
like that, but it required someone with a hide like a rhinoceros 
to survive the treatment that -"Little Jack Horner" received. 
Horner had only one influential friend, John Forsyth, Jackson's 


Secretary of State, who had gotten him appointed. To Forsyth, 
Horner began pouring out his woes in a flood of self-pitying 
letters, which began with the statement that there was no 
authority of any kind in Detroit when he arrived and that he 
had to "take command" at once even though it was late in 
the evening when he found the capitol building. 

He was a bridegroom of only seven months. Mrs. Horner, 
who was with him, was a sweet, demure little thing who was 
immediately mothered by all the Detroit society matrons and 
became the center of much clucking fuss. At the same time her 
husband was outrageously insulted at every possible oppor 
tunity. On September 24th he and Mrs. Horner were intro 
duced to society at a banquet in the American Hotel. He was 
booed; she was applauded. He went alone to a meeting at 
the Detroit City Hall, and addressed a public meeting of lead 
ing citizens. They adopted, and presented him with, a set of 
resolutions in fancy terms which told him to go back to Vir 
ginia and stay there. Horner became irritated, which in a figure 
of his physical rotundity, made him appear ridiculous. Then 
he was infuriated. 

His letters to Forsyth are essays in futility; they constitute 
a ready-made plot for a novel about a man's inability to under 
stand himself or his environment. He wrote that he was going 
to pardon all the persons arrested by Michigan in the Toledo 
War, except Two Stinckney. He was going to show these rude 
provincials that they couldn't high-pressure him. He didn't 
care what they thought. A wholesale pardoning, furthermore, 
would be popular with the Congressional bloc and might be 
what the Administration would like from him. "I fear the re 
sults will be unsavory to some extent," he remarked. It was a 
masterpiece of understatement. 

When he set about freeing all the Ohio trespassers from 
Michigan jails, everyone in the Territory immediately con 
cluded that he had been sent out from Washington to undo all 
of Mason's work and play into Governor Lucas's wily hands. 
He was openly accused in the newspapers of being a Lucas 
tool and working against Michigan. A riot developed at the 

1835-^836] LITTLE JACK HQRNER 209 

scene of the late Toledo War which got out of hand and 
threatened to take up where the War left off, and be as bloody 
as the War wasn't. Horner, full of the dignity of his position, 
mounted a horse and rode thither in person. That colossal 
blunder ruined his prestige in Mason's estimation. 

"I went down there to speak with them, and to turn the 
lion in their natures into the gentleness of the lamb/ 5 he re 
ported to Forsyth. "My condition was this : at Monroe, the seat 
of the strife, amidst a wild and dangerous population, without 
any aid, a friend, a servant or a bed to sleep in, in the midst 
of a mob excited by the enemies of the administration and 
bad men, I could not enlist a friend as an officer of the Terri 
tory. How was my authority to be enforced or the government 
in my hands respected under the circumstances? A design was 
formed against my honor and my life. The district attorney 
had the effrontery to say that if he acted, the mob would throw 
him and myself into the river." 

They booed, yelled, threw clods of dirt at him, and waved 
him off the steps of the Monroe courthouse while he was try 
ing to speak. 

"I tried conciliation," Horner wrote. "I tried entreaty, ap 
peals to their patriotism, indeed every resort but force which 
I should not have been able to obtain had I desired it. There 
was never a government in Christendom with such officers, 
civil and military, and filled with such doctrines as Michigan." 

The district attorney, Mr. James Q. Adams of Monroe, 
warned Horner to get off the platform and spur his horse out 
of there before the mob began throwing something more 
pungent than clods of dirt. Mr. Adams was so nervous that 
he thought he could smell tar simmering and feathers burning 
that very moment, and wanted no part of that deal. He angrily 
told Horner that he was quitting, as of then, and undoubtedly 
added some advice as to what Horner could do with the job. 
Whereupon he went home. Horner pleaded with him to stay, 
and called after him that he wouldn't accept his resignation. 

"I would have accepted," he complained to Forsyth, "but 
no counsellor in Michigan would accept the office in either 


federal or territorial courts, for the reason that all of them 
are looking forward to office under the new state government 
on the first day of November next." 

The Monroe mob fumed and began making hostile noises 
when Homer shouted that he was going to free the prisoners. 
Some of them milled toward him and he had just time to scurry 
off the stone steps and mount his steed, on which he made an 
inglorious exit toward Detroit. The crowd shouted at him that 
if he came back they'd have a welcome committee with a rail 
for him to ride on. Horner, not answering, galloped off. 

He plodded along the road and reached Ypsilanti late at 
night. Tired and disgusted, he went immediately to bed at 
an inn. In the wee hours of the morning, word of what he had 
attempted at Monroe filtered into the town. Citizens gathered 
beneath his window, at first by twos and threes, but soon they 
were coming from all directions. Their angry voices awoke 
the sleeping Horner. He got out of bed and tiptoed to the 

A rock thumped up against the wall not a foot from the glass 
panes. Below, the crowd was noisily asking each other where 
a fence rail could be found. Horner popped back in bed, ter 
rified. The whole guest list at the inn where he was staying 
was aroused now, demanding to know what in Tunket was go 
ing on down than . . The landlord was worried about the mob 
and was hanging out an upper window, soothing them. "Now, 
boys. Please, now!" 

The boys didn't find a fence rail and contented themselves 
with pelting the wooden walls with rocks, clods and blobs of 
filth, meanwhile shouting their opinion of Horner at the top 
of their voices. In the morning the landlord billed him for the 

"Respectable people," comments an account of this episode, 
"deprecated such conduct. The Whig papers seized on it as a 
direct result of Democratic precepts and practices. Horner 
was subjected to the indignity of an old-time charivari." In 
Detroit, a resolution introduced into the Council by the Whigs 
attempted to sympathize with Horner, and expressed regret 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 211 

that he should be subjected to this brand of treatment. It was 
beaten, thirty-one to five votes. 

Homer was a man who wouldn't learn. He was aghast at 
this outbreak of hostility toward him, but he was determined 
to tame these wild pioneers and whack them with every ad 
ministrative bludgeon he could find. He was going to cut them 
down to his size and make them like it. He did neither; he 
never succeeded in these punitive countermeasures, and Michi 
gan surely did not like it. If Andy Jackson had combed the 
country to find a man who could enhance Mason's towering 
popularity even more, he could not have found a better man 
than Horner. 

He stubbornly refused to admit the fact that the State gov 
ernment was getting under way all about him. He did not 
recognize it, therefore it did not exist. In the capitol building 
he was elbowed out of the way while workmen changed the 
signs on all the doors and moved bulky cabinets from one office 
to another. Polling places were decided upon. Registration of 
voters was under way by midsummer; by early fall it was 
nearly complete. 

Mason did not add to Horner' s embarrassment by colliding 
with him in the narrow capitol corridors. As soon as he had 
taken Homer's mental measure and grinned inwardly at what 
he found, Mason packed up and went to New 'York. He 
thought it would be just as well to be out of the way while 
Horner was battling Michigan's outraged feelings, and in addi 
tion he needed a vacation. So the glitteringly handsome youth, 
not yet twenty-four, made the rounds of fashionable tailors 
where he aroused their usual admiration while being measured 
for resplendent new costumes; he visited family friends of im 
portance; met Washington Irving for the first time, and 
through him was introduced to swanky New York society. 
New York was well aware of the Mason legend even then. 
The city lionized him. He was interviewed by reporters and 
formally invited to great homes. Richard M. Johnson, a friend 
of John T. Mason and a famous character in the War of 1812, 
took him in tow and introduced him to Tammany. 


The anniversary of the Battle of the Thames, Colonel John 
son's most successful exploit, happened to fall on the very day 
when Michigan would be trooping to the polls to elect its 
first Governor and State administration. Johnson invited him 
to a banquet at Tammany Hall on that evening, and Mason 
showed so little concern for the outcome that he consented to 
stay. Johnson had been announced as the principal speaker, 
but he said he thought Mason ought to say a few words. 

As the people of Michigan marched to the polls on October 
5, 1835, Mason was receiving a flattering reception at the old 
Tammany Hall. He quickly became the center of attention, 
and his few words, amplified by quick extemporizing into a full- 
length address, dominated the meeting. Afterward, said John 
son, Tammany rose to its feet and applauded. It was nothing 
compared to the applause Mason received in Michigan. 

He was in by a landslide. Election day and the day following, 
the 6th, were holidays throughout Michigan by nobody's 
proclamation, merely by common agreement. At every settle 
ment and frontier town they came, on horseback and in buck- 
board wagons ; they swarmed to crossroads churches and town 
ship halls ; they assembled with their sunbonneted women and 
their pans of johnnycake and baked beans. And they voted 
for Mason. In Detroit, bonfires blazed all night in the Campus 
Martius while impromptu parades kept everyone awake across 
the city. They yelled Mason's name, their shouts echoed by 
the thumping of drums and the roar of voices. 

Mason received 7,508 votes, compared with 814 for his 
closest rival. That was more than all the other aspirants' totals 
added together. His whole ticket went in with him a top- 
heavy majority in each House of the Legislature and all his 
elected officials whom he had sponsored. Edward Mundy, his 
Lieutenant Governor, polled about the same proportion as 
Mason himself. The constitution he had worked over, on so 
many long winter nights, went in by a vote of 6,299 to 1,359. 
Far out in the townships, returns dribbled in. The new counties 
of Clinton, Ionia, Kent and Ottawa forwarded only ninety 
votes, but all but six were for Mason and his Democrats. 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HQRNER 213 

Where were the Whigs? Where was Woodbridge? The 
old schemer, too wily to get his feet caught in a bear trap, had 
boycotted the election. The Whigs held a party caucus at 
which Woodbridge explained that he did not think the action 
of the people in setting up a State government should be con 
sidered legal until it had the consent of Congress. This trans 
parent alibi saved the Whig face, whiskers and all, and was 
accepted as the only way out of a resounding defeat and a 
serious blow to Whig influence. 

The State Senate now had sixteen members and the House 
had forty-nine, mostly loyal Mason Democrats. The party's 
candidate for the unrecognized seat in Congress, Isaac Crary 
of Marshall, polled over 6,000 votes more than his only com 

Quite calmly, hoping not to be noticed in the Mason excite 
ment, Woodbridge had entered his own name for the post of 
Delegate to Congress from the Territorial areas across the 
lake, which was being decided at the same time in the Wisconsin 
area. Mason's choice for the post had been George W. Jones, 
of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Jones represented the area, and 
it was agreed that when lyrichigan began operating under the 
new constitution, he was to become the official delegate at 

First returns indicated a slight Whig lead. Woodbridge im 
mediately demanded a certificate of election. As the returns 
kept coming in during the next few days, the Whig lead 
dwindled, then disappeared. Jones, too, had won. Mason's 
sweep was complete. He was the first Governor of Michigan, 
and to a degree never equalled since he was the personal ruler 
of the State. About that time he observed his twenty-fourth 


Mail, which travelled at night, could reach Washington several 
days ahead of a passenger leaving Detroit at the same time. 
The news of the illegal, precedent-shattering election reached 


Washington so fast that Mason had hardly started homeward 
before Congress was viewing with alarm. Tongues were wag 
ging. Politicians asked timidly what Ohio would think; how 
would Governor Lucas react to Mason's assumption of almost 
dictatorial power only a few weeks after they had shut him 
up by removing him ? I 

Mason didn't care what 'Governor Lucas thought. Immedi 
ately upon arrival he sent copies of the new constitution to the 
President, to the Cabinet Secretaries and to Congress for study. 
Upon that constitution and upon proof that the population 
minimum had been far exceeded, he based his demand for 
immediate recognition as a State. He wrote to Lucius Lyon 
and remarked that he had fulfilled every condition, answered 
every question and satisfied every requirement, including the 
fiat acceptance of the Upper Peninsula and the abandonment 
of all claims to the "Toledo Strip". Now, he said. Now! He 
wanted statehood now ! 

Of course, replied Lyon, such a demand was just a gesture. 
The election of a Representative and the appointment of two 
Senators left Mason in the same position as before, since none 
of them could be seated and therefore Michigan had no voice 
in Congress. He himself, said Lyon, was no longer Territorial 
Delegate and there was no one who could speak for the State. 

Mason didn't care about that. He reminded Lyon that he 
himself was to become one of the two Senators, and that dur 
ing the interval before his appointment he could act as the 
State's Washington representative. Soon afterward, Mason 
predicted, formal admission would be obtained. 

Both Mason and Lyon were happy, after the election of 
1835. The Michigan constitution arrived and was proudly 
exhibited around Washington. It was received with lavish 
praise. The President himself was pleased. The document was 
the work of the Constitutional Convention, which had worked 
all winter on it. Mason, as a .Federal officer, had not been a 
member of the Convention, but he had attended all the meet 
ings and had inspired its more democratic provisions. It was 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HQRNER 215 

largely his work, and incorporated his ideas. It stood for his 
definition of the term "popular government". 

Most democratic of all State constitutions, Michigan's was 
at the same time the most socialistic. It provided for State 
ownership and operation of public utilities like railroads and 
canals ; it set up State-supervised schools everywhere, and au 
thorized the creation of a giant State University which, to 
Mason's nimble mind, was destined to become an important 
center of higher education. The constitution, in addition, set 
up machinery for widespread State employment which reminds 
us strongly of the late WPA. 

Under its provisions every male citizen over the age of 
twenty-one had a vote, regardless of property qualifications 
or party registry. The Supreme Court and the county courts 
were made into an interlocking chain of judicial fortresses, 
protecting the population against the whims and errors of the 
local justices of the peace. Only two officers besides the Gov 
ernor and Lieutenant Governor required popular election and 
thus a political background": members of Congress and of the 
Legislature. All the rest were appointive, and two of them 
required confirmation by both Houses of the Legislature : the 
State Treasurer and the Superintendent of Public Instruction 
showing Mason's emphasis on his school program. 

All elective officers served for terms of two years. Again, 
this is Mason's idea of militant democracy at work. He be 
lieved that these officers should represent very closely the senti 
ment of the people. Throughout the constitution there is con 
stant evidence of Mason's sincere desire to let the people rule; 
to make it easy for them to give voice to their approval or dis 
approval through frequent elections and referendums. 

He was dealing, in 1835, with a thinly settled peninsula, 
crisscrossed by poor wagon trails and studded here and there 
with new slab-pine towns. He was conscious of how the pioneers 
felt about concentrated power, and that most of the emigrants 
had come t to Michigan to escape that very situation in the 
East. He thought they would discuss their community problems 


in town meetings with dignity, and that they would forever 
distinguish between liberty and uncontrolled license. He credited 
his people, that is, with his own nobility of character. He never 
made a graver error. 

This handing over of political power to the liberty-loving 
citizen was a wide-open invitation to politicians to usurp it, 
and to crooks to pervert the meaning of his liberality. Gleefully 
the people adopted it and voted him into office to put his 
Utopian theories into practice. 

The Convention had set the Governor's salary at two thou 
sand dollars per year, paid quarterly, with an expense account 
for travel on State business. It was a generous raise from the 
twelve hundred he had been receiving as Territorial Secretary. 
Besides, he was no longer bearing the whole expense of the 
family's support His father was contributing occasionally, and 
helping even more by inviting Mary Mason and the girls 
to visit him for several weeks at a time at the Saint Charles 
Hotel in New Orleans, then his base of operations. Mason, with 
relief, saw himself approaching a financial position which would 
justify him in thinking, at least, of getting married someday. 

His immediate problem was something like a wedding with 
out a honeymoon. He was about to be inaugurated Governor at 
a big public celebration, scheduled for November 2, 1835. He 
knew that when he mounted the rostrum to take his oath of 
office he would be giving Congress a figurative kick in the pants 
which would' bring down upon him the official wrath of the 
Administration, It was a bit of political nose-thumbing so 
audacious that it was covered by reporters from many large 
Eastern newspapers as well as by all the Michigan weeklies 
regardless of party sympathy. For a day he would become the 
center of national attention. He prepared for it accordingly. 

The newsworthy phase of Mason's situation was not the 
existence of the State government, but the way Mason had 
brought it into existence, Michigan was the next to the last 
of the great bites of land organized as the Northwest Territory 
in 1787 to clear the barriers and enter statehood" Her real 
development was held up until the opening of the Erie Canal 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 217 

and the appearance of excellent steamboats on the Lakes. 
Then, after 1825, her influx of population began. In ten years, 
Michigan had changed from a virtual wilderness of unexplored 
forests and swamps to a thriving agricultural area of more 
than 90,000 population and dozens of chartered towns and 
villages. Michigan was ready for statehood and should have 
been admitted long before. 

Other States had politely applied for admission and had 
entered the Union like invited guests, through the front door. 
Michigan was like a burglar jimmying the back window. Michi 
gan was forever plotting, threatening, embarrassing her sister 
States and demanding her rights. Thrown out by an indignant 
Congress, Michigan was back again with a ticket called a 
constitution, by which it once more demanded admission. Con 
gress, like an indignant hostess, told Michigan to wait in the 
woodshed while a family conference was held to decide what 
to do. 

On November 2, 1835, Michigan had two separate and an 
tagonistic forms of government. Horner's legal Territorial 
government had no authority, but Mason's operating State 
government had no legality. This put the United States of 
America in a position not only embarrassing, but challenging. 
The youth who had succeeded in creating this unprecedented 
situation and who, in spite of being a "stripling", an "adoles 
cent Adonis", a "Boy Governor", and other newspaper epithets, 
had clung to power under both regimes, now found himself 

Detroit felt as if a circus was in town on Inauguration Day. 
Throngs of people lined the sidewalks, peering intently up 
and down the streets as if wondering when the parade would 
come along. Various accounts of the ceremonies found their 
way into the Pioneer and Historical Collection, and the news 
papers were explicit in their descriptions. The details are so 
well recorded that Mason might have been inaugurated yester 
day, so fresh and realistic is the scene we see. 

We see the Governor, "his face singularly strong and hand 
some," his eyes in animation seeming to change from blue to 


gray, "while from a forehead broad and high was brushed 
at times in seemingly aimless fashion a mass of wavy dark- 
brown hair. The blush of youth was in his cheeks, and the vigor 
of young years was disclosed in the alert and active move 
ment of his well-nourished frame." He was four days past 
his twenty-fourth birthday, and never looked as impressive as 
he did on that day. 

He came out of his narrow little house on Jefferson and 
to'ok his place in an open carriage. Before him rode a troop of 
cavalry in plumes and crossed white belts. The Michigan 
militia under Colonel Ike Rowland formed ranks behind him. 
As he set out, he was cheered. Crowds farther down Jefferson 
heard this cheering and set up a similar clamor when the car 
riage passed them. Mason kept doffing his stovepipe hat to 
the crowd. As he turned at Jefferson and entered Woodward, 
the crowds lining that wide thoroughfare took up the cry and 
passed it along, cheering and applauding until the carriage 
turned at Michigan Avenue and the Campus Martius for the 
short remainder of the route to the capitol building. 

The hoop-skirted and poke-bonneted ladies on the wooden 
sidewalks waved tiny handkerchiefs. Men in draped tail coats 
and stovepipe hats shouted. Mason bowed. At the capitol, 
the carriage swung around the muddy dirt driveway and 
stopped. Once more he waved as he stood up to dismount and 
enter the building. He was seen to be wearing a black broad 
cloth evening suit, with starched lace ruffles at the cuffs. His 
gleaming expanse of stiff white shirt bosom was surmounted 
by a high black satin neckstopk around a still-higher collar 
which thrust twin starched points around his chin. Mason's 
trousers were complete with the bootstraps under the instep 
which were standard equipment with those extremely tight, 
form-fitting garments, a practical device to keep them from 
climbing up the wearer's leg. His wide-notched coat lapels 
were of black silk, and the way those tails draped in a straight 
line to the knee was a testimonial to the tailor's art. 

The cruel high-pointed collar kept his neck up and chin high, 
as in a vise. Coupled with that heavily starched dress shirt 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 219 

front, he probably could not have looked down or bent over. 
Fortunately, no poodle came along for him to trip over. His 
heavy silk hat was worn straight upon his head, tilted fash 
ionably a little to the right; his long gold-headed cane was 
under his arm and white silk gloves on his dainty, long-fingered 
hands. Instead of the familiar three-valanced broadcloth 
opera cloak he had been so fond of wearing, Mason appeared 
for his inaugural draped in a pure white fluffy-wool blanket, 
with a long, rustling silken fringe dangling from it. People 
were wearing them in New York instead of overcoats, and 
Mason followed the fashion. It was the forerunner of the 
famous shawl that Lincoln wore. Standing there on the capitol 
steps, head up and smiling, one hand clutching this blanket 
and the other raised high with his huge hat and stick, Mason 
was the handsomest public figure of his time. The occasion 
cried for the familiar Press Graphic and the too-familiar press 
photographer of today, who should have left us a camera 
record of the event. 

He went inside and greeted his colleagues, then reappeared 
on the capitol portico between the high stone pillars. He held 
up his hand. He said that his regular inaugural address was 
to be delivered the following day, but he could not appear for 
the oath of office without thanking them all, yes, everyone, for 
having helped to bring their State into being. If they would 
wait, he said, the entire administrative staff would reappear 
after the ceremony of oath-taking, so that the people could 
see them. Most of them were unknown to the public. That was 
where Detroit editors received a shock. Out came Kintsing 
Pritchette, Mason's drinking pal. He was introduced as the 
new Secretary of State. Flanking the Governor on the other 
side stood the tall, broad-shouldered Ed Mundy of Ann Arbor, 
the Lieutenant Governor. Clean-shaven, friendly, brilliant of 
intellect and slow to take offense even from the quarrelsome 
Whigs, Ed was the ideal foil for Mason's effervescent en 

In the line stood Ezra Convis of Calhoun County, the new 
Speaker of the House; Isaac Crary, the lone Congressman-at- 


large (so called because apparently there was no place to 
put him) ; Reverend John D. Pierce, Superintendent of Public 
Instruction; John J. Adam, chief clerk of the capitol. The 
crowd gazed at them curiously. None save Pritchette was well 
known. Pritchette was the topic of considerable speculation. 
People wondered just how much influence Mason's "torts and 
toddy society" was going to wield in the new government. 
Pritchette probably was aware of this scrutiny. Not long after 
ward, a wave of antagonism swept through the Legislature 
directed against the so-called Detroit influence surrounding 
Mason, and swaying him away from matters brought up by the 
rural legislators. 

This friction was not long in manifesting itself. Mason felt 
it even as he stood before the flag-decorated rostrum in the 
House chamber the following day, delivering his inaugural 
address. The hall was jammed with legislators, reporters, in 
quisitive small-town officials and plain people who had made 
incredible journeys, in some cases, to squeeze in and become 
suffocated in a corner merely to say they had heard the "Boy 
Governor" speak. The little rosewood rostrum had a bunting 
canopy over it, and the Constitution of Michigan lying on its 
well-rubbed surface. Mason stood at one side in full view of the 
audience, his fingertips resting lightly on the edge of the ros 
trum and gesturing occasionally with the other hand. When 
Alvin Smith was commissioned to paint Mason's official State 
portrait he posed him in the same costume against this identical 
background. The famed canvas which has so inspired Mason's 
century-long list of successors in the gubernatorial chair depicts 
him as he was delivering this address. He looks confident, 
wholly at ease, and happy. 

He spokfe for an hour. His voice was "full-rounded, and had 
the charm of persuasion if it lacked the command of eloquence". 
He pulled out all the stops and filled his address with long- 
syllabled profundities which no doubt sounded very dignified 
and impressive, but must have sent the rural delegation scurry 
ing for the dictionary. It is heavy going for the modern reader, 


plowing through it in printed form. It must have sounded 
ponderous to the audience, but words like those coming from 
the lips of a virtual adolescent must have filled their hearts 
with pride. The gist of the address was that he was grateful, 
that he felt he had been called to the office to do a difficult 
job, and that he would follow his usual custom and call on his 
elders for advice. 

"Summoned by the general voice of my fellow-citizens to 
the station of chief executive magistrate of the State of Michi 
gan,'' he began, "it is with feelings which language is inade 
quate to express that I embrace the occasion to convey to them 
my cordial thanks for the distinguished testimony of their 
approbation and confidence." 

He declined to take any bows for the Toledo War, but re 
marked that "it would not become me to refer to the incident 
in a spirit of dissatisfaction." (Chuckles) He was conscious 
that the cares before him were beyond his ability; he said he 
had consulted his capacity less, probably, than the "impulses 
of a premature ambition". (Cries of "Go to it, boy!") Never 
mind, Mason continued. This was not a one-man show. He was 
merely the co-ordinator between the various departments, 
which would get the job done. These, with the "intelligence and 
virtue of the people", were guarantees that the foundations 
of the State were laid in the correct principles, and that it would 
prosper. He went into detail about the liberalism of the Con 
stitution, which he said set a precedent among the States and 
would be closely watched. There was the Territorial govern 
ment question to be solved; the presence in Washington of a 
Congressman and two Senators without credentials a dozen 
or more sources of friction with the Federal government. For 
these and other reasons he promised not to sponsor any radical 
legislation or to indulge in any more capers which would give 
the new State a poor send-off. Nothing of a permanent or 
revolutionary nature ought to be brought up until the State 
was admitted. 

He invoked the help of God to set the State on the right 


path, and prayed for the "friendship and approbation of the 
Nation 5 '. The address ended, and the audience cheered, then 
rushed up the aisle to shake his hand. 

The address did not sound like Mason; it was too conserva 
tive. He wrote it, but it was an evidence of his changing per 
sonality. The liberalism he mentioned was indeed a precedent 
among the States; the intelligence and virtue of the people 
were qualities he merely hoped for, and trusted in, yet he had 
hung the entire success of this gigantic enterprise on a slender 
thread of belief in the goodness of his people. If they were 
good, and generous, and noble, Michigan would prosper. If 
they turned out to be rascals, they would bring Mason crash- 
Ing down with them. 

Yet it was equally clear that he was throwing himself whole 
heartedly into the fight to get them what they wanted. He did 
not lack for enthusiasm, energy or ability. He enjoyed an almost 
hysterical popularity. The Legislature was solidly with him. 
There was no reason apparent to Michigan citizens why his 
inauguration should not usher in an era of lush prosperity 
beyond anything they had known. 

Hardly had the bunting been removed from the rostrum 
and the new House called to order than the city versus county 
feud became apparent. Having no minority party to bicker 
with, the solons began to bicker among themselves over the 
slate of nominations submitted to them for the two posts of 
United States Senator. All factions had agreed long ago upon 
Lucius Lyon, leaving only one post to fill. Mason was anxious 
to bestow the toga upon another of his barroom buddies, 
Colonel John Norvell, Postmaster of Detroit. Immediately 
a howl broke out from the rural delegations. They wanted 
John Biddle of Pontiac, who was a rural constituent through 
and through, a reluctant visitor to Detroit and a prosperous 
farmer. He had been president of the Constitutional Conven 
tion, had been the only opponent to Mason in the State elec 
tion, and had come to personify the opposition to Mason's 
rapidly forming "torts and toddy society" of Detroiters. 

On the first ballot, Norvell and Biddle tied. On the second, 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 223 

they tied again. On the third, Biddle sprang into the lead 
with a tie in the House but a majority of ten votes to six in 
the Senate. The Senate continued to support him but Biddle 
was beaten on successive votes in the house thirty-five to 
twenty-eight. Norvell was certified the winner. The Senate 
muttered. This was the beginning of fifteen years of constant 
city versus county feuding in the Legislature, climaxed by an 
abrupt removal of the whole State government to a remote 
and unsettled forest in Ingham County (Lansing) just to get 
it away from Detroit. 

Mason's popularity did not suffer, but the seeds of disaffec 
tion had been sown. On this disappointing note, Michigan's 
State government began. 

Some business lots on the lower end of Jefferson Avenue sold 
in 1835 for $150 a foot. Thus, stealthily, wHile the attention 
of the people had been centered on Mason, the Toledo War 
and the election, prosperity turned the corner. Detroit was 
riding the crest of a boom. Real estate was changing hands in 
a manner which seems almost Floridian to us. In the 1835 
boom, Detroit finally burst out of its narrow boundaries with 
a ripping noise which was almost drowned out by the jingle 
of cash changing hands every time another deal was made. 

Compressed into its strait-jacket frontage, Detroit had to 
expand. Wedged between the Cass farm on the west and the 
Baubien farm on the east, the budding metropolis was push 
ing its 6,927 inhabitants right around these barriers and de 
positing them in colonies up and down the river, in the "com 
mons"-, between remnants of the old French farms and even as 
far away as Grosse He. In 1835 the city presented a patch 
work appearance, with the old die-hard French farms seeming 
to run backward from the river right through residential areas. 
The Baubiens could not hold out forever, and in 1834 their 
farm had become a street and a row of houses. The next street 
was named for their patron saint, St. Antoine. Jefferson Avenue 


burst out of the wooden gates at Brush Street which had been 
there since 1812, and houses rose upon the cow pasture east 
of St. Antoine which Mason had seen when he arrived in 1830. 
In 1835, Jefferson Avenue stretched eastward for nearly a 
mile from Woodward. Graceful homes of the first families 
arose there. 

The bullet-scarred old mansion of General Cass continued to 
defy Detroit to encroach west of the Mansion House. At Cass 
Street, the property line, there was a gate and a path leading 
into the orchard, facing Fort and Lafayette Streets, which 
General Cass had developed as a sort of city park. The man 
sion stood on the riverbank facing a road which is known 
now as West Jefferson, and the river lay directly below a sharp 
cliff on the far side of this road. It had a private pier. 

The house, constructed originally of foot-thick logs, was 
sheathed with an outer layer of siding which disguised its 
original purpose. It was a fortress, built for protection against 
Indian raids and occupied by General Wayne as a military 
headquarters during the French and Indian Wars preceding 
the American Revolution. In its impregnable sides lay buried 
the leaden bullets of the British redcoats and the fire-tipped 
arrows of the Six Nations warriors. Every military commander 
until the time of Cass himself had lived there; Cass bought the 
historic old place and its accompanying 5 oo-acre farm for 
$12,000 in 1816 when he was Military Governor. The farm 
made him independent of city markets for a time, but in 1835 
he was Secretary of War in Washington and the proud old 
citadel was a museum, full of relics of the interminable wars, 
of old Detroit before the fire of 1805, and of pioneer life in 
the Territory. 

In 1831, following Mason's appointment as Territorial 
Secretary, Cass had departed for Washington. At that time 
he offered the land, not including the house, for sale at $36,000. 
The house was to stand there forever, as a permanent museum. 
No one was interested. Four years later, In 1835, buyers came 
rushing at him with insistent demands for the entire tract, 
and agreements to move the house elsewhere to save it for the 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 225 

Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society's headquarters. Cass 
agreed to allow the old structure to be moved, and sold the 
property for $168,000 cash. In the meantime, the purchasers 
of the Jefferson Avenue property who paid $150 a foot, resold 
the same lots for $285 and $292 a foot, and the boom was 
reaching the dimensions of a runaway hysteria. 

Cass Street was cut through at once; Fort, Lafayette and 
Jefferson were projected across the farm, and farther uptown 
Michigan Avenue now crossed it on a diagonal. From this 
diagonal, new streets were laid out at right angles, so that 
downtown Detroit now presents the appearance of a design 
laid out by a drunken draftsman. Streets go every which way ; 
they date from 1835, when the real-estate speculators suddenly 
acquired land and laid out streets to suit themselves, wherever 
they pleased. 

Some Mason rooters were giving the Boy Governor credit 
for all this easy prosperity, but the impersonal record of the 
Fuller thesis says he had nothing to do with it. Emigration was 
at its peak. Ninety boatloads of eager settlers arrived in De 
troit in the single month of October, 1835, In one day more 
than one thousand of them arrived in the city. The volume 
of retail trade, mostly with these new arrivals, was fantastic. 
The stream of emigrants was literally a stream of gold. Ex 
pressions about a "land-office business" were no exaggeration 
in Mason's Detroit of 1835. Public lands were selling for a 
dollar, and a dollar and a quarter, per acre, with millions of 
acres yet unclaimed. The safer, easier and much quicker water 
route from the East via the Erie Canal and the lake boats 
was funneling through Detroit the great bulk of traffic destined 
not only for Michigan, but for the lands far to the west of 
Chicago. It is scant wonder that in the pre-railroad era this 
comparatively comfortable route dominated the settlers' migra 
tions, and suddenly enriched Detroit. 

Many Detroit merchants made fortunes by dealing with, 
and for, small stores in the new villages. In return, the village 
merchants did a wholesale business with Detroit firms. This 
year, 1835, the official Blois' Gazeteer reported that half , if 


not two thirds, of Detroit's total trade was with the interior 
of the State. Ten important forwarding and commission houses 
led the list. All the principal roads of the State led to Detroit, 
and through its peculiar peninsular shape, Michigan was barred 
from much trade with its neighbors. The appalling condition 
of the roads was the only factor holding back even greater 
development. More time was needed to ship a wagonload of 
furniture from Detroit to Niles than the canal and lake trip 
required from New York. 

With the return of prosperity came bigger Detroit municipal 
appropriations and long-delayed improvements. Not only 
streets helped to change the city's physical face. There were 
docks, new buildings. Following the cholera epidemics of 1832 
and 1 834, investigations of the open sewer paralleling Congress 
Street led to measures to close it in. Thinking that the drink 
ing water might have been polluted by it, Detroit purchased 
early in 1836 a private water works company which was trying 
to process river water and pipe it to homes. The tallow-and-rag 
lamps mounted on poles that constituted Detroit's only street 
lights were editorialized about in the Journal and Courier, to 
the effect that a few more lights like those would produce total 

Not much was done, or could be done, in this period about 
the bottomless mudholes they called streets. Harriet Mar- 
tineau described the "wooden planks laid on the grass to form 
a pavement" in the newer sections of town, and described the 
interest of the Detroit city council in the wood-block system 
of street-paving being introduced into New York. In 1835 
the downtown streets were navigable in wet weather only by 
the old high-wheeled French pony cart, and in Farmer's History 
of Detroit there is an account of fourteen teams stalled in the 
mud at one time. 

Workmen began immediately to raze the low hill around 
Cass's log fortress and fill in the riverbank to bring it out to 
Atwater Street. With the house gone, and the orchard vanish 
ing day by day, the whole skyline of Detroit as seen from the 
river began to change. Warehouses were lining the shore; 

1835-1836] LITTLE JACK HORNER 22? 

the steep bank was graded into a slope which began at Jefferson 
Avenue, Up near the terraced, weed-grown site of old Fort 
Shelby, workmen were cutting a strange-looking path along 
side the Territorial Road and Michigan Avenue. They were 
the advance guard of the new Detroit and St. Joseph Rail- 
Road, building a right-of-way on the north side of Michigan to 
a terminus at the Campus Martius. Mason had to climb over 
this construction to get from his house to his office. Leading to 
his capitol was a double-plank walkway from the Griswold 
Street sidewalk, and a curved driveway describing twin arcs 
through the mud. Back of the capitol building, in its very 
shadow, was a boiler shop and a little network of track the 
birthplace of the strap-iron rails and the rolling stock for the 
strange new line. 

In his office, trying to concentrate with that infernal clang- 
clang from the railroad shop in his ears, Mason took up his 
fight for statehood. The Legislature had recessed after its 
stormy session over the Senatorial appointment. It was early 
winter, 1835, and both Senators and the lone Congressman 
were in Washington awaiting the opening of Congress. Norvell 
wrote Mason that Michigan's bill was not ready. They were 
given to understand, he said, that it would not be introduced 
for a long time. 

The reason, of course, had scant bearing on the merit of 
the issue. The next year, 1836, was a national election year and 
Congress straightway saw Ohio and Indiana members vocifer 
ously pointing to the unsettled border question, threatening 
the President with mass desertion if Ohio's demands were not 
met, and plotting to use the incident as an election issue. The 
Ohio bloc in Congress was mostly Whigs, and the furore was 
an excuse to embarrass Jackson. He sought peace by sending 
to Congress a copy of the Michigan Constitution, with a note 
explaining that he had examined it and found it excellent. With 
that, an Administration supporter introduced a bill to settle the 
boundary dispute, and upon reaching a settlement, admit Michi 
gan with the southern border described therein. The bill was 
referred to the Judiciary Committee, 


Lucius Lyon wrote disconsolately: "We see scant probability 
of action before next June." In the Whig papers of Detroit 
appeared a new demand to reopen the border question, aimed 
probably at sabotaging the efforts of the Mason appointees. 
"The Toledo Strip or Nothing!" they bellowed. To which 
Colonel Norvell replied from Washington: "There are a 
few who say that if we cannot get what we want, we should 
take what we can get," Senator Lyon and Congressman Crary 
endorsed this view. Lyon wrote to Andrew Mack, of Detroit : 
". . . .In my opinion, within twenty years the addition of the 
Upper Peninsula will be valued by Michigan at more than 
forty million dollars, and that even after ten years the State 
would not dream of selling it for that sum." 

They were voices crying in the wilderness. No one in Detroit 
gave support to their opinions. The Michigan pioneers well 
knew the back-breaking work they had endured to build their 
homes in the comparatively civilized regions of southern 
Michigan. The mere thought of 20,000 square miles of moun 
tains, uninhabited, unsurveyed and roadless a vast wilderness 
on the shore of Lake Superior made them shiver. 

Even when it began to appear that only by complete sur 
render of the "Toledo Strip" would Michigan be admitted, 
settlers tried to cling to it. Mason knew quite well that the 
cause was lost. He consulted Dr. Douglass Houghton, who 
had been north of the Falls of the St. Mary's, and had gazed 
on Lake Superior. Dr. Houghton, a practicing physician of 
Detroit, had as an active hobby the science of geology. He had 
been there gathering rock specimens and exploring. He said 
it would take a vast fortune to survey the region, but that 
access to it was quite easy by boat from the southern shore 
of the lake. The trick was to get a boat up there, around the 
high wall of white water that constituted the falls and rapids. 
He thought a ship canal ought to be built there, by the Federal 
government, as part of the terms of acceptance of the distant 

Mason thereupon acted on Dr. Houghton's advice. He gave 
Congress a few hints that Michigan might make a deal for 

1835-18363 LITTLE JACK HORNER 229 

the Upper Peninsula, on condition that the government build 
a canal at the Soo. Congress received the idea favorably. They 
realized that without it, commerce could not develop the re 
mote region for a generation to come. 

A detailed, and highly dramatic, account of the troubles 
experienced by the exploration party, and the friction that 
slowed construction of the first canal at the Soo, is given by 
Harlan Hatcher in The Great Lakes. Hatcher describes how 
the United States backed down on the Congressional promise 
to build the canal and saddled Mason with it ; how the United 
States Army was sent thither as a border patrol and general 
watchdog of the vital traffic link between the East and the fur 
areas of the Northwest, and began a series of feuds with the 
canal builders whom the troops were sent there to protect. 
The construction crew shot bears for food, and were almost 
eaten by their big-game targets many a time. They built a slip 
way and hauled skiffs and barks up the seventeen-foot escarp 
ment with a windlass. With the first appearance of direct con 
tact between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, even before 
Mason's canal was finished, an immense boom broke in the 
Upper Peninsula and it was infested by geologists, fur scouts, 
fishermen and commercial hunters. The town of Duluth grew 
four hundred percent within a decade. The first canal brought 
ore prospectors who discovered the mammoth iron and copper 
deposits which have made Michigan rich. 

Chronologically, this story follows the Mason era, but a 
glimpse of the far-reaching effects of Mason's decision to build 
the original Soo Canal ought to be permitted. He had no idea, 
nor had anyone of his time, that in our generation the Soo 
Canal would be the busiest waterway in the world and handle 
more tonnage than either Panama or Suez. By sponsoring it, 
and insisting upon it as a condition of accepting the Upper 
Peninsula, he helped to bring this development from the dream 
stage to reality. 

Mason's family was reunited in Detroit during the winter 
of 1835-36, and he wanted nothing more than personal and 
political peace. It must have annoyed him as much as any- 


one, therefore, when a fight presently broke out over the suc 
cessor to Colonel Norvell as Postmaster of Detroit. Six or 
seven Detroiters were clamoring for the post. One of them was 
Sheldon McKnight, owner of the Free Press. He was a per 
sonal friend of Lucius Lyon's, and of Mason's. He received 
their endorsements. But the Whigs were aroused to anger. 
Woodbridge apparently had plans to manipulate a Whig post- 
mastership out of a Democratic administration. His slim 
chance of success with this political miracle didn't keep him 
from inspiring a political plot which was so characteristic of 
the Michigan Whigs of this period that it should be described. 

Mason learned that Mr. McKnight, as were all editors a 
century ago, had been attacked on the street by some man who 
didn't like a story in the Free Press. This man, whoever he 
was, swung at McKnight and got a right smart poke in the 
jaw in return, which laid him flat on the wooden sidewalk. 
The man's name was never made public, but he died from some 
entirely different cause a few months later. Nobody said any 
thing. But when Mr. McKnight's name came up as a candidate 
for appointment as Postmaster, the Whig machine dug up this 
incident, had the publisher arrested for manslaughter, and 
called a grand jury. They even packed the grand jury, De- 
Garmo Jones, a Woodbridge yesman, becoming foreman. 

Great was Mason's indignation when this frame-up caused 
Mr. McKnight to be indicted for manslaughter, and tried for 
that crime before the State court. A speedy trial promptly 
exonerated him and he was appointed Postmaster. He never 
forgot Woodbridge, nor forgave him for this political trick. 
Mason regarded Woodbridge aghast, his eyes completely open 
to the kind of man Woodbridge could be. He could see Wood- 
bridge plotting, scheming, waiting patiently to find an excuse 
to truss up Mason in a similar conspiracy, to frame him on 
the first pretext, and to pursue him viciously. That was the 
Whig policy in 1835-36. It must have made Mason nervous. 

He tried to forget it on New Year's Day, 1836, when he 
was the central figure in the Governor's Ball held in his honor 
at the American Hotel. There, surrounded by his parents and 

I835-I83 6 ] LITTLE JACK HORNER 231 

sisters, he watched the slow procession of the minuet and the 
faster, more modern schottische, disapproved of by the city's 
elders. Mason appeared on the dais at the end of the ballroom, 
in the midst of his family, wearing his inauguration costume. 
Very handsome he looked in it, too. The Ball was an excuse for 
all the belles of Detroit society to be present in their billowiest 
and fanciest silken gowns, and Mason inaugurated the custom 
of dancing once with each of them, as they were presented by 
their mothers. He remarked in a letter soon afterward that he 
would rather be out at "Coon" Ten Eyck's tavern at Dear 
born ville with the hunting crowd he knew, "where campaigns 
were planned and policies of State matured, while the bonds of 
friendship were strengthened by many an act of good fellow 

Things were going wrong in Washington. The State Constitu 
tion had been approved. The conditions required by Congress 
for statehood had been met. Mason had indicated that he was 
not preparing to defend his previous stand over the southern 
border, and would be content with whatever Congress wanted 
to do about it. Individual members of Congress were demur 
ring Michigan's admission would upset the balance between 
free and slave territory. Besides, it would be Democratic, and 
the Congressional majority was Whig and didn't want any 
more Democratic votes. 

Patiently, over the weeks, Lyon and Norvell canvassed each 
member individually. By spring, 1836, they had obtained a 
compromise. The jealous Congressmen would admit Michigan 
if and the list of ifs seemed endless. // a slave State were 
admitted simultaneously, to preserve the status quo . . . if 
the Michigan delegation could win some sort of promise from 
Ohio not to bolt the Administration during the coming election 
campaign . . . if Michigan would accept the Upper Peninsula 
in full settlement of all rights in the "Toledo Strip". 

Yes, yes, they said. Yes, they'd accept anything. Arkansas 


was ready for admission, and the pair could be presented on the 
same Congressional bill Yes, they'd accept the Upper Penin 
sula. Yes, they'd help soothe the thirty-five electoral votes. 

Lyon was growing increasingly irritable. "An honest man," 
he wrote, "after looking on here a month or two^would laugh 
at himself for ever having supposed that the merits of a ques 
tion like this would have anything to do with the decision of 
Congress upon it." Ex-President John Quincy Adams, an old- 
time Federalist and more recent head of the Whig Party, be 
came fatigued with the endless horse-trading of his House col 
leagues. He made a fervent appeal in the House for Michi 
gan's admission as a matter of plain right. In the Senate, 
Thomas H. Benton echoed the demand. But the backstage 
wirepullers wouldn't let it come to a vote. 

The last objection they could raise was that Michigan had 
undertaken the illegal course of setting up a State government 
when, after all, she was still a Territory and had a duplicating 
Territorial government. In Detroit, Mason realized with a 
start that Little Jack Horner was still around somewhere. 
He had forgotten about Horner completely. So had everyone 
else except the Whigs, to whom Horner was a never-ending 
source of friction upon whom they could make political capital. 
Mason had not even seen Horner since the hectic days immedi 
ately following his inauguration, when he had told Horner to 
move his office out of the capitol and set up shop somewhere 
else. Fortunately, the capitol building belonged to the people 
of Michigan and was not a Federal building. 

Horner, perforce, moved. He had spent the winter at 
Ypsilanti, living very quietly in an inn near the one whose 
landlord had billed him for the damage caused by the mob. 
Mason saw an opportunity to make two gains if he had enough 
salesmanship. He sought out Horner. 

For about a week, Mason inspired a lot of questions about 
where Little Jack Horner was ; what he was doing for his 
salary as Acting Governor. His inn at Ypsilanti became the 
center of another scrutiny by the unfriendly citizens, who had 
never liked him and resented the mere fact of Homer's pres- 


ence in Mason's bailiwick. When Mason appeared, Horner 
was glad to see him. 

Mason said he had been advised that Congress was about 
to create the new Territory of Wisconsin, as a prelude to Michi 
gan's admission. Now, Horner had better get there with all 
possible speed. The Territory would include all the vast resi 
due of land left over when the two peninsulas of Michigan 
were withdrawn, and Horner would automatically be Governor 
of it if he got there before a new one was appointed. He ought 
to be on the scene when the historic moment came for him 
to assume command. 

Horner's round face beamed with gratitude. Mason offered 
to help him find a team and a wagon to move his household 
goods and Mrs. Horner. The little man's double chin trembled 
with unspoken gratitude. 

On April 20, 1836, Congress created the Territory of Wis 
consin. Horner was there. He made the proclamation which 
set the Territory in motion. He became a Founding Father 
and one of Wisconsin's most respected citizens. It was Horner 
who founded the City of Ripon, Wisconsin, where a scant two 
decades later a meeting was held which became one of the 
twin birthplaces of the present national Republican Party. The 
other was held in Jackson, Michigan. Each city now claims to 
be the original birthplace of the Party. Horner became success 
ful in Ripon and died there, full of years and honors, in 1883. 

After his departure from Michigan, Mason felt that the last 
objection had been overcome and the last obstacle removed. 
In exasperation he wrote to Lucius Lyon wanting to know 
what more he could do. Both Lyon and Norvell answered, say 
ing that they saw no hope for action on the bill until the fol 
lowing June. 



JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, Member of Congress and ex-President 
of the United States, strode into the cloakroom off the old 
House chamber in the unfinished capitol building at Washing 
ton, The session, like many others recently, had been taken 
up with a good deal of rather acid debate about Michigan's 
chances for statehood. Privately, said Adams, he didn't think 
Michigan's chances were worth a continental. But he would 
go on pleading her cause in public at every opportunity because 
of a belief in the justice of Michigan's cause and a sense of 
outrage at the way she was being treated. He was getting 
heartily weary of seeing the issue twisted and tortured by 
members of both Houses who were trying to wring the last 
vote, and pledge, out of it. 

He explained to the unaccredited Michigan delegation how 
he felt. He reminded them that Illinois had lately espoused the 
cause of Ohio and Indiana in the border controversy, and that 
together these three States had six Senators and twenty-nine 
Congressmen. It was a tight little bloc, Adams continued, which 
was holding together on every issue that came up. Now, the 
election was going to be a free-for-all, with no telling who 
would win the nomination in either party convention. 

There were, he said, a half-dozen or more aspirants for the 
Presidency. Scarcely anyone dared advocate Michigan's ad 
mission for fear of jeopardizing his chances or antagonizing 
this bloc of electoral votes. The border issue and Michigan's 
plea for admission were intertwined and together they con 
stituted a clear case of political dynamite. 

The majority in each House had no real objection to Michi 
gan's admission. They probably would approve the bill if it 


could be dug out of the Judiciary Committee and scheduled for 
a hearing. But it could not be reported out until the wirepullers 
were satisfied that Michigan was thoroughly licked and that 
Mason, personally, was humble. In order to satisfy everybody, 
in the Adams view, a statement to that effect should be made. 
The Michigan men assured him that everybody had long since 
given up the fight for the "Toledo Strip". 

No, answered Adams, that was not the case. The Whigs in 
Michigan hadn't given up; they were forever complaining 
about it editorially in the little rural weeklies. It was still a 
political issue. If the two Senators and one Representative 
would assure the ruffled politicians that Mason would indeed 
accept any settlement Congress saw fit to award Michigan 
for the loss of the strip, he thought the bill could be exhumed. 

Assurances were given. The bill was reported out on March 
i, 1836, with a statement that the Judiciary Committee felt 
that the Upper Peninsula would be a disadvantage to the new 
State but that geographical considerations made it necessary 
for it to be administered by Michigan. In case a ship canal 
could be constructed at the Soo, the Committee believed that 
the whole chain of lakes would become a Michigan waterway. 
By water through this proposed canal it was suggested that 
the administration of the Upper Peninsula would be easier for 
Michigan than for the new Territory of Wisconsin, which was 
separated from the area by a mountain range. It was recom 
mended, therefore, that Michigan be admitted with the Upper 
Peninsula, and a southern border on Ohio's "Harris Line". 

No opposition to this proposal was evident from the vote- 
less Michigan delegation. The bill went into the hopper and 
stayed there, awaiting its turn. On April 25, 1836, the Senate 
voted on it favorably, twenty-four to seventeen. The House, 
however, delayed week after week. Nothing Lucius Lyon 
could do, even with his wide personal popularity, could make 
any impression on the granite-like indifference of the House. 
It was said in the corridors that Michigan was being punished 
for the way Mason had embarrassed Governor Lucas in the 
Toledo War. 


It became apparent that the House was going to delay action 
on the bill as long as possible, at least until after the fall elec 
tions. The Whigs might then have a Whig President and a 
majority in Congress, and that would mean that Michigan 
never would become a State as long as a Democrat remained 
in power in Detroit. Lyon saw the implication in this apparently 
meaningless delay. He determined to use his ace in the hole 
his friendship with the President, with the Cabinet and with 
members of the Democratic majority in the House. He began 
to exert a little pull. 

With this weapon he broke the jam. The President and Gen 
eral Cass had friends, too. The President wanted Michigan 
admitted. There were rumblings in the House cloakroom, but 
the bill was finally voted upon under a surly atmosphere of 
pressure. On June 25, 1836, Lyon and Norvell sat in the House 
visitors' gallery watching their bill emerge for a vote. It was 
the long-awaited day. It was the day Lyon hoped to see his 
great fight won. But the political tacticians of the House handed 
him another long list of conditions, enraging him beyond en 

In the vote to admit Arkansas and Michigan simultaneously, 
Arkansas won admission unconditionally. Michigan, however, 
was silenced until long past election time by a hamstringing 
provision calling for local county conventions all through the 
Peninsula to ratify the boundaries as set forth in the bill, and 
to vote on whether or not to accept the Upper Peninsula. The 
exact wording of the bill stipulated : 

"The matter will be reconsidered upon the express condition 
that the said State shall consist of, and have jurisdiction over, 
the territory prescribed by Congress and none other." 

Congress knew that backwoods areas of Michigan contained 
many a noisy Whig and many an independent, opinionated 
farmer who would vote "agin the government" on general 
principles. Alsoy Congress well knew that the delay was quite 
likely to bankrupt Mason's unaccredited State government. 
Every day's delay on the vital bill was a costly loss to the im 
poverished Michigan treasury. Since she had ceased to be a 


Territory, she could no longer collect the Federal appropria 
tion for administration expenses. And until the day of ad 
mission, not one dollar of Federal funds could be allotted to 
her. Caught thus between the upper and nether millstones, 
Michigan was rapidly going broke while Congress invented new 
schemes to delay. 

In dollars, the desperate Michigan administrators were 
losing a fortune every month in the five per cent commission 
on the sale of Federal lands, which all recognized States were 
pocketing. Elsewhere, Mason feared that his precious develop 
ment program would be blown sky-high because, until admitted, 
Michigan could not set aside an acre of its idle land for the 
support of the State University or any of the State functions. 
And additionally, there was no one who had a voice in Con 
gress to protest. 

It was a cruel but brutally efficient means of subduing the 
"Young Hotspur". It was the politicians' way of nailing 
Mason's hide on the fence, in spite of the wide popularity 
which surrounded him in Detroit and throughout Michigan. 
Congress frowned upon the way he rose up, at the head of 
his people, and threw out their Territorial government, and the 
way in which he had thumbed his nose at them in the Toledo 
War. The last straw, which all Washington realized would 
lead to the political woodshed, was Mason's rebound after 
he had been summarily dismissed from office. That should 
have shut him up. Dismissal had always worked before ; it was 
the one sure way in which Washington could guarantee itself 
relief from a noisy character who wouldn't follow the poli 
ticians' rules. Mason's astonishing support in the outlaw elec 
tion struck this clique of Congressmen like a blow from a 
mallet. Their revenge took time, but it was well thought out. 

When the flattening news reached Detroit, Mason realized 
that they had him between the jaws of a vise. There was nothing 
he could do but comply, and hope that the delays would not 
bankrupt the State hopelessly. Accordingly, he summoned the 
Legislature in special session on July 25th, and told the mem 
bers the sad news. Debate was brief . Action was fast. 


The legislators knew that the mud-trapped roads would 
make response anything but swift, so they set the date for the 
convention to report on September 26th. They set to work to 
arouse the counties, so that the fifty delegates required by the 
Congressional bill could arrive with instructions, after being 
elected at a score or more of little backwoods hamlets to repre 
sent the people in the final action at the convention. They would 
have the written wishes of their rural neighbors in their hands. 

Woodbridge saw the dawn of opportunity glowing before 
his eyes. As fast as Mason's loyal legislators obtained promises 
of support, his unforgetting Whigs raised storms of rural 
protest about the unfairness of being denied the "Toledo 
Strip". The Whig newspapers across the Peninsula erupted 
editorially about the injustice of the deal, and the timidity of 
Governor Mason in surrendering abjectly to politics when he 
had the war won in the field. Far from being dead and buried, 
the Whig opposition raised the border issue to a new high of 
hot controversy. 

On the maps of the time, the Upper Peninsula was shown 
as an area almost completely separated from Wisconsin by 
a range of mountains, which we know now are not really such 
formidable barriers. To Mason's Michigan, names like "Porcu 
pine Mountains" and "Mineral Range" sounded awesome. 
These two ranges of timbered foothills cut up the Upper 
Peninsula into a series of mountains and parallel gorges, and 
to persons who had never been there they seemed as fearsome 
as the Rockies. It was freely admitted that the area was good 
for nothing except fishing and furs, that it was not a coloniza 
tion site. Mason's men quoted the words of the Congressional 
bill defining the borders of the Upper Peninsula : 

". . . that region enclosed by a line drawn through Green 
Bay> the Menominee River, Lake of the Desert and Montreal 
River." To us, it defines the area as a triangular space enclosed 
by Green Bay and Superior, Wisconsin, the south shore of 
Lake Superior to the Soo. Topographically the old maps 
exaggerate the terrain, but their estimate of the area, twenty 
thousand square miles, was not far off. 


The local debates began. In the county courthouses out in 
the fresh tamarack-built towns there were "loud cries of tyr 
anny and oppression" from the Whigs and the independent 
settlers. Reports from local assemblies were full of interrup 
tions while some noisy demonstrator was thrown out* This 
was the first time the individual citizen had had a chance to 
determine the State's policy. Some of them, not knowing 
Mason's problem, howled for the harbor and facilities at 
Toledo and waved aside the whole Upper Peninsula in dis 
gust. Mason lost heart; the fight looked hopeless. The only 
reports reaching him were full of bad news. One example said : 
u We question the desirability of entering the Union at all if 
we must be admitted mutilated, humbled and degraded." 

Mason didn't know who was writing these reports, but 
Woodb ridge did. Most of them were penned by Whigs who, 
being the richest and most influential men of the community, 
naturally became the delegates and wrote the expressions of 
their inarticulate townsfolk. Not even Mason's own people 
were with him unanimously in the fight; many looked upon 
Governor Lucas as a smooth customer who had outsmarted 
the "Young Hotspur" by cold-decking him in the great game 
of politics. At the end of August, Mason saw nothing but 
defeat ahead. His prophetic sense was good. 

The elected representatives bore the ballots of their people 
to the convention at Ann Arbor on September 26, 1836. They 
voted down the proposal offered by Congress. The vote was 
fairly close, twenty-eight to twenty-one, but the sentiment was 
plain. The people, if left to their own devices, would vote ac 
cording to individual whims which had no support in the harsh 
facts of the case as Mason knew them. The deal was unpopular, 
but like any bitter medicine, Michigan had to swallow it. Mason 
knew he was dealing with a pure individualistic reaction when 
he read in the majority report of the convention that: ". . . in 
effect, Congress has given legal recognition to the State by 
ratifying the constitution," and that therefore Congress had 
no power to lay down any terms at all concerning what was a 
purely internal problem of Michigan. 


In Washington, Attorney General Butler ruled that this 
position was all bosh and nonsense. Mason agreed. So did all 
other experienced attorneys ; that report was probably drafted 
by a backwoods lawyer who had never tried a case outside of 
justice court. Butler referred to the convention as "The Con 
vention of Dissent", and the name stuck. Back where he started 
and thousands of dollars in the red, Mason had no choice but 
to try to go on from there. 

There was nothing he could salvage from the attempt to 
comply with Congress' terms, except possibly some experience. 
Congress had won; he faced the fact and sat back to see what 
they would do to him next. Some day, he felt, Congress would 
relent. Probably some future Governor could get the State 
admitted. Perhaps in years to come he could try again. 

Pacing the floor of his small plaster-walled office, Mason 
meditated. Floor-pacing was his habit when agitated; he was 
agitated now. Word of his plight was not long in seeping back 
into the frontier towns. There, people who had been in the 
forefront of the opposition to any such deal with Congress 
now began feeling sorry for Mason as a man. He had a 
curious personal influence on his people. They felt as if he were 
a relative, and they took to heart any hurt inflicted on him. 
When they saw that it was they who had hurt him this time, 
they were sorry. 

Mason temporarily forgot about statehood. It was the only 
thing he could do. He sat in his office reading the New York 
papers, and a flood of mail from Cass and other friends in 
Washington. The campaign was in full cry. It was a rather 
listless one, comparatively speaking. It was a puzzle. There 
was no definite sign pointing to anyone's victory. Both parties 
had able candidates. The Whigs had dusted off and thrust 
forth the now-ancient figure of General William Henry Har 
rison, a hero of the War of 1812. The Democrats had finally 
picked Vice-President Martin 'Van Buren, Jackson's assistant 
and acting President during Old Hickory's frequent illnesses. 

In Michigan the advance predictions were for Harrison, 


Gossip in the newspapers pointed out that Van Buren was not 
popular enough to succeed the famed Jackson; only another 
military hero of equivalent stature could bring out the votes. 
Van Buren, an aristocrat who lived in splendid isolation sur 
rounded by an army of servants, was not the type of man to 
appeal to a raw and undeveloped nation, mostly frontier, and 
only then preparing to vote for its eighth President. 

Mason received no comfort from Cass's belief that Jackson's 
policies would be continued in Van Buren's administration 
if Van Buren won. He did not think Van Buren was going 
to win. Few people did. Wearily, Mason turned his attention 
to a flood of small appointments and an accumulation of office 
detail, and tried not to think about the Treasury. 

When the appointed day rolled around in November, Stevens 
Thomson Mason was among the most surprised men in the 
United States. Another astonished man was the fluffy-haired 
Van Buren himself. The Democrats took the country by storm. 
They larruped the old Whig war horse, Harrison, in one of 
the most upsetting elections of the nineteenth century. Van 
Buren had a majority of more than a hundred electoral votes. 
Harrison dropped out of the headlines immediately. Old An 
drew Jackson was shot at, for the last time, in front of the 
White House by an angry Whig house painter whose pistol 
misfired, and with this fizzle one of the greatest men of his 
century slid gently into the seclusion he had craved for twenty 
years. After Van Buren's inauguration, Andy Jackson returned 
to The Hermitage to die. But he still had time enough in office 
before that date to do something about the Michigan dilemma. 

Mason's awakening to the meaning of the Democratic land 
slide was not long in making itself evident He saw a chance 
to revive the statehood bill if he acted quickly, while the Demo 
crats were still joyous and the Whigs were stunned. But there 
remained the damning fact of the defeat of the deal Congress 
had offered. Summoning his party cohorts, Mason told them 
that if that "Convention of Dissent" report could be circum 
vented somehow, Michigan still stood a chance for statehood. 


He could not call another convention, because the Congres 
sional bill made provision for only one. He paced the floor. 
There must be some way. 

Even while Mason's high black custom-made boots were 
wearing out the threadbare rug in his office, a few loyal Mason 
partisans were coming to his rescue. There appeared to be a 
spontaneous demand for a new vote on the Congressional deal. 
Mason's friends were talking for him, telling the settlers 
what the ill-starred convention had done to him. 

Within a few weeks of the election of 1836, a new form 
of public meeting was in full cry throughout Michigan. It was 
a pure example of classic, textbook democracy: the voluntary 
meeting of the electorate to decide what the State would do. 
It is doubtful whether the residents of one isolated village 
knew that the same kind of meeting was in progress at dozens 
of other villages at the same time. It was a democratic proce 
dure, but it lacked both legal authority and administrative 
consent. As such, this series of meetings was entirely in char 
acter. That was Mason's Michigan; put up the project first, 
and then put up the proposition. 

It sounds like sarcasm to remark that these meetings were the 
last example of popular government, that is, democracy like 
unto that of ancient Athens, at work in Michigan. Such seems 
to be the case. Conditions forbid the wide exercise of individual 
initiative by American voters today, although they have the 
power of consent or rejection of a stated proposal, and a choice 
between candidates. Jefferson was thinking of just such a so 
ciety as Mason's Michigan when he tried to bestow liberty 
upon a young Republic in the manner of a rich gentleman en 
dowing a library. What Jefferson meant was universal suffrage, 
universal participation in the fruits and expense of govern 
ment, and an utter absence of a class structure. He dreamed 
of universal opportunity resulting from this Utopia, and dur 
ing the first half century of her history, the United States 


struggled seriously to reach Jefferson's goal. By that time the 
liberal laws and universal suffrage which were to bestow liberty 
had bestowed instead the great families like the Vanderbilts, 
Astors, Livingstons and Adamses; the political circuses like 
Tammany, the "Spoils System" and the Whigs. The individual 
citizen was as much at their mercy as he had been at the mercy 
of the Tories prior to the American Revolution, and in the 
face of that comparison it seems he was no better off. 

In Mason's Michigan he was, in fact, vastly better off. This 
was a state-wide attempt to place a large share of political 
power directly in the hands of the electorate, a bigger version 
of the New England Town Meeting. It was a place where a 
citizen could leave his plow like Cincinnatus to lead a regiment 
or a division in battle, and return to it afterward. It was a 
series of almost-independent towns where anybody who voted 
could get up on a stump and there, by stating his views to his 
fellow citizens, influence the conduct of his government. If 
enough people agreed with him, he could dominate it. In 
Mason's Michigan the citizen was a king, and Mason humbly 
regarded himself as a servant of that king. 

In 1836 these sovereign citizens began gathering in barns, 
In schools, in town halls and village stores, and deciding that it- 
was time to do something about Mason. They selected five 
anonymous committeemen who went from town to town urging 
greater action, more speed. These committeemen started to 
raise seventy delegates to attend another convention at Ann 
Arbor on December I4th. They succeeded; seventy-one at 

Ann Arbor was a frozen wasteland on that bleak December 
day. The little courthouse had a tiny stove which could not 
take the chill out of the frozen air no matter how much dry 
wood they piled into it. Somebody said: "Well,. this sure is a 
frost-bitten convention." And the Frost-Bitten Convention it 
became a landmark in Michigan history. On the first ballot 
the convention voted to reverse the action of the previous 
body, and accept any border, any conditions, any land that 
Congress wished to bestow even if it turned out to be in Tibet. 


They sent a copy of their report to Governor Mason and 
another to the President, and several of the committee set out 
for Washington to explain personally why they not their 
predecessors ought to be regarded as the official voice of the 

"There is some doubt," commented Dr. G. N. Fuller in his 
thesis on this period, "that this convention actually expressed 
the will of the people. The legality of it was never questioned 
in Michigan, even though the delegates had no legal authority 

In his own day, however, Mason strongly upheld the legality 
of this rump convention. "If you are dissatisfied with the de 
cision of the September Convention," he wrote to Ezekiel 
Pray, of Washtenaw County, "the remedy is with yourselves. 
You have the inherent and indefeasible right in all cases or 
propositions coming before you in your original capacity, to 
reverse the acts of your agents if found to be prejudicial to 
your interests." He cited a precedent from the history of Penn 
sylvania. A somewhat similar popular action had been taken 
by the people, without recourse to constituted authority, when 
the young colony decided to separate from England. 

Whatever he might have thought about it, Mason was off 
base legally. Even his greatest friend, Lawton Hemans, him 
self a successful attorney, could not stomach this. "However 
pleasantly this sort of thing might have appeared to the lay 
mind," wrote Hemans, "the student of government and of 
legal form is hardly persuaded that in a government of laws 
and constitutions, their decrees and established forms can thus 
be lightly set aside." All other legal talent is unanimous in 
deciding that the Frost-Bitten Convention was illegal, without 
authority and clearly the result of somebody's activity who 
had an axe to grind. 

Whereas the correct, sealed, tape-bound and enscrolled pro 
ceedings of Congress said that Michigan couldn't get away 
with it, Mason merely forwarded a copy of the report to Wash 
ington. It was whipped through Congress in three weeks with 
out even a debate. Andrew Jackson signed the bill admitting 


Michigan as one of his last official acts, on January 26, 1837. 
At long last, Michigan took her official place in the star section 
of the flag. 

Malcolm Bingay is a sharp-witted old editor who has a wide 
following in the modern Detroit Free Press. He says that right 
then, in 1837, his granddaddy, John Crichton Bingay, founded 
the Bingay Institute for the Study of Political Flapdoodle, 
which has continuous records to show that never, in its long 
and interesting history, has the Institute recorded an excep 
tion to its major precept "There is one law," he writes, "in 
this low art of sniffle-snaffle which no politician has ever vio 
lated. It can be taken for granted that when a man holding 
office announces that he is 'studying the situation,' he is not 
going to do anything about it." 

For fifteen months, between November 2, 1835, and January 
26, 1837, Michigan had been living in sin. During that time, 
with Congress "studying the situation", nothing was done until 
the last three weeks. Then it was done arrogantly, illegally and 
contrary to everything Congress had demanded, but the legal 
vote was cast out and the illegal vote accepted. Perhaps the 
Institute for the Study of Political Flapdoodle has some sta 
tistics on that one. 

If not, perhaps Mr. Bingay will allow me to supply some. 
The men who headed this apparently anonymous and spon 
taneous uprising of the aroused citizenry were the businessmen 
of Michigan. During the period when Michigan was a maverick 
among the States, she had lost in commissions on the sale of 
public lands somewhere between $450,000 and $600,000. 
This was the money needed to build the railroad, dig the 
canals, drain the swamps and cut through new roads. The men 
of Michigan needed this money as much as they admired 
Mason. Even more, they needed the other cash bonuses which 
a spectacular bit of good fortune had laid in the States' ample 

During November, 1836, just after the election, President 
Jackson announced that he was leaving office with every dol 
lar of Federal debt paid. He had a surplus in the Treasury. 


This sum was to be divided equally among the States upon 
the expiration of his term of office. The businessmen of Michi 
gan knew that; they knew that unless Michigan was a legally 
recognized State by that time, not a dollar of it would they 
see. They devised this example of pure democracy; they in 
spired it and led it. It is, therefore, just another political pres 
sure play like any other except that this one is hallowed in 
history as a demonstration of what the plain people can do 
if they unite. Actually it was a desperate race against the 
calendar, which they won in the proverbial nick of time. Levi 
Woodbury, Secretary of the Treasury, wrote Mason that he 
would extend the time a little and give Michigan her share 
provided she was admitted before Jackson left office. Michigan 
eventually received a share of this sum, and it, also, arrived 
just In time to soothe an incipient money panic. 

It was a time of spurts: first of remarkable prosperity and 
then of utter stagnation in business. Detroit newspapers during 
the summer of 1836 had quoted rising prices on staple foods, 
always a good index of the times. They came back to normal 
in the fall when bumper crops began flooding the city, and 
fell steadily throughout the winter. Employment was low; 
money difficult to obtain on loan. The few workmen employed 
on private contracts loafed on the job and demanded more 
money. The razmg of the old Cass house and the bluff adjoin 
ing became the scene of a workmens' strike, not for more 
money but because they did not like the foreman. They got 
drunk and hurled rocks at passers-by. The city hastily organized 
a platoon of young men to keep order, and it was this organiza 
tion which later was fitted to new gold-trimmed uniforms and 
became the Brady Guards, Detroit's famous city militia. As 
commander, Ike Rowland bore the title of Major proudly as 
long as he lived. Throughout its history it was always being 
called out to protect the city against the incessant mobs and 
riots which were, and are, such a typical feature of Detroit. To 
quote Bingay again: "If this town of ours was ever without a 
crisis, old settlers wouldn't recognize the place." 

During 1836, Detroit was changing from a one-street busi- 


ness section along Jefferson Avenue, to a rather good-sized 
downtown section dominated by Woodward Avenue. Wood 
ward was lined with busy shops as far as the Campus Martius, 
and homes were being constructed as far uptown as Grand 
Circus Park. It was believed that Adams Street was as far 
north as the town would go, and consequently it was built 
so that it ran straight across the northern border and could 
be protected by a high wall if necessary. The water front 
now stretched nearly two miles, from the western edge of the 
Cass farm to a point opposite St. Antoine Street, with strag 
gling cottages and boat works as far as the western tip of 
Belle Isle. The census of 1837 gave the city more than 8,000 
permanent population, which meant a summertime average 
of about 1 5,000 people there on any typical day. Six steamboats 
a day arrived during the season ; 200,000 people came and went 
through the port that year. Above and below the city along 
the river roads, the "orderly rows of new settlers' houses seems 
endless," said Harriet Martineau. 

The creaking wagons that bumped and jolted along the roads 
soon left civilization behind them when they crossed the city 
line. In 1837 there were a number of middle-sized towns 
flourishing throughout the State, but compared to Detroit they 
were primitive indeed. Towns forgotten now, with descriptive 
names like Sylvan Center, Sandstone, Palmyra, Gibraltar. 
Towns like Jefferson, in Jackson County, are entirely gone, and 
even the main streets have gone back to weeds and cultivated 
fields. In 1837 they were thriving communities, with wagon 
roads leading to them from all directions and public squares 
with inns, stores and bandstands. There, at grist-mill sites 
which vanished generations ago, boys of 1837 helped their 
fathers unload sacks of grain and waited for their flour by 
fishing below the millrace. 

Settlers who came to Michigan after 1835 found a fair 
degree of stability. The forests were still there, but the log 
cabin was disappearing. New roads, laid out precisely north- 
south and east-west, led at one-mile intervals past painted barns 
and pillared farmhouses. The source of all wealth was the 


land, but the land was rich. A quarter section and a family of 
four strapping boys meant prosperity. 

The preceding generation had cleared the land, split the 
rails to build the fences, and hewed logs for their cabins. They 
had lived precariously in complete isolation at remote clearings, 
snowed in all winter and shaking with fever and ague in the hot 
summers. With their calloused hands they had grubbed roots 
and vines, and with their backs they had guided the huge 
breaking plow behind its four yoke of oxen. In the "grub-lots" 
where the roots were thickest, seven yoke could hardly break 
the sod. 

The new settlers in 1835 and 1836 had money, and hired 
most of the heavy work done. Often they bought completely 
built farms, with buildings ready. As soon as these people began 
sowing their first crop they began keeping books. Nothing 
illustrates the changing type of Michigan pioneer better than 
the thoroughness of these old records, and the hand-set old 
newspapers wherein their doings were recorded. 

Harriet Martineau says that after a gruelling fight with 
the mud on the road to Ann Arbor, she picked up a copy of an 
Ann Arbor newspaper at an inn where she sought much-needed 
rest. "It was irregularly printed and not good," she commented, 
"but it could happen nowhere outside America that a back 
woods village like Ann Arbor, where there is difficulty in 
procuring proper food and accommodations, should have a 
newspaper." It was no exception; all the county-seat villages 
had newspapers/The educational standard of Michigan immi 
grants was astonishingly high. There are legends about pioneers 
who carried sweat-stained copies of Plato and Horace in their 
jeans to read during moments of rest from the plow. And the 
Ann Arbor Argus which so impressed Miss Martineau carried 
a poetry column with flowery allusions to Circe, Juno and 

In its news columns theJrgus in 1837 reported that whereas 
land cost a dollar and a quarter per acre, it cost an additional 
ten dollars an acre to clear it with ox teams and build rail 
fences. This was said to be an average; timbered land might 


cost fifteen dollars an acre to clear and fence; burr-oak plains 
and prairies cost about ten dollars. In a few cases settlers had 
claimed to have cleared, fenced, plowed, harrowed and seeded 
open land for as little as eight dollars an acre. 

Pioneers recalled in documents now in the files of the Pioneer 
and Historical Collection that they got back as much as this 
outlay cost them in one or two good seasons' crops. The natural 
products of the land represented profit. The timber built mills 
on the creeks, new houses in the villages. The fields, even before 
plowing, yielded berries, nuts, maple sugar, honey, grasses for 
their livestock and small game for themselves. A Detroit man 
in 1836, exhausted by a hard day's ride, knocked at the door 
of a house near Parma. His horse had fallen down while try 
ing to ford Sandstone Creek and he could go no farther. The 
farmer invited him in, and told him that this was his third 
season there. He wouldn't sell for forty dollars an acre, he 
said. He claimed he was getting eighty bushels of corn to the 
acre. If so, it was better than his descendants can get now on 
the same land. 

These Michigan families lived a community life quite dif 
ferent from the dangerous, fever-ridden exile of the log-cabin 
pioneer. Barn-raisings, logging bees, quilting bees, husking 
bees and other semi-social events indicate the willingness of the 
whole neighborhood to pitch in and help a man with a big job. 
This co-operative spirit made life an enjoyable one. Each 
settler regarded himself as a unit in the village team. He was 
ready at any time to hitch up his teams, yoke his oxen and go 
to help his neighbor do a job he couldn't do alone. 

The era was slow, inexpensive, picturesque and thoroughly 
enjoyable. At least it seems so to moderns by comparison, and 
in retrospect to the old folk who described Mason's Michigan 
in letters to the Pioneer and Historical Society from about 
1880 to 1900. These letters are full of detailed descriptions of 
everything Mason's people wore, what they ate, how they put 
up preserves and smoked meats and collected vegetables in 
great bins and always had plenty on hand even if twenty or 
more sat down to table. One of them said that his grandmother, 


who lived on a farm near Pontiac, never seemed surprised if 
her numerous sons brought their large families to Sunday din 
ner without invitation, and could feed fifty without going to the 
village store for anything. It was his belief that this family 
could be snowed in from November until April, and emerge 
on the first of May wearing double chins. 

A man's whiskers were as much a part of his personality 
as his house. Mustaches drooped downward to meet under the 
chin; sideburns were wavy and luxuriant. Martin Van Buren's 
were eight inches long, pure white, and as fluffy as an Angora 
cat's. The "Uncle Sam" narrow chin-beard came into fashion 
with the boot-strapped trousers, but it required daily shaving 
to keep it narrow. More common and equally expressive of 
solid citizenry was the "down-Easter", a thick fringe of beard 
all around the face and under the chin, while the face itself 
remained clean-shaven. John J. Adam, a State employee who 
kept most of the records in the capitol, had a thin, turned- 
down mouth that made him look like the old-time melodrama 
actor's idea of an old squire or a typical old sour-puss. He 
made himself look even more like a tintype of a curmudgeon 
by wearing a gray wisp of beard about three inches wide, 
right on his chin. It stuck straight out; Mr. Adam was a 
prankster and wore it that way for the laughs he got. It made 
him look like the stubborn old father in East Lynne who throws 
his erring daughter out into the snow. 

It was the full beard, however, rather than the fancy 
whiskers that was the measure of a man. Men in Mason's 
Michigan regarded them as symbols of dignity and began 
growing them as soon as possible. Some were two feet long; 
most of them were bushy and ferocious-looking. In time they 
attained a rich brown hue from tobacco juice, and when they 
inevitably turned white, a man had either to stop chewing or 
keep trimming his beard. Out of these fur-bearing countenances * 
came nasal, twangy monosyllables handed down no doubt from 
New England forebears, but in time attaining a pure Mid 
western farm dialect form. In Mason's Michigan the dialect 
was perhaps at its most extreme ; with the railroad era it 


gradually became ridiculous and disappeared. It was the basis 
for the speech of the stage "rube character". Mason's farmer 
"calculated" it was time to "fetch the caows"; he "reckoned" 
he better get the hay in; and, if baffled, he ejaculated, so help 
me, "I swan." 

His farm produced everything he ate or wore, except per 
haps salt, pepper and buttons. He bought things like these 
at the village store on credit and paid once a year, with his 
cash crop. He had to buy his land outright and pay for it in 
advance, hence he had no mortgage and no bank debt. He 
built all the buildings on it himself, with some help from his 
neighbors at raising-time. His land was his citadel. He had 
created it out of wilderness, arid he was furiously independent 
in thought and deed. He would vote as he felt, regardless of 
party or issues, but he had violent likes and dislikes which 
made politics in Mason's Michigan a reckless gamble. He 
liked Mason and disliked Woodbridge. Tomorrow he might 
change. He "liked that government best which governed him 
least". He received no form of aid from it; no relief in the 
recurrent epidemics of cholera and fever; no expensive develop 
ments like electric power lines and drainage programs. He re 
ceived no AAA checks, no help from a County Agricultural 
Agent, and to him, government was just the tax assessor and 
the colonel of the local militia looking for recruits to fill his 
empty ranks in the regiment. It is understandable that he had 
a mental horizon bounded by the fence rails on his quarter 
section of land. He took a dim view of politicians in general, 
and became the most hidebound, rock-ribbed reactionary in 
the world. 

Outside of the periodic church revivals, politics was his only 
amusement. He and his wide-hatted, bearded neighbors 
gathered at the courthouse to hear the "speechin"', not because 
of a burning zeal for justice, but to watch the candidates rant 
and rave, and insult each other. He was well-educated for a 
pioneer; amazingly so for a man who had felled a forest and 
was wringing a living out of land broken only a year before. 
He had the best rural newspaper informational service in the 


world at that time, and he read constantly, But he was not, 
and could not become, a liberal. The newspaper did not attempt 
to influence his political views. It quoted markets, reviewed 
books, published poetry and long editorials which the man 
frequently did not read at all. 

It is hard to generalize about 80,000 people. If these ex 
amples we know so well from voluminous records originating 
in Mason's time were typical, we are forced to conclude that in 
spite of their fund of information on public questions they re 
mained victims of some personal whim to the last. Michigan 
is full of middle-aged men who say of their grandfathers : "He 
knew what was going on ; he went to all the speeches and read 
all the papers, but once he made up his mind he never changed 
it the rest of his life. He went to his grave thinking that all 
Democrats were crooks." Or Whigs, or Republicans, or what 
ever form of stubbornness the old party had become addicted 
to in his youth. 

The isolation of individual farms, and this intolerant, stub 
born defiance of self-evident facts, continued to be a symptom 
of life in rural Michigan until comparatively recently. The 
postal system, the telephone, the automobile, have banished 
the isolation and forced the farmer to become a citizen of the 
State. There are traces of this old-time attitude in the more 
remote sections of Michigan today. There are fourth- and 
fifth-generation farmers who leave their land but once a year, 
and then to attend the county fair. 


Detroit forgot about business and all personal things on the day 
the news arrived that statehood had been granted. It was a 
blizzardy day in February the 9th and the frozen river 
gave up swirling whirlwinds of icy snow which froze in the 
citizens' beards. All the saloons and barrooms were keeping 
open house, and by noon the population had taken aboard 
so much anti-freeze that the streets were jammed with noisy 


people. A spontaneous parade soon formed, with the Brady 
Guards' new gold-lace uniforms in the lead. The official salut 
ing gun on the customhouse thundered twenty-six times. All day 
they celebrated, and most of the night as well. The residents 
organized a "grand illumination", by placing a candle in the 
front window of every house in town. Celebrating bands of 
neighbors serenaded each other. Mason was holding open 
house, and the parlor was full of red-nosed, loud-voiced 
visitors who clapped him soundly on the back and demanded 
to know if he remembered the time the "Michiganders" in 
the Toledo War wound up in Major Stinckney's wine cellar. 
Anecdotes cut the smoky, alcoholic air; did the Governor re 
member the boys who shot off all the State's ammunition on 
the way home from the War because the day fell on the anni 
versary of the Battle of Put in Bay? 

Ruefully, Mason no doubt was remembering all those 
things, plus the knowledge that if he had not taken part in 
them, Michigan would probably have been admitted a year 
earlier. At the time, his people were so busy celebrating the 
long-awaited victory that they did not realize the real cause 
of the delays. Mason thereupon decided to stop being a Young 
Hotspur. He had been plunging headlong into legal obstacles 
with both fists full of illegal weapons, but nobody had pro 
tested yet. Someday they might. He had been lucky that the 
courts were not full of protests about the "Frost-Bitten Con 
vention" at that very hour. 

He was one of the few persons in Detroit who took time 
to analyze the situation. To illustrate the effervescent nature 
of his fellow citizens, the same people who had howled to high 
heaven about the highhanded methods Mason used while try 
ing to jimmy his way into the Union; the very citizens who had 
shouted that he was "bartering away part of the State" and 
selling them down the river "like unto Joseph into Egypt", 
and so forth, now signed more testimonials complimenting 
him on "the untiring zeal and unremitting fidelity with which 
he tried to sustain our rights". The Legislature straightway 


appropriated funds from the dwindling Treasury to pay the 
expenses of the delegates of the "Frost-Bitten Convention" 
who had gone to Washington. 

Mason revelled in the new glories of his position. He had 
new stationery. "State of Michigan", it proclaimed. On it 
was the Michigan seal, designed by Lewis Cass with the help 
of an artist in the Treasury Department. There was a Latin 
motto, inspired by the famed epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren 
in St. Paul's, London: Si Quaeris Peninsnlam Amoenam, Cir- 
cumspice. (If Thou Seekest a Beautiful Peninsula, Look 
Around.) Under the seal appeared his name: STEVENS 
T. MASON, Governor. He thought he had a pretty good job 
for a fellow of twenty-five. He hoped he could hold it; he 
would have to stand for re-election during the coming fall. 

He had reached the point where he began to see his career 
going in cycles. He was alternately popular and unpopular; 
booed and cheered. He no longer cared much about the hys 
teria of the crowd. He had a glazed, impersonal politeness 
that he showed to everyone; dowagers at the Governor's Ball, 
and drunks breathing down his neck at Ten Eyck's tavern. 
Strangers who followed him on the street sometimes asked, 
timidly: "Hello, Governor. Ain't you Mason?" The answer 
was always, "Yes, sir. And may I inquire your name?" He 
was not visibly surprised that a visiting English artist should 
ask to make a sketch of him while being shaved in a barber 
shop on Jefferson Avenue, nor that the artist should later get 
the wrong name on it and sell it as a sketch of Lord Byron. 

A little boy from a Whig family wrote the Historical Society 
that when he was about six, which was about this time, he saw 
Governor Mason come down the steps of the capitol building 
wearing his gleaming high silk topper, fringed white blanket, 
high black boots and gold-headed cane. He looked about eight 
feet tall to the child, and tremendously dignified. But because 
he was a Whig and Mason was a Democrat the youngster 
knew he could not let the occasion pass without an insult, so 
he ran after the Governor, shouting: "Five-quarter Mason! 
Five-quarter Mason !" He said he had no idea what the phrase 


meant ; he had heard his father talk about it. Mason turned, 
stared down at him, and walked back. 

"I was afraid of his big gold-headed cane," he oldster re 
called. "I was even more afraid when the great man came to 
ward me, stooped down, put his arm around me and talked for 
some five minutes in the most soothing, amiable voice imagina 
ble. I cannot remember a word he said, but I shall never for 
get the kindly tone of his voice as he spoke to me." 

It was another Whig taunt, a reference to an alleged book 
keeping error by which Mason was said to have drawn five 
quarterly salary checks during his first year as Governor. He 
had indeed been given five checks, but he discovered the error 
before the bookkeeper did and returned the extra one. The 
Whigs picked up even such trivialities as this to attack Mason. 
By the year 1837 he was case-hardened to it and did not pay 
much attention to anything the Whigs called him. He expected 
to be lavishly praised and grossly insulted every few days, 
usually by the same people, and well he knew that they had 
no idea what they were talking about. 

He mentioned a typical example in a letter to his father, 
the formation of the Anti-Slavery Party as a new entry on the 
ballots. Mason had no position about slavery; he was bel 
ligerently neutral. His reticence did not save him from be 
coming the center of a newspaper and village-inn storm in the 
spring of 1837; he was accused of being in sympathy with the 
slaveowners because his family had lived in Virginia and Ken 
tucky, and conversely he was held up as a militant abolitionist 
who would go about creating public riots. Hadn't Harriet 
Martineau lived at his house while penning a violent diatribe 
against U. S. slavery? All the young man wanted out of life 
was peace. His family tried to see that he attained it. 

He might have known that no governor ever has much 
peace. Not even modern governors. A century ago, when they 
were virtually kings in their bailiwicks, they were at every 
body's beck and call constantly. Every time Mason cleared his 
desk and prepared to go hunting deer in the forests near Sagi- 
naw Bay, something happened. 


During the spring and summer of 1837 he tried more than 
ever to get some precious time away from his desk. He seldom 
succeeded. In the spring his father arrived to complete the 
family circle once more. The girls were there, and even his 
mother seemed to be feeling better. Emily was the iron-willed 
hostess of the little gubernatorial residence. She was twenty- 
one; jet-black hair, flashing eyes, and a long, strong chin which 
fairly shouted determination. She was the 1837 version of a 
career woman, not interested in men and never known to be a 
figure in a romance. She was a student of her times, forever 
collecting notes and filling diaries, speaking from rostrums, 
writing pamphlets. She became a well-known figure among the 
Mason manors in Virginia, rapidly evolving into a famous 

Sister Kate married Ike Rowland when she was eighteen, 
and went happily to housekeeping in a tiny bungalow on upper 
Woodward Avenue near Adams. The couple was so obviously 
under the influence of bridal bliss that Mason politely waited 
a month before paying a social call. Thereafter, as children 
began arriving, Uncle Stevens kept up his lifelong intimacy 
with Ike in the taverns and taprooms. They seldom visited 
each other's homes. 

It was a standing joke with Ike to ask young Mason why 
he didn't marry. It always reddened Mason's face. He didn't 
know. He just wasn't in the mood ; he didn't have time to go 
courting, and didn't want a girl he could win without a struggle. 
He complained to Ike that he was cut off night after night 
from any time to relax at home ; something was popping up at 
every opportunity to sit down and rest. This crime wave, for 

Thugs were beating up citizens in Detroit doorways. Rob 
bers, unmasked and defiant, stopped stagecoaches and rifled 
wallets. Caught without a police force in Detroit and no State 
wide law enforcement system in the counties, crimes of violence 
multiplied until most of Mason's time was being taken up ap 
pointing marshals and answering village complaints. It was 
midwinter when the crime wave began, and it lasted far into 


the summer. The sheriffs' departments were feeble and jealous 
of each other. There was no prison to put felons even if they 
were caught and convicted in one of the travelling Circuit 
Courts which visited each county seat at intervals of several 

While the Legislature was in session, Mason wrote a mes 
sage about it. 

"One of the greatest evils under which the public is now 
suffering is the want of an improved and regular penitentiary 
system. To such an extent has this evil grown that the ends of 
justice are entirely defeated by the want of the necessary and 
proper buildings for the confinement of criminals. . . . My 
object is reformation of the offender, but at present this end 
is worse than defeated." 

In the towns, promoters sniffed a State contract for a con 
struction job. Bids came in from everywhere. At Jackson, 
the local committee donated to the State sixty acres of privately 
owned land which they bought as a speculation. They offered 
this for a temporary stockade while a prison was being built. 
Mason accepted the offer. Located on the east bank of the 
Grand River, the site was swampy and heavily timbered, and 
had to be filled, graded and prepared before it could be used. 
But the Circuit Courts sent enough convicted felons to get the 
work started. In the beginning, there was just a tamarack 
stockade made from poles cut on the site. It was easy to crash 
through. All the prisoners were manacled, and dressed in 
canvas suits with two-inch alternate black and white stripes. 
Before the stockade was secure, protests began arriving in 
Mason's office from other localities which declared they had 
been defrauded by Mason's sudden decision in favor of Jack 
son. One wrote: "We made our proposals and offered our 
inducements to the State, while the Jackson citizens offered 
all their inducements to the commissioners who had the power 
of awarding the contract." 

Mason was too busy to debate the point It might have 
been bribery, but at least Jackson people got a prison built. 
The first inventory shows that in 1837 iron shackles to attach 


the prisoner's leg to a stake in the open stockade cost two 
dollars each ; the blacksmith who hammered them on received 
two dollars a day for doing it. The prisoners were poorly 
fed, cruelly beaten for attempted escape, and did not even re 
ceive any underwear under their striped canvas uniforms. 
During the first winter there they nearly froze, and conditions 
in the "tamaracks", as the place was known to the underworld, 
were unspeakably cruel. 

Mason changed superintendents and appointed Benjamin 
Porter as the first warden of Jackson Prison. Porter went to 
Auburn, New York, and made a survey of the grim old granite- 
walled prison there. He returned to build one even more grue 
some at Jackson. Stories about the horrors of Jackson Prison 
multiplied until in defense of its good name Michigan aban 
doned it about 1930 and built a modern college-campus type 
of "rehabilitation center" a few miles outside of Jackson. It 
is the largest prison in the world; so vast that a person could 
sleep in a different bunk every night and stay inside the walls 
for fifteen years. 

Mason would not have bragged about it. 



DURING THE YEAR 1837, directly following Michigan's ad 
mission as a State, the career of Stevens Thomson Mason 
reached its zenith. He had accomplished his mission in spite 
of obstacles which would have defeated a lesser man. His place 
in Michigan history was secure, and his stature as a governor 
was already so great that, had he died suddenly that spring, 
he would have been honored as Michigan's greatest pioneer 
figure. The fact that he is not so honored today, and is just 
a disembodied name in the school histories, rests upon what 
happened to Mason while he was at the top of his career and 
during a couple of years afterward. 

He is a unique figure in the history of the United States. 
Nothing precisely like him has appeared on the national stage 
since his decline and death. The conditions which produced 
him have vanished. Governors no longer have the towering 
personal power that Mason had; business and agricultural 
conditions do not permit any one man's influence to dominate 
them on a State-wide plane. Economists call this period the 
era of untrammelled personal initiative. It was the time when 
most of the huge personal fortunes in America were created. 
It was a day when opportunities were everywhere, laws were 
few and feebly enforced, and a man could become rich by 
building a business on piratical methods which would land him 
in prison today. 

Political figures in Mason's day had more personal power, 
too. A governor like himself was practically a dictator, with 
very little between his present position and absolute power 
except his conscience. Mason was a true liberal whose whole 
heart was in the desire to sublimate his own wishes, his own 



desires, and truly represent the people who had chosen him. 
Woodbridge, on the other hand, was at the opposite end of 
the political spectrum, a man who saw official position as a 
means of getting something for himself or his followers, and 
not as a post of public trust. 

Mason held power because he was more popular than 
Woodbridge; because he could think faster and because his 
policies reflected accurately the very things the people wanted. 
But the strain upon him was growing. It was soon to become 
intolerable. He had won his major victory in the creation of 
the State. Now he was faced with an even greater task the 
job of building the State, constructing railroads, digging canals, 
filling the empty treasury, bringing Michigan out of the raw 
settlement phase into the new era of prosperous cities and 
cultural accomplishment. 

In this new act of the drama which was his life, Mason was 
called upon to play a difficult and unfamiliar role. He would 
have to be an engineer, and protect the State against the 
schemes of visionary promoters who wanted railroads in every 
village. He would have to become a banker; not a small-town 
mortgage holder, but a wizard of the money markets who 
could keep a jump ahead of the sharpers in New York and 
London. He must become an educator, and build a system of 
State-supported schools climaxed and crowned by the creation 
of a great university. He must become a super-sheriff and au 
thority on penology, and stop the brutal floggings in the new 
prison while keeping all the county sheriffs working harmoni 
ously instead of scheming to outwit each other. 

Mason's mind was many-sided. He was ingenious, but not 
a true genius. He was resourceful, but not always successful. 
He had a tendency to dash into a dilemma like a white knight 
upon a charger, clouting his enemies with spectacular tricks 
while his people cheered him on. If he was unhorsed he bounced 
to his feet anyhow and claimed that he had won, creating 
the Illusion of victory and reaping the benefits whether or not 
his feat had really won anything. Being clever had won for 
him up to now. 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 26l 

In 1837, Mason found himself opposed to men who were 
as clever as himself, and far less scrupulous. They were old 
hands at technical games which were almost mysteries to him. 
They were construction engineers, bankers, brokers people 
who were out to skin him at great profit to themselves. They 
knew Mason was committed to a gigantic public-improvement 
program. They were going to get theirs, and usg Mason to 
get it. 

Mason did not see the cracks in the economic structure. 
They were there. Bankers and lawyers saw them, but Mason 
was so bewildered by the magnitude and multiplicity of his 
many jobs that he failed to notice them. He had a hundred 
things to do simultaneously. The Legislature appropriated a 
fund which was swelled by popular subscription to engage 
Alvin Smith to paint the Mason portrait. Mr. Smith, a widely 
known New York portraitist, came to Detroit and found 
Mason scratching away at his desk writing all his own letters 
because there was no provision for an office clerk for him. 

The framers of the Constitution had set $400 as the annual 
salary of the Secretary of State; $300 for the Banking Com 
missioner; $200 for the Attorney General. These gentlemen 
would not spend any amount of time on State business for 
such paltry sums, and Mason had to do their jobs in addition 
to his own. He was becoming desperate. Daily he put on his 
resplendent black inauguration costume to pose for Mr. Smith, 
looking confident. Then he took it off again and became de 
spondent, as one officer after another failed him. He had ap 
pointed a Banking Commissioner to look after the local banks 
chartered under the Banking Act of 1837, which was en 
couragingly liberal in character and allowed any remote 
village to set up a bank. But the appointee lived in Cass County, 
nearly on the shores of Lake Michigan and a hard five-day 
journey from Detroit. He did not appear. Mason wrote him 
that he would have to move to Detroit and function as a Bank 
ing Commissioner, whereupon the man told Mason to throw 
the job into the Detroit River, or words to that effect. 

Attorney General Daniel LeRoy lived in Pontiac. When 


he, too, was notified that his job was in Detroit and Mason 
would like to have him show some interest in it, Mr. LeRoy 
responded with a long legal proclamation which amounted 
to the same thing. Mason could get himself a new boy. The 
Governor had a Secretary of State only because Kintzing 
Pritchette was his neighbor and friend, and was willing to help 
him out. He had a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who 
lived in Ann Arbor and held court in a little log house on the 
edge of town. Members of the Supreme Court were circuit 
riders who sat in county seats as judges of the Circuit Courts. 
They had to sit in judgment on appeals from their own de 

This heavy burden of administrative work caused Mason's 
friends grave concern. He was not afraid of the magnitude of 
the task, but they were afraid he would slide over some of it, 
make the wrong decision out of impulsive irritation, and land 
himself and the State in serious trouble. He had absolutely no 
one to whom he could pass a buck. It was inevitable that under 
this pressure a man of Mason's temperament would commit 
a blunder. He blundered, but in 1837 he had a batting average 
that was nothing short of amazing. Decision after decision 
affecting State policies fluttered off Mason's ink-stained desk 
in his own ornate handwriting. They were mostly the correct 
decisions. As long as he did not attempt to solve technical 
problems in finance or engineering or jurisprudence, he main- 
ta ined an excellent record. 

Two examples may be cited of the kind of thing Mason 
was forced to decide in the midst of this confusion. One was 
magnificent, the other palpably absurd. He signed both bills 
on March 27, 1837, an d during the same day he posed for Mr. 
Smith, held a long discussion with a legislator named Alpheus 
Felch on the Democratic Party situation in Monroe, and wrote 
several letters. It is apparent that he did not consider either 
bill with the care they deserved. 

The first set up a fund for the support of primary schools 
throughout the State and for the creation, organization and 
construction of the University of Michigan. The fund had been 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 263 

authorized by the Constitution under Mason's inspiration at 
the time it was being drafted. In the field of education he knew 
what he wanted, and his school program has developed into 
his most lasting achievement. The other bill was an Act which 
authorized the setting up of a rigid inspection system for the 
new State banks which were being chartered, but failed to ap 
propriate the necessary funds for such an inspection program. 
The plan was a step toward a goal which Mason wanted, but 
did not quite know how to attain. He was for the most liberal 
banking policy that was practical, but he had an uneasy feel 
ing that the bill he had signed, because of its lack of teeth, was 
too liberal for the State's good. He did not follow through and 
demand enforcement of the Act. He didn't have time to tour 
the State examining bankbooks himself and there was no one 
to whom he could delegate the task. The results were not long 
in becoming apparent. No one paid any attention to the inspec 
tion provisions of the Act, and the "wildcat" bank burst upon 
the scene with an ominous yowl. 

The good and the bad the wonderful school system and 
the ridiculous liberality toward backwoods banks only Mason 
among U. S. administrators would have been so inconsistent. 
Michigan soon assumed the lead among all the States in the 
coverage and efficiency of her school and University program. 
Simultaneously her people went broke in a spectacular panic, 
which broke out in the summer of 1837, immediately after 
Mason had signed this Banking Act which, lacking any enforce 
ment machinery, merely left rustic swindlers on their honor 
to be good little boys. Since people remember panics and for 
get an achievement like a school system, the panic straightway 
monopolized everyone's attention. 

The beginnings of the national Panic of 1837 (capitalized 
by historians) were traced to Andy Jackson's temper. The 
old war horse had finished a successful second term in the 
White House and was about to bow out of public life. He did 
not need to curry political favor with anyone; he could act 
solely for the public good. He knew the United States was 
taking a beating from a small clique of moneyed men who were 


the directors of the United States Bank, He saw these favored 
few rapidly obtaining control of most big-scale U. S. businesses, 
squeezing out the small businessmen and developing the first 
U. S. industrial monopolies. The Bank's charter came up for 
renewal just as he was leaving office, and he refused to renew it. 

This act dissolved the United States Bank as a Federal 
institution, depository of Federal funds and the source of all 
Federal banknotes in circulation. The directors at once re 
organized it as a private bank located in Philadelphia. Im 
mediately, its banknotes began to be discounted. The govern 
ment's surplus after all debts amounted to $40,000,000; this 
was of course withdrawn from the defunct United States Bank 
and distributed among the States. Michigan received $1,895-,- 
ooo, which was placed on deposit in two Detroit banks, the 
Bank of Michigan, and the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank 
of Detroit. 

The same distribution was in progress all over the country. 
Everywhere, gold and silver coin virtually disappeared and a 
flood of bank notes issued by these State depositories was 
the only currency. Within six months the hoarders had hidden 
away so much silver coin that merchants had trouble making 
change. In the newer areas of the nation, such as Michigan, 
the paper snowstorm of bank notes was a bonanza in one way, 
because they could buy public lands with Bank of the United 
States bank notes at par, but the Government had to discount 
them and take a loss. 

To stop this, and to discourage the increasing speculation 
in public lands on the part of a great number of bootstrap 
promoters of dubious real-estate gambles, Jackson in 1836 
had signed the famous "Specie Circular", which demanded 
gold or silver of a certain weight and fineness as the only allow 
able payment for public lands. Immediately, speculation stopped 
and the bank notes went into a tail spin of depreciation. 

In Michigan alone these sales of public lands in 1836 had 
amounted to $5,241,228.70, which was one fifth of the entire 
national total. When the Specie Circular demanded only 
specie payment, the speculators turned to speculating in bank 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 265 

notes themselves; selling them to each other and to gullible 
citizens for some promised redemption at a very vague date. 
The notes continued to depreciate. Men who had to deal in 
money soon accumulated bales of the things. One of them was 
Barnabas Campeau of the old Detroit family, a private banker. 
He bought Belle Isle from John Macomb for $4,500 in notes 
of some suspended banks of Ohio which had been foisted on 
him, and thus the island cost him nothing. Detroit had been 
trying to obtain it as a municipal park, but because of the 
Campeau purchase, was prevented from doing so until 1879, 
when the island and its bridge approach cost the city $700,000 
in legitimate money. 

In May, 1837, the first blow of the Panic fell. New York 
banks suspended payments in specie; Philadelphia and Boston 
banks followed soon afterward. When word of the crisis 
reached Michigan, Mason called the Legislature into special 
session to ask that Michigan authorize all banks to stop re 
deeming bills in specie and thus dissipate their backing for 
the bales of bills they already had in circulation. Almost every 
bank in the State closed. A few reopened after a week or so, 
when an examination of their assets had insured their sol 
vency. But mostly the bank closings were followed by failure, 
suspension or sympathetic closing of a good many mercantile 
and industrial firms. 

Panic, following a wave of seemingly limitless prosperity, 
swung the popular pendulum away from Mason at a most 
inopportune time. It was election year, and during the summer 
both political parties would hold their conventions. Mason 
was thus forced to stand for re-election with his State in the 
grip of the worst panic his people had ever seen. 

The Whigs were everywhere, distributing vitriolic hand 
bills, stumping the counties with evidence that Michigan was 
bankrupt, and even organizing bread lines in Detroit as a 
campaign stunt. They placed display advertising in the Ad 

"To the poor: The Whigs will distribute one hundred dol 
lars in bread and pork among the city poor tomorrow evening. 


Due notice of the hour and place will be given in the morning 
paper, 51 

They thought Mason would squirm at that, but he shrugged 
it off. Most of the "poor" turned out to be Irish families from 
Windsor, across the river, and the stunt backfired on Wood- 
bridge when some of his own partisans said they thought it was 
just an attempt to stir up more trouble. There was trouble 
enough in the State. As more and more banks remained sul 
lenly closed, the public temper approached the boiling point. 
How many people blamed Mason for this state of affairs we 
don't know, but the proportion was not considerable. 

As always in panic conditions, the laboring man and the 
farmer were the chief sufferers. Food prices fell away to such 
a point that the farmers could not afford to bring their produce 
to town. Employment almost disappeared, as one business 
after another followed the insolvent banks into failure. Only 
in Detroit did the inevitable mob scene make its appearance 
when the old Campus Martius was packed on May 3rd, follow 
ing a rumor that Mason was going to issue a proclamation 
invalidating all the bank notes in the State. The rumor was 
false. Mason at the moment was making a personal plea to the 
Legislature to give him some full-time, skilled Banking Ex 
aminers, and quickly. He asked for three; he was given two, 
and later a third was added. The delegation from the mass 
meeting found him with some news to telL . . . He reported 
that he was going to examine every bank in Michigan and 
find out exactly what was the trouble. In the meantime, there 
would be at least two banks open in Detroit, well backed with 
great casks of yellow gold coin and gilt-edge, first-mortgage 
bonds. Other old-time conservative banks remained open in 
Monroe, Adrian, Tecumseh and Marshall, It was, he said, 
the best he could do. 

Luck was with him. The forests were full of immigrants who 
had arrived but lately, their pockets full of cash gained from 
the sale of the farms they had left in the East. They introduced 
enough metallic money into the currency system to keep things 
going fairly well These people had to stay, because they had 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 267 

bought land and spent their money on improvements for it. 
They were committed to whatever Michigan's course was to be. 
Like the independent, optimistic people they were, they bounced 
back rapidly. They prepared their fields in the spring and 
gathered a prodigious crop in the fall. As Mason told the 
Legislature: "The wealth of our State derives from its farmers, 
and from their land. Agriculture is our foundation stone." 
The farms were lavish in 1837; few people had money, but 
no one starved. 

The harsh experience of this prolonged panic made a deep 
impression upon Mason. Everyone in his administration knew 
that something was terribly wrong with the banking situation. 
Whether the trouble was with the Act authorizing the banks, 
or with its administration, no one then knew. It would take 
time to find out. In the meantime, Mason decided that the time 
had come to turn his attention to something more pleasant. 


Viewed from the perspective of time, Mason's achievement 
in setting up America's oldest and greatest State-supervised 
public-education program outweighs his error in not going 
after the "wildcat banks" until struck down by the Panic of 
1837. The State has gained more from its schools than it 
lost in the brief experience with the "wildcat banks". Michigan 
schools are something quite unique, and have pointed the way 
toward educational reforms all over the world. Probably the 
educational standards of Michigan schools are no' better than 
elsewhere, but the standard of teachers' salaries certainly was. 
In Mason's time his boldness in paying teachers a living wage 
was considered fantastic. 

Because he knew more about schools than he did about 
banks, he went into his task with a knowledge of what he, as 
an individual, would have wanted to achieve had he been a 
child again, about to enter first grade. Because he would not 
compromise on his school dream, he insisted that the Superin 
tendent of Public Instruction have the best job in the State 


next to his own, and a salary of $1,500 a year phenomenal 
for an educator in those days. He selected and coached his own 
candidate for the post. 

The candidate was John D. Pierce, an ordained Congre 
gational minister who lived at Marshall, a town in the cen 
tral part of the State. The Rev. Mr. Pierce was a big, raw- 
boned, calm-voiced man with a black beard that cascaded over 
his waistcoat, and a pate almost as bald as an egg. He had 
the wild eye and the tireless energy of the true; he 
could rise to his great height and bellow forth his demands 
for the most astounding set of schools in the world, and convert 
tight-fisted local committees. He was truly an apostle, preach 
ing a new gospel. 

Mason had first met him during the cholera epidemic of 
1832, when he sought shelter in Pierce's cabin after a wild 
night ride from YpsilantL Mrs. Pierce died that night while 
Mason was there. The Rev. Mr. Pierce took no time then to 
mourn. He saddled a horse and rode with Mason to help fight 
the epidemic, and afterward he returned to the empty log 
cabin, became a recluse and wrote elegies to her memory in 
Latin. He did his own cooking, and kept a cat. 

The appearance of a dynamic character like this in the edu 
cational world, and Mason's success with him, indicates the 
Boy Governor's success in recognizing and encouraging talent. 
He knew that the Rev. Mr. Pierce held a degree from Brown 
University and that for some years he had a bold theory about 
education* Mason backed him, fought for him at the Constitu 
tional Convention, and succeeded in writing this theory into 
the document in the form of constitutional authority for 
Pierce's schools and sharp legal teeth to protect them from 
exploitation. Isaac Crary, the first Michigan Congressman, 
lived in Marshall and it was he who really brought the two into 
harmonious action as a smooth-working team. Mason sum 
moned the minister and drew from him the facts about his 
background and his starting point on this educational crusade. 
It was a fascinating story. 

The minister had had plenty of time to read, following the 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 269 

death of his beloved wife. Into his hands came a translation 
by Sarah Austin of a report in German on the school system of 
Prussia, published in New York in 1835. It emphasized the 
typical Prussian national characteristics centralized control 
coupled with strict discipline by a responsible public official. 
In Prussia the superintendent of the state schools wore a gold- 
braided uniform and strutted with a sword and a military title. 
His pupils all wore little round soldier caps, recited in unison 
and sat stiffly at attention in class. But Prussia pounded the 
rudiments of education into their hard, flaxen little heads, 
and there were figures to show one of the lowest illiteracy 
rates in the world. There everyone, regardless of birth or 
means, had to go to school. The State paid for it, and the 
State paid the truant officer, too. The superintendent was ap 
pointed by the King, and paid a handsome salary from the 
royal purse. If he did not show results, he could be ousted and 

The benign missionary, shivering in his little log cabin, 
read this account and was thrilled. He realized that in this 
forested peninsula there was no existing school system to tear 
down against entrenched opposition ; there was a fast-growing 
population with children who grew even faster By establishing 
a new school system on a new basis, he could begin by aiming 
at a big future population, and thus build on a well-planned 
foundation. The bare idea of universal free education was 
only beginning to-be accepted. What the Rev. Mr. Pierce pro 
posed was an end to illiteracy, with a tough State Department 
cracking down. 

To Mason this was also the answer to his own dream. He 
knew from his own experience what some pitfalls were pri 
vate boarding schools were high on the list. They did not reach 
a sufficient slice of the population. Young as he was, he could 
remember vividly the troubles he had had trying to educate him 
self between gaps in his attendance at private schools. He 
shuddered at the inadequacies in his school background. He 
had never had a chance to attend anything comparable to the 
public school of today, for the reason that until Pierce read 


this article on Prussia, nothing of the kind had existed in the 
United States. Characteristically, Mason's dream went far 
beyond Pierce's, and envisioned branch colleges at all the 
bigger towns and the greatest State University in America. 
Seeing this detailed picture of his goal before him, Mason en 
thusiastically backed Pierce. 

The Rev. Mr. Pierce started his sales talk in Mason's office 
by saying that he was going to take the cruelties and over 
emphasis on regimentation and discipline out of the plan but 
keep the iron-fisted State control. No one, said Pierce, was 
going to grab any school land at any time for any purpose. 
Downtown business frontage in many a Michigan city is oc 
cupied by a school That land belongs to the State and cannot 
possibly be used for any other purpose than a school. In all thip 
counties, towns and villages the same principle applies. The 
State controls thousands of acres of school lands. 

This came about because Mason and Pierce put a section 
into the Constitution reserving one section of land in every 
sixteen for the support of primary schools. In Michigan this 
amounts to 640 acres of land in every township of every county. 
A great deal of this land is under cultivation in modern Michi 
gan, but the income from it reverts to the State's primary 
school fund, which is then apportioned among the counties. 
The fund maintains a county school board, with a county school 
commissioner and staff of supervisors. It also maintains a 
school library in every county, which today travels from one 
school to another in trucks. 

Using this county organization as a supervisory and ad 
ministrative machine, Pierce placed the actual conduct of the 
remote rural schools under the direction of township school 
boards. These boards are empowered to assess a special school 
tax on all township property, which goes to pay the teacher's 
salary and buy fuel for the little stove. As the valuation of 
farm land in Michigan has risen, the primary school fund and 
the township school tax revenues have risen accordingly. Mu 
nicipalities also have separate school boards and a separate 
school tax to finance city schools. Families which send their 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 271 

children to private schools or parochial schools pay the pub 
lic school tax just the same. 

Michigan today has beautiful public schools. She can afford 
them. She pays teachers one of the highest average salary 
schedules in the United States, and behind that achievement 
rise the ghosts of Mason and Pierce. Pierce planned it. For 
a century, successive generations of politicians have* schemed 
to get their scoops into the pile of gold that annually filters 
down to the towns and counties as the primary school fund. 
So far, they have been unsuccessful. Had that provision not 
been written into the Constitution, it certainly would have 
been ripped into tatters by the appropriation hounds by this 

Pierce figured everything in his plan to the last decimal 
place. He designed a standard rural school, with two doors for 
boys and girls leading to two convenient "Chic Sales" exactly 
a hundred feet from the doors. He spied on the first attendance 
officers, to see if Farmer Jones had sent Willie to school or 
was keeping him in the barnyard to do the chores. If he caught 
Willie at home on a school day, Farmer Jones was fined. To 
supply teachers for the scores of schools thus created, Pierce 
set up and headed the first normal college in the Middle West. 
He laid out the curriculum and taught several courses himself. 
As he foresaw the effect of an education on the farmers of 
the succeeding generations, he inspired the first successful agri 
cultural college in the northwest. This Institution is known 
now as Michigan State College at East Lansing, one of the 
oldest and largest, and probably the most famous of its kind 
in the country. 

They called him "Father Pierce". Before he had his school 
system running smoothly his beard had turned gray and his 
wild fanatic's eye was dim and philosophical, but he clung to 
his original doctrines. When he began his work for the State, 
he sold his cabin at Marshall, put his household goods on a 
lumber wagon and started for Detroit. He did not know where 
he was going to live when he arrived there, and apparently did 
not care, Mason told him to store his furniture and take a long 


trip through the East, visiting many kinds of public and private 
schools, taking notes and absorbing ideas. He conferred with 
college presidents and school deans throughout New York, 
Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and before he returned he 
appeared as guest lecturer at the two chief teachers' conven 
tions those at Worcester, Mass., and Cincinnati. On his re 
turn he worked his notes into a powerful lecture which he de 
livered to the Legislature and won a resounding vote of ap 

Mason discovered in this bearded evangelist a nature as 
impetuous as his own, but a strength of will he could not equal. 
He tried to get Pierce to take over the University project as 
well as the primary schools and colleges. Nothing doing, said 
Pierce. Mason wrote him a persuasive letter : 

"The State fund for the support of the common schools 
will, with prudent husbandry, equal our utmost wants. The 
University of Michigan will also possess an endowment which 
will enable the State to place that institution upon an eleva 
tion of character and standing equal to that of any similar in 
stitution in the Union. I would therefore recommend the im 
mediate location of the University, and at the same time the 
adoption of a system for its government, such as the system 
for the government of your primary schools. In the organiza 
tion of your common schools, which are the foundation upon 
which the whole system is based, the first measure essential to 
the success and good government is the appointment of 
teachers of the highest calibre, both moral and intellectual. 
Liberal salaries should be allowed. . . . Without this you fail 
in your object, as individuals in all respects competent to the 
charge of your schools will be excluded from them by the 
parsimoniousness of their compensation." 

Mason always phrased letters like this from force of habit. 
He was capable of writing to Emily: "I like New York and 
would like to live there." He could not say anything of an 
official nature simply. In this letter he could not say, for ex 
ample: "If you offer poor pay you'll get poor teachers." He 
referred ponderously to the parsimoniousness of their compen- 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 273 

sation, which would drive one of his own high-school English 
teachers to sharp remarks. The Rev. Mr. Pierce, who could 
read this stuff as rapidly as he could read normal English, was 
not impressed. He said he would advise Mason on the curricu 
lum and the relationship of the University to the State, but 
he would not serve as a Regent nor had he time to hold office 
in its administration. 

Well, replied Mason, what about the gap between the pri 
mary schools and the rigid requirements of a University? 
What he had in mind, he went on, was a chain of academies 
to be located in the principal towns, which would receive grad 
uates of the primary schools and provide them with secondary- 
school educations leading to college entrance. Some of these 
academies, because of their locations, ought to offer some 
college courses in addition, because he felt that a good many 
students would not go on to the University. These academies 
would not confer degrees, but they would all be branches of 
the University and subject to its control. What did Pierce 
think of that? 

Pierce's reply, if any, is not on record. It was a good means 
of plugging the gap between a little country school and the 
sophisticated University, and for his times was an efficient 
solution. Mason went ahead with plans to build these branch 
colleges at Detroit, Pontiac, Centerville, Niles, Grand Rapids, 
Palmer, the old Indian town of White Pigeon, Jackson, Mon 
roe, and Mackinac. While the long and apparently endless job 
of establishing the University was in progress, these branches 
were the highest education a public-school student could ob 
tain in Michigan. 

Mason might have written a book himself, before he left 
office, entitled "How To Build a University". He certainly 
wished many times while the exhausting task was in progress 
that he could hold in his hands a good book with such a title. 
The most that Michigan people knew about a university, in 
cluding those who held degrees from many great ones, was 
that no matter what Michigan built, or endowed, or authorized, 
it was useless unless all the presidents of the leading American 


and foreign universities accepted it and accredited it as a mem 
ber of their intellectual stratosphere society. They would not 
conceivably take such a step, he was told, until the institution 
had been running as a maverick for a few years and had ac 
quired the prestige, the traditions, the alumni body and the 
bad habits without which a university was no better off than a 
private young ladies' seminary. 

Mason therefore sent for a pedant. This character, whose 
erudition was so profound that he could recite lewd verses 
in Greek, was accredited as the Mason ambassador to the 
sanctums of the world's great educators. He carried a sizeable 
proportion of all the hard money in the Michigan Treasury 
for his prolonged travelling expenses, including $5,000 in gold 
to procure a few books in Europe to act as the nucleus of a 
library. His name was Dr. Asa Gray, a loyal native son of 
Michigan whose scholarship field was botany, and who was 
well recognized as a professor of the subject. He travelled 
for nearly two years; he succeeded magnificently in his mis 
sion and returned with specific suggestions from many American 
and European universities as to the standards to be set at 
Michigan's proposed institution. Along his route, he had picked 
up a few cases of works in French, German and Italian on the 
natural sciences, some sets of classic poets and dramatists in 
Latin and Greek, and a few works in English. This was the 
beginning of the University of Michigan Library, now housed 
in a place so vast that modern undergraduates frequently be 
come lost in its endless corridors and have to be located by 

The location of the new University was a puzzle for a 
time which was finally settled in favor of Ann Arbor. There 
were two or three good reasons. First, of course, Ann Arbor 
had the site. There was a wooded plateau just east of the old 
town, heavily forested with oak and elm, which the citizens 
of Ann Arbor offered as a site for the campus. The owners, 
the Ann Arbor Land Company, decided to donate the first 
forty acres to the State gratis, because they also owned all the 
adjoining property and hired carpenters who could build 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 275 

boardinghouses for the students. Secondly, Ann Arbor bore 
a reputation for culture dating back to its earliest settlements 
in 1817. Most of the settlers who took up land there were well 
educated. They brought with them the first libraries in the 
forests; they published little newspapers as early as 1822, 
and in 1831 there were two of them competing for the scanty 
business of the forested county. The leading Michigan news 
paper outside Detroit was the old Western Emigrant of Ann 
Arbor, which in 1835 became the now-famous Argus. Ann 
Arbor was the home and professional location of William 
Asa Fletcher, the eccentric Chief Justice of the Michigan 
Supreme Court; the scene of most of the important annual 
conventions and the expected site for any institution of this 
kind. It was pointed out to Mason that the very atmosphere 
of Ann Arbor was so conducive to culture that the first white 
child born in the county was named Alpha. 

Mason himself, so it is said, planned the arrangement of 
the first row of buildings along the western edge of the campus, 
His architects designed a pair of classroom buildings just alike, 
separated by a wide expanse of bright green lawn from the 
western border of the tract, reached by a pair of gravel paths. 
They were four-story brick oblongs, with narrow windows and 
even narrower stairways. Between them was a rustic walk 
leading to the coal bins, out back, from which the students 
filled the tiny individual stoves in the low-ceilinged classrooms. 
The northernmost of these two buildings was set aside for the 
College of Literature, Science and the Arts. After completion 
it was given the name Mason Hall. 

It is still there, but difficult to locate without a guide. It has 
been swallowed up by the modern classic temples in marble 
and glass which now stretch endlessly around the perimeter 
of the original forty-acre campus. It is there, tucked away 
behind Angell Hall, looking like the contractor's shanty left 
by mistake when the modern temples of learning were erected 
in our generation. Mason Hall is Mason's building and his 
monument. He worked for it; he stood there on a wooden 
plank walkway on what we now call State Street and watched 


it rise, brick by brick. That little old classroom building gave 
Mason more real satisfaction than anything else he ever accom 
plished. To him it was the University; it was the triumph of 
his perseverance and the Legislature's patience when Michi 
gan men said it couldn't be done. Mason dreamed of this build 
ing somewhat as we see it now the original structure and 
cultural heart of what was to become one of the greatest cen 
ters of learning in the world. 

No one believed that such an institution could be created, 
much less maintained, out there in the depths of a Michigan 
forest nearly a thousand miles from New York and Boston. 
The University authorities declare in their own history of the 
institution that Mason's mind saw it originally, not as just 
another school, but as the most influential State University 
in the Union. They concede credit to Mason for his determina 
tion to see it through until some day, years after him, a future 
governor would acknowledge that his goal had been reached 
and that Ann Arbor had joined towns like Oxford, Heidel 
berg, Cambridge, New Haven, Princeton and Palo Alto in a 
common connotation. It is universally admitted that the goal 
was reached long ago. 

The little old relic looks today just as it did when Mason 
stood in his top hat and mud-smeared boots on the wooden 
sidewalk along the western boundary watching the workmen 
lay up the brick. It is one of the few connecting links between 
his day and ours ; perhaps it is the most appropriate of all monu 
ments to his memory. It is today hardly more than a symbol 
of what Mason tried to do then, and what he faced in the 
way of constructional difficulties and ignorance of modern 
materials. For his day it was a splendid building. A delegate 
to the Whig convention in Ann Arbor about the time Mason 
Hall was finished wrote to his brother at Syracuse : "Saw the 
College up here. Two new buildings just finished ; looks like 
it is going to be even bigger than the College at Syracuse." 
Visitors said the campus had a "noble aspect"; that it was 
bigger than Harvard Yard and prettier than Princeton. 

Whatever else happened to Mason's memory in the cen- 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 277 

tury since his death, his University lives and thrives. He is 
only one of a great many men who have regarded the Univer 
sity of Michigan as their greatest career, although many of 
them never held any office in it. There have been Regents, 
both appointed and elected, who have neglected everything 
else to work for the University; Governors who have had to 
extract it from difficulties which threatened to swamp it. 
Mason's protection was buttressed by the Constitution ; he laid 
down the principle that the Board of Regents ought to be chosen 
by the State and responsible to the State. He endowed the 
University with great blocks of land, some of it in the Upper 
Peninsula and some in the best areas of wealthy cities. He 
worried about such obscure details as the care of the lawn and 
the accommodations for the first students. He was one of the 
founders, and among all who helped build it, none felt more 
pride in the mere sound of the name: "University of Michi 

Generation followed generation to the boardinghouses of 
old Ann Arbor. In 1860, the two original buildings were still 
housing the whole University classrooms except for the College 
of Medicine. Before the Civil War, the high school appeared in 
Michigan and Mason's branch academies were closed. The 
Michigan Agricultural College became Michigan State; the 
little teachers' college at Ypsilanti is the Michigan Normal 
College of today. The branch at Kalamazoo became Western 
State Teachers 1 College ; that at Marquette moved to the 
Upper Peninsula and became the Michigan College of Mines. 

Mason and the Rev. Mr. Pierce built better than they knew. 


Sometimes during the summer of 1837, Mason would stand 
quietly in the narrow living room of his little house on Jefferson 
Avenue gazing at his mother, wondering how long she would 
live. Elizabeth Moir Mason was showing the effects of a diffi 
cult frontier life in the way most women did in the era before 
the advent of modern medicine. Emily's statement on the sub- 


ject was written in 1904, when she herself was about twice the 
age of her mother at this period, and unquestionably twice as 
strong. Emily says that her mother had not been well for some 
years. She was wasting away, growing thinner and more fragile 
with each new season. John T. had given her as much quiet 
and rest with him as his own restless wanderings would allow. 
When he was deep in the Louisiana bayous or the Red River 
valley in Indian Territory, Elizabeth Mason of necessity was 
sent back to Detroit and another period of weariness and 
mental depression. 

In 1837 s he was present in the Detroit home all summer. 
During the preceding winter she had been absorbing sunshine 
in Mexico with John T., and Emily was the Governor's hostess 
and household manager. "Adieu to studies and books!" she 
wrote, exultantly. "Ostensibly I had Latin and French and 
music to study, and the fine library my father had left us to 
draw from. But little time had I for study; it was all politics 
and pleasure. All the distinguished persons who came to Detroit 
were entertained by the Governor, and among others I remem 
ber Harriet Martineau, with her formidable ear trumpet. We 
young people stood in much awe of her." 

When the fragile Elizabeth returned, Emily kept on run 
ning the household and everyone in it. The strain of all her 
overlapping activities put her into a "decline", very fashionable 
at the time, and for which the only cure was an expensive vaca 
tion at a well-known hotel and a horsehair trunk full of new 
clothes. An invitation from the owner of a big Virginia manor 
to come and spend a few weeks might have had a tonic effect 
upon Emily's constitution, also. John T. wrote from Mexico 
that he was coming out in the fall and intended to spend the 
winter at New Orleans. Emily and her mother began planning 
their trip months ahead. 

She took notes on the Governor's behavior, "Sometimes 
after the day's work he came home and studied until two in the 
morning," says her diary. "He was an earnest student. He 
denied himself the pleasures of the table, lest they should dull 
his brain and make him less capable of taking in the weighty 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 279 

matters of the law, in which he hoped to win distinction. This 
was the dearest wish of my father. 'We have been a family of 
lawyers; you must not desert the path in which your grand 
father and great-grandfather won renown', he used to say." 
John T. himself, while winning scant renown, had made a lot 
of money as a lawyer, but he preferred not to spotlight his 
own career in this fatherly message. Emily did not dwell on 
it, either. 

Mason was on a diet, working late at night, and slaving 
like a beaver. He was not so much interested in renown as in 
self-protection. He was trying to study some of the intricacies 
of finance, so that he would seem less like an amateur when 
the inside story of Michigan's corrupt banks burst upon the 
public. He was digging down to the basic facts about banking, 
so that he would have some information to draw upon when 
the technical questions about bond issues and development 
loans came up in the Legislature. He was paying the penalty 
for being young, for starting at the top, as Governor, instead 
of working up to it through two decades in politics. 

The house was usually filled with guests, and Emily had 
her hands full with guest lists and colored servants. It some 
times startled Emily to remember that her brother was only 
twenty-five years old. He seemed so much more mature than 
that ; responsibility was aging him, and the fear of being caught 
in the middle over some technical problem was sobering him 
fast. He was still called the "Boy. Governor", .the "Young 
Hotspur", and "The Stripling" in the Michigan weeklies. It 
was just a nickname, more of a political handle than a de 

With more than his normal degree of caution he began 
preparing for another State election. In 1835 the Whigs had 
side-stepped the certain avalanche that would have buried them 
had they participated. In 1837 they not only were competing, 
they had a red-hot campaign issue and a candidate nearly as 
popular as Mason himself. Mason, as the defending cham 
pion, found himself without a campaign issue except his record, 
and that was an easy target for his enemies. 


About the time the State parties were gathering for their 
conventions, Daniel Webster arrived in Detroit to visit his 
son, Daniel, Jr., a Detroit Whig attorney. Webster, along 
with Clay, was the incarnation of the Whig party a mighty 
figure among the wealthy and professional classes. Like Jack 
son, Webster had a wide personal following who^did not care 
about his politics as long as they could gaze at him on a plat 
form, and listen to his voice. He had another purpose in visit 
ing Michigan; he had an interest in a land company along 
the Chicago Turnpike, and he had come out during a Con 
gressional recess to see how his investment was coming along. 

The Whigs grabbed him at once, and lionized him. They 
staged a big barbecue and rally in the surviving remnant of 
the Cass orchard, installing the great man on a flag-draped 
speakers' stand on a knoll between Fort and Lafayette Streets, 
near First Street. There Webster took his place on the plat 
form, cowed the crowd with one of his imperious glances, 
and proceeded to deliver an oration that verbally knocked 
the Democrats end-over-end all over the landscape. After 
ward the Whigs wined and dined him at a great banquet for 
500 guests, at which Webster repeated all the unpleasant 
things he had said about Democrats, adding a few more every 
time there was a lull in the applause. 

This campaign was being difficult enough to Mason without 
having to take the stump against Daniel Webster. The Whig 
papers erupted in a rash of elaborate compliments. The Ann 
Arbor Argus said: "This speech should be sterotyped and be 
come the pocket companion of all office-seekers and declaimers 
for all time to come." The style of Webster's delivery was 
hailed as "admirable" ; editors said he was "full of his hearers 
and full of himself". This probably aptly described Webster 
after the big banquet, but Mason searched the columns in 
vain for a good word about himself or his party. There was 
none. In an eloquent journalistic silence, he prepared for his 
re-election campaign. 

The Democrats held their convention as usual in the little 
courthouse in Ann Arbor, near the place where workmen were 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 28l 

felling trees on the new campus of the University. A delegate 
brought Judge Fletcher a jug of hard cider to discourage him 
from interrupting the debates with anecdotes of what he did 
when he first came to Ann Arbor on a mule, his lawbooks 
in his saddlebag, and had to fell trees to build a log cabin. 
Other delegates stood around and watched the grading of the 
campus site instead of attending sessions. Mason did this him 
self. No one paid much attention to the party problems. 

Eventually the convention got down to the business before 
it, and renominated Mason for a second term unanimously. 
Ed Mundy and Isaac E. Crary were renominated; resolutions 
in praise of President Martin Van Buren were passed. Mason 
was busy "sidewalk superintending" the grading job and had 
to be told that the renominations of both Mundy and Crary 
had deadlocked the committee for hours, finally being sub 
mitted to the whole convention which promptly tied itself up 
in another deadlock. It was hard work to solve the riddle, and 
the delegates grew irritable. By the time Mason returned to 
the floor the pair had been renominated, but it was a struggle. 

Mason began feeling a sinking sensation. It was the most 
listless body of Democrats he had ever seen. They could not 
arouse any enthusiasm for the party or for their candidates. 
The voters would feel the same way. 

The Whig party convened in the same building a week 
later. There, amid shouts that rattled the little windows, the 
Whigs demanded Mason's head. With blood-curdling war 
whoops they nominated Mr. Charles C. Trowbridge of Detroit 
for the Governorship, Daniel Bacon of Monroe as Lieutenant 
Governor and Hezekiah Wells of Kalamazoo for Member 
of Congress. 

Mason knew a good deal about Trowbridge. The two, in 
spite of their political differences, were good friends and had 
been seen together frequently. Charlie Trowbridge was a 
member of an old, illustrious Detroit family and a rich busi 
ness man. Socially he was a monarch in the innermost circles 
the Trowbridges, the Palmers, with Judge Benjamin Wither ell 
and the John R. Williamses. In his political contacts with 


Mason*s administration he had been very careful to keep his 
hands clean, and as a result he was respected and trusted. 
He was the toughest opponent the Whigs could muster, and 
as Mason pondered his prospects he had doubts for the first 
time of his own ability to win through. 

Trowbridge was thirty-seven years of age at the time, and 
Mayor of Detroit. He had become a well-known figure during 
the cholera epidemics, wherein he had fought the scourge as 
violently as Mason; both of them tried to stamp it out by 
sheer energy. The people loved him for what he had done 
for them, and in Detroit he was as popular as Mason ever 
was. Topping this heavy-calibre ticket, the Whigs for the 
first time had a theoretically unbeatable campaign issue the 
terrible panic which was wiping away everyone's savings and 
causing bankruptcies and suicides. Added to that was the cor 
rupted condition of the banks, for which the Democrats were 
blamed. The Whigs were out to win in 1837, and expected 
to sweep the State. 

In their convention summary they called upon every right- 
thinking citizen to "extricate the government from the control 
of incompetence and impending war". On this alarming note 
the campaign swung into motion. 

Records say it was "a campaign of the bitterest invective of 
the most uncompromising personal character ... no move 
in the so-called game of politics was overlooked ... no charge 
that could be predicated upon a semblance of fact seems to 
have been understated." No holds were barred, and there was 
no referee to call time out. Mason with disgust rolled up his 
sleeves and donned his thickest boots, cocked his silk hat on 
the back of his aristocratic brow, and waded in. 

The Democrats invented a bogus party as an offshoot to 
the Whigs and tried to split the Whig vote. They put Wood- 
bridge's unpopular name on the ticket for Governor, which 
was their undoing. Woodbridge promptly exposed the trick 
and denied that he had any intention of running. Then the 
Whigs tried the same trick with the Democrats, and succeeded 
very well. 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 283 

They brought out a scandal sheet called The Spy in Michi 
gan, which purported to expose a lot of skulduggery on Mason's 
part. This paper demanded a reform movement among the 
Democrats to repudiate Mason and his whole ticket. With 
plenty of Whig cash, a party of "Simon-Pure Democrats" was 
actually organized and registered. It nominated Edward Ellis 
of Monroe for Governor. Mr. Ellis had been a Whig member 
of the Constitutional Convention and had a modicum of vote- 
getting power. Anyhow he started stumping the counties, 
preaching for reform in the State government. He threatened 
to slice off a considerable share of Mason's rural support. 

Mason countered this by getting the influential Detroit 
Young Men's Society to hold a State convention of "Young 
Democrats", which endorsed him for re-election and com 
mended his administration. It gained considerable support 
from young voters who were with Mason because of his youth, 
aside from politics. The trick partly counterbalanced Ellis and 
his outlaw Democrats, but there being no such thing as a 
"Young Whig" their attempt to copy the youth movement idea 

Meanwhile the scurrilous libel sheet called The Spy in Michi 
gan was putting forth page after page of vile personal abuse 
of Mason as a man. "Mason came here as a boy of about 
nineteen," it stated, "born and raised in Kentucky with all 
the attributes of a domineering population. His education 
was very imperfect and it is believed that he could not have 
written a page of respectable English. His morals were still 
worse, but entirely in the Southern style " 

People who read this wondered why Mason didn't take a 
musket and shoot the liver out of the anonymous author of 
this slander. He was described in every other paragraph as a 
hard drinker. "His time has been too much taken up with 
the tavern, the ball-alley and the theater to admit of much 
mental cultivation," the sheet continued. Mason's friends 

Friendly editors made matters worse by quoting at length 
from this drivel and demanding an end to it. One editorial 


said: "A more malicious, malignant and damnable falsehood 
was never penned by any man." Shortly all the newspapers, 
Whig and Democrat, were calling each other knaves, liars 
and scoundrels. Mason was said to have been a traitor to the 
State when he was forced to abandon claims to the "Toledo 
Strip". Another said that Mason had been voted $500 annual 
house rent by the Legislature, which was an outrage, uncon 
stitutional and unethical, besides being expensive. That wasn't 
so ; it was just something to raise a fuss about at election time. 

The Whig papers, apparently by agreement and out of whole 
cloth, simultaneously printed a story that Mason had been 
caught buying votes at a previous election (for the first Con 
gressman) . They hired an artist to paint a> picture of the al 
leged scene. It showed a man clearly recognizable as Mason 
slipping a bank note to a drunk with a whiskey jug. They ex 
hibited the picture everywhere, captioned: "First Michigan 
Election' 1 . 

This could not be allowed to pass. Mason demanded an 
apology. In reply the Whigs produced a newspaperman named 
G. L. Whitney, of Rochester, New York, who said he "hap 
pened to be visiting in Detroit at the time". He identified the 
bribetaker as a John Weese, a Detroit meatcutter. He said he 
had seen Mason give Weese a bank note on election day in 
front of the National Hotel The Democratic Free Press kept 
its columns open waiting for Mason's answer. The Governor 
wrote an impatient note which stated that he had indeed given 
Weese a dollar, not on election day but on the day following. 
He said Weese had approached him as he was about to enter 
the hotel, asking for the loan of a dollar. Mason had accom 
modated him, he said. Weese was located, and admitted that 
he had not paid the dollar back/He said he thought he bor 
rowed it a week after election day. 

There was so much excitement about the Whig accusation 
that Mason saw a chance to editorialize about the whole con 
duct of the campaign. He wrote to the Free Press saying that 
he had kept silent throughout all the unwarranted attacks 
upon him because to deny them would do more harm than 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 285 

good. They were all unjust, Mason declared, as anyone who 
knew him would testify. It was with regret that he saw the 
campaign degenerating into a mud-slinging alley fight. As for 
himself, he would have none of it. He was going to run a clean 
campaign, without impeaching anybody's motives, questioning 
his character or involving his good name. He concluded that 
it was not "an act of moral turpitude to entertain political 
opinions different from those of my opponents". 

The Whigs retorted that he was hyper-sensitive and en 
joyed seeing his name in the papers. But the statement rallied 
all the Democrats, besides many "mugwumps" or neutrals, to 
his defense. In October a committee of many non-partisan De 
troit people bought advertising space in the papers to denounce 
the whole conduct of the Whig campaign. They were tired, 
they said, of the "misrepresentation and slander" going around 
about Mason. They demanded an end to the Whig policy of 

Mason followed this advertisement with a slow, leisurely 
wagon trip through the southern part of the State, speaking 
from town-hall steps and bandstands, anywhere there was a 
platform and a few people. He shook hands with friends, re 
membered anecdotes about his previous association with them. 
They remembered, too. Campaigning entirely on personal popu 
larity, Mason managed to undo some of the harm generated 
by the violence of the Whig attacks. He believed his prestige 
had not been smashed. 

In September, just before the election, he was recalled to his 
office on a matter connected with the long-awaited development 
program. The Legislature had passed a bill authorizing the 
State to negotiate a loan for $5,000,000 in New York, by means 
of a bond issue. The program was ready, contracts were drawn 
up, crews were being hired. The money was needed at once. 
They assured Mason that since he had no one in the adminis 
tration who could handle such a job excepting himself , he would 
have to go to New York immediatelv. In vain he pointed to the 
lackadaisical showing of the Democrats in the campaign and 
the need for his presence in Michigan until the election. They 



replied that it was too bad, but the matter was urgent. Regret 
fully he packed a bag and left. He was gone a month. 

When he returned in October, Mason was full of smiles, 
optimistic, and said he had accomplished something. No, he 
had not negotiated the loan, but it was approved and almost 
ready. The Legislature would be asked to make a slight change 
in the law so that interest could be made payable in Europe 
as well as in New York. In that way, he said, New York bankers 
could place part of the bonds among European money mar 
kets. After the election he would have to go again, he said, 
and conclude the deal. 

This trip of Governor Mason's had an important bearing 
on the outcome of the election. It is the opinion of most students 
of Michigan history that by coming up with this political plum 
in his mouth in late October, Mason changed probable defeat 
into a good chance of victory. The Whig machine's slander 
line was beginning to run down; they had called him every 
thing they could think of and had run out of adjectives. The 
best they could do in the last few weeks was to print and dis 
tribute a handbill saying that U..S. Marshal Conrad Ten Eyck 
was coming to throw all the settlers off their land because of a 
pretended fault in their titles, and that he was trying to get 
$13,000 from the State for the railroad right-of-way across 
his farm. People saved some of these for curiosities 

EI wu n Day in Detroit Was " a da ? of S reat excitement". 
I he Whigs were on the streets first with a parade featuring 
a replica of the USS Constitution sailing up Woodward Ave 
nue, commanded by Captain Robert Wagstaff in costume It 
was preceded by a band and followed by all the Whig district 
leaders, shouting for Trowbridge and victory. They bore aloft 
huge banners carrying their slogans. The Democrats started 
their parade from a different part of town. They had several 
floats drawn by yokes of oxen, with banners demanding gold 

1 wt Cr """I 1 " drculation - Thes * inevitably collided with 

w I 

the Whig parade and precipitated the usual election day bat- 

tie, which onthis occasion cost Detroit only about two hundred 
casualties. Mason, standing on the sidewalk, saw Mr Trow 

1837-1837] RAISE HIGH THE PENNANT 287 

bridge on his way to the voting place. He came out and took 
Trowbridge's arm, saying: "Come, let's go and vote for one 
another." The crowd parted to let the pair pass and, says the 
newspaper, "the multitude cheered". 

Mason was re-elected, but with difficulty. He barely squeaked 
through. The official tabulation gave him 15,314^0 Trow- 
bridge's 14,800 votes. He carried the city of Detroit, but lost 
Wayne County, in which the city is located. He lost Washtenaw 
County, of which Ann Arbor was the county seat. His only 
crumb of comfort came from the showing of Edward Ellis, 
the Whig-paid bogus Democrat, who polled only 311 votes. 

His loyal helpers rode to victory with him. Mundy was 
re-elected. The Democrats retained a small majority in the 
Legislature, although the Whigs had gained surprisingly in the 
House. Old Woodbridge had gotten himself elected to the 
State Senate, which disturbed Mason deeply. As he gazed 
at Woodbridge after the election, Mason was thoughtful. 

The old man's eyes were watery and expressionless. 



IT is HARD enough to be a businessman when conditions are 
ideal. Business in general seems to collect blights the way a dog 
collects fleas. In 1837 it was not taxation which caused the 
businessmen of the time to grow haggard and gray, nor labor, 
nor scarcity of materials. The blight was far worse; so much 
so that in examining the wildcat-money situation in Michigan 
during that year it is difficult to understand how any trade 
was conducted at all. 

The term "wildcat" is an officially accepted one, and was 
used in the report of Mason's banking commissioners. No 
other word expressed so well the effect of these savage condi 
tions upon the people. A wildcat is always hostile, preys on 
its own kind, lives in isolated areas and is a serious menace 
to anyone unlucky enough to encounter it. So, also, was the 
wildcat bank. In 1837, Michigan was trying to tame it. 

The State had done all it could do to pen up these wildcat 
banks by the Banking Act passed by the preceding Legislature 
in the spring of 1837. Mason clearly warned the people, in 
his annual message, by telling them that they were on the wrong 
path and that aids to small-town banks did not mean unre 
stricted license to flood the State with worthless notes. He re 
peated at intervals his opinion that too many banks were 
springing up in little out-of-the-way towns where supervision 
was difficult and the far-reaching effects of their distribution 
of bank notes hard to control. 

He could not do everything himself. The time had come for 
him to begin the actual construction of the State railroad net 
work, authorized a long time before. He had staggered along 
after the Banking Commissioner resigned, only to be forced 


A WILDCAT BANKNOTE. Mo// o/ them were engraved and printed by the firm of Rawdon, 

Wright & Hatch, New Yorl(, who made bales of them during the brief era of these 

queer batiks, 1837-1838. 

MICHIGAN,^ FIRST CONSTITUTION, 1835, was written on heavy paper. After Mason's ad' 

ministration the Whigs lost it. The document was superseded by a new Constitution in 

1850, and in 1899 this original was joimd in a jun\ heap in the basement of the new 

State Capitol at Lansing. Repaired and re-bound, it is now in the State Library. 

From the official portrait now in Lansing. 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 289 

to ask help from individual legislators in their free time, for 
which he could not authorize payment. In 1837 he was granted 
a new Board of three Banking Examiners, but could find only 
two who would actually saddle up and try to find out what was 
happening. Kintzing Pritchette was one of them, actuated no 
doubt more by sympathy for Mason's plight than by the pe 
cuniary reward of the job. Alpheus Felch of Monroe was the 

Mr. Felch was a great boon to Mason, and to the State of 
Michigan for a decade afterward. He was a small, mild fellow, 
with a high forehead and a long shock of hair on the back 
of his head hanging down over his collar like a misplaced 
toupee. He had thick spectacles, and a determination like the 
steel jaws of a bear trap. Digby Bell, the third Examiner, joined 
the pair some months later. 

The Banking Act said that any twelve people residing in 
the same county could start a bank, provided that they had, or 
could raise, $50,000. This privilege was explained long after 
ward in Dr. Fuller's thesis on the ground that it was an exten 
sion of the democratic principle into a field which had long been 
dominated by special privilege; the chief province of the Big 
Names who had milked the country dry during the era of the 
United States Bank. Whatever it was, the response was quick 
and the banks which sprang up under the Act were strange, 
mysterious institutions. 

Pritchette and Felch were patiently trying to find out why 
the Act had gone wrong. The Panic of 1837 was good enough 
evidence that the new banks were not succeeding at the task 
which the framers of the Act visualized. Instead of financing 
local enterprises, each in its own locality, the banks were flood 
ing the State with notes which looked fishy and became almost 
worthless when presented at the Bank of Michigan in Detroit 
for deposit or as security. This bank, with the Farmers' and 
Mechanics', were the two chartered banks which filled the 
empty function of a State Depository following the closing 
of the United States Bank. There was no decent money, no 
Federal currency except some silver coins for change, and a 


few scarce gold pieces which gravitated to the two big banks 
as security for big bond issues and the like. Few people had 
gold money. 

The Act was bound up tightly with restrictions, and copper- 
riveted by provisions for frequent examination. It stipulated 
that at least one third of the bank stock must be owned locally, 
and that before beginning business all the stock must be sub 
scribed to and thirty per cent of it must be in specie that is, 
in gold or silver. The president and directors were bonded; 
the bank itself was required to furnish proof to the State that 
it had securities or mortgages on real estate enough to meet the 
full amount of any bank notes it might have in circulation. 

It was the best that Mason and his Legislature could do to 
provide local banking facilities in the absence of a Federal 
currency and legal provision for an official State Bank. Mason 
strongly preferred the latter alternative, but the Legislature 
insistently kept him from organizing it on the ground that it 
would shortly become another United States Bank, controlled 
by ten or twelve directors who would become fantastically 
rich at the expense of local businessmen. 

A storekeeper in a small town, during the course of an aver 
age day, would be offered bank notes from a dozen strange 
banks of which he had never heard. He knew that his own 
local bank did not have a too-secure specie backlog, and he 
suspected that these strange institutions didn't, either. Hence 
he took the bank notes, if at all, only under a heavy discount, 
which promptly produced inflation and subsequent panic. 

Even after the election of 1837 when the Panic had sub 
sided and the people were turning eagerly to the advent of the 
development program, the inflation continued. Hard money 
became so scarce that in Michigan many merchants took hack 
saws and sawed up silver dollars into halves, quarters and 
eighths. This "cut money" was accepted at par and became 
a widespread medium of local exchange. Another merchant, 
who handled a large volume of purely local business with 
farmers of his county, turned out gfreat numbers of wooden 
bowls of various sizes on a lathe. He made change with these, 


and the farmers accepted them as legal tender at his store. 
They circulated at par throughout the county. 

Out of brass-bound horsehair trunks, the people revived 
ancient Territorial "shinplasters" bearing the U. S. seal and 
issued in fractional amounts like ten cents, twenty-five cents, 
fifty cents. These curiosities appeared in merchants' tills and 
were accepted everywhere, while the newly printed notes of the 
wildcats were taken grudgingly, with discounts. 

Under this handicap, and with many misgivings, Mason 
began to get up steam in the boiler of his development program. 
The Legislature, in appropriating $400,000 of State funds and 
authorizing a bond issue of $5,000,000 more, had referred to 
the plan as the "public-development" program. Mason coined 
the phrase "Internal Improvements". It became known as his 
Internal Improvements plan, and the title stuck. 

At the outset he discovered that private enterprise was get 
ting nowhere with the chief item in the project, the Detroit 
and St. Joseph Rail Road. The promoters had spent $117,000 
on it, and had completed only thirteen miles of grading be 
tween Detroit and Ypsilanti, but a good deal of grubbing and 
clearing remained to be done along the graded stretch. Not 
a foot of track had been laid. They had, however, built a forge 
and shop wherein they were turning out car wheels and iron 
strap for the wooden foundation rails. They had a locomotive, 
but no cars. . 

Down at Toledo, the primitive Erie and Kalamazoo Rail 
Road had finished its line from Toledo to Adrian, Mich. 
Weary of waiting for a locomotive, from Philadelphia, the 
company had begun operations with a string of flatcars drawn 
by teams of horses. The road was an immediate financial suc 
cess. In the interior of Michigan, the price of Syracuse salt 
fell from fifteen dollars a barrel to nine, and other heavy sup 
plies in proportion. The demand for passenger accommoda 
tion was met by the company very quaintly. It built a double- 
deck structure that looks top-heavy and dangerous to moderns, 
with sheepskin-covered seats for the ladies above, and plain 
wooden benches for the men below. The car had open windows 


to give the tobacco spitters plenty of room. This apparition 
was named the "Pleasure Car". 

When the locomotive arrived it was the wonder of Michigan. 
It was rated at twenty horsepower, and burned wood which 
the fireman collected from the farmers' woodlots along the 
route. The "Pleasure Car" was not a success. It continually 
jumped the track and once turned over on a curve. After its 
novelty had worn off, it was replaced by a string of regular 
Concord stagecoaches mounted on railroad wheels. Six of 
them made up the train. The conductor had a catwalk out 
side, and hopped from car to car clinging to the windows, with 
his whiskers blowing backward in the breeze. 

The success of this road stimulated the promoters of the 
Detroit and St. Joseph, but they could not finance an under 
taking so colossal. Ruin and bankruptcy lay before them. After 
some consultation with Mason, they agreed to sell the com 
pany to the State for the sum of $139,802.79. The Legislature 
agreed with Mason that the State ought to finance it. Hence, 
in 1837, the Detroit and St. Joseph Rail Road, its charter 
and its right-of-way, became the property of the State under 
the title: "Michigan Central". At the same time, the Erie and 
Kalamazoo found itself in difficulties. It was showing a paper 
profit on every run, but the insane pattern of banknotes turned 
in by its conductors and freight agents made no sense to the com 
pany's auditors or creditors. It was a relief to the company 
to receive an offer from Mason to absorb it as part of the 
State's network. It was taken over on a lease, with the original 
company officers continuing in its management. A year or two 
later it became, according to its records, "hopelessly bank 
rupt," and was leased to the new Michigan Southern forever. 

At the time these deals were being completed, Mason must 
have been on the verge of panic himself. He had only $400,000 
appropriated funds to work with, and only a dream of floating 
his $5,000,000 loan in New York. He had promised everyone 
that the deal was going through. He had been re-elected largely 
on the strength of that promise. Now, great stretches of un 
completed rights-of-way and bankrupt railroads were falling 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 293 

into his lap, with an insistent public clamor for immediate com 
pletion. Other projects, notably a network of canals, demanded 
financing and awarding of contracts. Congress had backed 
down on its promise to appropriate funds for the St. Mary's 
Falls canal connecting Lake Michigan with Lake Superior. 
Mason had to find more money to begin that fearful engineer 
ing struggle. 

He, like many Governors since, had no idea where the money 
was to come from. He must fulfil his pledge. Contracts must 
be signed, men employed, equipment procured. The railroad 
to St. Joseph was the biggest job. Very well, he would start on 
that first. He would tell the Legislature frankly that if he were 
to be held responsible for the improvements they wanted, 
they'd have to support him with the necessary appropriations. 
He began drafting his annual message to the Legislature for 
the year 1838, to be delivered shortly after the New Year's 

This message was quite a lengthy one, and had to be pre 
pared with the greatest care. He was alone in his house except 
for two colored house servants, and a handyman who brought 
in coal for the fireplaces. He had plenty of uninterrupted hours 
to analyze what he thought the State ought to do, and to 
enumerate the things they expected him to construct. Emily 
and his mother had left for New Orleans, from which delight 
ful city they wrote him that ". . ..Papa has established us in the 
St. Charles Hotel" and that they were being entertained royally 
by the wealthy land speculators who were working with John 
T. at the time. Mason wrote in reply that he had been to New 
York on business connected with floating the bond issue, and 
that he, too, had met a good many interesting people. He knew 
Emily would like them. There was Washington Irving, for 
example, a director of several banks and a very wealthy man. 
There was a rich leather merchant named Thaddeus Phelps, 
who was a member of the syndicate which was helping to float 
the bond issue. While visiting at his home, Mason wrote, he had 
met a very sweet girl, whose name was Julia/According to him, 
Julia Phelps had " all the charms that were ever bestowed 


upon the daughters of Eve ... in sweetness and real worth, 
she surpasses every other woman I have ever known. ..." 

He should have had his mind completely free to concentrate 
on his preparation of the message. The success of his whole 
second term as Governor would hinge on whether or not he 
could sell his demands to the Legislature and get the State's 
financial tangles straightened out so that a few contractors 
could be paid. That was a full-time job. It was a poor time for 
Stevens T. Mason to fall in love. 

Separated from Julia by nearly a thousand miles, Mason 
could only dream of seeing her again when some excuse war 
ranted a future trip to the big city. He did not keep a diary, 
as Emily did, and hence we do not know just how he felt about 
the affair when he unveiled his budding romance in an im 
pulsive letter to Emily. Julia Phelps was unquestionably the 
first girl in his life who had aroused enough interest to become 
the subject of gushing letters to Emily. If there had been the 
usual parade of adolescent affairs which most of us experience 
at some time or other, we would have known it. A man who 
lived in the all-revealing public glare which spotlighted Mason 
could not take a social drink at a tavern without reading about 
it the following day in a newspaper. If he stopped and spoke 
to a child, the incident became a matter of ponderous public 
record. At this period, in fact, his hostile Whig minority in 
the Legislative House was howling at his heels over the "five- 
quarter Mason" alleged overpayment. A love affair, or even 
any noticeable attention shown to a Detroit girl, would have 
become the subject of nosy Whig scrutiny and loud Democratic 
defense. Unless the records are incomplete, which seems un 
likely, Mason at the age of twenty-six was a virgin. 

He was writing to Miss Julia Phelps as often as he was 
writing to Emily, and trying to keep the tender words of love 
from affecting the weighty phraseology of his message to the 
Legislature. In reading the message we do not discover any 
traces of passion in it. Perhaps he wrote the message in his 
office, and wrote to Julia from his house. We cannot but marvel 
at Mason's talent for remembering and keeping distinct the 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 295 

details of so many different problems which overcame him 

Not only was part of his mind and most of his heart on 
Julia, but some of his mental energy had to grapple with the 
embarrassing discoveries of his Banking Examiners while an 
other part was watching Canada, across the river, where the 
Patriot War was brewing a storm cloud of trouble. What con 
centration he had left, which was some, was devoted to the 
$5,000,000 bond issue, the construction of three railroads and 
two canals, the rising bitterness of the Whigs and their indica 
tion of open revolt soon, and such things as what terrible 
punishment to inflict on a Lenawee County constable who had 
just attached the State's brand-new passenger coach on a judge's 

Snatching a few spare moments from these varying puzzles, 
he wrote his message and delivered it when the Legislature met 
in January, 1838. For the first time in his career as Governor, 
he faced a noisy and unreasonable stubborn Whig bloc which 
used devious parliamentary tricks to embarrass him. The 
"five-quarter Mason" argument broke out at the opening of 
the session. He demanded a board of inquiry to examine the 
records. This committee, of which Woodbridge was a member, 
absolved him and reported that somebody had been starting 
rumors about him which were not true. When this report was 
read to the House, the Whigs began a noisy demonstration. 
The Whig leader, Jacob M. Howard, tried to raise a point 
that by asking for an investigation of the charges against him, 
Mason was guilty of "abridging the freedom of discussion". 
They also said that such a demand was "despotic" and "no 
part of his official duties". 

Mason gazed at these violent politicians with mounting sus 
picion. He couldn't make sense out of anything they said. Most 
of their babbling was composed of inane attacks like these 
anything to appear to be whacking Mason constantly. They 
would probably protest and attack anything he said. In deliver 
ing his message he was extremely cautious. At the outset he 
appealed to them publicly for co-operation, reminding them 


of the vile things they had said about him during the election 
campaign. He trusted to the good sense of the people to correct 
wrongs of this kind done to him personally. He thought there 
was enough trouble in the State government without borrowing 

The State was in the red by $13,353-68. This, he said, was 
because the counties hadn't paid their share of the tax levies. 
He wanted a change in the tax law which would give the State 
power to collect it. Next, he began on the Internal Improve 
ments project. In the Illinois Legislature there was a young 
lawyer named Abraham Lincoln who, Mason thought, was a 
coming man. He had sponsored a similar program there, and 
the State had backed him. By all means, he said, finish the work 
we've started but don't add any more projects until we see 
where the money is coming from. By January i, 1838, he had 
been given only $438,551.49 in appropriations and had ear 
marked all but $116,000 of it for immediate payrolls and 
contracts. Added to those, the Legislature now wanted three 
dubious railroads, two canals and a list of highway projects 
undertaken at once. 

It just couldn't be done, the message declared. Even with the 
new $5,000,000 bond issue there would be no money for these 
things. He reminded the solons that they were committed to 
begin the St. Mary's Falls Canal, at the Soo, and extend the 
Detroit railroad to St. Joseph, and five million would not 
complete either of these projects. The banks were in a turmoil, 
and he had not received the support he needed from local 
bankers in enforcing the Act. He pointed out that he had ap 
proved the exact banking law the Legislature had wanted; one 
that would "destroy the odious features of monopoly and give 
equal rights to all classes of the community". But the Act was 
being winked at and often ignored; abused by the very people 
who should be helping to enforce it. 

"It becomes your duty to guard against these evils," he 
warned them. "The productive labor of the community is the 
true foundation of all the capital, and the banks are a conse 
quence, rather than a cause, of our wealth. Multiplication of 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 297 

banks and bank paper does not produce wealth. The attempt 
to substitute paper for real capital disturbs the natural laws 
of trade and is always attended with fluctuations and revul 


He made his remarks as strong as he thought he could get 
away with. He saw trouble coming, and he wanted to be on 
record, in a State document, as foreseeing it and pointing out 
how to lessen the effects. If his advice went unheeded, he had 
a scapegoat in the Legislature. 

The Whigs introduced a minority resolution, claiming that 
Mason was "unschooled in the, elements of economics" and 
that he seemed bent on ruining trade, stopping new promotions 
and plunging the State into financial chaos. Mason, his lips 
tightly compressed, said nothing. He needed no further tirades 
from the Whigs to see that they were out to discredit him, 

"Abolish the ancient Territorial statute calling for imprison 
ment for debt," Mason told the Legislature. "You can't blame 
a man for falling into debt if the State's money is no good." 

Just how rotten Michigan money really was, became known 
when the Banking Examiners returned to Detroit with their sad 
story. Not in the realm of fantasy would such a story be ac 
cepted. It was like a dream. Mason, his heart pounding, de 
manded names, facts, figures, signed statements. He got a re 
port that blew the roof off his little capitol and focussed all 
the Eastern newspapers' attention on Michigan until the Mason 
stomach rebelled. Looking at that report actually made him 

The wildcats couldn't be tamed, but they had been caged. 
Every bank in the State, chartered under the Act of 1837, was 
closed. Bankers were in jail; bonding companies were suing to 
avoid payment; "hell was popping". 

The report exuded a nauseating stench. This was how his 
people had repaid him for "extending the democratic principle"' 


into the banking field. Rottenness, corruption, thievery, chi 
canery, gross abuse of confidence, outright defiance of the law 
these were the minor consequences. What struck Mason, 
as he held the report with trembling hands, was the awful 
collapse of his belief in "the good sense of the people". The 
people, faced with temptation, had let him down. Mason was 
to be held responsible. 

The leading citizens had done this : the men people trusted 
to invest their money; the very persons who had been demand 
ing railroads, canals and expensive improvements. They were 
the ones. They were swindlers. They had betrayed their towns, 
their neighbors, their State. 

Examples poured around his dazed head like bricks. Here 
was the Farmers' Bank of Homer, in Calhoun County. It was 
the first bank chartered under the Act. It had begun business 
in August, 1837, with a reputed capital of $100,000. The 
village had a store, a sawmill, a gristmill, a post office and 
about two hundred inhabitants scattered all over the township. 
It never saw $100,000; it never had any assets, but it pro 
moted enough money to buy a bale, of beautiful bank notes 
from an engraving company in New York. It did not have a 
banking building or a safe. But its worthless notes were all 
over the State. 

There was the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank of St. Joseph, 
trying to confuse people by adopting a name like the sound and 
respected Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Detroit. It was 
not found in St. Joseph, but at Centerville, a crossroads with 
a post office in a general store. The institution didn't even pre 
tend to comply with the law. It was just a gang of twelve 
signers and a bale of bills. The investigators found $19,860 
of this gang's worthless notes in circulation before anyone 
knew what was happening. The Attorney General said of this 
swindle: "These notes were sent forth with a lie upon their 
very faces, as they purported to be on a bank which in truth 
had no legal existence and which never possessed, it is believed, 
one cent of real capital and which had nothing to sustain it but 
the effrontery and fraud of its principal founder." 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 299 

Banks were flooding the State with this stuff. They claimed 
to be thriving financial institutions in places which did not 
exist, and never had. The Bank of Sandstone printed and dis 
tributed $38,000 worth of notes before the investigators dis 
covered that there was no bank; the signers had gotten their 
bundle of bills and had ridden at high speed to faraway towns 
to buy up good merchandise as fast as possible before the 
merchants refused their fraudulent bills. It never had any 
specie, either owned or borrowed. It was never located at Sand 
stone, but at the near-by village of Barry. The Bank of 
Shiawssee was comparatively affluent. It started business with 
seven copper pennies as its "specie" and circulated a fortune 
in bogus bills. 

For bona fide "big business", the investigators thought 
they should tip their tall hats to the Jackson County Bank at 
Jackson. Located in a rapidly growing town, it boasted a bank 
ing office, a strongbox and depositors. But it had $70,000 of its 
bank notes in circulation before the alert Mr. Felch grew 
curious about its specie. He was shown a row of padlocked 
boxes, which when opened displayed the gleam of sunshine on 
heaps of silver coins. Mr. Felch was suspicious by nature. He 
thrust in his hand, and discovered that the boxes were full of 
scrap iron and nails, with a sprinkling of coins on top. Even 
those boxes weren't genuine. During the examination one of 
the directors told Mr. Felch that they were the property of 
the bank. After he had gone, this man brought suit to recover 
the boxes, claiming that they had been his property all along. 

While the inquisition was thus exposing these transparent 
fakes, pandemonium reigned throughout all the places where 
the wildcats had been whelped. If Pritchette and Felch were at 
Dearbornville, for example, trying to find the stock said to 
have been put up by the Wildcat Wayne County Bank, news 
of their presence was hurried down the road. By the time they 
had discovered that the Wayne County Bank was a phony, 
and had closed it, all the banks along the road to Ann Arbor 
had been alerted. The Wayne County Bank was a scheme 
whereby twelve men wrote checks to each other to set up the 


bank, ordered their pile of bank notes, then destroyed their 
checks. Mr. Felch said that while he was en route from Wayne 
to Ypsilanti, a man in a blackboard wagon passed him on the 
road driving like all get-out, with a keg lashed to the wagon. 
The keg turned out to be full of genuine specie, and it stood 
on the floor of the Ypsilanti wildcat looking very innocent. 
They went to Pontiac. It passed them on the road again, and 
was waiting for them in that city. Mr. Felch recognized it at 
the Oakland County Bank at Pontiac and became curious 
about it. It was full of very old French and Spanish gold, 
minted dollars, and French gold louis. The Pontiac bank 
claimed that it was theirs; their records showed that the bank 
had been organized with $5,000 in specie and a "specie certifi 
cate" for $10,000. The certificate was no good. So the direc 
tors credited the $5,000, then took the keg out of the back 
door and brought it in the front door, and deposited another 
$5,000. They repeated the stunt, and had $15,000 on their 
books. Then they spirited the keg out the back window 
while Mr. Felch was still in the place, hurried it on ahead of 
him, and it was waiting for him in -the Bank of Saline. The 
same $10,000 specie certificate which he had refused to credit 
was offered to him in five different banks. The Bank of Saline 
got it with the specie keg from Pontiac. Both items went to the 
Lapeer Bank, where they were on the books as that bank's 
entire paid-in capital. Both of them returned to Pontiac and 
posed as the capital of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of 
Pontiac. The keg was full of old coins out of some hoarder's 
attic, worth more as curiosities than as currency. The certifi 
cate was drawn originally by some wealthy man who had that 
much specie on deposit somewhere. But it was not specie and 
could not pass as such. 

In the Act there was a provision for redeeming the notes 
of these banks by requiring them to maintain enough securities, 
or first-mortgage real-estate bonds, to redeem every dollar 
they had in circulation. When the Examiners attempted to find 
some of this pawned real estate, they ran into situations like 
that of the Bank of Lake St. Clair. 

1837-1838] WILDCAT' MONEY 3 or 

This was a mythical bank in a mythical town. Pritchette and 
Digby Bell, after searching all over Macomb County, located 
a Mr. Conger, who admitted that he was president of the 
wildcat. He had made the engraving company take its own 
worthless notes for payment. The bank? Oh, yes; well, you 
see it was like this. He had planned to build a bank building 
in Belvedere, a plot of land at the mouth of the Clinton River, 
where it joined Lake St. Clair. No, there was no town there. 
It was flooded; it would have to be drained first. The stock 
of the Bank of Lake St. Clair was well watered. Ha ha ! 

The Shiawassee Batik put up as security for $22,000 worth 
of wildcat bank notes a "one-fortieth interest" in the "City of 
Portsmouth". This was a purely paper real-estate development 
in which the promoters were trying to sell stock. It involved 
quite a number of well-known people. Pritchette's face was 
red when he found among them the fancy scrolled autograph 
of Stevens T. Mason. 

Even the rock-ribbed, impregnable institution known as the 
Bank of Detroit, the one bank chartered under the Act which 
was set up to survive, was victimized. In its safe the investiga 
tors found evidence that it had accepted mortgages on lots in 
the imaginary village of Cascade, in Kent County, and on 
another called White Rock City, in Sanilac County, as a chaser, 
no doubt. The Commercial Bank of St. Joseph had listed as 
securities $60,000 worth of mortgages on twenty-eight city lots 
worth at most $50 apiece. Bank strongboxes were crammed 
with mortgages on land in purely fictional and unsettled geo 
graphical names like Kensington, Gibraltar, Singapore, Brest, 
Suez and other Asiatic and European points that their pro 
moters recalled out of school geographies. 

Few of the wildcats had any money on deposit. It was a 
case of organize, get a charter, buy as many bank notes in New 
York as the backers could pay for, and get them into circulation. 
Some of the banks which had funds shown on deposit were dis 
covered to have private arrangements with the depositors 
whereby they received their deposits back, but left them on 
the bank's books. Typical was the case of the Lenawee County 


Bank, which began with $30,000 of actual capital paid in. As 
soon as the charter arrived, the money was withdrawn and 
handed back to the original owners. To cover it on the books, 
a promissory note was entered for this amount and signed 
by a man in Toledo, where he was safe from inquiry under 
Michigan law. The books showed that the bank had $13,210 
worth of notes in circulation. But Mr. Felch discovered about 
$6,000 more in the pockets of two of the bank's officers, not 
entered on the books and being used to speculate with privately. 
The total face value of the bank's notes was $42,363, with 
a backlog of $34.20 in cash. 

The prize item in the Felch section of the report, one which 
he kept talking about even when he was Governor a decade 
later, was the Bank of Brest. He never quite pinned down the 
elusive town of Brest on the map, although it was laid out 
near Monroe and the promoters said that it would be quite a 
town someday. 

When Mr. Felch located the president from records at 
the time a charter was applied for, he turned up a character 
named Lewis Godard. At first Mr. Felch thought he had struck 
gold, literally and figuratively speaking. The books showed 
$9,754.92 in metallic gold and silver in its safe. Mr. Felch 
cooled off, however, when he found that most of it, $7,497, 
had been put there the previous day after advance warning 
had reached Godard that the Examiner was on his way. Mr. 
Felch, muttering, went away. Suddenly, ten days later, he 
popped in again without warning and found that $7,500 had 
been withdrawn. Godard had been distributing bank notes on 
the Bank of Brest, and some friend of his had come in with 
$7,500 of them for redemption in cash, whereupon Godard 
said he had paid it out. He had nearly $75,000 worth of bank 
notes out, and $139,80 in the till. The Bank of Brest was fold 
ing as security for these notes a mortgage on some lots in the 
dream village of Brest executed by this same Lewis Godard. 
It also had securities a couple of bonds signed by Lewis 
Washtenaw County, which contained the town of Ann Arbor, 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 303 

had a population in 1837 f about 8,500. During the year, 
seven wildcat banks were set up there. Their names, and capi 
talization, were : 

Millers' Bank of Washtenaw $ 50.000 

Bank of Manchester 100,000 

Bank of Saline 100,000 

Farmers' Bank of Sharon 50,000 

Huron River Bank 100,000 

Citizens' Bank of Michigan 100,000 

Bank of Superior 100,000 

Messrs, Felch, Pritchette and Bell left a trail of closed banks 
and dead wildcats behind them as they whipsawed their way 
through this forest of financial chicanery. They found that 
the same men were presidents and directors of several of these 
invisible institutions simultaneously. When they could not lo 
cate the supposed towns where these alleged banks were said 
to be doing a so-called business, they went to the Secretary of 
State's office to look in the files of village plans which were 
registered but not yet executed. In this way they found that 
Brest was "going to be built" on Stony Creek, seven miles 
from Monroe. Sandstone was a rotted bridge across Sand 
stone Creek in Jackson County, where the difficulties of the 
mud road had inspired local farmers to build an inn and a 
blacksmith shop. Singapore was the registered name of a de 
velopment at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River on Lake 
Michigan. There was a sand bar there, but no sign of habita 
tion. Deep in the trackless forests of Shiawassee County were 
claim stakes marking the location of a dream village to be 
called Shiawassee. The whole county had a population of 1,200, 
but it had five wildcat banks with a total capitalization of 

For a time, the only wildcat survivor was the Detroit City 
Bank, a big institution which was chartered December 26, 
1837. It was to be another citadel of financial strength like the 
Bank of Michigan and the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank. 
With a capitalization of $200,000 and a directorsMist that 


looked like the Social Register, it, too, came a cropper when 
the relentless Felch nose was thrust into its books. 

He learned that, out of $60,000 actually paid in at the time 
it was founded, $20,673 was represented by another of those 
certificates of specie signed by some absent moneylender who 
could withdraw it any time the whim seized him. The mort 
gages held by the bank were useless as collateral. So, regret 
fully, Mr. Felch ordered it to close and reorganize with a 
better financial foundation. Thus, by the time the Examiners 
had finished their gruesome business, only four or five banks 
were open in the entire State and all of them were conserva 
tive old houses which had been doing business long before 
the Banking Act of 1837 had introduced this chaos. 

It was a legend in the tamarack stockade at the new Jackson 
Prison that one of the bankers sent there for fraud told another 
inmate: "I'll never rest until I get out of here and put that 
bank back on its feet." The second inmate, probably an honest 
burglar, responded: "I thought you said you had reformed." 

Governor Mason realized that the people he had most 
trusted to use their "principle of democracy" for the benefit 
of their local towns, and their neighborly activities, had re 
garded the Banking Act as a legal invitation to start printing 
bank notes. It must have been a great temptation to find such 
a provision in the law. Michigan sharpers soon discovered the 
Joker in the Act; they ordered stacks upon stacks of bank 
notes, traded them to unsuspecting merchants for goods, and 
automatically became rich. They were not counterfeiters, be 
cause they had a license from the State to buy all the bank 
notes they liked and distribute as many as they could. 

The ingenuity of these wildcat bank promoters was limit 
less. When they found that their bogus bank notes were going 
begging at ten cents on the dollar, they began a lively trade 
swindling each other by selling the whole bank. They gave 
each other promissory notes for $100,000 with no more 
thought than if they were cutting cards for the drinks. They 
organized banking associations of several wildcats in a single 
county, or adjoining villages, and artificially kept their notes 


near par by swapping them rapidly back and forth from bank 
to bank like a baseball going around the infield after a pop 
fly. Before Messrs. Felch and Pritchette struck them out, they 
had organized forty such associations, representing a total capi 
talization of $3,115,000. Under the law, such an aggregation 
of banks would have been required to keep on hand $934,000 
in gold and silver specie. There wasn't that much hard money 
in the entire country west of Cleveland. 

One of these wildcatters with a carpetbag full of heavily 
discounted bank notes found himself at a little inn on Otter 
Creek, near Monroe. He met a cattle drover just coming back 
from Detroit after having sold his herd. The drover had a huge 
bundle of bank notes issued by this wildcatter's bank. He began 
lamenting his fate, complaining that he didn't know how much 
the notes were worth, if anything. The wildcatter, bringing 
out his own collection of notes he knew were no good, said that 
he, too, was a victim of the pernicious system. He shouted 
that none of them were worth anything. To prove it, he threw 
his bundle of notes into the fire, and said: "Good riddance!'* 
The drover, with a sigh, guessed that he might as well do the 
same, and together the pair watched the pile burn. This brilliant 
bit of salesmanship on the part of the wildcatter cost him 
nothing, and earned him several thousand dollars. He did not 
have to redeem those burned-up notes. 

In the summer and fall of 1838, the situation had reached 
the point where merchants were accepting pencilled lOU's 
from their old customers and refusing all bank notes. Even the 
churches paid their sextons in lOU's. Mason realized with a 
start, after wading through to the bitter end of the Examiners' 
report, that he had better take some action at once before the 
State was forced to pay him in lOU's. He sent a copy of the 
Felch report to the Legislature with a note asking a year's 
suspension of the Banking Act of 1837, effective immediately. 
The request was granted. 

Incipient panic was quickly quelled when Mason announced 
that the old-time banks would stay open, and that some wild 
cats would be reorganized and rechartered under the old laws 


as soon as possible. There was a mad rush to get off bank di 
rectorships, resign from boards, close up banking associations. 
Some people of the State took an optimistic view of the furor 
and, like Judge Thomas M. Cooley, quipped that "no circulat 
ing medium ever circulated so rapidly before". Others tried in 
vain to get the wildcats to give them something anything 
for their notes. 

A man who came from Ingham County to Detroit was try 
ing to salvage something from the wreck of his thrift. He wrote 
in his diary on March 15, 1838 : 

"Nothing is talked of but the wildcat banks, some of which 
are showing the stuff they are made of, and are rotten to the 
core. There is scarcely a single one of the whole number whose 
bills will be received at the stores for goods, while many a 
farmer has sold his produce and some even their farms for 
this worthless trash. Most of the laborers and mechanics hold 
all their receipts and earnings for the last six months in these 
worthless rags which they cannot use. We hear almost daily 
of the arrest of presidents, directors and cashiers for fraud, 
and injunctions placed upon the banks. 9 ' 

Everyone was frantically trying to unload his wildcat bank 
notes on someone else. Those who had horses galloped to the 
most remote towns in the State, where news of the collapse 
of the wildcats might not have penetrated. Others tried to 
get some kind of goods anything at all for bank notes by 
the bushel. Only a few were credulous enough to hunt down the 
furtive wildcatters and try to get something back. 

One such person located the president of the Bank of Sand 
stone at his house in the village of Barry, where he operated 
a small grindstone shop. He reported that for each ten-dollar 
bill he received a millstone; for each five-dollar bill he received 
a grindstone; and for each two-dollar bill a whetstone. He 
was the most fortunate of any of the wildcatters' victims whose 
misery blots the record. The vast majority never saw their 
money again. 

Under the most intense pressure he could apply, Mason sent 
out messengers to round-up the chief wildcatters and bring 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 307 

them to Detroit. Many came voluntarily when they found that 
if they attempted to delay, a posse might take them forcibly. 
Many conservative bankers who had been drawn into the ex 
citement by an honest misinterpretation of the Act came to 
Detroit like penitents, humbly inquiring what they could do 
to make amends. Hastily organized, they called themselves 
the "Currency Meeting or Bankers' Convention", and held 
secret meetings for two days. Nothing was allowed to seep out 
concerning what they accused each other of doing. 

In their report to Mason they were contrite. They said 
they meant no harm, and that if allowed to resume business 
they would police themselves voluntarily and see that each 
bank had the minimum amount of specie and negotiable se 

Mason angrily refused. He took the opportunity to demand 
again the organization of a State Bank which would issue 
legal-tender State bank notes. Once more he was defeated on 
the point, but the Legislature agreed with him that the wildcats 
should never be allowed to resume business. Alpheus Felch 
was elevated to the new title of Auditor-General, and he im 
mediately divided the State into three districts, one for him 
self and one each for Pritchette and Digby BelL He and his 
colleagues scoured the forests all during 1838, making doubly 
sure that no more attempts were made to do that kind of bank 
ing business. 

Their report to Governor Mason has been widely publicized 
over the world, and their opinion of wildcat banks is quoted 
in many standard textbooks on banking and economics. Certain 
familiar passages, like the one which follows, are Pritchette's : 

"Not even a regiment of examiners could have enforced the 
Act . . . against the host of bank emissaries who scoured the 
country to anticipate their coming, and the indefatigable spies 
who hung upon their path, to which may be added perjuries, 
as familiar as dicers' oaths, to baffle investigations. Painful 
and disgusting as the picture appears, it is neither colored nor 
overcharged, and falls far short of the reality. The result 
of 'free banking' in Michigan is that, at a low estimate, a mil- 


lion dollars in the notes of insolvent banks are due and un 
available in the hands of individuals." 

Felch dwelt upon that specie keg. "I grew so familiar with 
it that I soon recognized every coin it in by the surface mark 
ings. Once I saw it being hustled in the back door of a bank 
which was under investigation at the time. At oth^r times I 
recognized it in banks which were being examined for the first 
time, but the proprietors assured me that it was the property 
of that particular institution and expressed surprise that I 
had encountered it elsewhere. Most of the coins in it were old 
ones, minted in foreign countries. It was impossible not to 
recognize them at once." 

"I was up in the dense forests of Shiawassee County," con 
tinues Pritchette, "looking for the Exchange Bank. I was lost 
in a little narrow trail, which I saw was a lumber lane used 
by loggers to skid their logs to the streams. I came to a fork 
in the road, and started down one leg of it, almost certain 
that I had taken the wrong turn. Presently I came to a clearing, 
and there was a raw pine shack with a sign across it : 'Exchange 
Bank of Shiawassee.* That was a real wildcat, and I found it 
in its natural habitat." 

Digby Bell was indignant at the claims of the Currency Con 
vention of wildcatters that they had liquidated a large amount 
of debt by the rapid exchange of these worthless bank notes. 
"That may be true," he wrote, "but whose debts have they 
liquidated? Those of the crafty, and the speculative, and by 
whom? Let every poor man, from his log hut and clearing in 
the woods, make the emphatic response by holding up to view 
as the rewards of his labor a handful of promises to pay, which 
for his purposes are as valueless as a handful of dry leaves 
under his feet." 

Their jointly written section of the report demanded the 
immediate repeal of the Banking Act. They said it was in 
effective to control the sort of people who had taken advantage 
of it, and "when we reflect that the moral tone of society seems 
so far sunk as to surround and protect the dishonest and the 
fraudulent with countenance and support, it imperatively de- 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 309 

mands that some legislative action should be taken to enable 
the prompt and vigorous enforcement of the laws, and the 
making of severe examples of the guilty, no matter how pro 
tected or countenanced." 

The bountiful farms of Michigan once more came to the 
rescue of the impoverished citizens. The harvest of 1838 was 
a record-breaker. Barter systems sprang up which staved off 
actual hunger, but widespread privation dogged the economic 
footsteps of the State for years afterward. The era of the 
wildcats was brief, but terrific. Its impact upon the economic 
thinking of the time was less than the same experience would 
produce in our day. The people agreed that the principle of the 
Act was good, but that unscrupulous sharpers had wrecked 
the effectiveness of it They did not see that the Act opened 
the floodgates to the worst kind of fraud, and that it gave 
the people a free hand to indulge the most sordid side of their 
natures- the human impulse to outwit one's neighbor. 

Bales of these wildcat bank notes are still scattered around 
Michigan, to reappear out of attics occasionally. Children of 
swindled farmers used piles of them to play a "game much like 
a certain popular one of the present day, wherein they clutched 
wads of $100 notes and imaginatively bought mills, stores, 
farms, city houses and even wildcat banks from each other. 
During the Civil War the notes made a brief reappearance 
in the pockets of Michigan troops in the South. The Southerners 
evidently preferred them to Confederate currency because 
they looked impressive and bore the name of Northern banks. 
Soldiers bought laces and other luxuries with them and sent 
them home. There are some of them on exhibition in the State 
Museum in Lansing, Michigan, but there is a guard on duty 
to see that they stay in their frames on the wall and never again 
enter the arteries of Michigan commerce. 

".; ' '' . '. : , v ' . 3' . ", ' : '. . " : ' 

The excitement of Michigan's pursuit of the wildcat, and the 
staggering blow of the Examiners' report, left Stevens T. 


Mason groggy. He tried to take the people's attention away 
from the bitter spectacle of widespread individual and cor 
porate bankruptcy by focussing it on the progress reported by 
the construction crews of the new railroad. Anything referring 
to railroads was a popular topic. The State's success in actually 
building a section of track for the new mechanical marvel was 
cause for a bit of mild celebration. Right at the height of the 
banking exposure, a stretch of track was opened between De 
troit and Ypsilanti, a distance which on the original roadbed 
was almost thirty miles. This, thought the Boy Governor, 
would be something that should get the people's minds off 
their worries even if only temporarily. He decided to make 
a sort of holiday out of the arrival of the first train at Ypsilanti. 

Financially the effort had cost about twice what the con 
tractors had estimated, but Mason realized wearily that State 
contracts would always turn out like that. He had approved 
vouchers for some $400,000 to achieve those thirty miles, and 
the survey of the route to Ann Arbor. The Detroit and St. 
Joseph Rail Road Company had spent $i' 17,000 grading and 
clearing the right-of-way. The balance represented the ex 
pense of the track. 

Mason did not know the simplest facts about engineering. 
He was helpless in the presence of the jargon used by rail 
roaders. They attempted to explain how they got the cars to 
stay on the track. It was incomprehensible to him. As we see 
what kind of track they were building in January, 1838, it is 
incomprehensible to us, too. We build better tracks for little 
carnival rides than that one. Engineers who would demand 
money for building track like the Michigan Central in 1838, 
would be lynched today. 

The line between Detroit and Ypsilanti cut through miles 
of soft, springy swamp land. Settlement was fairly even as far 
as Conrad Ten Eyck's tavern at Dearbornville, but between 
that point and Ypsilanti the line was parallel to the old Ter 
ritorial Road through virgin tamarack and jack-pine forests. 
The right-of-way was thirty feet wide and graded a few feet 
above the low, damp surrounding woodland. The grade was 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 3H 

just a dirt embankment about fifteen feet wide, thrown up 
by laborers with wheelbarrows. It was not tamped or packed 
because no proper tools existed at that time to pack it hard. 
Nature did it, by the simple means of weathering it a year 
or so before the track was laid. 

Even then the roadbed was insecure, frequently slipping and 
forever falling into bumpy hollows. To level the track, the 
engineers invented what they called the "block system", which 
had nothing to do with the current railroad signal term. This 
one was a means whereby vertical holes were dug in the em 
bankment on eight-foot centers lengthwise along the right-of- 
way, and five feet on centers crosswise. Huge wooden blocks, 
two feet in diameter, were rammed into these holes and 
pounded down to a surface depth of eight to ten inches below 
the grade line. On these wooden foundation blocks they laid 
two parallel lines of wooden beams fifteen inches square and 
anywhere from twenty feet to forty feet long, depending upon 
the log length. These beams were dressed down by carpenters 
to the exact grade line. They were five feet from centerline to 
centerline, and with the big wooden blocks they became the 
foundation for the track. 

When the route led through a cut, they dispensed with the 
foundation blocks and ran the stringers in parallel trenches. 
Sometimes they struck such soggy ground that they drove 
piles into the sod and ran the stringers across them/The road 
bed went along about three feet above the Territorial Road 
on a dirt embankment most of the way, but the embankment 
was built up in places to a height of fourteen feet. The dirt 
was packed down around the stringers by patting it with 
shovels; the crossties spiked down, three feet apart, and on 
the crossties came the rails. They were white-oak stringers, 
seven inches high by five inches wide. These were carefully 
mortised into the crossties by hand, carpenters with chisel and 
mallet sitting on them and whacking away day after day for 
more than a year to build thirty miles of such hand-built wooden 

When the oak rails were in position, another gang of car- 


penters followed with spokeshaves and chamfered off about 
three quarters of an inch from the inside surface. Strap-iron 
surfaces were then hammered to the rails with great spikes 
four and a half inches long, hand-forged by blacksmiths. The 
strap iron was half an inch by two and a quarter inches wide, 
and fifteen feet long. When it was all finished, graders built 
up the grade to within three inches of the strap-iron surface 
of the rails. The grade was trimmed to fifteen feet in width 
and the sides carefully banked to a slope of one and a half 
to one. 

Under this expensive and slow system, a railroad across 
Michigan would have cost more than the State's credit could 
raise. Years went by while the construction gangs were pains 
takingly whittling away at these huge timbers. When they 
finished, they had a roadbed which usually washed out after 
the first drenching storm, and which in some cases could stand 
as many as eight little cars travelling as rapidly as fifteen miles 
per hour. 

To the people of Detroit and Ypsilanti, however, it was a 
masterpiece. Mason had scant time to go out and watch the 
carpenters trying to level the track by squinting up an eye and 
squirting tobacco juice at it. He was dashing to the rescue 
again. The passenger coach which was already on exhibition 
in Detroit ready to make the first run was replevined by a 
constable from Monroe, armed with a county-court writ. He 
served his paper and hauled away his passenger coach. Detroit 
groaned, and came to Mason demanding that he perform a 
miracle and create a new coach. 

Mason found that the coach had been ordered by the State 
for its new railroad, and was built in a shop in the East and 
shipped to Detroit by boat Now came the constable with his 
writ, claiming that the River Raisin and Lake Erie Rail Road 
had placed a prior order with the same car-building shop; that 
this car was, in fact, the one belonging to that railroad and 
was being held by Detroit contrary to justice and due process 
of law, and so forth. Mason had never heard of the River 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 313 

Raisin and Lake Erie Rail Road, but of necessity he had to 
watch the car disappear. 

In Detroit there lived a craftsman named John G. Hays, 
who assured the Governor that he could build a better car than 
that, for less money. Mason told him to get busy; the grand 
opening was scheduled for February, 1838, and the date, the 
3rd, was only a few weeks away. The bunting was going up 
on the little steep-roofed "depot" on the Michigan Avenue 
corner of the Campus Martius. The track siding from this 
little terminal had been built almost in the shadow of the capitol 
building, and it was there, where Mason could watch him out of 
the window, that Mr. Hays got busy. He built a passenger car 
much bigger than the little stagecoach-type affair which the 
constable had grabbed. This car was the forerunner of the 
modern railway coach ; it had doors fore and aft and held 
thirty-six passengers. It was a great improvement on anything 
these primitive railroads had seen. It was painted yellow with 
a sign "Governor Mason" below the windows. 

On February 3rd it was snowing hard, but there was a con 
siderable crowd on hand at the Campus Martius to see the 
cavalcade set out. The weather was cold; Mason was wearing 
high leather boots and had his white blanket snuggled up 
around his ears. He arrived at the depot and waved. The crowd 
cheered. From around the corner of the depot came the Brady 
Guards in their new ceremonial uniforms. Inside the car were 
Ed Mundy and some of the legislators who had been invited, 
and all the railroad officials. The distinguished guests climbed 
into the front end of the car and newspapermen filled all the 
rest of the space in it. The Brady Guards were shouting and 
milling around looking for space. The stationmaster finally 
found three regular stagecoach-type cars which were to have 
supplemented the new one on regular runs. The Guards piled 
into these. The overflow climbed onto two little flatcars and 
the open trailer behind the locomotive. They were swarming all 
over the train, and on the ground the crowd swarmed around 
the locomotive, gazing at it in awe. The smokestack was eight 


feet high; it had a horizontal boiler and a pair of cylinders 
mounted at a forty-five-degree angle, driving a single pair 
of high iron wheels. This monster was a new twenty-horse 
power model built by Baldwin, of Philadelphia, and called 
the "Peter Cooper" type. It bore a sign: "Pioneer No. i." 
Behind it was an open flat trailer containing a box of cord- 
wood and a cask of water. There was no cab for the crew and 
nothing between them and the roadbed but a twelve-inch walk 
way they stood on. 

There stood the train : the smoke-belching little engine and 
its open flatcar; the huge, resplendent "Governor Mason" 
coach with the Governor himself waving from the front win 
dow; three stagecoach-type cars and three flatcars including 
the lomocotive trailer. The Guards were trying to keep warm 
by dancing around and jostling each other. Departure had 
been delayed by the search for the flatcars, and it was nearly 
noon before the engineer yanked the whistle cord and the 
iron horse screeched. The population moved backward hastily, 
to give the steam-spouting monster more room. Slowly the tiny 
locomotive moved away, dragging its noisy load. Then, says 
the account, "cheers arose from the multitude while from those 
inside came waves of farewell." 

The train wheezed and chuffed along the track for three 
hours, arriving at Ypsilanti in the midst of a snow flurry. The 
newspapermen aboard said that at times the train had attained 
speeds as high as fifteen miles per hour, but could not hold 
that dizzy pace because of irregularities in the track. When the 
train came within sight of the much larger crowd waiting at the 
end of the track at Ypsilanti, such an outburst of cheering arose 
that the whistle was unheard. 

Farmers had brought their families many miles, from all 
parts of Michigan, to see the great event. "My father told 
me it was history," an old man recalled many years afterward. 
"He said -no . matter how cold it was, we were going to sit in 
the wagon and be able to say afterward that we had seen Gov 
ernor Mason, and had seen him arrive on the first train to 

1837-1838] WILDCAT MONEY 3*5 

Another boy in the crowd whose father had lugged him 
there for the same reason wrote for the Historical Commis 
sion files : 

"The Michigan Central was finished as far as Ypsilanti, 
the farthest west of any railroad in the country at that time. 
T* celebrate the event, all the people were invited by the 
City to a monster barbecue. My father went and took me with 
him. When we got there, early in the day, we found the one 
street gaily decorated with flags and a brass band filling the 
air with music. We next visited the place where an ox was 
being roasted, over a huge fire, to make sure with our own eyes 
that we and the multitude present were not to be disappointed 
of our great dinner we had come so far to share. 

"Then we went to the depot to see the arrival of the first 
passenger train. On it were officers of the road, with Governor 
Mason and other prominent people who were to speak. A 
light snow was falling and when the train came in sight on the 
slight up-grade near the town it presented the novel spectacle 
of two men sitting on opposite ends of a cross-beam in front of 
the engine, holding large splint brooms to sweep the snow off 
the track. That was the first and original snow-plow," 

General John Van Fossen, on behalf of the town of Ypsilanti, 
had written one of those elaborate speeches which were in 
flicted upon the public on occasions like this, but gratified 
Mason deeply by presenting it to him in the form of a hand- 
lettered scroll rather than read it to him. Mason muttered a 
brief extemporaneous reply; the band played and the multitude 
attacked the barbecue again. Finally it was time for the train 
to leave. 

It was late in the afternoon and colder than ever, but the 
snowfall had stopped. The Brady Guards were herded into 
their little cars and draped over the flatcars ; the whistle tooted 
and the locomotive once more jerked the train into motion. 
They made a slow and dramatic exit out of Ypsilanti while 
the band played a farewell. 

Everybody agreed that it had been a most satisfactory 
celebration. Aboard the train everyone was tired but satisfied. 


The Guards were pretty sleepy after all the drinks Ypsilanti 
people had given them. It was therefore a shock to everyone 
aboard when the train abruptly stalled a few miles out of 

The big driving wheels of the locomotive had gotten down 
into one of those hollows in the track, and all hands had to get 
out and push it. This was exhausting, and it happened several 
times between Ypsilanti and Dearbornville. By a startling coin 
cidence, the boiler, which had been losing pressure throughout 
the return trip, sprang a leak just as the train was opposite 
the big Conrad Ten Eyck tavern at Dearbornville. Of course 
someone suggested that the entire passenger list get off and 
buy Governor Mason a drink after all that speechmaking. 
Governor Mason seconded the motion. While the Governor 
was delivering another impromptu speech in Ten Eyck's bar 
about the cussedness of railroads, two teams of horses were 
procured and hitched to the disgraced locomotive. They 
couldn't budge it, and six teams had to be located and harnessed 
to it. The party rescued Mason and helped him aboard. The 
teams started. Presently one of the teams balked, and the 
State officials in the big car said that they must be a pair of 
Whigs. This somehow caused another wave of laughter and a 
suggestion that it called for another drink. 

The special train limped into Detroit about midnight. There 
was no one on hand to greet it. Perhaps it was just as well. 



MASON'S feeling of panic was a normal one, when he con 
templated the maze of interlocking tasks he was called upon 
to perform. His apprehension stemmed from the knowledge 
that he was over his head. Sometimes, men of true genius ap 
pear in the world, to whom is given a sort of intuitive under 
standing of all things. Mason had to learn everything by ex 
perience, or depend upon elemental precepts gleaned from the 
clumsy textbooks of the time. He had been proved right about 
the danger to the State from the Banking Act of 1837. If he 
had been given any support, he would have been proved equally 
right about his projected Bank of Michigan. Now he must 
prove he was right in new fields of frenzied finance, of rail 
road construction, canal and highway engineering. 

His only solution to the problem was to confine his thinking 
to the relation between the Legislature's enthusiastic planning 
and the State's estimated income. In the spring of 1838 it 
seemed to him that his desk was always piled high with glitter 
ing projects which somebody was lobbying through the Legis 
lature. Every little town and village had the 1838 equivalent 
of a Chamber of Commerce or a Boosters' Club, an unor 
ganized but noisy group of the chief citizens. During the wild 
cat-bank era they had been making fabulous plans for railroads, 
drainage systems, public buildings and parks. They thought all 
of this should be paid for by the State. Legislators were sup 
porting each other's pet projects, all aimed at more State 
funds. Outside of the optimistic village committees, the stage 
coach companies were the noisiest pressure group, forever de 
manding new roads, new bridges and better State maintenance. 

During the fall of 1837, Mason had worked out a plan for 



combining all the projects the State might conceivably be able 
to afford. In assigning priorities he had considered transporta 
tion first, and railroads the first step in the transportation 
phase. For heavy local freight, Mason didn't think any form 
of transport could beat a canal. These, therefore, had second 
place. Highways and highway improvement received third 
priority, not from any lack of need, but because with the open 
ing of other forms of transportation, the heavy traffic on the 
roads would be lightened and the expense of maintaining them 
would be less. 

This was the Mason "Internal Improvements" plan. Look 
ing at it objectively, he could see that it was gaining momentum 
too rapidly. For example, in railroad construction he had kept 
the original demand for five big trunk lines down to three. 
The Detroit and Pontiac would lead to the Northern Railroad, 
and be extended up to Saginaw Bay to tap all the new settle 
ments in the Bay region. The Detroit and St. Joseph, now 
the Michigan Central, was following the original line its pro 
moters laid out. Down along the Ohio border, the Commis 
sioners dreamed of combining four of five small projected 
village-to-village lines into another cross-State trunk line to be 
called the Michigan Southern. 

He succeeded in convincing the Board of Commissioners, 
empanelled by the Legislature, that his plan was good. On 
January 23, 1838, they reported to the Legislature that their 
advisory engineers had followed the Mason suggestions very 
carefully. Each of the three Commissioners appointed to super 
vise Internal Improvements had charge of construction in 
one of the three railroad systems. Levi S. Humphrey was the 
boss of the Southern; David C. McKinstry handled the Cen 
tral; and James B. Hunt was the State official in charge of the 
Northern line. Besides, each of these officials was responsible 
for supervising construction on the canal projects in his dis 
trict, and anything else which might be approved. He was the 
personification of State authority for the Internal Improve 
ments project. 

Each, in turn, hired engineers, bought surveying instru- 


ments and located construction crews. The Commissioner was 
his own contractor, and the administration of the project was 
almost a duplicate of the late WPA of our era. The parallel 
becomes more striking as the Internal Improvements plan 
unfolds. Some of the projects on the list had no immediate 
value and were frankly designed to provide local employment 
and relief for out-of-the-way communities hardest hit by the 
wildcat banks. Others were obviously political, being thinly 
disguised bribes by which the local legislator had bought re 
election. Conrad Ten Eyck, one of Mason's good friends, was 
U. S. marshal by Mason's appointment and also was slated to 
receive $13,000 for the railroad right-of-way across his farm. 
This was the chief motive behind the Whig bombardment of 
the plan. The Whigs, naturally, wanted all these spoils for 

Some projects Mason tried to rub off the list as being entirely 
visionary. He recommended only those which he personally 
would want to justify to the next generation which would have 
to pay for them. For the survivors on the list, Mason had an 
enthusiasm and a pride which was almost parental. Let people 
talk about him as they liked. But one hostile word against 
any of his pet projects would cause Mason to fly into a rage. 

Examining them in the musty archives, we find most of them 
unworkable. Michigan in 1838 had a total population of about 
175,000, distributed over an area as large as England, Scot 
land and Wales. Detroit, with 10,000 population, was the only 
city worth the name. Westward and southwestward, new 
"Cabinet Counties" were sprinkled with ambitious hamlets 
which were already fading from a promoter's dream to an in 
vestor's nightmare. Before the railroad came, little towns at 
five-mile intervals were economic and agricultural necessities. 
But the first railroad journey to Ypsilanti proved that trade 
would henceforth cluster around bigger towns, and many 
brand-new settlements were doomed to die after a life of less 
than a ddcade. Farms were only making a dent in the vast un 
settled wilderness that was still Michigan. The sale of five 
million dollars' worth of public lands in 1837 indicates that 


proportionately little of the State was as yet recovered from 
the forest. 

Across this frontier area, Mason proposed to build three 
parallel railroad systems. With their connecting north-and- 
south branches, they would give Michigan a greater railroad 
mileage than all the rest of the Middle Western United States 
combined. Serving these railroad systems, he wanted a feeder 
network of canals. The St. Mary's Falls Canal at the Soo was 
also on the list. Added to canals, Mason visualized improve 
ment of all the navigable rivers of the State, and development 
of their water power by dams with boat locks around them. 
The Board of Commissioners told him that the sale of water- 
power rights would more than pay for the expense. 

Adding up these projects already approved by the Legisla 
ture, Mason found that Internal Improvements would cost the 
State nine million dollars. From experience Mason knew that 
he would have to double that estimate before much construc 
tion could be completed. Eighteen, perhaps twenty, million 
dollars ! It was a sum which no one of that day could visualize. 
Accustomed as we have been during two world wars to juggling 
billions as if they were straw hats in a vaudeville act, it may 
be difficult for us to see that this was more than the entire 
national budget. 

The Legislature had finally authorized a five-million-dollar 
bond issue. This would get some of the work started, and per 
haps the State would grow up into the others during the next 
decade or so. While a glance at the list shows that Mason was 
thinking far in advance of his time, and preparing a transporta 
tion network for a State with a population of several millions, 
he did not think the list was exorbitant. But of course he had 
only engineers' estimates of what the work would cost, not 
auditors' statements of work finally completed. Timidly, like 
a man reaching for a doorknob in the dark, Mason groped for 
a handhold which would start the work. 

The Michigan Northern was Mason's lead-off item. It 
was a line beginning at Detroit and running northward to Lake 
St. Clair at the mouth of the Clinton River, and on up to Port 

MICHIGAN'S FIRST RAILROAD TRAIN, o //2<? Er/> #</ Kalamazoo Railroad, between 
Toledo and Adrian. Locomotive arrived 1837; first one west of Buffalo. This 1 car was 
called the ''Pleasure Car" and had sheepskin-covered seats for ladies on the upper level, 
bare benches for men below. Topheavy and impractical, it was abandoned in 1838. 

DETROIT IN 1837 north side of Jefferson Avenue at Griswold Street. From 

a sketch made in August, 1837 , by William A. Raymond for Blois Gazetteer of 
Michigan. // was used in 1883 by Silas Farmer in his "History of Detroit." The two 
churches on the left are on Woodward Avenue, a block east of Griswold. The newly- 
completed spire of /. Paul's Episcopal Church, where Mason worshipped as long as 
he lived in Detroit, is at the left. The steeple in the center is the First Presbyterian. 
The twin steeples of St. Ann's Catholic cathedral, on Bates Street, appear to the right. 


Huron. From that port on Lake Huron, the road was projected 
through almost uninhabited forest. Port Huron faced the town 
of Sarnia, Ontario, across a narrow channel. Sarnia, in turn, 
was the terminus of a cross-Canada road being built from 
Lake Ontario and the big cities of Toronto and Montreal. 
There is a vast volume of traffic across the big suspension 
bridge there now, but not in Mason's time. 

The Northern Railroad was to run from Port Huron, "as 
nearly as the interest of the State would permit," to the micro 
scopic villages of Lapeer, Flint, Owosso or Corunna, and on 
to Grand Rapids, on the Grand River, The depth of the river 
at that village gave rise to hopes of a future steamboat route 
to Chicago. There wasn't enough population that far north 
to support a mule-team freight line, but Mason said: "Good 
navigation exists for steamboats, and the road, when con 
structed, will receive a very large share of the constantly in 
creasing travel through this State from east to west." In his 
mind there was the possibility that the road would help to at 
tract settlers to its remote and little-known northern areas. 
It was expensive, but he was looking to the future. The time 
to begin was now. 

The Board of Commissioners' engineers estimated that they 
could hew this railroad through the gigantic hardwood forests 
of northern Michigan for $3,973 per mile. In Mason's office 
were completed figures for the Central Railroad's line from 
Detroit to Ypsilanti, along a natural plain and through a com 
paratively cleared and settled area. This line had the added 
advantage of a heavily travelled highway paralleling it, which 
made transport of supplies and crews easy. Yet it had cost 
over $10,000 per mile, even with the cheap wood-block sup 
ports and timber stringers. So Mason pooh-poohed that esti 
mate and did not take it seriously. The projected Northern 
Railroad ran a little over 201 miles, on paper. For the esti 
mated cost, he thought he could build it as far as Flint, a 
quarter of the total distance. 

The Central Railroad, of course, was the biggest item in 
the entire budget. Its line from Detroit to Ypsilanti was the 


most gratifying financial success that Mason could ask. Two 
trains a day in each direction were showing receipts of more 
than $300 a day. The thirty miles of track was bringing in 
$326 one day, $426 the next, $310 the following day, and for 
one week, ending July 18, 1838, it earned $2,957.52. It be 
came so popular that the "Governor Mason" car was adver 
tised as a tourist attraction, and farmers came many days' 
journey to ride in it. 

The graders were working through the graceful hills toward 
Ann Arbor, and ahead of them the surveyors were puzzling 
over the gravel drifts of Chelsea. Equipment contracts had 
been signed which would carry the road to Jackson, seventy- 
two miles from Detroit. Jackson was named as a division point, 
with many car-sorting tracks and a shop for the exchange of 
locomotives. It was felt that seventy-two miles was as far 
as a locomotive could go in a day without maintenance. Another 
such division point was projected at Kalamazoo, 112 miles 
from Detroit. That would carry the road to its terminus at 
New Buffalo. Arrangements were in progress for a fleet of 
steamboats to meet all trains, carrying passengers overnight 
to Chicago. 

This is the same route which the Michigan Central has fol 
lowed for a century or more. At Niles the line was rebuilt 
through New Buffalo to Michigan City and Chicago about 
1866, and the Michigan Central then put over its famous 
deal for the use of the Chicago water front. From Detroit to 
Niles the line follows, for scores of miles, the same old roadbed 
originally surveyed by Mason's engineers in 1837. They 
wouldn't recognize any part of it now. The railroad has been 
the biggest factor in the growth of interior Michigan; it was 
there first, and the towns grew up around it and strung along 
it like beads on a necklace. Towns which were by-passed by 
the original Michigan Central, even by as little as five miles, 
sickened and died. Those located on it grew amazingly. 

Today we can see the whole story of pioneer triumphs 
and tragedy by riding over the line from Detroit to Chicago. 
The super-luxury "Mercury" deigns to stop only at the im- 


portant points, and then just hesitates : Ann Arbor, Jackson, 
Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and Niles. The "Wolverine" adds 
stops at Ypsilanti, Albion, Marshall and Dowagiac. The morn 
ing mail train stops at more than a score of other towns which 
survived Grass Lake, Dexter, Chelsea, Wayne, Dearborn. 
All of them were founded before 1835, and were there on the 
Territorial Road, ready, when Mason pushed through his big 
railroad project. Names like these were Michigan's pride in 
Mason's day. They were the State's body; the railroad was the 

Mason's only worry about the Michigan Central was how to 
build it faster. A much greater worry was the Michigan 
Southern, last of the three parallel systems. It was purely 
political, an expensive club wherewith to deliver another blow 
to Governor Lucas of Ohio. The Southern began at Monroe 
and was supposed to end at New Buffalo, on Lake Michigan, 
in a junction with the Central. On the map it ran through a 
hundred and fifty miles of nothing much. There was no large 
volume of traffic for it to handle, because only the route from 
Monroe to Adrian was settled. From Adrian onward the map 
bore names like Coldwater, Branch, Centerville, Constantine, 
Mottville, Adamsville, Edwardsburg, Bertrand and New Buf 
falo. Most of these hamlets were the alleged location of wildcat 
banks, which shows how accessible they were. Some, notably 
Coldwater and Adrian, are lovely, jewel-like towns now. They 
were not as attractive in 1838, nor as big. The entire area from 
Monroe to New Buffalo along this route had a population of 
less than 4,000, but the railroad projected to serve them was 
189 miles long and at the absurd engineers' estimates would 
have cost $1,496,376. It included two transverse branches, one 
running north to connect with the other two roads, from Cold- 
water to a village in Ingham County which had recently been 
established. It proudly bore the name of Mason. 

The other was the Havre branch, from a remote depot on 
the old Adrian-Toledo line to the entirely imaginary town of 
Havre, which was to be built one mile north of the Ohio border 
on Lake Erie/This branch was purely wishful thinking. It was 


a hope that a chance might come to divert some of the steady 
flow of traffic from Toledo and ship it over this all-Michigan 
route to New Buffalo and thence to Chicago. Toledo was 
building a bigger railroad, directly to Chicago via South Bend, 
Indiana, and Michigan City. The jealous Michigan politicians 
retaliated by dreaming up this parallel railroad a few miles 
north of the Ohio line. The Commissioners themselves were 
hard-pressed to explain how a railroad built there could make 
money. One said : 

"One of the principal arguments is ... that unless our State 
is first in the field, the States of Ohio and Indiana will construct 
a railroad from Toledo to Michigan City and Chicago along 
our southern border and divert the travelling community from 
our thoroughfare, thus not only completely isolating us, but 
compelling a large portion of our citizens to find a market for 
their produce in those States. The Commissioners consider the 
argument a forceful one in favor of the most southern location 
as well as for the Southern Road itself." 

Mason regarded this proposal as economically ridiculous. 
Nevertheless, he was committed to it, and would support the 
Southern Road; he had his own reasons for wishing it success. 
As he looked at the map, he saw, with his clear blue eyes, that 
a new port like Havre, just north of Toledo, would indeed be 
capable of funnelling a large volume of traffic into the State. 
If it were built deep enough for the new Lake Erie steamboats, 
he could bring pressure to bear upon their captains to discharge 
some through freight there instead of at Toledo. It might 
someday earn its operating costs entirely by through traffic 
from Lake Erie to Chicago. There was no railroad line out 
of Buffalo, New York, as yet. All the immense flow of human 
bodies and farm implements and hardware and clothing for the 
whole new Northwest travelled across Lake Erie in boats. The 
volume of it was staggering, even when we see the figures in 
type in our own day. We try to visualize this never-ending 
stream of migration filling endless reaches of the unknown 
West, and the superlatives in the vision seem limited. 

Toledo's quick success was possible because it occupied 


the only good harbor at the eastern end of the lake, and also 
by virtue of the Military Road, one of the best highways in 
America. The road led from Toledo to Chicago. Toledo thus 
had the port facilities and the inland transport to dominate the 
situation. Smarting under the treatment given him by Ohio 
in 1835, Mason heartily wished he could create another Toledo 
on soil which was forever Michigan's, and build a railroad 
to dwarf theirs. 

He no doubt recognized this childish impulse as economically 
unsound, and knew it was being pushed at him by the same 
people who had promoted the wildcat banks. Just the same, 
he determined to do what he could. 

As if these three railroad systems weren't enough, the Com 
missioners' engineers rabidly advocated a trans-State canal 
which would connect two of Michigan's biggest rivers and from 
them took its name the Clinton and Kalamazoo. This canal, 
278 miles long, was shown on a map as leading out of Lake 
St. Clair above Detroit at the town of Mt. Clemens. It followed 
the two rivers across the State to the mouth of the Kalamazoo 
River at Saugatuck, a village far up the lake shore from New 
Buffalo. Preliminary estimates of the construction of this 
canal began at $16,000 a mile, and were shortly revised upward 
to an average of $18,000. Even that figure proved embarrass 
ingly low when construction began. 

Justification for the canal is easier for us to grasp than for 
the Southern Railroad. In that era of mud roads and no known 
system of paving an inter-city highway, canal transport was so 
much cheaper than freighting by teams on the bad roads that 
canals throughout the country were enjoying their heyday. 
The route chosen by the engineers was prepared by nature. 
Two rivers which tapped most of the settled area of the State, 
together nearly spanned the width of the peninsula. One has 
only to look in old newspapers and guides like Blois' to be 
surprised at the volume of heavy freight which went far into 
Michigan forests by being poled up swift-rushing streams in 
flatboats. Rivers were practically the only way to get into the 
interior of Michigan from the western shore. As early as 1831 


there had been steamboats on Lake Michigan, and most of 
them had penetrated many miles into these rivers. Keelboats, 
flatboats, "arks" made of tents on rafts, and even little stern- 
wheel steamers kept the rivers filled with busy traffic. 

Both the Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers were choked with 
this upstream freight-hauling from Lake Michigan inland as 
far as fifty miles. This was all done without benefit of locks or 
other aids to navigation, even at rapids and falls where the 
whole craft had to be lugged painfully over a portage. It was 
so much cheaper and easier than hauling by road that the 
volume of such traffic was growing steadily. By providing a two- 
way canal fifty feet wide between towpaths, the Commissioners 
could see that the existing traffic would eventually repay the 
construction cost. 

In 1838, canals and railroads went together in the trans 
portation picture just as railroads and airlines supplement each 
other now. The canal was then fulfilling the function of a rail 
road of the present day, hauling heavy freight and carrying 
the bulk of the transportation burden, with the delicate little 
railroads, developing their dizzy fifteen miles per hour, cater 
ing to the passenger who now buys an airline ticket. In 1838, 
both systems were being developed by the State, and were 
designed to be supplementary, not competitive. Within the next 
fifteen years the development of railroad engineering went 
ahead so rapidly that it doomed all canals. But Mason couldn't 
foresee that, any more than his father, John T., had foreseen 
the railroad's effect on industry in Kentucky twenty years pre 

This whole program was Mason's baby from the moment 
of conception. He became responsible for it when he declared 
in 1838 that the State ought to become interested as a stock 
holder in the attempts of private companies to construct some 
of these railroads. As always when a State attempts to finance 
any industrial or business venture, it shortly took over every 
thing, and Internal Improvements became a political as well 
as a financial and engineering problem. Mason found himself 


with a veritable tiger cat by the tail which was as dangerous 
and as tricky as the wildcat banks had been. 

He began to finance Internal Improvements without expert 
aid. At that moment he passed the peak of his career, and 
took the first step which led him to the toboggan of oblivion. 

Finance meant New York. New York meant Julia Phelps, and 
Mason was in a hurry to leave Detroit and rush to her side. 
Now that the Commissioners had reported, Mason knew what 
he was expected to finance. Having arrived that far, he knew 
he would first be compelled to complete the five-million-dollar 
loan and make no more excuses for not having it ready. Once 
more the implausible fact that he was only twenty-six years 
old asserts itself and greatly influences Mason's career. He 
was eager to get to New York and see Julia. His mind was on 
Julia when it should have been concentrated fiercely upon the 
task before him. Because of Julia, he was granting only casual 
attention to a situation which arose so rapidly that he was 
confronted suddenly with another crisis armed rebellion. 
Mason was embarrassed to admit that he did not know how it 
had happened. 

The armed rebellion was the Patriot War in Canada, now 
spilling over into Michigan. Since most of the fighting took 
place along the Detroit River, Mason was regarded by both 
factions as the leader in Michigan and both appealed to him 
against their opponents. In vain he wrote to the Canadian 
authorities that in the United States only the Federal govern 
ment had the power to engage in war, to declare war or to 
define what constituted war. His words were unheeded. He was 
accused by each side of aiding and abetting the other. The un 
fortunate fact that both factions were using the United States 
as safe ground wherein to raise volunteers and procure arms 
put Mason squarely in the middle. 

The Patriot War of 1837-38 was in progress at the same 


time as the wildcat bank crisis. It was a popular revolution 
against the privileged upper classes, inspired by much the same 
brand of treatment the British gave our own colonists prior 
to 1776. In our own country, the Tories were rich British loyal 
ists who owned most of the property and controlled most of the 
business. Like any solidly entrenched, influential class, they 
hotly resisted any change in the colonial administration, even 
during the war itself in many cases. Thousands of these Tories 
had sought sanctuary in Canada during, and immediately fol 
lowing, the American Revolution. 

There, stripped of their U. S. possessions, they constituted 
a clamoring section of the Canadian population, presenting 
huge bills for redress to the British crown. They were, in gen 
eral, well-educated and bore famous names which seemed to 
constitute some sort of claim upon Parliament. They, and 
their children, received huge grants of land. They quickly 
assumed many of the most important civil and governmental 
posts in Canada. Historians say that they attempted to run 
Canada as a sort of closed corporation, in which the less for 
tunate citizenry were regarded by their newly arrived rulers 
as a field for exploitation. 

No doubt there was another side the Tories' side. But 
it has been lost sight of in the mass of grievances piled up 
against the Tories during the Patriot War. The prime causes 
of the war must be explained, however, because it became 
another problem confronting Mason at the busiest stage of 
his life. We see it, as Mason saw it, as a protest against 

After Quebec became a British province in 1763, it was 
found to be too big to administer as a unit. In 1791, therefore, 
at the height of the Tory influx from the United States, it was 
divided into two provinces called Upper and Lower Canada. 
The King promised to appoint a Governor for each, and a* 
legislative council. The assembly in each province was to be 
elected by the people. The seeds of the Patriot War were 
sown when the Tories kept the terms of this grant from the 


people and monopolized all of these new posts, both appointive 
and elected. 

Canadians called this ring the "Family Compact." It in 
cluded not only the Tories as a class, but most of the clergy 
and professional men who together were bent on maintaining 
a severe class structure, as in England. The many thousands 
of new settlers in Canada objected violently to being treated 
as peasants. Their objections merely caused the class distinc 
tions to become tighter. The "Family Compact" entrenched 
itself more securely in power year by year. The settlers were 
actually being moved off their farm land throughout both 
provinces because some privileged "Family Compact" member 
had obtained a grant to it. Each member of the council re 
ceived 5,000 acres of land for himself and 1,200 more for 
each of his children. The Established Church was given almost 
as much land as the whole of England. Millions of acres of 
the best land and river frontage went to personal and social 
favorites of the Governors. The Canada Land Company was 
organized as an exploitation project, something like the 
flourishing Hudson's Bay Company, and for thirty years it 
seized every acre of land which might have future value. The 
rest of Canada's citizens took the leavings. 

Controlling both council and assembly in each province, 
the "Family Compact" had been tightening its hold on Canada 
ever since 1800. At the close of the War of 1812, Canadian 
citizens applied at United States border gates for admission, 
claiming that Canada was too British for admirers of democ 
racy to live in. The United States experiment in popular gov 
ernment had succeeded so well by 1837 that sentiment in 
Canada for a similar government could no longer be denied. 

It was foreseen that any man who so far forgot himself as 
to challenge his betters in the assemblies over this assumption 
of privilege would become Canada's No. i scapegoat. In 1 824 
such a man appeared: William Lyon Mackenzie, editor of the 
Colonial Advocate of Toronto. He was elected to the assembly 
from the County of York, and straightway began agitating 


for reform. He was thrown out five times for various parlia 
mentary reasons, and his constituency promptly re-elected him, 
unanimously, cheering his name in the streets. He had a parallel 
in the other assembly in Lower Canada Louis Papineau, 
around whom all the French-Canadians rallied. Papineau be 
came speaker of the assembly, went to London to implore the 
cabinet to do something about Canada's untenable situation, 
but failed. 

Mackenzie was regarded by the aroused people of Canada 
as their George Washington, who would lead them to complete 
independence from Britain. At first, Mackenzie was horrified 
at the idea of an open break, but history says that later, about 
1837, he began to entertain the idea of armed resistance and 
a complete overthrow of British authority. It was the only 
way experience had shown him to dislodge the "Family 'Com 
pact' 5 class from the hard-pressed Canadian farmers of both 
French and British extraction. He had tried every peaceable 
way, and had been thoroughly squelched by the privilege 
holders. War was the only way he knew to get the bulk of 
Canada's people out from under their domination. 

The British Army forces in Canada at the time were weak 
and thinly scattered. Sentiment in the United States was becom 
ing aroused over Mackenzie's cause. People didn't have to be 
very old, in 1837, to remember the burnings, the Indian massa 
cres and the contemptuous destruction of American homes by 
the British during the War of 1812. Mackenzie appeared as a 
liberator, fighting for the same cause and rallying behind him 
the same kind of people, against the same enemy, as had Wash 

Ever since the days of the Federalists, the trend of American 
administration had been toward liberalizing the conduct of 
government to keep the pledge made by the Founding Fathers 
in 1776. Top achievement of the liberalizers had been the wild 
cat bank; but people were ashamed, and tried to forget that. 
They enjoyed a greater measure of personal and governmental 
liberty than any people in the world at that time. Naturally 


they were deeply aroused at Canada's plight, and tried in many 
ways to help. VJ 

The history of the Patriot War is a Canadian story, but 
Mason was inevitably drawn into it because of the partisanship 
shown by the aroused liberty-loving people on his side of the 
border. The British secret service sent a confidential report to 
President Van Buren which accused Mason of openly aiding 
and abetting the Patriots. This was accompanied by a protest 
from the British Ambassador demanding to know what Van 
Buren was going to do about it, and asking pointedly whether 
the national administration was going to back him in fostering 
open revolt in Canada. Of course Van Buren denied the charge, 
but he sent Mason a copy of the British document, with a polite 
request for an explanation. 

Mason had been sending periodic reports of the clashes 
across the river to the State Department, but apparently they 
had been buried in the files. In his letter to the President, he 
took opportunity to howl for help in case the war should break 
out of the Canadian border and spread to Michigan soil. He 
said he had only the ornamental Brady Guards, an untrained 
militia and a handful of regulars at old Fort Wayne under the 
command of white-whiskered General Hugh Brady himself. 
The Patriot War, he said, was flaming all over Canada from 
Montreal to Mackinac Straits. The sentiment of the people was 
rabidly pro-Patriot, and he was making every effort to be 
neutral in thought and deed. 

But there had been one outbreak after another while he 
was in the throes of the banking crisis, most of them centering 
around attempts by the Patriots themselves to steal caches of 
muskets out of Michigan arsenals at Detroit and Dearborn- 
ville. Other Patriots had invaded Michigan from Windsor, 
across the river, and were inflaming sentiment by stump 
speeches in an effort to obtain volunteers. Some of these inci 
dents had involved the seizure by bands of "Patriots" of 
American boats on the Detroit River. One of Mason's protests 
had drawn a contemptuous rejoinder from the British Army 


colonel in command at Maiden, now called Amherstburg. The 
colonel had written Mason that while he had a high regard for 
General Brady personally, he had none whatever for the 
authority of the United States. If the "damned vagabonds" 
from the United States who were helping the Patriots main 
tain a perilous foothold on Fighting Island in the Detroit 
River weren't out of there before daylight the next morning, 
the colonel swore he would clean them out with grape and 
canister from his batteries. If they retreated to the United 
States, he said he would pursue them there "and kill them 
wherever they could be f ound". 

At this, General Brady's mustaches bristled with anger. 
Mason lost no time in making a simultaneous appeal to the 
War Department for great forces of troops, and another to the 
Secretary of State for diplomatic help in convincing the Ca 
nadian authorities that he was not involving the United States 
in the war. 

He went out into the gray wind of a February dawn in 1838 
to see what General Brady proposed to do about this challenge 
from the Canadian colonel. Brady had posted a line of guards 
on the ice down the middle of the river. He had set out a line 
of flags, a hundred feet apart, to mark the exact line of the 
boundary. Then he mustered all his men, including the Guards. 

"Men," he roared, "you see before you clearly marked the 
boundary between the United States and Canada. See those 
flags! If a British soldier or officer bearing arms crosses inside 
our lines, I charge you to beat them back; to capture and kill 
them if necessary to protect our sovereignty. My orders to you 
are as heretofore : to arrest and prevent all fighting men from 
getting over to Fighting Island, and to capture and turn over 
to the United States marshal all men who shall retreat from 
Fighting Island to our shore. Now get out there and take 
your posts 1" 

The men, thinking it was a lark, cheered and ran to their 
positions. By the first light of dawn, the British regular Army 
lookouts spotted a body of men trying to skid a stolen cannon 
from the Michigan shore to the island across the ice. It was 


on a raft of logs, being pulled by hand. Immediately the British 
troops opened fire, pouring volley after volley at the cannon 
party. From Fighting Island came a rattle of musketry and the 
bang of a few light field pieces. The party stopped, loaded the 
cannon and fired. The recoil blew the cannon backward almost 
to the Michigan shore. But the men ran after it and began 
dragging it forward once more. 

A line of gold-braided and epauletted British regulars came 
out of its revetments and started toward Fighting Island, 
muskets and bayonets ready. Brady's line held firm. Not a man 
moved, except to bring his piece to his shoulder and take a 
fine sight. But the Patriots scampered out of the blackness of 
the undergrowth on Fighting Island and ran for the Michigan 
shore. There, Brady had a second line of infantry which caught 
them one by one as they came, disarmed them and turned them 
over to the Marshal, Conrad Ten Eyck. The redcoats, seeing 
this, advanced right up to the line of flags in marching order, 
saluted, about-faced and marched back. 

Mason breathed a sigh of relief. General Brady slipped and 
skidded his precarious way to the island across the ice, where 
he found five Patriots wounded. Ordering them to be taken 
to the Detroit hospital, he joined Mason for breakfast and 
commented only that he'd be damned if he'd take a chance 
like that again. If he had to defend a border, "why, then, 
dammit, doesn't the War Department send me a couple of regi 
ments?" Mason told him that a request was on the way, but 
in the meantime if the militia would help, Brady might feel 
free to requisition as much of it as he could use. The grizzled 
old man thought that would help. Accordingly, Mason mobil 
ized the militia under an executive order dated February 12, 
1838, and General Brady immediately requisitioned six com 

Swiftly the tide of battle rose, and just as swiftly it seemed 
to develop its bitterest conflicts on the shores of the Detroit 
River. Some Canadian Patriot arms-raisers had left Buffalo, 
and came to Detroit through the United States along the 
southern shore of Lake Erie. By the time they were discovered, 


the diplomats at Washington were so upset that President Van 
Buren found it necessary to issue a proclamation declaring the 
neutrality of the United States in the conflict. Mason wrote him 
February nth: 

"I regret to inform you that contrary to my most confident 
expectations this frontier is again thrown into a state of con 
fusion by the appearance of a force recently disbanded and dis 
persed from Navy Island (another island in the Detroit 
River). I have no idea that this assemblage of persons can 
make an effective impression on the Canadian shore, but the 
fact of their appearance is calculated to keep this side of the 
line in a continued ferment, and the opposite shore in a constant 
state of alarm and apprehension. 5 ' 

He continued with a detailed description of the open cam 
paigning for volunteers going on in Michigan towns. He 
wanted Federal authority to seize any suspicious-looking boxes 
or crates which might contain arms being smuggled into Can 
ada. A day or so previously, he had been hoodwinked bv a band 
of Patriots in Detroit itself. They had stolen twelve boxes of 
United States Army muskets which were being transferred 
from the arsenal at Dearbornville to the city jail at Detroit for 
the use of the militia. Brady's intelligence officer located them 
hidden in a loft over a "ball-alley", and no harm was done; 
but while the military was patting itself on the back for finding 
the muskets, the Patriots stole a hundred and one barrels of 
flour which were on the steamer General Brady at a Detroit 

Throughout Michigan the Patriots were raising a squad here 
and a company there. Most of these volunteers were Canadian- 
born or had families in Canada, but Mason issued a proclama 
tion in which he denounced them and said that by participating 
in an armed rebellion they forfeited all claims to United States 
protection. They were meeting everywhere, in out-of-the-way 
cabins which were known to the Patriot sympathizers in the 
United States as "hunting lodges". Volunteers were passed 
from one point to another by these people until they could 
be mustered into a company on the Michigan side, then hurried 


across the river into the fighting area. The Hunting Lodges 
Society was found to include a good many prominent Ameri 
cans, and was used as window-dressing by the Canadian pro 
moters to obtain a larger number of ordinary volunteers. The 
President's investigation into the society disclosed that it was 
operating these "lodges" throughout Ohio and New York 
State, and as far south as Kentucky. Michigan, however, led 
the list. Most of them were in and around Detroit; some were 
as far north as Port Huron where the narrow crossing to 
Sarnia was the favorite means of exit. 

General Winfield Scott, from Washington, sent three com 
panies of infantry under the command of Colonel Worth. 
This did not satisfy old Brady by any means. Scott replied to 
his urgent message by banging his old mahogany desk, uttering 
a few heartfelt oaths and painfully lifting his 230 pounds out 
of his comfortable chair. He picked up his plumed and gold- 
encrusted headgear and announced that he was going to have 
to keep America out of war personally. He departed forthwith 
for Detroit. In his entourage rode his aide, a young lieutenant 
named Robert Anderson. In 1861 it was this same man, then 
Major Anderson, who had the misfortune to be in command 
of Fort Sumter when it was fired upon and thus touched off 
the Civil War. In February, 1838, he was a nervous, timid 
sort of person who was continually fussed because of the pres 
ence in the party of a woman, Miss Emily Mason of Detroit. 
She had been leisurely jaunting around the country after a 
pleasant winter in New Orleans, and had gone to Washington 
just in time to hitchhike to Detroit as the General's guest. 

She wrote : ". . . It was a long and bitterly cold journey by 
coach through Pennsylvania and Ohio. At this time Lieutenant 
Anderson was young and shy, and when ordered by the general 
to help me over the Maumee River, which we were crossing 
on the ice, he extended to me the tips of his fingers, much to the 
general's indignation, who then took me in hand and at the 
risk of drowning us both, for the ice cracked at every step 
of his enormous person." 

At any rate, General Scott and Emily Mason arrived in 


frozen Detroit on February 26th, and the two of them soon 
had the situation well in hand. Emily was eager to catch up on 
family gossip and to hear all about the angelic Julia Phelps, 
and to rush to the honeymoon cottage blissfully occupied by 
the Rowlands. General Scott listened to Brady's estimate of 
the situation, and suggested that the United States Army 
make itself as inconspicuous as possible. He knew that tension 
in Washington over the crisis was greater than at Detroit, 
where only the common people were calling each other names 
across the border. He assured General Brady that war with 
England was a distinct possibility, that the British embassy 
had taken a decidedly dim view of the assistance to the Patriot 
cause painfully apparent throughout Michigan. 

Even as he spoke, peaceful Americans who were trying to be 
neutral were clapped into Canadian jails. Mason's protests 
were futile. Movements of troops at Windsor, Sandwich and 
Amherstburg were studied by United States Army officers 
through telescopes. They reported that it certainly looked as 
if the British were preparing an invasion of Michigan across 
the ice. More mass meetings were held in Detroit, with all sec 
tions of the city's population genuinely scared. In haste, Mason 
again wrote to the President in alarm over the growing tense 
ness, urging that Army supplies be sent to General Scott. The 
ponderous general was the coolest figure in the situation. He 
did not seem alarmed in the least, and tut-tutted Mason's de 
mand for formidable preparations for war. His advice was to 
lie low. 

Apparently, Scott's summary of the situation was correct. 
He stayed on at Detroit to watch things personally, but the 
combat zone in the war presently veered off toward Niagara 
and Michigan obtained a lull in the excitement. As spring melted 
the ice and brought on its receding floods the first resplendent 
Lake Erie steamboats of the 1838 season, Mason's anxiety 
over Julia and the tricky bankers of New York could be con 
trolled no longer. It was time for him to go. 

A governor, he discovered, cannot go to New York when 
ever he likes. The Legislature had to be consulted, and reasons 


given for his absence. He said he was going to try to com 
plete the five-million-dollar loan, and that he should go at 
once. Ed Mundy sided with the Legislature; there was too 
much to do. Mason's desk was littered with invitations from 
towns which wanted him to speak; others had organized open 
ing ceremonies for the new projects and needed him to officiate. 
Besides, argued Ed, the Legislature was about to adjourn and 
Mason must make some kind of statement about the chances 
for floating a loan before he left. 

Hurriedly Mason swept through his office routine and 
without too much meditation drafted a message to the Legis 
lature about a loan. He said that the three-commissioner sys 
tem had worked very well, to everyone's satisfaction, in both 
the Banking Department and the Internal Improvements 
project. He therefore moved that a board of three Commis 
sioners be appointed to take over the entire responsibility for 
the five-million-dollar loan. He said he would work with it, 
and advise it, and would assist the members to float the actual 
loan in New York. But he wanted to be relieved of the re 
sponsibility for handling the money, and accounting for it. 

"I am constrained by a sense of public duty," he wrote, "to 
call the attention of the Legislature to the importance of provid 
ing some proper agency for the management of State loans 
already authorized or hereafter to be authorized. At present 
the exclusive and unrestricted negotiation and management of 
loans, as well as the sale of all exchange derived from that 
source, is left to the discretion of the executive. . . . This is 
wrong in principle. It gives to one individual control of millions 
of the public money for which there is no corresponding check 
or responsibility. It will readily occur to you that the public 
interests demand that this important branch of our State 
policy, the management of the five-million-dollar loan, should 
receive the undivided attention of a distinct department or 
ganized for that purpose. It is impossible for the executive 
to bestow that attention to the subject which its importance de 
mands. . . . I earnestly recommend the creation of a Board 
of Loan Commissioners " 


The vote on Mason's recommendation started an oratorical 
free-for-all in the Legislature ; the Whigs shouted that he was 
dodging responsibility, and the Democrats howled for some 
help for a badly overworked man. The argument grew so noisy 
that both sides forgot what they were arguing about and drifted 
into insults and invective. They did not pass the resolution. In 
consequence, Mason had to shoulder the entire responsibility 
for floating the bond issue, collecting the money from it and 
delivering it intact to the State Treasurer. 

If he had enjoyed unlimited authority, such a burden of re 
sponsibility would have been accepted as a normal burden. 
But it became evident that the Legislature was saddling him 
with all the administrative and executive work he could stand ; 
the Democrats because no one else could do it half so well, 
and the Whigs because they hoped he would stub his toe and 
come a cropper which would discredit him in the eyes of his 

Mason was quiet and strangely repressed. He appeared at 
Monroe in April as the guest of honor at a banquet whereby 
the city expressed its gratitude for his part in saving the 
Southern Railroad. He went to Mt. Clemens, took off his silk- 
lined coat, rolled up his lace-cuff sleeves and manfully dug 
the first spadeful of earth for the Clinton and Kalamazoo 
Canal. Immediately afterward, baggage packed and letters to 
his associates in New York already mailed, Mason booked a 
berth and left for New York. 


He stayed in New York during all of May and part of June, 
1838. The deal, which he had intimated was going smoothly 
the preceding fall, was not going smoothly at all. In his heart 
Mason knew it, and realized that he was not the man to try 
to win concessions from New York financiers. They tied him 
up like a Christmas turkey ready for the oven. He was not 
the only state official in New York trying to float bond issues 
for the same kind of projects. It was a bankers' market They 


did not like state issues anyway, and their incessant stipulations 
and conditions almost drove Mason wild. 

He was living at the original Astor House, far downtown, 
only a brief walk from the Washington Square district where 
dwelt Julia Phelps. Every day he was victimized and hood 
winked by the bankers ; evening brought solace at Julia's. 
He had come alone and for the first two weeks of his visit he 
thought he was alone. Then he became conscious of someone 
watching him. He said clearly in his report, later, that he felt 
he was "spied upon". Try as he would, he could not identify 

Every evening Julia sat demurely in her parlor. She had 
just turned twenty. She was beautiful. As she sat on the horse 
hair sofa, her wide skirts spread in rippling satin waves over 
most of its length and her two prim little slipper toes peeping 
side by side from beneath the hem, Mason contemplated her 
as he would have the Mona Lisa. There was something in 
scrutable about her; mysterious, challenging. She was dark, 
and her brown hair flowed away from a central part to cascade 
down either side of her high forehead, acting as a backdrop 
for a small, delicate, heart-shaped face and two of the biggest 
and most soulful eyes in this world. She was small and dainty, 
as fragile as a doll. Her tightly laced waist seemed so small 
that Mason thought he could touch his finger tips around it, 
and the idea seemed to have possibilities. 

Julia was a figure in New York society, and had enjoyed 
easy contact with the great personalities of the city since child 
hood. Her father was one of those millionaires who still op 
erated his original business and ostensibly invested money as a 
sideline. His leather and hides business was unimportant now, 
although very lucrative. He was doing a private banking busi 
ness ; joining pools with other wealthy men to underwrite bond 
issues and speculate on anything that looked attractive. This 
interesting occupation brought to the Phelps home frequent 
guests as wealthy as himself. They, and their sons, had been 
courting the fair Julia for some time. 

Mason, while obviously not wealthy, fascinated Julia. He 


was a hero right out of a book; a dashing, handsome, adven 
turous character with the excitement of a frontier life and the 
charm of an old Virginia family. In his courtship he played 
strictly in character. He swept her off her feet. He over 
whelmed her. He made up his mind to marry her as soon as 
he saw her, and told her so. This occurred in November, 1837, 
and he had to return to Detroit immediately. There was no 
time for the niceties of convention then. Throughout the winter 
he wrote to Julia constantly. He had plenty of time to consider 
the matter carefully, and so did she. He had time to analyze 
it with the calm detachment which matrimony requires, ex 
cept when one's beloved is in the same room, posed primly on 
a horsehair sofa, gazing up out of a pair of round, question 
ing eyes. . . . 

He must have asked her to marry him the moment he came 
into her house, that first evening in April, 1838. She cast down 
her eyes and nodded her head. We know she did, because 
Mason jubilantly wrote friends in Detroit all about it Soon, 
anyone in Detroit who could read a newspaper knew about it. 
There were little liners to the effect that . . . "our handsome 
Governor is about to become a benedict", and speculating on 
how Julia would like Detroit. The couple had probably not 
even considered subjects like that, as yet. Julia said she would 
have to have time; she would not be rushed off in any whirl 
wind elopement or anything so callous. Papa's position decreed 
that she must be a bride, with a church wedding, and a re 
ception at the Astor House afterward. -"In the fall," she said. 

Deliriously happy, Mason now found that he had plenty of 
energy to attack the problem of the five-million-dollar loan. 
Nothing could stop him. He went about New York in the coma 
which all lovers suffer from when they realize that they are 
now committed to matrimony and already approaching the 
golden day. It was a most unfortunate frame of mind for a 
man making the rounds of New York brokers trying to float 
a loan. He had difficulty in focussing his mind on what they 
were saying. He thought the credit of a state was synonymous 
with that of the Federal government itself. He fancied all he 


had to do was name the amount he wanted, and point out 
where they were to sign. 

After his first week of tramping from broker to broker, 
the loan was still unplaced and no one would give him any 
assurances that they would handle it. He came back to earth 
with a thump. This unpleasant incident occurred in the office 
of John Delafield, an independent broker who had been 
handling some banking business for Michigan in New York 
previously. It had been Delafield who had promised Mason 
the preceding fall that if a slight change were made in the law 
authorizing the loan, he and his partners would handle it. 
Mason, his mind on Julia, had heard only the last part of 
the sentence. He had nodded and said it would be attended 
to, and had returned home to announce that the loan was all 
but completed. 

It now appeared, to Mason's horror, that Delafield had lost 
interest in it and had decided to withdraw. He had been corre 
sponding with capitalists in Europe in an effort to organize 
a syndicate which would handle the loan and bond issue. But 
no part of the loan had been placed, even after Michigan had 
changed the Act so that interest and principal were made pay 
able in Europe as well as in New York. Now, Delafield de 
manded that the law be changed again, to raise the interest 
rate from five and a half to six percent. Even then he didn't 
know what could be done about it. 

This squelched Mason. A one-half percent rise in the interest 
rate would change the carrying charges in Michigan by a very 
large sum. But Delafield said that all other states and mu 
nicipalities were offering six percent and having hard sledding 
to raise money at that high rate. Mason wrote hurriedly to 
Ed Mundy; the Legislature was notified of the crisis and 
without debate amended the Act to authorize six percent. It 
further declared that both interest and principal might be 
payable anywhere in the world, at the existing rate of $4.44 to 
the pound sterling. Mason received news of this cooperative 
gesture while he was still in New York, and at once hurried 
back to Mr. Delafield's office. 


Apparently satisfied, the broker said he would turn it over 
to his associate, James King, who was about to leave for 
Europe on other matters. Mr. King was a partner in the big 
banking house of Prime, Ward and King, which made it sound 
very impressive to Mason. He said he would advance Michigan 
$150,000 as a gamble against the success of Mr* King's ven 
ture. But a day or so later he said he had changed his mind 
and wanted to withdraw entirely. He claimed that the Michi 
gan Legislature had no business fixing the relation of the dollar 
to the pound sterling at $444; by the time the principal be 
came due it might be higher or lower, and no banker in Europe 
would want to be tied down to such a stipulation. 

With a heavy heart and dragging feet, Mason shut the door 
of Delafield's office behind him. He saw a vision of himself, 
the Governor of Michigan, on a soapbox in Battery Park ped 
dling bonds to passers-by. He didn't know any other way of 
selling them. In despair he began making the rounds again, 
office to office. Somebody put him in touch with a Mr. Edward 
R. Biddle of Philadelphia. Mr. Biddle, a former director of 
the United States Bank and immensely wealthy, came to New 
York to see him. After hearing Mason's story, he said it might 
be arranged. He would take the whole load from around 
Mason's neck for a commission of $80,000. It seemed to Mason 
that this time the deal would go through. But before he could 
consult the Legislature to learn whether it would authorize 
such a commission, Mr. Biddle notified him that he could not 
go on with it. 

In the meantime, work in Michigan stopped. In Ann Arbor, 
the construction crews on the Michigan Central were stricken 
with cholera and the job was halted. They were all sick and 
had not been paid for two months. In Monroe, surveys on the 
Southern Railroad were abandoned entirely, because no funds 
remained in the Treasury to go on with it/Village merchants 
were sending delegations to Detroit, demanding from the 
Legislature some word of a date when the paralyzed banks 
would reopen. Money from the sale of those boiids became 


so vital that Mason worked like a madman. But Mr. Biddle, 
his last hope, had definitely turned him down. 

Eventually, in Mason's darkest hour, Mr. Biddle had an 
idea. He said he was on a number of boards, and so forth, 
and among other titles he was president of the Morris Canal 
and Banking Company, the firm which built the mountain- 
climbing canal which wound through the New Jersey hills. 
The canal was a very profitable one, and it operated a bank 
in connection with its activities. Perhaps this bank could help 
Mason out of his dilemma. 

Like a man reprieved from the gallows, Mason marched 
into the meeting of the directors of the Morris Canal and 
Banking Company. With Mr. Biddle on the board sat Wash 
ington Irving. Mason's spirits rose. The assemblage glittered 
with names synonymous with great wealth. Their company, 
too, was an industrial octopus of 1838. It owned warehouses, 
mills, docks, fleets of ships, farms, mines and Newark property. 
Their stock had been selling at fifty percent premium until the 
Panic of 1837, but was still quoted above par. They had money 
millions of dollars. They had underwritten the same kind 
of bond issue for Indiana, and were doing very well with it. 

To these men Mason made one of the most successful 
speeches of his career. They agreed to take the loan, and told 
Mason to forget about Prime, Ward and King. Negotiations 
were swift and pleasant. Mason was in a daze. Under date of 
June I, 1838, a contract was prepared between the Morris 
Canal and Banking Company, hereinafter called Party of the 
First Part, and the State of Michigan, Stevens T. Mason, 
Governor, etc., etc., which Mason unfortunately didn't read, 
didn't submit to his Attorney General, and signed where he 
was told for fear this deal, too, would collapse. 

"That the Company is to become the agent of the State for 
the sale of the whole issue . . . principal and interest payable in 
New York, to which city the Company is to guarantee to safe 
delivery of funds secured through the sale of bonds or else 
where. Paragraph 8. The Company guarantees to the State 


that It shall receive the par value of the aggregate amount of 
bonds sold, that is, if in the sale of said bonds the Company 
is obliged to dispose of them at less than stated par value, the 
Company is obliged to reimburse the State for the difference 
between received and par value. Paragraph 9. The Sum of 
$1,300,000 in bonds of the State of Michigan is to be delivered 
to the Company upon execution of this contract ; the Company 
advancing to the State the sum of $250,000 in cash at the 
same time. The sum of $1,050,000 is to be credited to the State, 
to be drawn upon demand by its duly authorized Governor 
or Treasurer. The remainder of the amount is to be paid in 
quarterly installments, beginning with the first day of July, 
1839, and continuing until the entire amount is paid," 

Mason almost whooped with joy when he saw that the con 
tract would guarantee that the State received par for every 
bond. The installments would be paid to the State on time 
whether the Company sold them or not, thus guaranteeing 
steady employment in Michigan on the Internal Improvements 
project. Further, the Company retained the right to buy up 
the remainder of the issue at any time and take delivery of 
all the bonds, upon written notice of thirty days to the Gov 

"In the event of sales at more than par value, the contract 
ing parties are to divide equally all premiums up to and includ 
ing five percent. For the execution of the contract, the Com 
pany is to receive a commission of two and a half percent on 
the proceed of sales, which is to be in lieu of all other ex 
penses " 

Yes, cried Mason. Yes! Yes! All he wanted to know was 
where to sign. He thought he had his good friend Washington 
Irving to thank for this bit of corporate generosity, but he 
didn't stop to inquire. The money situation in Michigan was 
such that he must get home at once, with all haste. He wanted 
to leave by June 8th, and take the first payment on the bonds 
with him. Accordingly the deal was hurried up a bit so that he 
could take with him about $100,000 in cash, which turned out 
to be bank notes issued by the Morris Canal and Banking Com- 


pany. The contract was amended to provide for an immediate 
payment of $250,000, due August i, 1838, and $100,000 
each month thereafter. Mason signed this new contract with one 
eye on the cashier's cage, where a gentleman was busily count 
ing out crisp new $100 notes. He signed for a first payment of 
$i 10,397.70, which was made up at the Company's New York 
bank, and delivered to him in a package containing a pile of 
carefully marked stacks of bank notes. 

When Mason returned to the Astor House he found await 
ing him in the lobby a Detroit resident named Theodore 
Romeyn, a lawyer. Mason knew him; he knew Romeyn had 
been the promoter and chief scalawag of several of the most 
vicious wildcat banks in the State. A Whig, a furtive charac 
ter with a darting glance that never looked into anyone's eyes, 
Romeyn was the last man on earth Mason wanted to see. The 
lawyer wanted to know how the big deal was corning. Then 
Mason knew. This explained the invisible presence of some 
watcher, which had haunted Mason throughout his visit. 

The Governor replied stiffly that the deal was completed, and 
that he was leaving for Detroit at once with a little over a 
hundred thousand dollars. At this, Romeyn's eyes popped and 
he clutched Mason's arm. 

"You can't carry a sum like that to Detroit safely," he said. 
"Why, the New York papers are full of this deal. The Bank 
will release a story on it even if you don't No, sir. Your life's 
in danger. Now, I'll tell you what I'll do. . . ." 

The Romeyn plan was simple. He had just happened, he 
said, to have spent a few days in New York on business, and 
was about to return to Detroit himself. They could go together. 
They'd get a trunk, a small trunk, and put some of Romeyn's 
clothes in it and mark it with Romeyn's name. Then nobody 
would suspect. The money, and Mason's life, would be safe. 

Mason's first impulse was to punch Romeyn in the nose. He 
came inside the lobby, sat down, lighted a thin Virginia cigar 
and meditated. The packet of money he gave to the bookkeeper 
to put in the hotel safe until his departure. He knew he had 
almost a thousand miles of rough travel; the mere name of 


Governor Mason and the presence of that packet would be 
enough to get his throat cut somewhere along the route. 

He did not like Romeyn, but he did not like highwaymen, 
either. It was true that the deal had been given some New York 
publicity. It was equally true that robbery anywhere along the 
route was such a commonplace occurrence that no one was ever 
surprised that the crime occurred or that few were ever ap 

On second thought he decided to let Romeyn carry the 
money, and then to watch Romeyn. Accordingly, the trunk was 
purchased and packed as Romeyn directed. His name was 
hammered on it in brass-headed nails. Now let us hear in 
the Governor's own words what happened : 

"On the morning after receiving the trunk, I left New York 
on the six o'clock boat. The trunk was not out of my sight 
for more than ten minutes, and then under the lock of my 
room until it was placed aboard the Albany boat. When on the 
boat I requested Mr. Romeyn to have it placed in the cap 
tain's office, he having his name attached to the trunk. My 
reason for identifying the trunk with Mr. Romeyn, as well 
as my reason for requesting him to purchase it, was that it was 
generally known that I was negotiating a loan in New York 
and I might be followed for the purpose of stealing it on the 
road home. 

"At Albany the trunk was kept in my hotel room, and when 
I was out I had the key of the room in my possession. In Al 
bany one evening, I left for Utica the next day and it was 
under the lock of the baggage car (of the railroad train) . From 
Utica to Syracuse it was on the front seat of the stagecoach 
under the driver's seat. We left Utica about four o'clock in 
the afternoon and reached Syracuse about one or two in the 
morning. At Syracuse it was not out of my keeping. From 
Syracuse to Oswego it was on the deck of the canal-boat for 
about half a day. At Oswego for one afternoon it was under 
lock in my room. From Oswego to Niagara it was in the office 
of the captain of the canal-boat for one night. From Niagara 
to Buffalo it was on top of the railroad car, and I rode on the 


outside in the night with it. At Buffalo it remained in my room 
under lock. 

"On Lake Erie it was placed in the captain's office and de 
livered to me at Detroit. When I arrived at my home I took 
from the trunk the articles beyonging to Mr. Romeyn and my 
self, and delivered it to the Treasurer. At no time on the 
journey was it opened by me, nor could I at any time observe 
that the overcoat on the top had been moved. On opening 
the trunk at home, everything seemed to be as I had placed 
them. The package of ten thousand, three hundred and ninety- 
seven dollars was on top, as I had placed it, and was immedi 
ately delivered to the Treasurer as part of the cash payment, 
counted by him, and found to be correct/' 

But the amount was not correct; the cashier at the Michigan 
State Bank counted the whole amount and found that from 
various marked stacks of fives, tens and twenties, the sum of 
$4,630 had been taken. Suspicion immediately pointed to 
Mason. He awoke to the realization that he had not counted 
the payment at New York. Alarmed, he wrote the Morris 
Canal and Banking Company asking them to recheck their 
records and certify that the money was correct at the time the 
payment was delivered to him. The cashier at the Michigan 
State Bank, a loyal Whig, immediately notified the editor of the 
Detroit Advertiser. Romeyn was nowhere to be found. Various 
friends asked Mason to make a statement about it, whether 
he was going to accuse Romeyn of taking the money. Mason 
had strong suspicions but no proof. As word of the incident 
spread, Mason found himself under direct accusation by the 
same section of violent Whigs who had been baiting him in 
the Legislature. Mason was so infuriated that it was with 
difficulty that his friends avoided a regrettable brawl. 

One day he received a letter from the Morris Canal and 
Banking Company enclosing $4,580 in the same bills Mason 
had been carrying. Some anonymous person, they said, had 
mailed it in, from a New York post office. The missing $50 was 
quickly made good by Mason himself, and the incident officially 
closed. Politically it was never closed. Suspicion clung to him. 


Romeyn continued to be missing. Mason couldn't find where 
he had gone. For fifty years, says Lawton Hemans, this baf 
fling mystery hung to Mason's name and defied explanation. 

Emboldened by an excuse to attack him, the Whigs now 
came out into the open and began assaulting every phase of the 
fivc-million-dollar-loan deal. They accused Mason of swindling 
the State out of a fortune by getting involved with the Morris 
Canal and Banking Company. Woodbridge, in the State Senate, 
cried that it was no better than a wildcat bank; what were 
its notes worth in Michigan? More paper, more depreciation, 
Woodbridge declaimed. And Michigan had paid a whopping 
commission for the privilege of discounting them. The law 
said the bonds must be sold at par; the contract admitted that 
they would be guaranteed to the State at par, but what was 
this? A provision for a two-and-a-half -percent commission. 
That meant that the State realized a net of ninety-seven and 
a half per cent. Illegal I A swindle ! 

Woodbridge's long-awaited day had come. The Whigs 
rallied behind him. They went over the contract with a fine- 
tooth comb, and the career of Stevens Thomson Mason in 
Michigan began to crumble when they drove wedges into its 
most obvious cracks; his pitiful lack of experience in finance. 

Numbly, Mason didn't care. He was sick of it; weary to 
death of this continual sniping at him. He had done his job; 
he had negotiated the loan on the best terms he could get; 
he had pleaded for help and received only mocking laughter 
from the Legislature. Suddenly, defiantly, Mason packed up 
again and left for New York. He wanted Julia. 

They were married at Thaddeus Phelps' home on November 
i, 1838. Mason was four days past his twenty-seventh birth 
day. Emily Mason and the aged Mrs. Elizabeth Moir Mason 
wept, as they saw the fine young man embrace Julia and bestow 
the nuptial kiss. Her life with him was a constant fight against 
the relentless elements which were pulling her husband to pieces 
before her eyes. Paradoxical as were most of the big moments 
in Mason's life, his marriage was the beginning of his downfall. 



THE FASHIONS of 1838 gave dainty Julia Phelps Mason an 
unfortunate beginning to her married life. It was considered 
indelicate to be healthy. Ladies swooned at many dilemmas. 
A sigh and a collapse into someone's arms appear to have been 
the standard answer to any difficult situation. This seems 
slightly silly. Today it requires some concentration to treat 
of the early Victorian lady with the requisite dignity* In De 
troit the daughters of the Witherells, the Palmers and the 
Trowbridges, who had been helping the daughters of the 
Campeaus, the Casses and the Dequindres fight the terrible 
cholera epidemics four years before, now developed fashion 
able paleness and hair-trigger fainting attacks, like victims 
of the last stages of consumption. 

Emily Mason pooh-poohed all this feminine delicacy and re 
fused to be cowed by it. She went troupmg around the United 
States as gaily as ever, without any nurse to hand her the 
smelling salts every time she encountered a deck hand blithely 
relieving himself against a dock piling. Emily never fainted 
and never had a serious illness of which there is a record. She 
was regarded as a bit too independent for the period, however, 
and continued to live as a maiden lady. It was Julia's type 
which collected suitors. 

England as well as America appeared to be in the midst 
of this ardently romantic interlude/The death of Sir Walter 
Scott in 1832, and of Byron eight years earlier, had given 
the elaborate verbal scrollwork of those popular penmen a 
popularity which affected the whole social history of the times. 
Scott's heroines were invariably small, dainty and delicate, so 
much so that they had to repel the boorish advances of wealthy 



but baseborn suitors with twelve-syllable words which made 
the cads slink away in confusion. They swooned; they had the 
pallor and paleness of a chronic invalid; and therefore girls 
like Julia Phelps Mason, who was naturally weak, became 
fashionable. She had huge, expressive eyes, a tired smile and a 
genius for conveying an impression that she was about to have 
a relapse. 

Her husband fetched and carried for her during their brief 
honeymoon, which they spent right in New York. He waited on 
her as if she were, in fact, an invalid. This was just what Julia 
loved. They were completely happy. 

Letters came to furrow the Mason brow. He never men 
tioned them to Julia, because in 1838 a woman was not sup 
posed to know anything about statecraft. Emily did. In brief 
interludes during the honeymoon Mason and his sister spent 
long hours talking about what remedy he could apply to the 
sinister situation in Detroit, growing worse by the hour. 

Mason did not tell Julia that he stayed around Detroit dur 
ing most of the summer of 1838 because his official neck was in 
a noose and he was fighting for his political life. He spared 
her the details of the rising tide of Whig sentiment against 
him which had threatened to engulf him almost every day, 
and which was aimed at knocking him out of public life. He 
had an easy way out. He could make a graceful exit on the line 
that he had served two terms and that it was contrary to na 
tional precedent to serve a third. He decided not to become 
a candidate for re-election. 

This was probably the only fact which kept Stevens Thom 
son Mason, Michigan's first Governor, from being impeached. 
Woodbridge's day was now dawning. He was going after 
Mason with a violence that was almost savage. 

Bit by bit, Mason had attempted to remedy the ills that 
Woodbridge was arousing the Legislature to investigate. Fur 
ther risk of robbery in transit from New York to Detroit was 
eliminated by installing John Norton, Jr., cashier of the Michi 
gan State Bank, in New York to receive the cash payments on 
the loan. Woodbridge's lamentations in the Legislature about 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 351 

the illegal contract with the Morris Canal and Banking Com 
pany were answered by the Governor in detail. He said the 
contract was not illegal, and it was so held by a Supreme Court 
opinion. But it was unfortunate. The contract was indeed as 
full of loopholes as an old stockaded fort, and fully as vul 
nerable. When Whig lawyers began tearing it to bits, they 
found that the Morris Canal and Banking Company was re 
ceiving $125,000 from the State as a brokerage fee. Further 
more, the State was dependent* on the market for the value 
of the bank's bills. They might drop suddenly in New York, 
and be almost worthless in Michigan. Yet Michigan was obliged 
to repay the loan, dollar for dollar, plus interest, in legal ten 
der, which would mean absolute par. 

There was nothing much Mason could do about the con 
tract. It was signed; the bank had Michigan's bonds and Michi 
gan had the bank's money. The bank's directors rubbed their 
hands over their $125,000 fee. They were not anxious to go 
through the money markets in an attempt to sell the bonds at 
a premium; there was no reason why they should thus exert 
themselves. While Mason was still ecstatically clasping his 
bride in his arms in the bridal suite, Chairman Edward Biddle 
of the bank sent him a gloomy letter about it. The bank, he 
said, was receiving bad news about the chances for the sale 
of the bonds in Europe, and so forth. The United States Bank, 
now a private institution in Philadelphia, was said to be loaded 
up with other state and municipal bonds and could not buy 
any more. Therefore he thought they'd better let it go, and 
said that the bank would take all the rest of Michigan's bonds 
and pass them to the State's credit at par -less, of course, the 
two-and-a-half-percent commission. Mason came down out of 
the clouds long enough to reply. 

, "It is with regret that I perceive that the state of the Euro 
pean market is such as to render the sale of Michigan bonds a 
matter of hazard and doubt. My expectation under the contract 
with your institution was to realize at least par for the bonds, 
and it is with extreme disappointment that I have presented 
to me the probability of losing two and a half percent . . . but 


as the negotiation of this loan has been a most thankless and 
perplexing undertaking on my part, I feel unwilling to ad 
vise you." 

Mr. Biddle replied that the sale of the remaining bonds 
had been put through and the balance due the State credited 
to it on the books. He congratulated Mason on the advan 
tageous deal he had made for the people of Michigan. Mason 
should have framed this letter and taken it back to Michigan 
with him. Mr. Biddle was apparently the only person who 
thought the deal was any good. Sentiment in Michigan was 
mostly to the effect that the State had been well fleeced, and 
that Mason had been unable or unwilling to fight through 
a deal which would have saved that fee. 

Woodbridge, of course, began hinting as early as the first 
of December, 1838, that Mason had profited by some kind of 
fee-splitting deal when the contract was signed. Friends in De 
troit wrote the Governor to get back at once, honeymoon or 
no honeymoon. They urged him to the greatest haste. They 
said Woodbridge was demanding his investigation, and had 
hand-picked quite a board from among the most violent Whigs 
in each House. 

Upon reading this, Mason groaned. There was nothing else 
he could do. With a sinking heart he began packing his and 
Julia's baggage and booking passage for a journey home. 
He had a final conference with Emily, who had decided not to 
return to Detroit. Now that her brother was married, and 
their mother an invalid under Emily's care in New York, there 
was no point in going back. She felt more than a little appre 
hensive about the treatment Mason would receive upon his re 
turn home. It was as plain as the long, granite-like chin on 
her face that a reaction had set in because of the disappoint 
ments over the loan. The very people who had cheered him 
for so many years were gathering rocks to hurl at him now. 
Intuitively Emily realized that he had suddenly lost his popu 
larity. She urged him to finish out the rest of his term and 
then return to New York permanently, to practice law. In her 
diary she relates how she had made up his mind for him, ex- 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 353 

plaining that his marriage u paved the way for his removal to 
New York, where he had but to enter the road to wealth and 
fame". She recalled how the whole family had hurried to New 
York from all sorts of distant points to be present at the wed 
ding, and adored Julia immediately. u She was a beautiful and 
fascinating woman," Emily admits, "with whom we kept up 
the most affectionate relations as long as she lived." 

And so the bridal couple set out, in bleak December, to begin 
a ten-day stagecoach journey, partly by rail, across the frozen 
wastes of New York State and the Province of Ontario. 
Mason's spirits were as cold as Julia's feet. He must be par 
doned if he did not show any of the warmth usually associated 
with young couples who have been married only a month. He 
probably felt like a man being brought back in handcuffs to 
face trial. 

Julia was twenty years old, and pregnant. This was a rather 
brutal introduction to married life, but she bore up under it 
as well as she could. Neither she nor her husband ever dwelt 
on paper about her feelings during that jolting journey, nor 
of he-r opinions about the little narrow house on Jefferson, 
across from the old Williams mansion, in which he presently 
installed her. He set out across town to his office, wondering 
what sort of reception he would receive. 

It required only a few startled words from Ed Mundy 
and his associates in the Legislature to confirm his worst fears. 
He was in for it; he was about to be investigated. While 
Mason had been oblivious to goings-on in Detroit, Mundy and 
the others had been trying to develop a defense against the 
worst attack of any they had seen up to that time. They ad 
vised Mason to let go the first volley in his annual message to 
the Legislature, due within a few days. Sentiment in both 
Houses was pretty fluid so far, and they had at least an even 
chance of appointing a majority of Democrats to the investi 
gating Committee. They thought that if Mason would acknowl 
edge the furore over the disappointing contract, and submit 
to an investigation voluntarily, his bravery would win him a 
friendly board. 


Mason thereupon sat down to draft his message. He de 
voted almost the whole of it to a detailed history of the loan ; 
he recounted all the details of the various turndowns he had 
received from New York brokers, and said that the Morris 
Canal and Banking Company offered the only way out. The 
deal, he said, was a disappointment to him, too, but probably 
no one else could have done any better. This message has been 
the subject of very careful study by historians of Michigan, 
who agree that it reveals a very strong note of pessimism and 
disappointment in Mason's mind, as if he were politely telling 
his enemies to do their worst and be damned. He surely had a 
clear conscience, and just as surely was not going to defend 
anything he had done. Let the record speak for itself. By all 
means launch the investigation; he would co-operate with the 
board to his utmost. 

"I demand for my own conduct the most rigid inquiry. . . . 
Let the Committee investigate all such matters as present an 
unfavorable aspect. . . ." 

Almost as soon as Mason had finished speaking from the 
rostrum, the wily Woodbridge was busy. He called his whips 
in both Houses into immediate session, and cracked his own 
whip over them unmercifully. He wanted a majority on that 
board in both Houses, or else. Mason left matters to the Demo 
cratic majority leaders, which was a grave blunder. Wood- 
bridge had his way. The joint resolution of the Legislature de 
manded a committee of seven members of the House and seven 
from the Senate. The Whigs managed to pack it outrageously. 
In the Senate there were four Democrats to three Whigs. 
In the House there were two Democrats to five Whigs. Thus 
armed with an eight-to-six majority, the Whigs gleefully named 
to the board the very persons who could be depended upon to 
go to the absolute limit in persecuting him. Woodbridge him 
self was named to the committee, and so was James Wright 
Gordon, the source of the resolution against Mason the preced 
ing summer. Chairman of the whole joint committee was 
Daniel S. Bacon, the man who had been defeated by Ed Mundy 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 355 

for the lieutenant-governorship on the Whig ticket the year 

It started out as an overture to political murder. Mason 
flung himself into midnight political sessions with his adherents, 
and by strict insistence on the business at hand he steered the 
Whigs away from irrelevant political and personal generalities. 
Confined solely to the matter of Mason's guilt or innocence, 
they disappointed the Whigs by clearing him. 

"Your committee does not inquire if the compensation stipu 
lated to be paid to the Morris Canal and Banking Company 
was exorbitant, nor whether the sale of bonds could have been 
made on more advantageous terms. They refer to the Act of 
the Legislature (authorizing the loan) as their only rule of 
action." Thus, was the act of Governor Mason in submitting 
to a deduction of two and a half percent legal, or illegal? 
It was legal. They inquired into the mysterious theft from the 
first installment of notes carried by the Governor himself. 
They said they had accumulated a ream of testimony, and had 
gone all around Robin Hood's barn, or words to that effect, 
but could find no one responsible. "It sleeps in the bosom of 
him who perpetrated the crime. It is due to Governor Mason 
and the public to say that no imputation whatever rests upon 


Woodbridge wrote that. What was in his mind? Was he try 
ing to build up a reputation for impartiality to cloak some 
slashing future attack? No one knew. Woodbridge summoned 
Rorneyn in an instant, although Mason never could find him. 
Romeyn had appeared before the committee. He denied taking 
any of the missing money, or appropriating any of it to his own 
uses, and exonerated Mason in the most specific language. He 
said: "I have never directly or indirectly drawn any money 
from the State for my own purposes ; neither have I received 
from Governor Mason any accommodation or advances." 
This statement was made a matter of record and appears in 
the committee's report. Then Theodore Romeyn disappeared 
again for two years, and reappeared just as suddenly to change 


his story entirely. In 1841 he was summoned again, and in 
response to Woodbridge's whistle he produced a story that 
was like a bomb. Mason never did succeed in finding him. 

However, Mason accepted the report with relief and pre 
pared to let the whole thing die a natural death. He turned 
his attention once more to his bride. He was aware now that 
Julia was in what the Victorians called u an interesting condi 
tion 1 ', and that pretty soon the cruelly tight bodices of the 
1839 costumes, with their flaring hoop skirts, would reveal it. 
Julia didn't like Detroit and was tearfully afraid of the ruth 
less Whigs. She thought they would plot to knife her husband 
some dark night. She felt in physical danger every hour she 
stayed there. 

Mason, too, began to see Detroit in a new light. What had 
happened? Where was the triumphant party spirit that had 
carried Mason and his Democrats to victory in contest after 
contest? What was the meaning of this quarrelling and back 
biting between old party friends? What disaster had produced 
the hollow feeling of impending trouble that had changed all 
these once-sunny faces to hangdog, evasive grimaces? 

For nearly eight years, Stevens T. Mason had lived in a 
glare of publicity. He had learned not to depend upon the 
cheers and plaudits of a crowd to guide him, and had painfully 
acquired a certain judgment of popular trends from the re 
actions that followed his impulsive acts. It was said of him that 
"he had learned something of the insincerity of the praise that 
sometimes follows success, and the injustice of the blame that 
sometimes follows failure." Now, however, in January, 1839, 
he was wholly at a loss. Something had happened that he could 
not understand. On the surface, it seemed to him that the 
fight over the five-million-dollar-loan contract had fizzled out 
when the committee found no parliamentary tree on which 
to hang him, and that it would be forgotten. But it was not 
being forgotten. The bitter feeling against him was there, 
growing strong enough for him to sense it every day in the 
atmosphere of the. -capital corridors. He was constantly on 
the defensive. 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 357 

The party was breaking up before his eyes. The machine 
that he had built long years before, even prior to the "Toledo 
War", had carried its last election. In Congress, Senator Nor- 
vell was not on speaking terms with Senator Lucius Lyon, 
and Congressman Crary was in the doghouse with his con 
stituents. They thought that Crary had gone "politician" in 
Washington, and was being seen with too many rich lobbyists 
and influential vote buyers. When he came up for re-election 
in the summer of 1838, he just squeaked through with a ma 
jority of 204 out of more than 10,000 votes cast. In this same 
election the Whigs had picked up more seats in the Detroit 
city council and had a powerful majority there, but not in the 
Legislature. They were happy, confident and forever threaten 
ing Mason. 

The Boy Governor was slipping badly. Out in the rural dis 
tricts there was another spasm of bitter poverty, for which 
he was blamed. The unpromising future of the Internal Im 
provements project had stopped work on everything except 
the Central Railroad, which at this time was past Ann Arbor 
and approaching Dexter. Money could not be had; credit was 
tight ; loans were being called, and mortgages foreclosed. All 
this, in the people's eyes, was caused by Mason's failure to 
carry out his lavish promises of State construction projects 
and a sound currency backed by a State Bank. 

He was a thoroughly discredited Governor at the head of a 
cracked and disintegrating administration. Such a realization 
comes eventually to the head of almost every political or 
ganization dependent upon public support for existence. Some 
charge headlong at it like a ram butting into a brick wall, and 
get their brains knocked out. Others, gifted with some degree 
of foresight, accept the inevitable and make plans for life 
as plain citizens. Fortunately, Mason had perception enough 
to realize that he had had his whole cycle and was now facing 
the concluding phase of his public career. 

If they would let him alone, he would bow out gracefully. 
If Woodbridge or any other vengeful Whig didn't try to 
hoist himself into Mason's chair over his bleeding and pros- 


trate body, Mason would even make it easy for him. The tone 
of the investigating committee's report had indicated that the 
Whigs intended to campaign on straight election lines without 
lambasting Mason personally. Mason felt relieved at this. 

Yet, in his heart, he knew this dream would never come 
true. It was impossible for these Whigs to campaign for any 
office at all without raising a stink, calling grand juries, smear 
ing somebody's carefully nourished public reputation all over 
the pages of their indescribable campaign sheets. The temper 
of the times was never nastier than in the spring of 1839. 
Mason felt strongly that the Whigs, and Woodbridge per 
sonally, were going to crucify him. 

As soon as possible after delivering his annual message, 
Mason sent the Legislature a politely phrased paragraph an 
nouncing that he was not to be considered a candidate for re 
election in 1839. He hoped that this definite statement would 
turn the Whigs' attention from him and focus it upon any 
Democrat luckless enough to be nominated at the party con 
vention to succeed him. Whatever happened, Mason knew that 
he would not humor Julia and take her back to New York 
until after the spring session of the Legislature, which usually 
lasted only a few weeks. 

Perversely, this session lasted well past its allotted time and 
ran into months. It seemed to Mason that every little detail of 
the State's administration became the subject of loud-voiced 
harangues in the Legislature. Lucius Lyon's term as Senator 
expired on March 4, 1839, and the fight which presently broke 
out in both Houses set an all-time high for malevolent per 
sonal name calling. Neither party could agree on anyone. Even 
the members of the joint committee, appointed to nominate a 
candidate, wrangled and scolded each other. Some Whigs 
tried to take advantage of the confusion by attempting to slip 
through a bill which would have allowed some of their schem 
ing real-estate men to buy up the State's precious school and 
University lands for the standard dollar and a quarter per 
acre. Mason promptly vetoed it and sent it back with a sting- 


The Legislature hung about, belligerently, until April 2Oth, 
and became the longest session in the State's experience until 
that time. The final day's session continued almost all night 
and well into Sunday morning, the 2ist, with the members 
making so much noise that the Michigan Observer complained 
that their conduct was "unbecoming statesmen". They never 
acted less like statesmen than during this session. When they 
finally gave up, and went home, Mason hurriedly booked 
passage on a Buffalo boat for himself and Julia. 

Twenty-two days later, Mason was back at his desk at Detroit. 
He had taken Julia home to her father's house with many 
soothing assurances that he would come back again for a week 
or two during the summer, but that he couldn't spare time now. 
He had to tell her, quietly, that she'd be better off with her 
family while the slanderous attacks on him were building up 
during the coming campaign. He would be embarrassed to have 
her in Michigan while the Whig party convention was in prog 
ress and the name of Mason was being plastered with Whig 
epithets and political mud. Julia seemed quite content. She 
said she would be all right with mama and papa to take care 
of her. It was with great relief that Mason started homeward. 

He didn't have much time in Detroit to worry about the 
Whigs' plans for his political ouster. He had arrived back in 
May, and about the middle of June letters started coming from 
Julia. She was completing her preparations, and had the baby's 
crib all decorated with satin ribbons. The time was drawing 
close. In July, Mason left Detroit again, in the midst of politi 
cal meetings and a heavy burden of State work. The selection 
of delegates to the party's convention was in progress, but 
nothing happening in Michigan could hold a candle in im 
portance to what was happening in New York. He arrived in 
New York exactly on time. 

Mason's mother was spending the summer with him in De 
troit, and she kept the house open while he was gone. She 


remained quietly indoors, and it was to her on August 3, 1839, 
that Mason wrote jubilantly that the baby had arrived on 
August ist, exactly nine months to the day after the wedding. 
It was a boy a nice, healthy boy with blue eyes. Happily 
he wrote that it was Julia's wish to christen the baby Stevens 
Thomson Mason, Jr. He would be the first boy of the fourth 
generation to bear the honored name. Julia was well but weak, 
he wrote, and as soon as everything was all right he expected 
to return to Detroit. He was practically a commuter between 
New York and Detroit, an average of ten days each way. He 
had the same time problem that a man of the present genera 
tion would have if he went dashing back and forth between 
Detroit and Manila. He seems to have spent as much time 
travelling as he did at his desk. 

His plans were too vague to enable him to make any long- 
range commitments. He acted quickly, as circumstances dic 
tated. When the baby was a couple of weeks old, he felt he 
could not postpone the unpleasantness any longer. The con 
ventions were meeting, and he might as well go back and get 
it over with. 

When he arrived, the Democrats were in the midst of their 
sessions. They were meeting at Ann Arbor as usual, and had 
chosen Elon Farnsworth as candidate for Governor ; Thomas 
Fitzgerald for Lieutenant Governor, and a long list of new 
comers for the other elective positions. They had dropped 
their feuds and were trying to present a united front against 
the Whig machine. By selecting Mr. Farnsworth they had 
gone as far to the right as Democrats could. He was a con 
servative, successful Detroit attorney who had been a Supreme 
Court justice and had served for a time as one of Mason's 
Banking Examiners. He had had a long career as a banker in 

The ticket was as strong as the party could make it. They 
avoided any reference to Mason in their resolutions. They did 
not follow the custom of giving the outgoing Governor a vote 
of thanks, nor did they refer to his administration in any way. 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 361 

The slight, if it was intended as such, must have made Mason 
squirm inwardly, but he never alluded to it. 

The Whigs travelled halfway across the State to Marshall, 
where there was plenty of elbowroom and open air to throw 
the voice. Mason was kept informed as to what they were 
saying about him. Most of their biting comments could be read 
in the Detroit Advertiser. They began their convention with 
a blast at the Democrats for having hyphenated their name a 
few seasons previously when they had picked up a small in 
dependent group of voters calling themselves "Republicans". 
The party was known as the "Democrat-Republican" party on 
the ballots, which infuriated the Whigs. They were hoping to 
get away from the title entirely and adopt the name "Republi 
can" as their own. The resolution declared: "We will not, di 
rectly or indirectly, acquiesce in the assumption by our op 
ponents of a name as dear to us as it is inapplicable to them." 

This seemed mild enough. So did their nominating-com 
mittee report, which gave the convention its choice of half a 
dozen candidates. In Detroit, Mason had just begun to breathe 
again when he was figuratively knocked flat by news from 
Marshall. Woodbridge had stepped in and collared the nomi 
nation, insisting that it be made unanimous and that James 
Wright Gordon be acclaimed as his running-mate for Lieu 
tenant Governor. The Whigs obediently passed the necessary 
resolutions. Woodbridge did not mention Mason's name, but 
the quick action he received from the Whigs was due partly to 
his comment that he was going to campaign entirely on the 
issue of the administration's failures and its record of "accumu 
lated disasters". 

In the Whig party convention, resolutions attacking Mason 
were wildly applauded and cheered. After adjournment, dele 
gates rode back to their home towns confident of a smashing 
victory. It seemed to be a Whig year. Everything they did won 
results, and new voters. No matter how energetically the 
Democrats tried, they seemed to encounter a wall of public 
indifference. Mason could see before the campaign had been 


under way a week that the Whigs had everything their own 

They began their village campaigning by calling Mason 
a traitor and a curse; he was a "Benedict Arnold"; Fitzgerald 
was hailed as the "nurse of the wildcats". The Democrats 
pointed a pitiless finger at old Woodbridge. He became "that 
blue-light Connecticut federalist; that filcher from the public 
Treasury; a tyrant judge; an office-seeker in his dotage." 

Woodbridge called his speakers together and told them this 
was old stuff. They'd have to do better than that. Calling names 
no longer was the best way to get votes. It was customary 
during a Michigan election, and about every possible epithet 
had already been applied. What he wanted was a short, catchy 
phrase that could be painted on signs and carried on banners 
in parades. The Whig brain trust came up with the slogan : 
"Woodbridge, Gordon and Reform." The Whigs decorated 
every county seat in the State with it. Whig meetings turned 
into shouting, singing demonstrations. Democrats spoke to 
empty courthouse squares. 

The Michigan Democrats were sharing the blame for bank 
rupt conditions throughout the country. In 1839, Michigan, 
along with most other States, was in about the same condition 
as the United States was to be in in 1933. The Federal govern 
ment lacked, however, the resources and resourcefulness of 
later Democrats in inaugurating a long series of alphabetical 
agencies which transferred great chunks of the impoverished 
public to the Federal payrolls, and consequent bonded loyalty 
at the polls. Martin Van Buren had no WPA, PWA, NRA, 
CCC, NYA, ERA or Federal Writers' Project. Hence, in 
Michigan, Mason was branded as the successor to Benedict 
Arnold instead of being hailed as Governor Frank Murphy 
was, as a sainted Sir Galahad rescuing Michigan from poverty. 

It was a day when people still looked to the wisdom of their 
leaders in Washington to enact wise and just laws which would 
speed the return of prosperity. They still believed that good 
times could be legislated into being. It was the aftermath of a 
decade of wild speculation, unrestricted industrial piracy, and 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 363 

over-confidence. When the bubble burst with the "Specie Cir 
cular", paper fortunes dwindled and swiftly vanished. Ambi 
tious undertakings like railroads and canals, which would have 
acted somewhat like relief agencies to the harassed poor, were 

No clever sloganeer was needed by the Whigs to find the 
chinks in the Democratic armor. Throughout the campaign, 
the wildcat banks were a sure-fire signal for booing at any 
crossroads meeting. The bungling of the five-million-dollar 
loan drew repeated catcalls. The general ineptness of Mason's 
administration because of feuds in the Legislature, friction 
in Congress and a do-nothing attitude on the part of jobholders 
was a fruitful source of Whig campaign oratory. The Whigs 
invented a synthetic animal with a wildcat hide and a stove 
pipe hat which they called a loco foco. This creature was sup 
pose to be a Democratic voter. His only aim in life was the 
instinct to destroy his State and nation. 

Even such things as economic conditions and changing 
prices favored the Whigs. While the campaign was in progress, 
a fresh wave of bank failures flowed across the State. This 
was, to Mason, the disappearance of the last thin straw of 
hope. The preceding spring session of the Legislature had 
been marked by the failure of one of Michigan's biggest and 
richest banks, the famed Michigan State Bank of Detroit. 
It was forced to close its doors because real-estate mortgages 
which it was holding throughout the State dwindled in value 
almost to the vanishing point. Throughout the summer, prices 
had been going down steadily as the once-spectacular wave of 
emigration dried up. People no longer had money to travel. 
They could not sell out in the East and finance a journey to 
Michigan. Farm land was going begging at five dollars an 
acre, and in the towns local storekeepers kept going somehow, 
even though their books showed total bankruptcy. Wheat, 
which was selling in Detroit the preceding winter at $1.20 
a bushel, now brought seventy-five cents. All other farm pro 
duce fell in proportion. Instead of promoting wildcat banks 
and demanding State grants of railroads, local businessmen 


were now looking for day work on farms grubbing weeds. 

In the face of such a spectacle, the Democratic campaign 
was as listless and indifferent as the Whigs' campaign was en 
thusiastic. "Turn the blackguards out!" cried the Whigs. "Re 
form! Reform!" Woodbridge did very little campaigning. 
The less he said, the better. He recognized the political truism 
that he could sit quietly at home and let the Democrats beat 
themselves. Mason, instead of taking the stump in his party's 
behalf, looked around Detroit for a vacant office wherein he 
could begin the practice of law. He shuddered at each men 
tion of the campaign. 

It was no surprise to anyone that the Whigs carried the 
State. On election day Mason was busy winding up his official 
affairs and wrapping up the wreckage of the five-million-dollar 
loan so that Woodbridge could find all the pieces. He signed 
his last batch of appointments, wrote his final reports to Wash 
ington, and cleaned out his desk. 

Woodbridge, his watery eyes agleam with victory, entered 
the office. Mason politely beckoned him to be seated, and said 
he wanted to explain about the present status of the loan. He 
was deeply worried, Mason continued, about the Bank of the 
United States, in Philadelphia. It was said to be shaky, and 
might not be able to meet its installments on the bonds it had 
purchased through the Morris Canal and Banking Company. 
Pritchette, he said, was in Philadelphia at that very moment 
as Mason's representative, studying it. It was Pritchette's hope 
to get back all the Michigan bonds held there, and return 
them to the Treasurer. If he could get that part of the deal 
abrogated and get the bonds back, they would be in the State's 
custody until other buyers could be found. But if the Bank of 
the United States closed, Michigan would lose the bonds but 
would be required to keep paying interest to the bank's re 

This fear of the Bank of the United States was a widely 
held one in Detroit, Mason remarked. He said he had called 
on all the officials of the surviving Detroit banks, and they had 
advised him to get the State's bonds out of there with all speed. 

l83&-l$39l MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 365 

They did not think the Morris Canal and Banking Company 
was going to weather the balance of the financial crisis, either. 
He advised Woodbridge, therefore, to bend all his energies to 
the task of retrieving all the Michigan bonds that remained 
with the Morris Canal and Banking Company after January 
I, 1840. This would leave the State with about half the bonds 
sold and collected for, and the other half unsold. 

Woodbridge nodded his white head and mumbled a polite 
agreement. He said he would act accordingly. While he was 
there, Woodbridge said, he would like to remind the Governor 
that it was the custom among States for the outgoing Governor 
to draft a farewell or "exaugural" address to the Legislature 
upon completing his term of office. Woodbridge would see 
that it was taken care of. Mason thanked him, and promised 
to comply. 

Mason's mother told him that evening, the day following 
election day, that she had received a letter from John T., 
date-lined New York, asking her to come there for a few 
months to escape the worst of the Michigan winter. She felt 
well enough to travel, she said, arid furthermore she did not 
want to be in the way when Julia and the baby arrived during 
the next few weeks. Mason affectionately bade her good-bye 
at the Randolph Street dock as she boarded the boat for 

After her departure, Mason attended the inauguration cere 
monies and watched Woodbridge being sworn in as Governor. 
Mason dropped suddenly from the public gaze. No longer 
did the newspapers inquire into his love life or his drinking 
habits. Gone were the long diatribes about his "youthful in 
discretions" which allegedly sold out the State to the money 
barons of New York. With many a sigh of relief, Mason 
entered the practice of law in a little second-floor office in a 
new building not far from the capitol. As a partner he took 
in a newly admitted attorney a year or so younger than him 
self, E. B. Harrington of Port Huron. He looked forward to 
Pritchette's return and the establishment of a new firm to be 
called Mason & Pritchette. In the meantime, he thought, 


young Harrington cowld help him in the office while he concen 
trated on getting clients. 

He had Left th service of the State nearly penniless. A 
carefully saved finmd which he had built up over the ^course 
of his two terms as Governor was wiped out when the Michigan 
State Bank failed in IMarch, 1839, with the savings of thou 
sands of depositotrs L ike himself. He had enough to live on 
for a month or tiro, sind to pay his office rent. Books for his 
law library had keen given to him, one at a time, as they were 
published by the Secretary of State's office. He had all the 
Michigan Statutes anJ Public Acts, and a compilation of the 
Territorial Acts back as far as Governor Hull's time, thirty 
years before. Onthtewall he had framed his certificate to prac 
tice in Michigan, "dated December n, 1833. Often he liked 
to look at it, andtrMil of the big blowoff which he, Ike Row 
land and Georgi ePalrmer had staged for their tutor, Pritchette, 
when they all passed the examination. He had another such 
certificate, dated [wily 23, 1834, admitting him to practice be 
fore the Supreme Court of the State. These were the only 
professional qualid cations he needed. Besides, his father's old 
law library contained a great many valuable volumes which 
served him as references. Compared with most young attor 
neys setting up a practice, Mason was very well equipped 

He was twenty-eight years old on October 2yth, a week or 
two before the eLectSon which swept Woodbridge and the 
Whigs into office, PMaaried, with one baby son, possessed- of an 
adequate house WiScli ~vas big enough for a small family, owner 
of a fairly good 1 a? library and endowed with the aura of 
eight years as lie ad of Michigan's administration, Mason 
should have Beccnme immensely wealthy in later life as Michi 
gan's topmost legal figure. He had the ability, the background, 
the energy, and tLe expectation of about fifty years of prac 
tice on the road thsatl ay ahead. According to all the textbooks 
on success, Mas on^s eight years as Governor and Territorial 
Secretary should ksave= been just an incident in his longer, and 
more lucrative, rise to success. 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 367 

We know that no such mellow pot of gold awaited him at 
the end of his rainbow. He had everything but good fortune, 
what we moderns call the "breaks". No man on the threshold 
of a new career should try to pierce the future. He might dis 
cover that ahead of him lay such a combination of circumstances 
as those which struck Stevens T. Mason at the outset of his 
legal career. They were blows which not only caused his un 
timely death, but which plunged his name into the mire of 
public contempt and held it there for sixty years. Anyone who 
would pull aside the curtains which conceal the future and see 
before him such a spectre, would have only one recourse 

He had just arranged the furniture in his new office and 
received a pen and inkwell from Harrington, and was trying 
to lure in a client who might want a will written, for example, 
when he received news of the sudden death of his beloved 
mother in New York, which occurred on November 24, 1839. 
The feeble Elizabeth had caught cold, or something, and had 
been running a temperature when she arrived in New York. 
John T. put her to bed and called a physician. But before any 
diagnosis could be arrived at, Elizabeth Moir Mason just 
quietly sighed, turned away her eyes, and died. 

She was only fifty, but she had been in poor health since the 
birth and immediate death of her thirteenth child on April 5, 
1833. Of those thirteen, only four were alive at the time of the 
funeral. Emily and the youngest daughter, Laura, attended it. 
Kate Mason Rowland and Stevens T. Mason were in De 
troit, and their mother was cold in her grave before they knew 
what had happened. She had found peace after thirty years 
of turmoil. 


His mother's sudden death plunged Mason into gloom. For 
days he did not come to his new office, but stayed at home and 
wrote letters to his father and to Julia, urging her to bring 
the baby and come out to Detroit as soon as spring reopened 


the more comfortable canal and rail route across New York 
State and Lake Erie. For the past few years the care of his 
invalid mother had been some responsibility, but both he and 
John T. wanted her with them as much as possible. They 
felt toward her a deep admiration for her patient and enduring 
character; a warm affection for the thousands of incidents by 
which she had brightened their drab lives in their worst years 
in Kentucky. She had suffered so many family losses that she 
poured out her heart and her life on those who survived. Kate 
was married and mistress of her own house. Little Laura was 
eighteen at the time, and her mother knew that she, too, would 
soon marry and go away. Emily and Stevens T. were her two 
solid rocks of strength in a fluid world. She had been dividing 
her time between visits to them and to John T., wherever he 
happened to be. He might be anywhere. He was a mysterious 
and somewhat sinister figure in the Louisiana bayous, a power 
ful secret agent constantly stirring up a witch's brew of plots 
and uprisings. He had found the career that exactly suited 
him, and it had made him rich once more. He was influential 
both in New York and Washington, the king of Red River 
Valley land speculators, the man who seemed to be every 
where, completing some big deal every day. 

His mother's death brought father and son closer than 
they had been during the past decade. Christmas, 1839, was a 
sad one for Mason. He felt terribly alone in the empty house. 
He tried to relieve the sadness by writing his father long let 
ters. In them, just by way of conversation, he complained that 
he had no clients and did not seein able to attract any. His 
office was empty. No one would come near him for fear of 
offending the newly powerful Whigs, who hated him. The 
Whigs were quite outspoken about what they would think of 
anyone who so much as came near Mason's office. Some of De 
troit's ever-bubbling population, who didn't play politics but 
did get into trouble, came to him fbr help in criminal cases 
like assault, drunkenness and other misdemeanors. He ob 
tained a few small pleadings in civil actions, but not enough 
to claim that he had established a practice. 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 369 

Upon Pritchette's return, Mason's spirits revived. He re 
organized the partnership as Mason and Pritchette, with Har 
rison as a junior partner. He had cards printed, and a sign 
lettered on the window. The window overlooked the route 
which nearly everyone took in going to, and coming from, 
the capitol. The partners amused themselves by looking out 
of the window and gossiping about what this or that person had 
been doing up there. Occasionally Mason performed some 
desultory work on the "exaugural" message that he had 
promised Woodbridge to prepare. 

When the Legislature convened on January 6, 1840, Mason 
sent his message to Governor Woodbridge. He still had friends 
out in the counties, and for their benefit he sent some copies 
of it to friendly newspaper editors. The editors passed it up 
the first day because of a more newsworthy event that oc 
curred in the capitol on inauguration day. Retiring Lieutenant 
Governor Ed Mundy had been attacked in the corridor of the 
building by a particularly violent Whig, Colonel Edward 
Brooks of Detroit. Colonel Brooks had knocked Ed down 
and was beating him with a heavy cane when other people 
pulled him off. The Whig papers tried to play it down, because 
Colonel Brooks admitted he didn't have anything personal 
against Ed, but that he was infuriated past endurance at the 
mere sight of a Democrat in their Whig stronghold. The 
Free Press called it "the new Whig reign of terror". Ed was 
a gentleman about it. He was much bigger and stronger and 
could have thrown Colonel Brooks through a window had he 
not decided to be a martyr and take the beating. He waited 
for an apology. None came. 

Next day the newspapers printed excerpts from Mason's 
"exaugural", and the people waited to see what Woodbridge 
would do with it. Nothing happened in the capitol building. 
Governor Woodbridge had not sent it to the Legislature. In 
the towns and villages it was clipped from the small weeklies 
and used in the schools as an example of beautiful English 
composition, full of noble thoughts. It was a sort of summary 
of the State's position at the time Mason relinquished control 


He was trying to state facts and stay away from charges 
that he might be painting too rosy a picture. The general tone 
of the message, therefore, was not optimistic. He described the 
boom conditions, and the wave of money speculation which 
had led to the State's exaggerated Internal Improvements 
project. He said he could well realize that now some of those 
projects would have to be abandoned, and others curtailed. 
He went into details above improvements in the State's ad 
ministrative machinery, appropriations authorized for the 
militia, the geological survey and the penitentiary construc 
tion program. One by one he took up each problem the State 
was currently facing. Most of all, he warned his successors not 
to compromise with his great accomplishment in caring for 
primary schools and safeguarding his University. 

"If there is one duty from us higher than another," he 
wrote, "it is to assert and defend the youthful fame of our 
rising commonwealth. When she is charged with want of re 
sources, point to her abundant harvests and fertile fields. 
When she is thought to be broken in spirit, look to the energy 
of her husbandmen. And when she is said to be burdened with 
taxation, refer to your statute books and learn how limited 
is her burden compared with her neighboring and sister States." 

After disposing of the business in the message, he concluded 
on a personal note. He gave this portion of the message a great 
deal of thought, and polished its phraseology. 

"My official relations with you, fellow citizens, now termi 
nate, and it remains only for me to take my respectful leave. 
On reviewing the period of my connection with the executive 
branch of the Government of Michigan, I find much both of 
pleasure and of pain . . . pleasure derived from the recollec 
tion of the generous confidence reposed in me by my fellow- 
citizens, and pain for the many unkind emotions to which my 
position has given rise. But seeking in private life that tran 
quillity and good-will heretofore denied me, I part from official 
station without one sigh of regret. I shall cling to every recol 
lection making a claim upon my gratitude or service, and en 
deavor to forget the painful experience of the past. 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 371 

"I cannot be insensible to the many errors I may have com 
mitted. But I derive consolation from the reflection that they 
will be amply repaired by the services of one whose experience 
is acknowledged, whose ability is known and whose patriotism is 
unquestioned. . . . Michigan shall have, wherever the vicissi 
tudes of life shall place me, my earnest and continued desire for 
her prosperity and welfare, and my earnest and fervent prayer 
that He who holds in His hands the fate t>f nations and the 
destinies of men will bestow upon her every blessing a free 
and enlightened people can desire." 

The mail for several days was full of letters from well- 
wishers out in the counties, congratulating Mason and claiming 
that no one, not even Woodbridge, could take offense at a lush 
compliment like that., They didn't know Woodbridge. He sub 
mitted it to the Legislature unofficially, and with expressions 
of contempt. The Whigs there booed it, would not read it, and 
refused to enter it upon the records. They treated it with 
hilarious jeers which were taken down by the official reporter. 
He called them "expressions of ridicule and sarcasm". Wood- 
bridge told the editor of the Detroit Advertiser, the Whig 
organ, that Mason had used the utmost effrontery in trying 
to get such a message on the records, but fortunately the 
Legislature refused to have anything to do with it. The paper 
published this statement. 

Mason awoke suddenly to the realization that Woodbridge 
had asked him to draft the message only to have an excuse 
to humiliate him publicly. The matter did not die down with 
Woodbridge's refusal to treat it as a public document. Editors 
of city papers in other States caught it up out of Michigan 
exchanges, and let go with blasts about Whig "intolerance", 
if they were Democratic, and "Democratic demagoguery", if 
they were Whig. The Democratic papers published Mason's 
long message in was copied and paraphrased throughout 
the country. Editors used it as an example of what the Whigs 
would do if they won the national election in 1 840. 

Mason, cut to the quick, stayed in his office and hated to go 
outside. Woodbridge said nothing. He was just starting. The 


Advertiser took up the old man's cudgel and whacked Mason 
again, with a story that Mason did not have Woodbridge's 
permission to draft the message in the first place. Angered, 
Mason played directly into Woodbridge's hand by sending him 
a personal letter demanding an explanation, and citing the 
original request from Woodbridge himself. Woodbridge re 
plied suavely in a public letter : 

"I am incapable of doing you injustice or even to evince 
toward you other than the courtesy I have always received 
from you," 

Woodbridge now had Mason on the defensive, and was 
influencing the newspaper-reading public to believe that Mason 
was a sorehead, a selfish seeker after personal publicity, and 
had a bitter personal hatred for Woodbridge. While this cam 
paign was in progress, Woodbridge, with excellent timing, 
began to wield the axe and tear down every accomplishment 
that Mason had built, except the impregnable school system. 
He began on the Internal Improvements project, because that 
was easiest to wreck. In a message to the Legislature he set 
forth in his characteristic phraseology his reasons for advising 
its complete extermination. It pained him to have to say so, but 
the whole scheme was visionary and "it must, I fear, be 
given up." 

Work stopped on all the railroads. The sides fell in on the 
excavated portion of the Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal. All 
the construction crews were thrown out of work. This, said 
Woodbridge, was caused by "the degradation into which the 
Executive plunged the State" by trying to carry through a 
public-ownership plan. Times were bitterly hard, but not too 
hard for wealthy Detroit Whigs to organize the Michigan 
Central Railroad Company as a private corporation very soon 
after this news, and to begin a long battle to buy it from the 
State at a sacrifice price. 

On the streets of Detroit, people who had been Mason's 
friends for many years began looking the other way. Urchins 
threw rocks at his gleaming stovepipe hat, as bystanders 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 373 

In his next phase, Woodbridge unlimbered his heavy ar 
tillery and took sights on the five-million-dollar loan. He had, 
of course, the report that Mason had given him about 
Pritchette's negotiations with the Bank of the United States, in 
an effort to salvage the bonds before the bank failed. Wood- 
bridge used this situation to make it appear that he alone 
had been dealing directly with the tottering institution; that it 
was Woodbridge who had decided to get the bonds back. Of 
course, this statement had the effect of making Mason appear 
to be a complete dunderhead and a bungler of colossal stupidity. 
He was regarded as an idiot to have gotten the State involved 
with that crowd of sharpers in the first place. 

The Whig clique split up the bond business between the 
Bank of Michigan and the Farmers* and Mechanics' Bank of 
Detroit, both of which had Whig presidents who had long 
been on the Woodbridge bandwagon. They were authorized to 
buy back the salvaged portion of the bonds, and resell them 
privately, at a profit in commissions. In order to allow these 
banks to assemble all their specie to buy back the bonds from 
the East, Woodbridge suggested to the Legislature that an 
exception might be made for the boys. A bill was put through 
exempting the two banks from the legal requirement to re 
deem their notes in specie. This was done very quietly, but 
not quietly enough to prevent the Democrats from learning 
about it. 

Woodbridge was having everything his own way; Mason 
had nothing but bad luck. As soon as the Democrats began to 
rally behind Mason to expose this piece of favoritism, the 
Bank of the United States, and the Morris Canal and Banking 
Company, suspended payment. The Whigs screamed: "Just 
in the nick of time I" The people cheered Woodbridge's almost 
magic foresight. He appointed a committee to go East and get 
the bonds back, ignoring Mason's advice and Pritchette's 
weeks of work in Philadelphia achieving this very result. 

The committee found it had nothing much to do, because 
Pritchette had done all the work long before. They thereupon 
turned into a gang of super-snoopers, and went foraging 


through the correspondence in the files between Mason and the 
Morris Canal and Banking Company, hoping to find something 
upon which to base a charge that Mason and Pritchette had 
received a slice of the fee paid to the Eastern bank at the time 
the contract was signed. This was one step in Woodbridge's 
over-all strategy. He wanted to send Mason to prison on some 
such charge, which would discredit the Democrats for a genera 
tion. It would serve the supplementary purpose of putting 
Mason behind bars, or drive him far away where the people 
would never hear the ringing voice of the Boy Governor again. 

Psychologists might see in Woodbridge's savage policy 
toward Mason a feeling of insecurity, an inferiority complex, 
or possibly a fear that Mason might come back from political 
exile and wallop him in the next election. In Woodbridge's 
view it was imperative to get Mason out of Detroit. If he 
wouldn't go peaceably, Woodbridge proposed to run him out 
forcibly. Mason was the only man in Michigan the toothless 
Woodbridge really feared. He was too popular. Even after this 
series of debacles, thousands of people throughout Michigan 
almost worshipped Mason as a great figure. As long as he main 
tained a law office under the very shadow of the capitol, Wood- 
bridge knew that he was not safe. 

Accordingly, Governor Woodbridge, on March 10, 1840, 
received the report of this little committee, and ordered twice 
the usual number of copies printed. The few surviving Demo 
crats in the Legislature were growing heartily sick of these 
vitriolic attacks upon Mason. One of them heard about this 
report and seized a chance to read it privately, 

He smuggled a copy of it outside. The Democrats held an 
indignation meeting and hurried to the Free Press office. They 
shouted that Mason was about to be assailed by a pack of lies 
which would get the whole committee indicted and tried for 
libel if the report were published. 

When the news was brought to him, Woodbridge hastily 
changed his tactics. He had the report brought up in the House 
at the last moment before adjournment. Then he allowed the 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 375 

majority Whig version to be read, and hastily adjourned the 
Legislature before the minority Democratic version could be 
put into the record. 

The report of the Whigs reads like a tattletale child tell 
ing mama what the boy next door did. Ignoring the pertinent 
fact that Pritchette had instituted the attempt to regain Michi 
gan's bonds, Chairman DeGarmo Jones insisted that the whole 
matter had been dug up by the sleepless energy of the Whig 
committee. He said in the report: "Had the Act been con- 
summated at the time and in the manner proposed, it must 
have been entirely illegal; a .daring fraud upon the interests 
of the State, and highly discreditable to all parties concerned. 
The stigma of violated faith must, ere this, have been indelibly 
fixed upon our escutcheon and the credit of the State irre 
trievably gone.' 1 This was what was alleged to have been in 
store for Michigan if the committee had not discovered that 
Mason was dickering with the Morris Canal and Banking 
Company, and Pritchette with the Bank of the United States, 
for the return of the bonds. It does not make sense. But per 
haps it was not intended to bear analysis. The report was read 
aloud, with the underscored phrases heavily emphasized Mem 
bers in the back rows probably heard: "entirely illegal . 
daring fraud . . . credit of the State irretrievably gone." It 
appears that this was the sole purpose of the report 

The exasperated Democrats got their minority report into 
the Free Press after some eHort. Under the signature of Samuel 
Etheridge of Coldwater, it set forth the well-established fact 
that the very matter the Whigs were yelping about had been 
foreseen and thwarted by Governor Mason long before the 
Whigs were in office. The Democratic document continued for 
several paragraphs, proving point by point that Mason had 
taken every possible step to forestall such loss to the State 
from mismanagement of the fund. Then it openly accused the 
Whigs of fomenting a popular reaction against Mason because 
they were afraid of him, and asked why the Whigs were doing 
it. The whole sordid affair was a black eye for Michigan na- 


tionally. It was going to bounce back and become a problem for 
the very Whigs who were now yelling the loudest for Mason's 

"No effort has been spared to place the monetary affairs 
of our State before the world in their worst possible form. 
These constant and clamorous assertions of the absolutely 
desperate condition of Michigan are everywhere producing 
the most disastrous results, and in the end these predictions 
of ruin will bring about their own fulfillment. No motive ap 
pears strong enough to prevent everything from being dragged 
into the political arena. Every good custom, and well-estab 
lished principle, vanished before the demand for political capi 
tal. No art is too low, no tongue too base to be used in trumpet 
ing to the world everything which seems calculated to ruin the 
credit of the State and depress her interests at home, provided 
that a political object can be attained." 

A set of thoroughly angry men wrote that, and when other 
men read it in the newspapers, they too became angry. Mason 
remained quiet. Not even the accusation that he and Pritchette 
had split a fee from the Morris Canal and Banking Company 
could break the unnatural stillness of his law office. He and 
Pritchette sat there, at empty desks in a clientless office, day 
after day. They could not be tricked again into replying to 

Throughout the settled portions of the State there was un 
spoken sympathy for Mason, but no overt act which would 
bring down the mallet of the Whig framing machine. No one 
dared speak openly in his defense excepting himself, and 
everything he said was twisted into an accusation, and used 
as the basis of another plot against him. 

Silence is probably the only defense against that sort of 
persecution. As a means of earning a living in the law business, 
however, silence has its drawbacks. Mason's finances were 
rapidly becoming precarious. He could not afford to sit there 
and wear down the Whigs' schemings, and conversely he could 
not practice law because clients were afraid to go to him. Soon 
after the opening of navigation on Lake Erie, Julia and the 

1838-1839] MASON CHOOSES NOT TO RUN 377 

baby arrived in Detroit. Their presence made the question of 
actual survival eclipse everything else in Mason's mind. 

The tragic, sudden death of his mother at the outset of this 
crusade against him had robbed him of the concentration he 
needed to think through a plan for saving the situation. Now, 
in the spring of 1 840, when he most needed it, he had no idea of 
how to attack the problem. Undoubtedly he had scant interest 
in what might happen to him. He was thinking only of how 
to protect Julia and the baby. 

His work smashed, all his achievements threatened, his po 
litical career falling about his ears in great chunks in the form 
of vile and slanderous personal abuse, Mason now found him 
self penniless and without means of earning a living. Wood- 
bridge was winning. Mason could give up, and go to New York. 
But he determined to stay and fight it through. 



THE FIRST steamboat built in western Michigan slid down the 
ways into the Grand River, at Grand Rapids, on June 14, 1837. 
It was an elegant white-decked passenger side-wheeler, and 
Governor Mason, then at the peak of his popularity, had spon 
sored her. He had presented the craft with an expensive set of 
flags and colors in recognition of the honor. The S. S. Governor 
Mason was launched, at a time when Mason was nationally 
famous, and his popularity at home was something so alive that 
he seemed like an incarnated statue. In May, 1840, the S. S. 
Governor Mason was wrecked on a reef near Muskegon 

The fortunes of her sponsor went down to ruin with her. 
The wreck was an omen. Mason seemed to be lying there just 
as helplessly, with the gales af adversity pounding him to pieces. 
On all sides of him he saw Whigs, slander, plot after shame 
less plot to smash what was left of his life. He would not leave 
Detroit while his enemies could say that they had done it; 
they had driven him out in disgrace. No matter what happened 
to him, Mason knew that he must stay in Detroit until he 
weathered this storm and regained his public position as a dis 
tinguished citizen. 

Woodbridge and his clique of Whigs lost no time in gloating 
while their man was down. He wasn't out yet, and they had 
to finish him quickly. He might revive. They had tried em 
barrassing him before the Legislature, accusing him of dis 
honesty, and finally they had practically picketed his office 
and kept him from gaming clients. But the victim was still 
conscious and was glaring up at them like a winded fighter 



on the canvas measuring his opponent for a haymaker as soon 
as he gets up. 

Mason remembered that Congress had tried some such 
squeeze play on him in 1835, during the border dispute. He 
had found a way out then. He must find another now. He tried, 
dazed, to think of one. What were they afraid of? Why did 
Woodbridge flirt with the criminal laws himself in order to 
place Mason in a false light as an embezzler? It must be that 
in the State, or in Detroit, there were a good many people 
left who loved the Mason legend, looked up to him, and would 
cling to him. 

Mason still had influence, driven underground now but 
still in being in spite of the Whigs. He still had friends 
enough to worry old Woodbridge. These stalwart friends must 
get up and say publicly that they would stand by him. They 
would become shock troops ahead of him and eventually they 
would win his battle for him. 

There was a Presidential election coming up during the sum 
mer and fall of 1840. It would be Mason's excuse to go head 
first into politics again. He would try to rally the defeated and 
scattered Democrats. He would get back into the public eye, 
and stay there. Before Woodbridge could concoct another 
frame-up, Mason would have time to organize a good-sized 
slice of the population along strictly pro-Mason lines. 

In this, as in all battles for personal popularity, Mason was 
a sure winner. With renewed courage he shut the door of his 
office and began walking the streets, hours at a time. He smiled; 
he bowed to the ladies. He stopped to talk to old acquaintances, 
and they were pleased. He went to the American Hotel, to 
Uncle Ben Woodworth's Steamboat Hotel, to the distant but 
well-loved gathering place of the Democrats, soldiers and 
rivermen at Conrad Ten Eyck's tavern. Everyone bought him 
drinks, clapped him on the shoulder, milled around him. "Do 
you remember the time those Patriots stole the chest of muskets 
right out from under old 'Coon's' nose?" Mason's voice pierced 
the tobacco smoke : "Yes, and where were you when those red 
coats started out of the pits across the river?" "Who, him? 


Why, he was sleepin' under them flour sacks, the time they got 
away with the schooner Ann!" Laughter, and another round. 

The tension was relieved as long as he was one of a crowd. 
It hurt most when he was at home, watching baby Stevens T. 
chewing on his tiny toes and regarding the world with a round 
blue eye that was so serious it always brought a smile to his 
father's tired face. Julia bustled about the narrow rooms, 
scolding the two colored servants and bringing to the little 
house the cheering presence of a busy and happy housewife. 

Miraculously, Pritchette got a couple of big cases, and 
Mason himself received a retainer from a wealthy client, a com 
mission merchant. Came the day when the Democratic hand 
bills went swirling onto wooden front porches and were tacked 
to bulletin boards, announcing the "Great Democratic Jubilee" 
at the City Hall council chamber. The auditorium was full of 
noisy Democrats when Mason arrived to search for a seat. 
When he was discovered, the Democrats started yelling: 
"Mason! Mason! Mason!" It was one of the great thrills of 
his life. 

He took a chair on the platform instead, and made a brief 
extemporaneous talk. The Democrats did so well that they held 
another jubilee a few days later, and Mason received a rousing 
roar of welcome when he entered. He was the principal speaker 
at the second meeting, an act of defiance to Woodbridge which 
he would have thought himself incapable of exhibiting a few 
weeks previously. 

"He was still the beau ideal of the Democrats," wrote 
Hemans. "In the frank and unaffected democracy of his nature, 
the spirit in which he resisted attack, and the natural urbanity 
of his manner, there was that which typified the sentiment of 
his time." 

The Democrats evidently thought he was all of that, and 
more. As the first few days of the 1840 pre-carnpaign bustle 
began to stir Detroit, Mason was propelled into the first rank 
of the party committee. He was trying to practice law, and 
needed the money desperately. His prominence as a Demo- 


crat gradually brought the office a little business, enabling 
Mason to make more friends in politics, which in turn brought 
a small volume of new clients. Pritchette did the law work; 
Mason brought in the clients. 

At least he was able to devote himself wholeheartedly to the 
task of organizing a Democratic defense against the Whig 
"log-cabin and hard-cider" campaign of 1840. His spirits came 
up out of the cellar. He wrote to Sister Laura, at school in 

"For the winter, I have been trying to confine myself to 
the quiet routine of an attorney's office, but as might have been 
expected, all my efforts have failed. I had hoped when retiring 
from public life I might have some respite from the toils of 
politics, but find myself as deep in the game as ever. So, what 
with the divided allegiance between the law-office and political 
speech-making, I am more occupied than ever. . . , You will 
find Detroit sadly changed. The bubble of false prosperity has 
burst from under us, and we are down again to the realities 
of earth. The streets every day look like Sunday, and in every 
direction you hear nothing but the croakings of hard times. 
But we may extract a jewel from adversity, and will learn 
wisdom enough to last us in later life. . . . You have yet to see 
your nephew, whose praises have been so often recorded. He 
may be considered the greatest prodigy of the age, and al 
though I say it, he is the most beautiful and intelligent young 
ster in the Republic. In a few days he mounts his first short 
dresses, the first great epoch in his onward march to man 
hood. I shall turn him over to you and Emily when you arrive, 
and rest assured you'll have your hands full, for he is already 
the very personification of mischief." 

Apparently he was feeling better. He did not know what 
the campaign would be like, but he was glad to be doing some 
thing. And he had gained a breathing spell in the Woodbridge 
fight. The old fox was in his hole. He had not made a single 
comment about Mason, or indicted him for anything, for 
several weeks. The plain fact of Mason's presence in Detroit 


was proof of the young man's victory. The added implication 
in Mason's skyrocketing popularity made Woodbridge's whole 
attack upon him collapse like a punctured balloon. 
At least that was the revived Mason's impression of the 
affair as he collected his meagre portion of the office income 
and sat down to write another political speech. Everything 
seemed to be going splendidly. Julia was pregnant again. 

When the Presidential campaign began in earnest, Mason 
was not so sure that the sky was rosy. The Whigs had a new 
trick in 1840, one that rapidly captured the imagination of the 
country. They had a slogan: "Tippecanoe and Tyler too!" It 
sounded childish and cryptic. Tippecanoe was a battlefield in the 
War of 1812, which was still being fought on the political 
front. The alleged winner of this dramatic conflict was a 
grizzled old man named General William Henry Harrison, 
the man who had taken a resounding beating from Van Buren 
in. the previous election. But in his first charge into the political 
arena in 1836, "Old Tip," as he was jokingly called, didn't 
have a strategy board to do his thinking for him. 

In 1840 he had an excellent staff, composed of some of the 
best brains in the country; able men who had imagination, pro 
motional ability and resources. They conceived the idea of sur 
rounding the old warrior with a stage setting consisting of log 
cabins, jugs of cider, sunbonneted maidens and all the props 
of an old-time silent Western horse opera. "Old Tip," it ap 
peared, was supposed to represent the pioneer spirit which had 
made America great. Since he was a Whig, the Whigs had made 
America great. It was a forceful argument, especially since 
Van Buren's administration had been one long financial crisis 
and a slow funeral march behind dead fortunes, hopes and 

The country was ripe for change. Mason had learned that 
in Michigan. It was the party's turn to learn it nationally. 
The Whigs had little to sell except the vague promise that they 
could do better, based on nothing very tangible. Hence they 
went in heavily for entertainment to disguise their lack of a 
convincing platform. 


The log-cabin craze hit Michigan as early as April, 1840. 
Whig partisans went out into the near-by forests and worked 
up an honest sweat, for once, logging. They built a big cabin 
at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Randolph, only a few 
blocks from Mason's house. It was forty by fifty feet/On 
April 1 5th they assembled a big crowd for the traditional 
"raising"; they put a jug of hard cider beneath each of the 
four corners, and decorated the outside with rabbit skins, coon 
skins and such. Inside, the chandelier was made from the 
tangled roots of a small tree, suspended from the roof, and 
bearing a white forest of dripping candles. They chained a 
live bear outside, suspended a few stuffed owls, wildcats and 
raccoons around the interior, and on April 2ist the Whigs all 
gathered in pioneer costume for a "hoe-down". This dedica 
tion was advertised on handbills, asking the Whig ladies to fur 
nish "corn-bread, an other such log-cabin fare as their kind 
hearts and ingenuity might dictate". 

This shindig promptly turned into a wild community square 
dance and church supper combined, with almost no hint that 
it might have a political meaning. "Needless to say," runs an 
account, "they responded liberally to the call and at the ap 
pointed hour the ladies had loaded the tables about the cabin 
wall with johnnycake, pork and beans, and the substantial fare 
of pioneer Michigan. A large crowd gathered, and in the fitful 
glare of a tallow dip listened to the orator of the occasion, 
dispatched the provisions, and finished the festivities with many 
a toast drunk in hard cider. From this time until the election, 
the political rally was the order of the day, Whigs gathering 
at the cabin, and Democrats at the City Hall." 

The log-cabin craze swept the country in the same mysterious 
manner as bobby soxers and swoon crooners a century later. 
Every town big enough to boast a few Whig committeemen 
built a cabin in the public square and kept it liberally supplied 
with hard cider. The yell: "Tip-pecanoe and T^-ler too!" 
roared across the West like wildfire. The foot-patting rhythm 
of agonized fiddles and tinny banjos was echoed by the squeals 
and shouts of dancing citizens, while local orators whooped 


it up for the Whigs. While this extremely clever ruse was 
monopolizing people's attention, the Democrats proceeded to 
do some dignified, old-fashioned campaigning, to which few 
people listened. 

Vice-President Richard M. Johnson, Mason's Tammany 
friend, and a hero of the War of 1812 fully as famed as "Old 
Tip", came through Detroit on a campaign junket He was 
wined and dined by the local Democrats. They put up a stand 
in front of the National Hotel, decorated it with bunting, and 
called on Mason to introduce the distinguished guest. This 
he proceeded to do with his customary grace and elegance. 
The Free Press reporter said he drew a good crowd, and that 
Mason "was greeted with the heartfelt and peculiar enthusiasm 
which always attends his appearance." Mr. Johnson gave utter 
ance to a campaign speech, and the committee led the way 
to a surviving patch of apple orchard on the now-vanishing 
Cass farm, which had been turned into a picnic ground. The 
Whigs had the effrontery to toss in a batch of their handbills 
announcing another free feed at the log cabin a few days 
later. It, too, was a huge success. 

On this occasion the Whigs received a State-wide response. 
One hundred and three wagons bearing 600 people came from 
the little suburb of Farmington. The Dearborn Whigs arrived 
on a float, a log cabin on wheels drawn by twenty yoke of oxen. 
The Whigs had some 15,000 noisy partisans in the city. They 
brought great heaps of food from their farms, and the com 
mittee took over Williams and Wilson's big warehouse to dish 
it out to all comers. In the evening they held neighborhood 
mass meetings all over town. After that, anything the Demo 
crats did was an anticlimax. 

Mason could see throughout the campaign that the Demo 
crats were in for a thorough beating. Toward the last stages 
of it he lost interest. Before election day would arrive, he knew, 
Julia's second baby would be due. Delivery of Julia's precious 
child in such a raw frontier town as Detroit was unthinkable 
to her. It just couldn't be. Stevens would have to take her to 
New York. He must leave before the election. 


Stevens did not require much urging. He found the money 
somewhere and made his plans. Fortunately, the client who paid 
him the retainer in his darkest days produced some additional 
business in the East which would keep him occupied for several 
weeks. Furthermore, at this moment of indecision over his 
future plans, the white-haired John T. wrote him one of those 
fatherly letters which parents like to write to sons in times 
of crisis, causing them some moments of indecision. 

In this letter, his father suggested that he ought to locate 
in the East permanently, and get away from Detroit. Regard 
less of his popularity there, John T. declared, he would have 
a much better chance of success as a lawyer if he went to some 
place like Baltimore, where he had no connections and no back 
ground to disturb his concentration upon his career. Now, 
Baltimore, continued John T., was a great city. It was a coming 
city. It had immense commercial interests and growing ship 
ping and warehousing firms. There was a future for him in 

Mason decided to visit Baltimore and investigate. He did not 
want to be committed to anything. If he felt that he had a bet 
ter chance in Detroit, he'd stay. It depended in great measure 
upon the outcome of his long trip East, and his impressions 
of the places to which his legal inquiries took him. He talked 
it over with Pritchette. His partner, too, felt that he had bet 
ter go. As for Pritchette himself , he said he had decided to stay 
in Detroit. If Mason wanted to come back the following 
spring, and resume the partnership, Pritchette would be de 

It was early by the political calendar, but alarmingly late by 
the stork's, when Mason and Julia, with little Stevens, Jr., 
wrapped in blankets, departed from Detroit during the first 
week in October, 1840. He did not stay for the election re 
turns. It was well that he didn't, because his judgment about 
the result was well substantiated. The Whigs took Michigan 
along with most of the rest of the voting centers in the United 
States. They catapulted the aged William Henry Harrison 
into the White House by a smashing vote. The margin in 


Michigan was surprisingly narrow, but the Whigs took the 
vast majority of the elective offices which were being contested. 

Two sidelights on the election were so characteristic of 
Michigan that they deserve to be mentioned, although Mason 
was too far away to be influenced. The first was that, immedi 
ately after the national Whig victory, old William Wood- 
bridge told his legislative whips that he was going to grab the 
impending vacancy in the U. S. Senate. Lucius' Lyon's term 
was up. The Legislature, now overwhelmingly Whig, obeyed. 
It announced the election of Woodbridge to be the new U. S. 
Senator, to take office March 4, 1841. He did not miss a day 
from a public payroll. He held office as Governor right up to 
the day he was sworn in as Senator, and he stayed on the Sena 
torial payroll almost until the outbreak of the Civil War. 

The Senatorial toga had been the ultimate dream of old 
Woodbridge ever since he first entered politics. One would have 
believed that now, since his ambition had been realized and 
its acceptance would take him out of Michigan forever, he 
would have dropped the Mason persecution program. He had 
no more to fear from Mason and no motive for bothering him. 
This, of course, is what one would think, if one did not know 
William Woodbridge. 

The second sidelight in the election was known as "Paffaire 
Hamtramk". Hamtramk was a little town populated mostly 
by German-American immigrants which had grown up in 
Wayne County almost at Detroit's doorstep. It has furnished 
a great deal of political news during the past century, and in 
our time Hamtramk is an independent city entirely surrounded 
by the sprawling metropolis of Detroit. In Mason's time it 
was a political question mark. The Whigs carried Michigan by 
the uncomfortably close margin of 22,759 to 21,464. The slow 
returns from distant villages kept the result in a dangerous 
tie for several days. Eventually all the returns were in but 
those from Hamtramk. Outside, in Hamtramk Township, the 
Democrats showed majorities ranging from 126 to 130 for 
all their candidates, which reflected the locality's general habit 
of voting the straight Democratic ticket. In the town proper. 


the council had stipulated separate ballots for members of the 
Legislature, fearing a contested vote which would have to be 
patiently examined afterward. None of these ballots could be 
found. Investigators discovered that the official guardian of the 
ballot box had been a Democrat. He was sitting there, he said, 
when a Whig friend of his came up and asked him how he'd 
like a drink. Well, sir, first thing you know, he was higher'n 
a kite and had forgotten all about them ballots. They'd just 

The missing ballots hung up the Legislature like a side of 
beef. It stood at six Whigs elected from Wayne County, and 
six Democrats. This tie continued elsewhere in the State, and 
the missing ballots contained the balance of power in both 
Houses. The search was redoubled. Nothing was found. Later, 
when the Legislature had to convene anyhow in this hamstrung 
condition, loud cries broke out from both sides. Something had 
to be done about it, and soon. The Wayne County canvassers 
replied that they couldn't do anything about it under the law 
except appeal to the Legislature, which they were then doing. 

The Democrats unanimously demanded a new and better 
supervised election in Hamtramk. This was booed down by the 
Whigs. One of their members was ill and could not serve, and 
his removal would break the tie and give the Democrats a 
22-21 majority of one vote enough to dominate the whole 
legislative program. At the crucial moment, before the ill Whig 
left, a Democrat failed to answer roll call. With a temporary 
22-21 majority, the Whigs certified the election as closed, 
refusing to take a chance on Hamtramk's whims in a new elec 
tion there. In a few weeks the situation caused by illness and 
absence settled down to a permanent one-vote Whig majority, 
22-21. The Democrats protested, wanted a new election, but 
the one Whig vote prevented it. 

Mason read about it in the papers forwarded to him in New 
York. He gave the incident only a casual glance, because after 
election he was rather busy/Julia's second child was a beautiful, 
sturdy little girl, born in mid-October. After the family had 
consulted with the parents, she was baptized Dorothea Eliza. 


When he was assured that no sudden crisis was about to arise, 
and that both were doing well, Mason bade them a fond fare 
well and set out for Baltimore. 

While Mason was handling his client's legal affairs in the 
East, the Michigan Legislature met in Detroit for its regular 
session in January, 1841. The complaints and recriminations 
about the missing Hamtramk ballots occupied it for a time, 
but about a week later both Houses decided to forget the 
Whigs' one-vote majority and get down to business. Before 
them was a long list of legislative musts. They had to review 
the State's entire financial position, and decide what, if any 
thing, they were going to do with Mason's monument, the 
Internal Improvements project. 

Construction had been stopped on the Central Railroad, 
then started again in late 1 840. The road had thirty miles to go 
to Jackson. A pittance was appropriated, enough to maintain 
the Central's equipment until it could be sold at a fair price to 
the new private railroad company. 

The State had more than two millions tied up in the Central, 
and the towns along it were raising such a furore that the 
Legislature had to keep it going. The Legislature's chief pur 
pose was to protect the road against an attempt by the private 
company to acquire it cheaply for scrap, or salvage, prices. 

Both the Northern and Southern roads were doomed. The 
Southern had been constructed between Monroe and Adrian, 
and there it terminated. Some years later, after a hectic exist 
ence as a municipal railroad owned by the City of Monroe, 
it was sold, by Monroe and by the State jointly, to the Lake 
Shore Railroad, which then became the Lake Shore and Michi 
gan Southern. Only the name survived. The original Adrian- 
Toledo route was abandoned and a new line surveyed and 
built, and shortly after 1900 the whole system, along with the 
Central, became operating subsidiaries of the New York 
Central Lines. 


The Northern Railroad died a-borning. This session of the 
Legislature finally agreed to give it $30,000 and turn it into 
a wagon road. The Clinton and Kalamazoo, too expensive 
for private financing, was never completed. The St. Mary's 
Falls Canal at the Soo became the scene of a disgraceful brawl 
between the State's contractor and the U. S. Army. The con 
tractor insisted on running the excavation across the parade 
ground of Fort Brady. Soldiers with bayonets drove off the 
diggers, which was probably what the contractor wanted. He 
said he couldn't continue and sued the State for $30,000 dam 
ages. By the time he had been paid off and the Army's ruffled 
feelings smoothed, the Legislature was heartily sick of the Soo 
Canal and hated Mason for having saddled them with its 

The whole magnificent Internal Improvements program de 
generated into a political mess. The most odorous aspect of 
the refuse pile was the stench of burning fifty-dollar bills aris 
ing from the ruin of Mason's five-million-dollar loan. 

Woodbridge sat in the Governor's office, meditating. He was 
due to leave for Washington permanently within a couple of 
months. He had inspired widespread criticism of this sudden 
departure to take a better job. There were people who thought 
that since he had campaigned for the Governorship and nearly 
mangled Mason to get there, he had some slight interest in 
becoming Governor. They now discovered that they had been 
fooled; he was just using the job as a steppingstone to the 
Senate. The ambitious plans which Woodbridge had unfolded 
during his campaign, aimed at the recovery of the State, now 
stood revealed as merely campaign literature. 

Naturally, there were murmurings. The best way to offset 
this feeling of dissatisfaction, Woodbridge apparently felt, 
would be to dig up some more charges against Mason and really 
cause a sensation. This, from the Woodbridge viewpoint, 
would achieve a dual effect. It would distract public attention 
from himself and furnish a new topic of gossip, while creating 
an impression that Woodbridge was a relentless reformer who 
would leave no stone unturned to achieve the ends of justice, 


even if he signed Mason's imprisonment order with his coat 
half on and the boat whistle blowing at the dock. 

Accordingly, Woodbridge once more got up steam in his 
framing machine. This time the aged schemer went too far, and 
touched off such an explosion that the echo reverberated 
throughout his generation and the next. It is difficult to judge 
Woodbridge's motives correctly. Perhaps he meant merely 
to create an effect, whereupon he could make a graceful exit. 
He may not have intended to put Mason physically in the very 
prison the Boy Governor had built, but his opening moves 
looked like it. He drew up a plan which was aimed at indicting 
and trying Mason for criminal conspiracy and embezzlement. 

The awkward fact that Mason was not guilty of any such 
crime made it necessary for Woodbridge and his cohorts to 
forge documents, present perjured testimony, hide witnesses, 
change records, and in general concoct a wholly synthetic 
case. But he had the vital ace in his sleeve. 

Woodbridge had access to the records; Mason did not. He 
could keep the files from being examined by Mason's defenders. 
He could inspire lies in the Legislature and enter falsehoods 
in the records as evidence before his investigating committee. 
He and his henchmen could, and did, say anything they liked 
in accusation while rigidly denying Mason a chance to speak 
a word in his own behalf. 

Serene in the knowledge that he thus had a pretty fair hand 
stacked in his political deck, Woodbridge opened by sending 
to the Legislature an entirely fraudulent legal paper purporting 
to be a bill in chancery on the part of the State of Michigan 
against the Morris Canal and Banking Company. It was ad 
dressed to the Chancellor of the State of New Jersey, and was 
accompanied by a report from the State Treasurer, Robert 
Stuart. It demanded the return of certain moneys alleged to 
have been fraudulently collected by Governor Stevens T. 
Mason while engaged in the contract negotiations. 

About the year 1905, Lawton Hemans spent many tedious 
days digging through the New Jersey State records, and he 
says that no such chancery bill ever was sent to the Chancellor. 


He declared that if the purpose of Woodbridge's move was to 
blacken Mason's character, "it was most skillfully adapted to 
the purpose". This document was submitted to the finance com 
mittee of the State Senate, headed by DeGarmo Jones. A 
minor Woodbridge stooge, Jones had been used repeatedly by 
the old man to accomplish his less public skulduggeries. He was 
the same Jones who had headed the investigating committee 
once before. Jones knew what was expected of him. He locked 
up the papers and announced that a most secret investigation 
was going on and that Mason was heavily involved. 

At this, most of Mason's friends in Detroit came rallying 
to the rescue. Pritchette demanded a hearing and was refused. 
Benjamin Witherell, a Whig but a good friend of Mason's, 
stepped forward and volunteered to act as the Mason defense 
counsel. Jones refused to allow him to bring up any evidence 
of Mason's innocence, and denied him the right to cross- 
examine those witnesses produced by the State. Witherell was 
a famous attorney, and he knew the law. He carried the mat 
ter to the floor of the Senate and demanded a clear statement 
of the charges, if any, against Mason. A vote was taken and 
the Whig majority silenced him. 

Frantic letters were now dispatched to Mason, in New 
York, urging him to get back to Michigan as fast as he could. 
Mr. Witherell, among others, wrote that only Mason himself 
could do any good; it was Mason's continuing popularity in the 
State that was at the bottom of the trouble. A great popular 
pressure by Mason's host of friends everywhere might halt a 
certain miscarriage of justice. The Legislature was sitting tight 
and taking orders from Woodbridge. It was plain that he had 
a completely worked out plan of campaign, of which only the 
first step had been revealed. 

These letters caught Mason totally unprepared. He had not 
imagined that anything like this would happen, because there 
was no sane explanation for it. Hastily bundling up the family 
against the blasts of winter on the Ontario roads, Mason and 
Julia set off at top speed for Detroit. 

He arrived too late. The hush-hush investigating committee 


had made its report to Wbodbridge in the greatest secrecy, 
under date of March 27, 1841. Not even Mr. Witherell was 
permitted to see it. But it was entered at once as an official 
record, and the obedient Legislature set about naming a "hang 
ing committee 1 '. 

It was before this legislative committee that Jones' report 
finally was revealed. Even there, Mason's friends had the 
opportunity to learn of its details only through gossip and in 
sinuation, because the committee kept it out of sight and would 
not make its contents public. Eventually, about the time that 
Mason arrived breathless in Detroit in early April, it was ad 
mitted to the record and publication was possible. 

The report outlined a clear case of embezzlement and con 
spiracy against Mason. It stated that State Treasurer Stuart 
had undertaken direct negotiations with the Morris Canal and 
Banking Company, under authority from the Legislature to 
"secure the unpaid installments on the loan". During the 
course of these inquiries, continued the report, State Treasurer 
Stuart had uncovered evidence that Mason "had sought and 
derived financial profit" from the loan. This evidence was 
contained in an appended statement from Theodore Romeyn, 
who testified under oath that he had been present with Gov 
ernor Mason at the time the arrangements were made to re 
bate part of the fee which the State had paid to the canal di 
rectors at the time the contract was signed. 

In vain Mason raised his voice and pointed to Romeyn's 
previous statement in 1839, that he had not "directly or in 
directly" drawn any money from the State nor from Governor 
Mason. In the new statement Romeyn changed his whole story 
and declared that he had, that both he and Mason had been 
paid by the directors for enabling them to make a $125,000 
fee. He admitted that both he and Mason were guilty, and he, 
for himself, threw himself upon the mercy of the Legislature. 

Mason, in Mr. WitherelFs company, tried to get the Legisla 
ture to listen to him. They were refused. Woodbridge would 
not admit Mason to his office. In terror, Mason tried to find 
a few friendly Whigs who might present his case to the com- 


mittee. No one would help him, Romeyn was not present per 
sonally during any of this so-called "investigation." But he 
presently sent Mason a personal letter, which the Whigs en 
tered in the record before Mason received it. In it Romeyn 

"I think if I could see you in person we could arrange an 
swers [to the committee's investigation] that would be more 
satisfactory than if published without consultation." 

Mason was aghast. He was being brazenly framed. He 
realized a fact which his friends had known for weeks, that 
Romeyn was a major figure in the plot and was acting on 
Woodbridge's instructions. 

The discovery that nothing he could say would make the 
slightest difference seemed to take the heart out of Mason's 
will to win. He had been in battles before. This was* not a 
battle; it was a slaughter. He didn't have a chance. Gradually 
he ceased to care. He roused himself finally, went down to his 
dusty office and sat down to write. He had only one source of 
help. That was the people, as Mr. Witherell had advised. He 
would write and publish a personal appeal to them, if friends 
would help him pay for the printing. Woodbridge was standing 
pat now, with all the face cards, waiting for Mason to push 
in his chips. The old man had everything his own way. He 
had given orders that Mason was not to be heard before the 
Legislature; none of his documentary evidence was admitted, 
and his witnesses were refused permission to testify. Not one 
word in Mason's defense was admitted to the records and 
thus given a chance for publication with the committee's re 

On May I ith, Mason began distributing a lengthy pamphlet, 
running to forty pages of closely set type. On its first page 
it bore a big double line of black, bold-faced type: "TO THE 

This pamphlet was Mason's defense. If he had been per 
mitted to present it in the Legislature, the plot would have 
collapsed. If the pamphlet had been condensed and extracted 
for newspaper publication, that would have helped. Distributed 


by mail, to a list composed mostly of Democrats, it reached 
only a few people who had an influence with anybody in the 
State administration. Individuals were powerless to help him. 
And the State wouldn't. 

A few copies are still treasured in old family albums in 
Michigan. There are originals in some city libraries. They are 
just curiosities now, and modern readers cannot see Mason's 
lifeblood pouring out all over the narrow, wrinkled pages. It 
was there ; probably his tears, too. 

Patiently he recounted all the steps in the negotiation of the 
loan, from its earliest beginnings. He dwelt at some length on 
Robert Stuart's story about his alleged discoveries. "Nothing 
could be more false!" declared the pamphlet. History agrees, 
but at the time it must have sounded like a hollow phrase. 
The type rolls monotonously onward. Mason arrives at the 
point in his narrative wherein DeGarmo Jones and his partner, 
James M. Edwards, on the finance committee, enter the plot. 
He calls them "my violent personal and political enemies, 
pliant instruments to aid their work of infamy", and tells how 
he first found them in Detroit, "one a starveling refugee from 
abroad and the other an unacquitted felon of this city. Such 
were the instruments chosen by the committee to blacken my 
reputation during my absence from the State." 

Page after page of documentary proof of his innocence 
follows. He had kept some of the original correspondence ad 
dressed to him by members of the Morris Canal and Banking 
Company directorate, and this he quotes at length. He quotes 
Mr. Biddle as having said that the deal was an advantageous 
one for the State of Michigan. Finally, obviously exhausted 
and thoroughly sick at heart, Mason closed with a feeble appeal 
to be remembered as he once was, when the State was prosper 
ing and he was leading a happy people. 

"I have thus, fellow citizens, endeavored to place before 
you a full answer to all the accusations preferred against 
me by the committee. Whilst I am free to acknowledge 
that there is no external reward so dear to me as the good 
opinion of my fellow citizens, even to secure that reward I 


would not mistake the grounds of my defense. I act as a private 
citizen, unjustly and ruthlessly assailed. Circumstances render 
it probable that I shall never again be a candidate for your 
suffrages. I have therefore no political purpose to effect. I 
strike in defense of my name and all that is dear to me. I have 
left your service poorer than I entered it, and if I have any 
earthly boast, it is that I have never intentionally wronged 
the public. That I have felt the imputations against me I do 
not pretend to deny, but the consciousness of my own integrity 
of purpose has afforded me an inward pride and satisfaction 
that the world cannot rob me of. To the people of Michigan 
I owe many obligations, and with the last pulsations of life I 
shall acknowledge and remember their kindness." 


Throughout the State, farmers held this fine type to the 
flickering light of a tallow dip and read it aloud to their fami 
lies. Women quietly sobbed. Villagers huddled in subdued 
groups and spoke darkly of what they would do if Wood- 
bridge didn't let up. Mason's old friends foregathered in Ten 
Eyck's tavern and wondered if a monster parade and mass 
meeting would help. All the people, everywhere, wondered 
what Woodbridge was trying to do, and why he was doing it. 
Woodbridge didn't say. He just kept on. A few days after the 
appearance of the pamphlet, the Whig newspapers carried an 
open letter from Romeyn to Mason in which the conspirator 
told Mason to take it like a man ; that they were both guilty 
and, further, they were guilty of other things, too, which he 
did not explain. 

As a matter 'of simple justice, one Detroit newspaper did 
relent long enough to publish a stinging reply from Mason in 
which he called Romeyn a liar and quoted from documentary 
evidence to prove it. The cleverest part of the episode was the 
masterful control by which Woodbridge denied every shred of 
Mason's defense any hearing whatever. Secondarily, the pres 
sure he put on Romeyn to accuse himself thus publicly as a thief 


and an embezzler, along with Mason, must have been tre 

Woodbridge won a complete victory. Mason was crushed, 
the Whigs heard no more from him, and Woodbridge prepared 
to depart for Washington. It seems to us that he neglected to 
go on with the plot and indict Mason. He just left the whole 
thing in mid-air and left majestically for the Senate. 

Until the appearance of the curious figure named Lawton 
Hemans in the Mason legend, and his superb research into 
Mason's life about 1900, that is the way matters stood in 
Michigan. Mason was finished as a public character for all 
time. His very name continued, generation after generation, 
to collect abuse and vile anecdotes. The Whigs disappeared 
and were replaced by the Republican Party, which held power 
for many years. There was no one who was interested enough 
to complete the story, and find out what had happened to 
Mason after the Whig framing machine left his crushed and 
bleeding public reputation lying in the gutter after that affair 
in 1841. The little boys who asked who Mason was were 
told that he was a drunkard, a crook, a disgrace to the State, 
the man who had caused the wave of bankruptcies and dis 
asters which history says made up most of the period wherein 
he held office. That was all these boys' fathers knew; as boys 
they had heard it themselves from their fathers. 

Woodbridge did Michigan a grievous injury by carrying 
his fear of Mason to such violent lengths. After his departure 
the Legislature's session degenerated into a brawl that sounds 
more like the anecdotes of old-time Tammany precinct clubs 
than the activities of a body of elected statesmen. They had 
been whipped into line by Woodbridge, but upon his departure 
they began snarling at each other. They were all heartily 
ashamed of the Mason episode, and blamed each other for it. 
This Legislature was the only one in Michigan history with 
a Whig majority, and the only one to behave in such a manner. 

Mason was not in jail, but for all the good he did in Detroit 
he might as well have been. He became a walking ghost. He 
spoke to no one, went out but seldom/and then only for the 


most necessary errands. Julia was in a decline over the affair ; 
her family and his family kept begging him to wake up, accept 
the inevitable, and get out of Detroit. This combination of 
pressures could end in only one way. Mason, brokenhearted, 
physically ill and completely disgusted, sold his household furni 
ture to raise money to transport his family to New York. 

His last day in Detroit must have been a bitter one. The 
smell of the city was nauseating in his nostrils. The picturesque 
little capitol where he had held sway for so many years seemed 
to him a dream of something he had known in another in 
carnation. The streets were full of people who sneered at him, 
or he thought they did. His friends; His people! Look at me, 
he thought. This is Stevens Thomson Mason, the man who had 
faith in the good judgment and inherent uprightness of the 
people. This is what those people have done to me. Liberty! I 
gave it to them ; I fought to keep their rights. I gave them the 
fullest freedom of any people in the United States. What did 
they do with it ? They let me hang. 

This was how Mason said good-bye to Detroit. Shuddering, 
he climbed aboard the Buffalo boat and sought sanctuary in 
his cabin. He knew he would never see Detroit again. 

The gradual stiffening of governmental control in the United 
States has given us such an instinctive fear of the law that it 
seems difficult to believe that such a crass plot could have suc 
ceeded against Mason in 1841. We have learned that liberty 
implies a sense of honesty in the individual citizen. We define 
liberty loosely as the "four freedoms", and few among us 
remember what tyranny actually was like. Except in certain 
labor unions and statist nations, it is no longer expected that 
a man's political enemies will lash him as savagely as a wild 
animal merely because of a difference in political creeds. 

In Mason's time, liberty was indeed often a synonym for 
unbridled license. Laws on the statute books were vague and 
feebly enforced. A man of some influence locally could get 


away with almost anything. Crowds formed and roared threats 
over issues which would hardly rate a letter of protest to a 
newspaper of our times. In the village of Michigan Center, 
for example, in 1841, a group of buildings and $30,000 worth 
of lumber and building supplies were burned by a mob which 
was protesting the village's attempt to become a division point 
on the Michigan Central Railroad. Things like that were com 
monplace, not only in Michigan but throughout the West. 
Frontier history is full of such instances, and we still thrill 
to the theme of violence in books and films based on the old 
West. Violence was as much a part of any pioneer's life as his 
midday meal of pork and beans. 

This was the period when the Mormons were trying to 
build their dream city of Nauvoo, 111., only to see their homes 
burned and their leaders murdered by Illinois mobs. This was 
the same year, 1841, when anti-Mormon violence at Nauvoo 
first captured the nation's attention. It was an era when no 
one outside the policymakers at Washington seemed to have 
the slightest conception of democracy as u the greatest good 
to the greatest number", but regarded their hard-won freedom 
as governmental weakness and as an excuse to take matters 
into their own hands. 

It goes without saying that had Woodbridge lived in the 
present era he would have been a politician, but hardly a plotter 
of 1841 proportions. In Michigan several politicians have had 
to learn this lesson the hard way; the mammoth prison at Jack 
son usually has several politicos on its "guest list" simultane 
ously. They are guilty of criminal conspiracy, a crime which, 
had it been on the statute books in 1841, would have been 
Woodbridge's nemesis. Their crimes were not knee-high to the 
monumental frame-up which broke Mason's heart. Under the 
present rigidly enforced laws on this subject, Woodbridge 
would have gotten off lightly with ninety-nine years. 

The laws would not have legislated a sense of fairness into 
a man like Woodbridge, but they would have made him afraid 
to risk heavy punishment by conspiring against Mason. The 
fact of Mason's defeat and disgrace during this conspiracy 

1839-1841] WRECK OF THE "GOVERNOR MASON 1 ' 399 

illustrates the fundamental difference between the two men. 
Woodbridge was a schemer. Mason was a trusting soul. 

He had a powerful imagination and an amazing breadth 
of vision, but he employed these aids to visualize constructive 
goals like the schools and the Internal Improvements project. 
In his career there is no record of personal bitterness toward 
anyone, except his indignation in 1832 when he fired a too-offi 
cious constable, Eliphalet Turner, for interfering with his 
attempts to fight the cholera plague. He made mistakes and 
was guilty of foolish acts, but never of vicious ones. His own 
strength of character brought about his downfall because, as 
a gentleman, he credited his enemies with being as high-minded 
as himself. He neglected to take proper precautions to pro 
tect himself from the network of plots which they presently 
cast around his astonished figure as soon as he became Gov 

In reading great numbers of Mason's letters, messages, 
documents and statements to newspapers, as any researcher 
must, there comes into relief a strong feeling that Mason was 
sincerely devoted to the thousands of little people who made up 
his beloved Michigan. He thought of the farmers and villagers 
first; their welfare claimed first consideration when a bill was 
presented to him for his signature. Mason was the common 
man's governor and administered his post as a public trust. 

The picture is made vivid by a contrast with Woodbridge, 
who was in politics because it was his job a livelihood and 
had been for thirty years. He administered every post he 
held so as to squeeze the last dollar out of it, as is shown by 
his concurrent occupancy of the Territorial Secretaryship and 
the post of Collector of the Port of Detroit, besides practicing 
law at the same time. The two men were natural opponents 
in everything. 

Mason fought for his beloved schools; Woodbridge fought 
Mason. The schools survived; not one act of Woodbridge's 
has survived except the sale of the Michigan Central Railroad 
to private purchasers, and perhaps that was inevitable. Mason's 
mind was aimed firmly ahead on the future. Woodbridge's 


mind was always on the present what he could do now. There 
is no parallel in Woodbridge's writings to the sentiments of 
Stevens T. Mason as expressed in speeches he made on the 
need for helping the schools. 

"If our country is ever to fall from her high position before 
the world, the cause will be found in the ignorance of the 
people; if she is to remain where she now stands, with her 
glory undimmed, educate every child in the land." 

Another : 

"As the friends of civil liberty, it becomes our duty to pro 
vide for the education of the rising generation. To the intelli 
gence of those who preceded us we are indebted for our ad 
mirable system of government, and it is only upon the intelli 
gence of those who come after us that we can hope for the 
preservation and perpetuation of that system." 

A warning to the Legislature, in an annual message : 

"Public opinion directs the course which our Government 
pursues, and as long as the people are enlightened, that direc 
tion will never be misgiven. It becomes our imperious duty, to 
secure to the State a generous diffusion of knowledge. This can 
in no wise be so certainly effected as by the perfect organiza 
tion of a uniform and liberal system of public schools. Your 
attention is therefore called to the effectuation of a perfect 
school system, open to all classes, as the surest basis of public 
happiness and prosperity." 

This is the man whose name the violent Whigs plastered 
with filth; this is the character which was attacked and smashed 
merely as a diversion to get Woodbridge out of the news 
paper columns. Nothing the Whigs ever did for Michigan ap 
proximated the loss they caused when they drove Mason out 
of Detroit, embittered, humiliated and crushed in spirit. In 
fact, the party dissolved soon afterward without having ac 
complished anything of note, to be succeeded by the Republi 
cans. The early Republicans were a reform party, disavowing 
nearly every point of the Whig platform. And so while the 
Whigs defeated Mason, the popular reaction which set in 
almost immediately after 1841 helped to kill the Whigs, at 


least in Michigan. The party's chief contribution to the country 
after the election of William Henry Harrison was the scan 
dalous fight they caused in Congress after his death. "Old 
Tip" died after a month in office, and Tyler, who succeeded 
him, quarrelled with the Whigs and vetoed their bills. The 
entire Whig cabinet resigned except for Daniel Webster, 
Secretary of State. In Congress a solemn vow was given to pre 
vent any member from speaking to Tyler, or of him. The 
nation rapidly slid down into the political turmoil which made 
the elimination of the Whig Party a stern necessity. 

Thus Mason was sacrificed to nothing. There was no gain, 
only untold loss. He did not go down fighting in defense of a 
principle. He was just knocked on the head and tossed aside. 
The impact upon Detroit was not long in making itself felt, 
and perhaps the Mason episode was the reason why Wood- 
bridge's trained-animal act was the first, last and only Whig 
legislature in Michigan history. 

The impact upon Mason is more difficult to explain. He was 
young, in good health, and had a family circle of loving parents, 
wife and children. He had within himself ample resources 
for warding off a blow like this, getting to his feet, and going 
on to greater triumphs. He tried. Perhaps he tried too hard. 
Instead of succeeding, he became increasingly irritable and 
moody. He could not forget what Woodbridge had done to 
him. It was not Woodbridge who loomed up as the chief sin 
ner in Mason's mind, because he had learned long ago to ex 
pect anything from him. The cause of Mason's misery was 
that composite character, the common citizen of Michigan. 
Where was he when Mason was being refused a chance to 
speak in his defense? What self-sacrificing, immediate action 
in Mason's behalf had the people taken during the 4 Toledo 
War"? They had been sheep, led around by Woodbridge and 
afraid to speak up. 

He was not the first man to be felled by an unscrupulous 
enemy, but he seemed to succumb to it to a greater degree than 
most. What had happened in Mason's mind could be explained 


by a psychiatrist, perhaps, in terms of shock, disillusionment 
and apathy. He became so cynical that he became unfit for 
any big accomplishment, and slipped farther and farther down 
the social and professional scale. It could have been prevented. 

The experience was a stunning psychological blow. Mason's 
belief in the fundamental goodness and honesty of the public 
was much stronger than ours of today, surrounded as we are by 
so many examples to the contrary. The shock of his abandon 
ment to Woodbridge's wolves without so much as a mass meet 
ing in the Campus Martius in his behalf was a terrible blow to 
him. He had the heritage of generations of Mason statesmen 
in his veins. He, too, had tried to be a statesman. He now 
discovered that, in order to survive in Michigan, he should 
have been a politician all the time. 

And so Mason went away to New York. He tried to for 
get that he had ever lived in Detroit. He was a vivid topic 
of conversation for a while and then, as people will, they for 
got him. The Mason legend, which had begun when he had 
first started filling inkwells in the Territorial capitol in 1830, 
finished with his dramatic appeal in the pamphlet: "To The 
People of Michigan". It is human nature to remember a man 
mostly for what last brought him to our notice, and so Mason 
was remembered as a thief who had narrowly escaped prison. 
Only the lies about him survived, twisted from generation to 
generation into almost unrecognizable forms. Finally, toward 
the close of the century, school children no longer read of 
him. The name of Mason was missing from the list of Found 
ing Fathers. 

Yet the Mason name survived in various traces. There were 
Mason County, and the town of Mason in Ingham County. 
Many of the older cities have a Mason Street, well downtown 
now, bearing testimony to the size of the place when the name 
of the illustrious Boy Governor was applied to it. There is 
Mason Hall at the University, the Mason School in Detroit. 
His portrait in the Representatives' Hall at the State capitol 
leads all the rest, hanging in the corner from which the painted 
parade of Michigan's chief executives begins. 

1839-1841] WRECK OF THE "GOVERNOR MASON 9 ' 403 

In the legislative term of 1899-1900 a young Representative 
named David E. Heinemann was fascinated by the portrait, 
the optimism in Mason's face, the proud set of his shoulders, 
the graceful hands. He studied the history of the painting and 
wrote a monograph on it, and as far as records show, that 
was almost the first mention of Stevens Thomson Mason in the 
Michigan Legislature since that day in 1841 when his plea 
to speak was denied. 



MASON looked at a clipping from the Free Press of October 
7, 1841. "To Rent," it proclaimed. "The dwelling house ^on 
Jefferson Avenue now occupied by John T. Mason. Possession 
given on the 15* of October. S. T. MASON." The notice 
had been running in the paper since September 2ist, and when 
he succeeded in renting he had just time to pack hurriedly and 
leave before his tenant came in. He remembered, as he gazed 
at the clipping, that he was only twenty when he had bought 
that house, and the deed was in his father's name. Twenty 
years old I Ten years ago. 

He would not go on deck and watch Detroit's graceful 
skyline recede behind the trees of Grosse He. His mind closed 
on the chapter of his life that Detroit represented. Ahead 
lay only the problem of making a living, and that did not seem 
much to Mason, after what he had been through in public life, 
He thought about his family, and about Julia. 

Julia was happy. As she dozed in their cabin she smiled to 
herself with the pleased look of one who has succeeded. She 
was glad that Detroit was behind her and that she would never 
have to see that place again. She was glad that the frightening 
people of Detroit stayed there far behind, where she would 
never again see them or be afraid of them. Particularly, she 
was glad because her new baby, the third, would be born in 
New York like its brother and sister. She thought that it was 
her insistent pleas which had dictated Mason's removal. She 
had been kept in ignorance of the more sinister implications of 
the Woodbridge plot. While she knew that business at Mason 
& Pritchette had not been very good, she did not know any 
motive other than her entreaties for this happy state of things. 



Mason wasted no energy trying to explain. He was exhausted 
and in need of rest. As he covered her, considerately, against 
the chill of Lake Erie, he was aware of the distortion of her 
body that signalled the approach of their new baby. He felt 
acutely sorry for Julia, knowing that earning a living in New 
York would not be as simple as she believed. He knew he was 
facing a hard time. 

There was only one time during the trip when Mason was 
cross with her, and she put that down to his exhausted physical 
condition. She brought up the matter of domestic arrangements 
at her father's house, assuming as a matter of course that the 
Mason family would live there. Mason told her with great em 
phasis that they would go anywhere else, that his first occupa 
tion upon reaching New York would be that of house hunting. 

The only money he had was the small sum realized from the 
sale of his household possessions. It would get them a place, 
but not a house, because they no longer had the furniture for 
it. Pritchette had promised to forward certain fees owing 
Mason from the partnership, and as of the date of his arrival, 
Mason felt able to survive until he could earn new money as 

Julia and the two children had only a day or so in the Phelps 
house before Mason yanked them away. He confessed in some 
embarrassment that he had been unable to find a proper place 
for them which he could afford. But he had found a boarding- 
house on Leonard Street, off Broadway, far downtown, and 
it would have to do until he could find better lodgings. "Not 
for always," he said, "only until I can afford something better. 5 ' 

Julia wept; old Phelps said it wasn't necessary. He said he 
had plenty of money and plenty of room. He could afford 
to play host to them indefinitely. Mason refused bluntly ; it was 
the boardinghouse. That was the best he could afford, and that 
was where his family was going to live. 

The location was close to the financial district, only a short 
walk from the great mercantile areas in lower Broadway. 
Somewhere thereabouts Mason determined to set up an office, 
in a district where law business originated. He determined to 


plunge In, hang out his shingle at the best address he could 
get, cultivate people who had expensive connections and fre 
quent trouble with the courts. 

He had made these plans and installed his family in the 
boardinghouse before he learned that he couldn't even practice 
law in New York State. If he had known that there was a 
difference In qualifications between the two states the fact 
had entirely escaped him during his recent worries. The dreams 
of quick success vanished when he learned what delays faced 
him. His first interview at the office of the New York Bar 
Association blasted his plans sky-high. 

"But I'm admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Michi 
gan ! Isn't that enough ?" 

"Is that in New York State?" inquired the Secretary. "It's 
immaterial what courts you have been admitted to practice 
before, if they're not in this State. You have never applied for 
admission here, nor passed the examinations we require. I'll 
give you a list of the requirements. You'd better get some text 
books and start studying." 

With a sinking heart, Mason studied the long list of re 
quirements. It would take him all winter to prepare for the 
examination. In the meantime he was totally without earning 
power, and also without sufficient resources to finance a long 
struggle merely to gain admission to the Bar. It was another 
resounding blow, added to all the others. He no longer carried 
himself stiffly erect. The optimism and confidence so marked in 
his state portrait were gone now and were replaced by lines of 
worry on his high forehead and around the corners of his 
mouth. A man can stand attack from almost any angle except 
through his family. Mason winced when he thought of Julia 
and the babies cooped up in that boardinghouse all winter, 
living on less and less, going without, giving up everything 
Julia had known as a girl so that he could sit there, month 
after month, studying law. Poverty! At last he was face to 
face with actual privation, as John T. had been during the ugly 
winters in Mount Sterling. He knew what poverty had done 
to his father. Must he go through that ? 


He did go through it, but he drew from his enormous reser 
voir of inner strength to ward off the psychological effects 
which had reduced his parents to misery in similar circum 
stances. He tried to keep cheerful, and did his best to make 
Julia as happy as he could. He worked ; he attacked those books 
with the same energy that he had shown in Detroit as Governor. 
It was while they were living in the crowded little boarding- 
house on Leonard Street that his third child, a boy, was born 
in March, 1842, and proudly named for Lucy's father Thad- 
deus Phelps Mason. 

In spite of the honor thus conferred, the baby's grandfather 
sat in his big house and moped. He did not like the world. 
The country was going to the dogs ; scoundrels were in public 
office and sound money had vanished. There was no incentive 
any more, he said, for a young man like Mason to get out and 
make a fortune. Crooked politicians would probably take it 
away from him anyway. He was through with it all, Phelps 
declared. He had closed up his leather business and was calling 
all his loans. He was going to retire. He saw no future in 
America; nothing ahead but recurrent panics and ruin. Mason 
felt depressed every time he spoke to the old gentleman, and 
after the ceremonies attending the baby's christening he de 
termined to go somewhere else, if possible, where he and the 
family could be happy. 

In April, 1842, he moved the family to a sunny house on 
Staten Island. About this time he wrote to his father that he 
had made some progress. He had been admitted, he said. He 
had been practicing only a few weeks, but he was already get 
ting a few clients. "I have formed an extensive acquaintance," 
he wrote, "and have about ten cases, a most respectable docket 
for a beginner. I have no fear of the ultimate results." 

He was whistling in the dark. Hemans says the ten cases 
he had were the cat-and-dog drudgery of the law that other 
attorneys didn't want, mostly as the court-appointed defense 
attorney defending petty crooks who were caught red-handed 
and didn't have a dime. He had not been fighting this legal 
battle very long before he wrote his father again : 


"I confess that I had formed but a limited idea of the difficul 
ties in the undertaking of coming to New York. My absolute 
living expenses are $1,500 a year, and my only capital consists 
of hope, energy and perseverance." 

In July, 1 841, things were no better : 

"Humility and modesty are not appreciated in New York. 
... A man, to succeed, must keep up appearances and seek the 
society of those who can benefit him in his profession, otherwise 
he would starve to death." 

He was becoming disillusioned and in doubt of his ability 
to achieve all these things. He probably missed the applause 
of the crowds, the stir caused by his appearance at a political 
meeting or a formal ball, or the humble attitude of Michigan 
villagers who were famous people at home merely because 
they had met him, touched him, or spoken to him. In New 
York he was something less than nobody, another lawyer in 
a city full of struggling lawyers, another tenant in a boarding- 
house. This Mason was beginning to walk stoop-shouldered. 
He was hollow-eyed, morose and becoming bitter. 

In the summer sunshine on Staten Island the family's spirits 
revived somewhat, but Mason's precarious practice didn't im 
prove. He rode the ferry back and forth every day, sat in his 
law office, and tried to think of ways to regain the social recog 
nition in New York that was once his as Governor of Michi 
gan. u Keep up appearances . . . seek the society of those who 
can benefit me. ..." 

The red and gold leaves were falling from the maples, and 
the autumn wind whipped the bay as Mason rode to his office 
on the ferry. Summer was over. Facing him was another winter 
in that boardinghouse, instead of the pleasant house he had 
promised Julia. Mason's heart was not in anything he was 
doing. He was thinner, and increasingly moody. 

During the summer, Emily had come over to Staten Island 
to visit the family for a day or so, and of course her diary 
presently flowed with crisp comments on the sad change in his 
appearance, the queer apathy which made him absent-minded, 
the heartbreaking look of futility which had replaced the 


firm, clear-eyed countenance of the Governor. Emily was so 
deeply concerned that she kept her worst fears out of her notes 
for fear that her brother might find them someday, and realize 
how he looked through the eyes of another. It was to their 
father, John T., that Emily wrote a series of letters about 
Tom Mason with the painful situation clearly and unhesitat 
ingly depicted. John T. immediately left Louisiana and began 
a hurried trip to New York, hoping that he would arrive in 

Mason was oblivious to the change in himself, or if he 
noticed it, he did not comment. During December, 1842, some 
of the Richmond folk he had met on Staten Island invited him 
to attend a meeting of the Lyceum Society and deliver a talk 
entitled 'The History of the Northwest", They paid a fee; 
it was just before Christmas and Mason was temporarily 
happy again. He could tell them a few facts about the history 
of the Northwest from a decade of intimate daily contact 
with it; he himself had shaped that history as much as any 
living man. His lecture was a success. He returned to Julia 
wreathed In smiles, and Christmas was a happy day. 

New Year's Eve promised to be even happier. At last he 
held in his hands his long-awaited opportunity. He received 
a cordial invitation from Washington Irving, who Mason 
feared had forgotten him, to attend the famed Irving New 
Year's Eve ball. He and Julia were as excited as children. A 
ball at Washington Irving' s ! 

He wasn't feeling well, but that was nothing. The ball was 
a great social affair in the best old Knickerbocker tradition, 
with a guest list that read like the index to the Social Register. 
He must go I It was the place for a young lawyer to be seen. 
It was the environment in which to meet important people, 
seek new clients. It was the very affair he had in mind when 
he wrote: "I must seek the society of those who can benefit 
me " 

He went. He had a wonderful time. But it was a long, cold 
journey downtown in a drafty hackney carriage from the re 
splendent Irving mansion to the little boardinghouse on 


Leonard Street. He was coughing when Julia helped himjn- 
side, and she realized he was running a fever^The following 
day, New Year's Day, was a holiday and Julia couldn't find 
a doctor until evening. By that time she had located Emily 
and John T., and implored their help. Her husband was dan- 
gerously ill. 

John T. hurried to the boardinghouse, and gazed upon the 
stricken figure of his son. Mason was only partly conscious, 
but tried to smile as he recognized his caller. The old man 
ran for a doctor any doctor. There was a Doctor Boyd who 
lived in the neighborhood, and to him John T. breathlessly 
poured out the story. Dr. Boyd returned to the boardinghouse 
with him, examined the patient and opined that he was cer 
tainly sick, and had a high fever, but it would have to run its 
course. He expected that by morning the patient would be 
somewhat better. 

It was a poor diagnosis. Mason was seized with violent 
stomach cramps that night, January ist, and vomited and 
retched unceasingly. All day January 2nd he lay tossing in bed 
complaining of a violent headache. The fever was as high as 
ever. On the night of the 3rd, Dr. Boyd declared that he had 
an "inflammatory sore throat, " bled him, gave him some medi 
cine and told Julia not to worry. 

Dr. Boyd evidently did not recognize pneumonia, and might 
not even have heard of the disease. On January 4th he was 
at Mason's bedside with a Dr. Grayson, whom he had called 
for consultation. They put their full-bearded heads together 
for a long, whispered conference, examined him again, and 
declared that whatever ailed him it probably was not serious. 
They left some pills and took their departure. 

About ten minutes later, which places the time at about 
eleven o'clock on the night of January 4th, a personal friend 
of John T.'s called at the boardinghouse to see him. He was 
shown into Mason's sickroom, where John T. was standing at 
the bedside. His name was Dr. Mott. He was a well-known 
physician from uptown, with a big practice and a famous 
name. His visit had nothing to do with the sick man, but as 


soon as he saw Mason he made a quick examination, took 
pulse and temperature and called John T. out of the room. 
Taking him aside, Dr. Mott told him quietly that Mason was 
dying, that he had pneumonia and was in such an advanced 
condition that there was no help for him. 

At three o'clock on the morning of the 5th of January, 
Mason was in a semicoma. He was conscious for some minutes, 
then drifted into delirium. He roused himself long enough to 
recognize Julia, and then, said John T., he seemed to fall into 
a composing sleep. Silently, he died. 

John T. collapsed in a chair and wept. Emily ran to give 
help to Julia, who was in hysterics. Dr. Mott stayed long 
enough to prescribe sedatives for her, and said that he would 
notify Thaddeus Phelps. The dawn came, but to the shaken 
people who had taken part in that all-night vigil, the sun had 
lost some of its brilliance. They were still sitting there by 
midmorning, without having spoken, when Dr. Boyd returned 
with a diagnosis. Mason, he said, had "suppressed scarlet 

Toward midafternoon of that day, January 5, 1843, John 
T. had finally quieted Julia and he sat down to write the tragic 
news to his daughter Kate Mason Rowland, at Detroit. He 
found a pen, and began : 

"I attempted to write you last night but found myself un 
equal to the task, and am now little better prepared to an 
nounce to you a most heartrending event. Our light afflictions 
for the past year we bore not without repining, but they were 
temporary and susceptible of alleviation. Now we have to sum 
mon to our aid the strength we possess, and call to our relief 
the only power that is capable of it the power of religion 
the trust in God that all His ways are best. Your beloved 
brother is no more I cannot yet realize the awful truth. 
But it is nevertheless so. He now lies a corpse in this house. 
His sickness was not considered dangerous until two hours be 
fore his death, and it was so sudden, so calm and so free from 
pain that to look upon him at this moment the serenity of 
his countenance cheats you into the belief that he still lives. 


Yes ! He does, but in another world, the destined abode of 
us all." 

There follows a brief description of the doctors' mistaken 
treatment and the shock the old man received when Dr. Mott 
told him the terrible truth. He recounts calmly how Dr. Mott 
"told me he was dangerously ill and could not live more than 
two hours," but that nothing could be done. 

"His predictions were, alas! too true, and at three o'clock 
he expired without a groan, in such entire absence of pain that 
he seemed to fall into quite a composing sleep. Little did we 
apprehend that it was the sleep of death from which we can 
only awake at the Resurrection such is the will of God, and 
we must submit, and in true faith believe that this decree is 
according to His wisdom and goodness and for the best 
hard as it is for us to bear the infliction. 

"Julia is in a state of distraction and I can hardly tell the 
character of my own mind. I shall write to you again in a day 
or two, but it is impossible for me to afford consolation other 
than your own minds will present; a submission to the will of 
God -to whom I commend you, and pray that He may give 
you strength to sustain you under the heartrending calamity 
which it has been His pleasure to award us. 

"Your affectionate father, 


As the body of the Boy Governor was borne slowly out of 
the Phelps house a few days later, John T. Mason and Emily 
walked bareheaded, side by side, behind the hearse to the little 
old cemetery across the lower end of Manhattan. The body was 
encased in a beautiful mahogany casket, in which was sunk a 
wide silver plate bearing his name, and the date of his death. 
It was covered with flowers from the New York Bar Associa 
tion, from Tammany, and from the Mason and Phelps families. 
The procession followed slowly behind the flower-banked 
hearse until it arrived at the appointed place, the now-forgotten 
Marble Cemetery, between the Bowery and Second Avenue, 


Second and Third Streets. There the procession halted. Julia 
Phelps Mason, a wisp of heavily veiled black, stood between 
her father and John T., with Emily close by. There was a brief 
service, then the awful, final leave-taking. The casket, shorn 
of its silver handles and with the flowers now carefully banked 
around the scene, was observed to disappear, inches at a time, 
into a dark, damp, limitless hole in the side of a towering stone 
wall which contained the Phelps family crypt. A newly chiseled 
marble slab was swung over the opening and cemented in. On 
its clean white face it bore only two lines : 


Died January 5, 184 3 

Only a week later, on January I2th, the news reached Detroit. 

The citizens of that lusty city knew that something was 
amiss when they saw their conservative Free Press in mourning, 
with heavy black rules between its page one columns. They 
hurried scanned the Advertiser ', which had hated Mason more 
than cholera. Yes, there it was again. "Death of Stevens T. 
Mason." John N. IngersolPs Journal and Courier carried a 
laudatory column on the front page, among the classified ad 
vertising, an almost unheard-of place for a news story in 1843. 

All the Detroit papers forgot political feeling and paid 
warm tribute to Mason the man. Sheldon McKnight's Free 
Press, always Mason's champion, dramatically described him 
as "the most honored citizen and universally beloved friend 
of Michigan . . . the gifted orator ... the talented statesman 
. . . the high-souled patriot . . . the warm-hearted, frank, gen 
erous, noble and magnanimous friend." Editorially the paper's 
issue of January I3th carried on in the same vein, with many 
a reference to Mason's sterling virtues and acknowledged 
abilities. McKnight in a signed column wrote an obituary 
which shows his deep personal affection for the handsome 
figure who had dominated Michigan for so long. "He was an 


excellent son, and a devoted husband and father. His abilities 
were of a high order, his information general and extensive, 
his eloquence ardent and impressive. If he had political enemies 
they were fewer than ever fell to the lot of any other public 
man. If he had defects, they too were slight and unobserved 
amidst the good qualities which excited admiration." 

Even the bitter Detroit Advertiser thought the time had 
come to close the books on an old feud. "We cannot forbear 
to mingle our tears in the general sorrow. His career here was 
indeed an uninterrupted political struggle, and yet few men 
have left behind them more personal friends from among all 
parties, and now when the hand of death has laid him low 
we cannot but count ourselves fortunate to have been per 
mitted to have been of that number. Fale, amice, vale!" 

That was the first and only time the Advertiser had declared 
any friendship for Stevens T. Mason, but the spirit behind it 
was generous. It was spoken of as a courteous gesture, and 
the general tone of the newspaper eulogy brought the Mason 
name back to Detroit lips immediately. The Legislature was 
in session. It still had some of the familiar whiskery old faces, 
but they were thinning out. Detroiters who had known Mason's 
agony under the lash of legislative persecution looked toward 
the old capitol building with curiosity. 

^Mister President !" "Mister Speaker I" . 
It was all right now. They were going to hear Mason's 
name again, in the Legislature that Woodbridge had forbidden 
to utter it. Woodbridge was reading his newspaper in Wash 
ington, with what thoughts we do not know. He no longer held 
control. A Democrat named Greenly, from Adrian, took the 
floor in the Senate. He had held a brief caucus with other 
Senators of both parties and said he was authorized to speak 
for them. 

"Since our adjournment yesterday," he said, "the mournful 
intelligence has been received of the death of the Honorable 
Stevens T. Mason, the former and first Governor of our State. 
The first political relations of his life were with us. As soon 
as he had attained his majority he was by the almost unanimous 


suffrages of our people elected to the Chief Magistracy of our 
State. In all his relations with us, both as a citizen and as a 
magistrate, he was courteous, generous and liberal, deeply im 
bued with all those qualities which were the governing princi 
ples of his life, and created strong attachments which existed 
between the deceased and the citizens of Michigan. After our 
relations were terminated by his voluntary withdrawal from 
public life, he removed to the City of New York to follow the 
profession of law and to follow a quiet domestic life. But his 
earthly happiness was destined to be of short duration. In the 
midst of his usefulness and in the pride of his manhood, by 
the interposition of an overruling Providence he has been 
called to 'that bourne from which no traveler returns', and 
while our tears of sympathy flow freely with those who are 
afflicted by this dispensation, let us invoke the Father of all 
Mercies to smile upon and console his bereaved family and re 

"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we deeply sym 
pathize with the relations of the late STEVENS T. MASON 
in their sudden and afflictive bereavement, and in this manner 
publicly would tender our heartfelt tribute to the memory of 
the deceased, as an individual who was deeply imbued with all 
the sterling virtues of public, social and private life." 

The Senate did not keep this mention of Mason from the 
public records; it had copies of this resolution distributed 
throughout the State. The House passed a very similar one, in 
troduced by Representative Edwin H. Lathrop of Kalamazoo 
County. By arrangement, the leaders in both Houses got a com 
mittee appointed to prepare what they called a "funeral," and 
a day of public mourning for the late Governor Mason. The 
ceremonies were held on Sunday, January 15, 1843, at the little 
Episcopal Church on Woodward to which Mason had come 
reverently each Sunday for many years. 

In silence, thousands of Detroiters and people from near-by 
towns gathered on the wooden sidewalks to watch a solemn 
funeral procession which had no body to bury. As a parade it 
was a success. It bore a noticeable military air in recognition 


of Mason's participation in two minor wars the Black Hawk 
War and the Patriot Uprising. The Brady Guards were up in 
front, with Major Ike Rowland in a black arm band marching 
at their head. Following them came the equally resplendent 
Scott Guards, with officers from the Army post at Fort Wayne 
in their gold-epauletted dress uniforms. Governor James 
Wright Gordon, looking very sad at Mason's untimely death, 
rode with all the heads of the State departments, Judges of the 
Supreme Court in their robes, officers of the Senate and House, 
the Mayor of Detroit and his Board of Aldermen, all the mem 
bers of the Detroit Bar Association and peculiarly, the entire 
membership of the Detroit Typographical Society, to which 
Mason had not belonged. 

It was the longest procession Detroit had ever seen, and 
one of the strangest. There was no music, no sound from the 
crowds, only the clop-clop of horses' hooves on the thick plank 
surface of the streets. It must have been an impressive sight. 
It must have made newcomers to Detroit wonder what manner 
of man could have inspired such a monster funeral, especially 
since its central attraction, the casket, wasn't there. If they 
had been told that he wasn't there because many of these same 
distinguished figures now riding in the procession in their shiny 
silk hats and lugubrious expressions had driven him out, heart 
broken and in disgrace, it would have sounded like a fairy tale. 

Mason himself would have been thrilled at the sight of it. 
Here was proof , in the crowds lining the sidewalks, that in spite 
of the abuse heaped upon him he still held the affection of great 
numbers of citizens. If he could have mingled with them, on 
the sidewalks, and could have heard them sigh at their mem 
ories of this spectacular figure, relate little anecdotes about 
how he had spoken to them, or how they had seen him on a 
platform once, his heart would have recovered and his spirit, 
too. He would have heard their praises of him, their repug 
nance at the mean way they all had turned their backs upon 
him when he most needed their help. Like them, as they saw 
the Whig legislators who had refused to hear him, he would 
have turned aside in disgust. 


What had happened to him during his last days in Detroit 
was forgotten now. In their hearts, as they watched the slow- 
moving procession, and to no lesser degree in the hearts of 
thousands more in the villages throughout Mason's Michigan, 
Mason was there. They seemed to see him fleetingly once 
more, looming up over that procession, as Michigan would 
one day immortalize him tall, erect, confident, chin up, his 
gold-headed cane under his arm as he stroked on his white 
silk gloves and patted his gleaming high hat to just the right 
rakish angle the figure of fashion in a setting of sin. 




THE BODY OF Stevens Thomson Mason lay in the cold crypt wall space in 
the Marble Cemetery, New York, for sixty-two years. Then something 
happened which is a natural part of the Mason legend, another one of those 
impossible things which were always happening to the Boy Governor. He 
got out of that crypt and came back to Detroit. 

He came in triumph and he came to stay. The lies about him were for 
gotten by that time, but the good he did was beginning to be understood in 
its true perspective. No one in Detroit cared much what his politics had 
been. They wanted Mason to come home. 

The man who brought him home was Lawton T. Hemans, of whom so 
much has been written in the preceding pages. He was a middle-aged 
lawyer who lived in the town of Mason, and practiced law there. He had a 
very good practice; so lucrative that, in the declining years of his life, he 
could afford an expensive hobby. This hobby, for some reason, was the 
justification of Stevens Thomson Mason before posterity. He undertook to 
write a complete legal brief on Mason's life and career which would place 
the Boy Governor and the Whigs in their true relationship, without any 
Whigs being on the scene to forbid him the privilege. He was a legal re 
searcher who determined to prepare his case in Mason's defense as if he 
might have to plead it before the Supreme Court. He spent twenty years 
doing it and, like his beloved hero, he died before success was reached. He 
spent twice as long, in fact, justifying Mason as Mason himself had spent 
in office. But it was an appalling task to locate, assemble and analyze old 
records which by that time had been gathering dust for sixty years. It was 
detail drudgery on a colossal scale, and sometimes there are questions asked 
about why Mr. Hemans did it. 

Mrs. Hemans understood part of it, and in a preface to Hemans' great 
work she tried to explain. She said that when he was a boy running around 
the village of Mason he wanted to know why the village was so named, 
and was told that it had been a mistake; Mason was a politician who had 
once been Governor. He had died suddenly in early manhood after an eve 
ning's debauch, and his lifeless body found in a Detroit gutter; so the boy 



was told. He grew curious about Mason. As a young man he visited the 
capitol at Lansing and there encountered the Mason State portrait. 

"As he gazed upon that face so full of culture and refinement, the desire 
was born in his heart to try and refute that criticism and other calumnies 
heaped upon the Boy Governor. As he began collecting and reading, he 
became more and more convinced that many unjust remarks had been 
showered upon Governor Mason; that the beautiful, upright, conscientious 
character of the man had never been shown in its true light. Mr. Hemans' 
desire grew stronger as his knowledge became deeper in his subject, and I 
really know that he had the greatest love and admiration for Governor 

"He fell in love with his subject. His life's best endeavors went into col 
lecting and putting together and writing a story of the Boy Governor. I 
think Mr. Hemans gave his life for the State of Michigan." 

That is no overstatement. It is literally true. During his last two years 
he was in constant pain, bedridden, but dictating between groans with the 
knowledge that death was upon him. He repeatedly asked his wife whether 
she thought he could finish before he died. She didn't know. But she says 
he would sigh and say: "It was worth it. It was worth the cost." 

For many years Mrs. Hemans was his agent in the thankless task of locat 
ing old letters, quaint daguerreotypes and trinkets which Hemans had traced 
to some family. Then the gracious middle-aged lady would have to call upon 
these total strangers and ask please might she poke around in their attic in 
search of a letter Governor Mason had written to the family's grandfather 
sixty years before. He sent her to the Burton Library of historical collections 
in Detroit with instructions to copy every reference to Mason in the old 
newspaper files, and there were hundreds. She sifted trash out of rubbish 
heaps, and found old brooches that contained a picture of some character 
in the Mason legend. All this time, Hemans himself was away from his law 
office and exploring around Owingsville, Kentucky, looking for the ruins 
of John T/s iron mine. Or he might have been interviewing the astonished 
residents of Virginia manors about the history of their houses, when they 
were built and who lived there. He spent weeks in the New Jersey State 
capitol, making transcripts of all the records of the Morris Canal and Bank 
ing Company, which had been incorporated in that State. Eventually he 
wore himself out, exhausted his savings paying for clerical work on copies 
of these old records, and took to his bed. 

But he had over 200,000 words of carefully footnoted facts about Mason. 
He was a lawyer, not a writer, and he was drafting this report, not writing 
a book. He planned to give it to the State Historical Commission as a perma- 


nent record. This was done. It appeared as a State document about 1905, and 
was reprinted in a second edition in 1930. 

During his wanderings and inquisitorial pokings into this and that, 
Hemans discovered that Mason was buried in the crypt in New York. He 
determined to correct that, and the decision led him into a long detour 
down the cluttered alleys of genealogy; he had to locate Mason's descendants, 
if any, and get permission to move the body. His first contact was with the 
Boy Governor's daughter, Mrs. Dorothea Mason Wright, of Newark. Mrs. 
Wright, a plump matron in her sixties, told him that she was very glad to 
consent; she felt that Mason belonged to Detroit. She said her Aunt Emily 
thought so, too. At this, Hemans nearly swooned. It was true. Aunt Emily 
was the original Emily Mason, a wiry old lady of ninety but still full of 
energy and crisp decisions. Mrs. Wright brought Hemans and Emily Mason 

Emily had been through a hard time in the Civil War, in which she was 
a one-woman USO, Red Cross and canteen manager combined. She had 
been a dear friend of Lee's and a valuable organizer throughout the chain 
of Confederate camps and prisons. After the war she went to Europe to 
live, but became fed up with it and returned prior to 1900. Her old family 
furniture was still adorning her New York home; her diaries were intact; 
and many of John T. Mason's .library books exhibited in Hemans 5 excited 
hands the marks of that trip across the Cumberlands in 1812. She told 
Hemans to take anything he liked. Her diaries were priceless. But like any 
monomaniac, Hemans was not satisfied. He wanted more. And thus it hap 
pened that Emily, at the age of ninety, sat down and began writing quanti 
ties of descriptions, character sketches of figures in the Mason legend, and 
quaint word pictures of what the Mason slaves had looked like at Serenity 
Hall, Lexington, when she was five years old. She turned out to have a 
memory like a bound file of The "New Yor% Times. Before the demands of 
Mr. Hemans were satisfied, Emily had a book-length manuscript on her 
hands. This, too, at Hemans' suggestion, was turned over to the Michigan 
State Historical Society under the title "Autobiography of an Octogenarian". 
Excerpts are still kept on the shelves in Lansing. 

By 1900, Hemans had a mountain of material on Mason's life and public 
career. But he had not gained custody of the corpus delicti, because he had 
been too busy cracking the whip over his two female slaves, Emily and Mrs. 
Hemans. He had, to interrupt the work to organize a campaign to get the 
body back. The Legislature agreed to pay for it if there was a public interest 
in the idea. The Historical Society sent out a flurry of newspaper features 
on the Hemans campaign. It aroused the demand. 


When the Legislature appointed a committee to supervise the removal 
of Mason's body to Detroit, Hemans was named as one of its members. 
He did most of the work, made all the arrangements, and fixed it for Emily 
herself to be present in Detroit when the new funeral was held. News of 
Hemans' activities, and the fact of Emily's survival, intrigued Michigan. The 
popularity of Governor Stevens T. Mason made a sudden reappearance. He 
was a famous man in modern Michigan, lauded by all the school authorities, 
praised by the professional men, immortalized by the University. The Mason 
legend came to life in such force that the Legislature was non-plussed. That 
body had not expected to encounter a wave of enthusiasm for a politician 
who had been dead, at that time, nearly seventy years. But it was so ap- 
apparent that the Legislature had to take official notice. 

Almost without debate, it appropriated $10,000 for the execution of a 
fitting monument. Correspondence between Governor Fred M. Warner and 
Mayor George P. Codd of Detroit was friendly and mutually cooperative. 
Certainly the City of Detroit would help. It would landscape Capitol Park 
and get it ready for a permanent reburial there. The City would build a 
speakers' stand and bleachers for those who wished to attend the ceremonies. 
Hemans would have been satisfied merely to have the body back in Michi 
gan. He was not much of a glad-hander or public orator. The Governor 
and the Mayor, however, would not be denied. They insisted that both he 
and Emily appear on the platform, along with Mrs. Wright and all the 
other surviving Mason descendants. They called out the militia, engaged 
bands, flooded the newspapers with announcements of a State-wide public 
holiday, and aroused so much enthusiasm that it became contagious. Michi 
gan could not have been more excited if Mason had turned up alive, waving 
his silk hat. They looked forward to the big day the way we of this genera 
tion crowd around police lines to see the President. For that one day, 
Mason was a hero again. 

The ceremony was announced for June 4, 1905. Horseshoe-shaped bleach 
ers had been erected around the site in tiny triangular Capitol Park. It 
would seat only 2,000 people, and the rest of the Detroit public had to stand. 
They backed up in a milling mob far down Griswold. They couldn't hear 
much because there were no microphones or public-address systems in that 
day, but they could see sprightly old Emily mount the platform, nod vigor 
ously to the crowd, and sit down. Mrs. Dorothea Mason Wright sat next to 
her, flanked by her son, Captain William Wright, USA. Stevens T. Mason of 
Detroit, a grandnephew of the Governor and the only surviving bearer of 
the famous name, was introduced and seated. 

Hemans, his stooped figure darting nervously back and forth supervising 


details, was the chief worrier of the occasion. Governor Warner read a long, 
eulogistic speech; Mayor Codd and the Board of Aldermen, now called the 
Common Council, took a few bows, and Hemans began to recite some of the 
biographical facts about the Governor. But the crowd was restless; they 
wanted to hear Emily. Several times Emily shook her white head and indi 
cated that she didn't want to become the center of any attention, but the 
crowd was insistent. Finally she arose. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am so old I am sure you will hardly expect me 
to say anything of great length. With all my heart I thank you all, in the 
name of my family, my niece and myself, for your kind words and the 
kind things you have said about my brother. I shall never forget the honor 
and pleasure I have had in this visit, and I hope I shall yet live to come back 
again. I will talk no longer, because I want to shake hands with my old 
friends and neighbors here." 

In 1905, Emily was able to greet Judge Edward Cahill, the Rev. D. M. 
Cooper and a number of others who remembered her when she lived at 303 
East Jefferson Avenue with the aura of being the Governor's hostess. People 
who had shaken hands with the Boy Governor now tottered forward and 
took Emily's firm hand in theirs. While this was going on, the crowd had 
swelled until it was jampacked from building to building across Griswold 
and across the park itself. Traffic was tied up all through the downtown 
section awaiting the parade, and all Detroit was crowding on the sidewalks 
to see Mason's coffin, which their ancestors were denied during the similar 
parade on the same streets, starting from the same point, in 1843. 

The band led the way through the canyons between towering buildings 
to the Light Guard Armory, where the Detroit Police drill team was stand 
ing guard around the flower-covered coffin which Hemans had rescued from 
the vault. It was tenderly borne outside and placed on a gun mount. It was 
late in the afternoon. The sun slanted down across the Farwell Building, 
interposing a shadow like a benediction on the fresh earth in Capitol Park. 
The parade moved to the park; the old mahogany casket was slowly lowered 
into its final resting place and a bugler sounded "taps". The grave was di- 
recdy below the spot where Governor Mason's office had been when the 
litde capitol building stood there; the office wherein he created the great 
State, defended it and tried to build it also the office where Woodbridge 
had slammed the door upon him when he sought to defend himself. The 
building had been a memory for many years, serving out its time as a 
school after Lansing became the State Capital in 1847. 

Workmen began grading the site, seeding a lawn and preparing for the 
erection of the bronze statue, by Albert Weinert of New York. Detroit's 


Russell Alger, then Secretary of War, had located the bronze for it from 
old cannon salvaged from historic old frontier forts of Mason's time. Pres 
ently the statue arrived, and was unveiled. Flanking the monument, the 
sculptor designed two curved marble endpieces serving both as benches and 
as decorative spacers around the base of the monument itself. 

Visitors to Detroit seldom include Capitol Park among the modern at 
tractions of the great motor metropolis. Mason is there; his body lies be 
neath the statue and his monument towers above. He stands there, erect 
and dashing as he was in life, but the huge skyscrapers of midtown De 
troit dwarf the little triangular space and let in little light. The bronze 
figure seems tiny now, and hard to find even if one looks for it. Bushes 
have grown up, untrimmed, almost to the statue's shoulder. On either side 
of the bushes are enormous comfort-station signs, which get most of the 
attention. Impatient cars lined the curbs, bumper to bumper. Mounted police 
men on imperious steeds glare at taxi drivers, who glare back. There stands 
Mason, forever glancing straight down Griswold with an expression of 
amused tolerance, but few of the thousands who pass there daily have ever 
noticed his monument. It seems like a sentinel, watching to make sure that 
these rushing people go down the right steps into the right places. It is time- 
blackened and forgotten by the lines of busy stenographers forever dashing 
across the park's diagonal sidewalks. Whirls of dust and bits of paper and 
gum wrappers blow unnoticed around Mason's calm, boyish face. 

There stands Mason, and all around him flows the hurried, irritable end 
less wave of sound that is Detroit. 


FROM JOHN T. MASON'S family Bible, now in the Rare Book Room in the 
University o Michigan Library, the following is transcribed: 

JOHN THOMSON MASON Born in 1787 at Raspberry Plain, near Leesburg, 
Virginia. Died at Galveston, Texas, April i7th, 1850, of malaria. 
Age 63. 

ELIZABETH MoiR MASON Born 1789 at Williamsburg, Virginia. Died in 
New York, N. Y., on November 24, 1 839. Age 50. 

Children of John and Elizabeth Mason: 

1. MARY ELIZABETH Born Dec. 19, 1809, at Raspberry Plain. Died Febru 

ary 8, 1822, at Lexington, Ky. Age 12. 

2. STEVENS THOMSON Born Oct. 27, 1 8x1, at Leesburg, Virginia. Died 

January 3rd, 1843. Age 31. 

3. ARMISTEAD T. (i) Born Lexington, Ky., July 22, 1813. Lived 18 days. 

4. ARMISTEAD T. (11) Born Lexington, Ky., Nov. 13, 1814. Lived 3 months. 

5. EMILY VIRGINIA Born Lexington, Ky., October, 1815. [Miss Mason was 

over 93 when she died on a date which is not given in the family 

6. CATHERINE ARMISTEAD Born Owingsville, Ky., Feb. 23, 1818. Died in 

Detroit as Kate Mason Rowland. 

7. LAURA ANN THOMPSON Born Oct. 5th, 1 82 1. Married Col. Chilton of 

New York. [Date of death not recorded.] 

8. THEODOSIA Born at Indian Fields, Bath Co., Ky., Dec. 6, 1822. Died at 

Detroit Jan. 7th, 1834, a e d II years i month. 

9. CORNELIA MADISON Born June 25th, 1825, at Lexington, Ky. Died in 

Detroit August 2nd, 1831. Aged 6. 

10. A SON (Stillborn) March 20, 1827, at Owingsville, Ky. 

11. MARY ELIZABETH (ii) Born January 18, 1828, at Owingsville, Ky. Died 

in Detroit Oct. 29, 1833. Age 5. 

12. LOUISA WESTWOOD Born at Mt. Sterling, Ky., Sept. 24th, 1829. Died 

Oct. nth, 1829, aged 1 8 days. 

13. A SON (Stillborn) Detroit, April 5th, 1833. 
Children of Stevens T. and Julia Phelps Mason: 

STEVENS T. MASON and JULIA PHELPS were married in New York, No 
vember i, 1838. Julia was born in New York November 21, 1818. 
Daughter of Thaddeus Phelps. 



1. STEVENS THOMSON, iv Born in New York, August i, 1839. 

2. DOROTHEA ELIZA Born in New York, October, 1 840. 

3. THADDEUS PHELPS Born in New York, March i r, 1842. 

The death dates of Julia and the children are not recorded in the family 
Bible. The baby Stevens T. lived only a few years and died before reaching 
school age. Dorothea Mason Wright lived to an advanced age in Newark, 
N. J. Thaddeus Phelps Mason's death date is not known. 

Antecedents of Stevens T. Mason 

Source: Life of George Mason, by Kate Mason Rowland, Vol. I 
Mason Lineage and Arms, by Jane Griffith Keys 
Life and Times of Stevens T. Mason, by Lawton T. Hemans 
The first Mason in the New World was a George Mason, of Staffordshire, 
an officer in the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie, which was badly defeated by 
Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester, Sept. 3, 1651. In the general 
exodus of Loyalists from England, Colonel George Mason came to James 
town, Va., where he built a home in 1652. 

In 1700 George Mason, II, son of the English officer, was commander of 
the Jamestown militia, a lieutenant colonel at age 20. He 
was a general in 1715. 

In 1721 George Mason, 111, a youth of 22, was elected Justice of the 
Peace. In this year he married Ann Thomson, daughter of 
Stevens Thomson, the Attorney General of Virginia. He 
built a huge manor house called "Gunston Hall," adjoining 
Mount Vernon, and was a friend of Lawrence Washington. 
In 1774 George Mason, IV, boyhood friend of George Washington, be 
gan writing the "Virginia Papers" and urging Independence. 
He was the wealthiest man in Virginia, owner of 1,600 
slaves and 30,000 acres of cultivated lands. He drafted Vir 
ginia's first State Constitution, served in the Continental Con 
gress and in the Constitutional Convention. After refusing 
to sign the U.S. Constitution he drafted the first ten amend 
ments, the famous "Bill of Rights". 

George Mason, IV, had a younger brother, Thomson Mason. He built a 
small manor house at Raspberry Plain, Loudon County, Va., after returning 
from extended study and practice of law in London. He was the first Chief 
Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. He was born in 1730, at "Doeg's 
Neck Manor" in Stafford, now Fairfax County, Va., and died at Raspberry 
Plain in 1785. He was married twice; his only son by his first marriage was 


the first Stevens Thomson Mason, born in Stafford, Va., in 1760, who died 
at Philadelphia, Pa., in 1 803. 

Stevens Thomson Mason left two sons, (i) Armistead Thomson Mason, 
born at Raspberry Plain in 1787, and killed in a duel at Bladensburg, Md., 
Feb. 5, 1819. Armistead T. Mason was a colonel in the War of 1812, after 
ward a general in the Virginia militia and U.S. Senator, and inherited 
Raspberry Plain from his father. Armistead T. Mason's brother (2) John T. 
Mason, father of Governor Mason, by a curious coincidence was born the 
same year, 1787, both sons being born to their father when he was twenty- 
seven years of age and already the father of two girls: Catherine, who mar 
ried William T. Barry of Kentucky, and Mary, who married Benjamin 
Howard of the same state. In his will, the noted wit and raconteur left a 
warning to his two sons: ". . .neither of the said sons shall live on the 
south side of the James River nor below Williamsburg until they shall 
reach the age of twenty-one years, lest they should imbibe more exalted 
notions of their own importance than I wish any child of mine should 

Wife of the first Stevens T. Mason, Mary Armistead Mason, was the 
daughter of Robert Armistead, master of the great manor known as Seren 
ity Hall, in Louisa County, Va. She outlived the Senator by many years, 
living quietly at Raspberry Plain until 1824, when her grandson, the future 
Governor Mason, was thirteen years old. 


THE USE OF FOOTNOTES throughout this volume has been avoided by pro 
viding instead a complete bibliographical index of the source material. Ref 
erence to this section will open to the reader many fascinating subjects for 
further reading, and almost any of them will provide him with detailed 
answers to scores of questions which may arise in his mind. It has been my 
intention to include the specific source of quotations, newspaper statements 
and other items which would ordinarily require footnotes, concurrently with 
the mention of the fact in the text. Others not fully explained therein will be 
found in this bibliography as subjects of entire volumes, lectures, papers and 

The bibliography contains more than a hundred references for such ex 
tended research on the part of the reader. The initials M.P.H.C., together 
with Roman and Arabic numerals, which occur so frequently, invite the 
reader to continue his quest in the volumes of the Michigan Pioneer and 
Historical Collections, on the pages and in the volumes cited. The complete 
thirty-volume set is found in all city and school libraries throughout Michi 
gan, as well as in the Michigan State Historical Commission Library at Lan 
sing. The bibliography is thus a sort of cross reference to the compiled foot 
notes of more than 150 years of carefully accumulated Michigan history. 
Other volumes cited are to be found in the State Library at Lansing, the 
Burton Library at Detroit, the Clements and University Libraries at Ann 
Arbor and in most other city libraries throughout the State. 

For enabling me to gain complete access to this vast storehouse of infor 
mation, and for his continued help, advice and encouragement throughout 
the long period of this volume's preparation, I am deeply grateful to George 
N. Fuller, Secretary of the Michigan Historical Commission. 


Historical Aids 

i. Atwell, Prof. Willis: Illustrated History oj Michigan. 1937. Centennial of 
Michigan's statehood described in detail. 



2. Burton, Clarence M., with Gen. Byron M. Cutcheon: Michigan as a 

Province, Territory and State. 3 vols. 1906. Vol. II, pp. 292-351, 

3. Campbell, James Valentine: Outline of Political History of Michigan. 

1937. Full text of several important legislative documents, 1835-1840. 

4. Cadin, George B.: The Story of Detroit. 1923. Illustrated history of the 

city from old newspaper files. Useful for banking details, 

5. Cooley, Thomas M.: Michigan; a History of Governments. New York. 

1905. Best general account of the early history of Michigan. Excel 
lent reference work for general information. 

6. Dunbar, Seymour: A History of Travel in America. New York, 1937, 
A rich account of the wave of immigration to Michigan, 1830-1840. 

7. Farmer, Silas: The History of Detroit and Michigan. 2 vols. 1890. Con 

tains some good woodcuts of early Michigan scenes. 

8. Fuller, George N., Ph.D.: Economic and Social Beginnings of Michigan. 

672 pp. Lansing, 1916. Documented thesis on the wave of immigra 
tion which peopled the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, 1825-1840. 

9. Hubbard, Bela: Memorials of a Half-Century. New York and London. 

1887. A collection of papers bearing on the early settlement. Hub- 
bard was a Michigan pioneer of prominence. His writings have the 
authority of a dependable eyewitness. 

ID. Martineau, Harriet: Autobiography. 2 vols, 1878. Little-known sidelight 
on the Abolitionist movement in Michigan in 1836. 

11. Martineau, Harriet: Retrospect of Western Travel. 2 vols. History of her 

journey from New York to Detroit, thence to Chicago and return. 

12. Martineau, Harriet: Society in America, 3 vols. Details of visit to Detroit 

in 1836 and excellent study of Governor Mason. 

Government Records 

House Documents: Index to the Executive Documents and Reports of 
Committees of the House from the Twenty-Second to the Twenty- 
Fifth Congress (iS^i-iS^). Washington. 1839. 

Ordway, Albert: General Index to the Journals of Congress, from the 
Eleventh to the Sixteenth Congress Inclusive. Washington. 1868. 

Mason Manuscript Collections 

Manuscript collection, William L. Clements Library, Ann Arbor. 
Mason letters and documents, Burton Library, Detroit. 
Territorial Records t 1805-1831. Originals in the Burton Library, Text 
and discussion, M.P.H.C., Vol. XXXVI, pp. 100-260. 


Biographies General 

1. Carlisle, Fred: A Comparison of Eben Ward, James Joy and William 

Woodbridge. Michigan State Library, Lansing. 

2. Ferris, Woodbridge K: Michigan's Hero of the War of 1812. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. XXII, pp. 22-283. Background of Cass's career. 

3. Fuller, George N.: Governor Woodbridge of Michigan. Lansing. 1916. 

A short sketch of Woodbridge's short career as Governor. 

4. Hollands, Mrs. Hulda: When Michigan was New. 242 pp. 1916. Inter 

esting sketches of Woodbridge, Lyon and Norvell. 

5. Lyon, Lucius: Letters of Lucius Lyon. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXVII, pp. 412- 

604. Correspondence with Mason about the Upper Peninsula. 

6. Parton, James: Life of Andrew Jackson. 3 vols. Vol. 3, pp. 210-345. De 

scription of Jackson's visit to Lexington. 

7. Woodbridge, William: The Woodbridge Papers. Burton Library, De 

troit. Journals covering Woodbridge's long period of politics. 

Biographies Father Gabriel Richard 

1. Ellsworth, R. H.: An Early Visitor [to Marquette's grave]. Source ma 

terial for study of Father Richard's extensive travels. M.P.H.C. 

2. Girardin, J. A.: Ufe and Times of Father Gabriel Richard. Lansing. 


3. Weadock, Thomas A. K: A Catholic Priest in Congress. M.P.H.C. Vol. 

XXI, p. 431. Detailed account of this remarkable man's career. 

Biographies Lewis Cass 

1. Ferris, Woodbridge N.: Michigan's Hero of the War of 1812. Complete 

book on Cass, of which M.P.H.C. Vol. XXII is easier reading. 

2. Hubbard, Bela: 'The Cass Farm and Homestead." Address before the 

M.P.H.C. Vol. i, p. 357. 

3. McLaughlin, Andrew C.: Life of Lewis Cass. New York. 1891. Best 

comprehensive account of Cass's life and times. 

Biographies The Mason Family 

i. Burton, Clarence M.: Introduction to the Mason Papers. Burton Library, 

Detroit. See also M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXV, p. 14. 
x Dictionary of American Biography: Vol. XII, p. 375 et seq. 
3. Fuller, George N., Ph.D.: Governor Mason of Michigan. A publication 

of the State Historical Commission, 1927. 


4. Fuller, Mrs. George N.: "The Boy Governor of Michigan." Article in 

the Michigan Republican, 1936. 

5. Hemans, Lawton T.: The Life and Times of Stevens T. Mason. 

32 chapters. Published by the State of Michigan. Second edition, 
1930. Inspired defense of Governor Mason. See Appendix. 

6. Keys, Jane Griffith, M.A.: The Mason Lineage and Arms. Reprinted 

from Genealogical Review. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXV, p. 605. 

7. Lancaster, Robert A,: Historic Virginia Homes and Churches. 1915. 

History of Guns ton Hall and Raspberry Plain. 

8. Mason, Miss Emily V.: Autobiography of an Octogenarian. 1905. Ex 

cerpts in M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXV, p. 238. 

9. Mason, Stevens T.: Letters to ]ohn T, Mason. Burton Library, Detroit. 

Early Michigan Newspapers 

1. The Ann Arbor Weekly Emigrant. Weekly, 1829-1830. Name changed 

to Argus, 1835. Files in Clements Library, Ann Arbor and Burton 
Library, Detroit. 

2. The Detroit Free Press. Daily, 1834 to date. Detroit City Library. 

3. The Detroit Journal. Daily, 1829-1833. Burton Library, Detroit. Later 

became the Detroit Journal and Michigan Advertiser, controlled 
by Whig Party. Files in Burton Library, Detroit. 

4. The Jac1(sonburgh Sentinel. Weekly, 1834-1845. Jackson City Library. 

Travel in Michigan, 1830-1840 

1. Beebe, Silas: Utica, N. Y., to Ingham County, Mich. 1835. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. i, p. 187. 

2. Dunbar, Seymour: A History of Travel in America New York. 1937. 

Story of the Chicago Road and early canals in Michigan. A par 
ticularly good account of strap railroad construction, and traffic on 
the early railroads of Michigan. 

3. Dye, Mrs. Richard: Coming to Michigan. Diary of trip from Herkimer, 

N. Y., to Ionia, Mich., in 1837. M.P.H.C. Vol. VIII, p. 260. 

4. Farmer, John: The Emigrant's Guide, or Pocket Gazeteer of the Sur 

veyed Parts of Michigan, with maps. New York, 1830. 

5. Goodrich, Enos N.: Across Michigan Territory in 1834. M.P.H.C. Vol. 


6. Haynes, Hon. Harvey: Log of Journey from Rome, N. Y., to Mac\inac 

unth Powder and Clothing for the Troops at the Fort. 1833. 
M.P.H.C. Vol. X, pp. 137-142. 

7. Hoffman, C..R: A Winter in the West. 2 vols. New York, 1835. Journal 


of an experienced traveller. Vol. i describes trip to Michigan, 
l8 33-34- 

8. Martineau, Harriet.: Retrospect of Western Travel. Vol. II. 

9. Martineau, Harriet.: Society in America. Vol. II. 

10. Northrup, Enos: First Trip to Michigan. 1830. From Ohio to Detroit 
via Monroe, nearly parallel to Mason's trip from Lexington at the 
same time. M.P.H.C. Vol. V, p. 60. 

n. Raymond, Col. Henry: Travel from Detroit to Washington. 1829. 
M.P.H.C. Vol. IV, p. ioo. 

12. Wells, Jim: "The Old AAA Traveller". The Walker Tavern, on the 

Chicago Turnpike, scene of many pioneer exploits. American 
Automobile Association, Detroit. 

13. White Pigeon (Mich.) Republican, The: Excellent anonymous article 

on steamboats on Lake Erie. Reprinted in M.P.H.C. Vol. XIV, 

P- 453- 

14. Woodward, S. C.: New Yor% to Michigan. 1836. M.P.H.C. Vol. XIV, 

P- 553- 

Ban\s and Banking 

1. Anonymous: "The Muster-Roll of the Wildcats!" An extremely candid 

and often humorous description of all the wildcat banks in Michigan 
by someone in public life who had firsthand experience with them. 
Possibly Pritchette. M.P.H.C. Vol. V, p. 214. 

2. Blois, John T.: The Five-Million-Dollar Loan of 1837. Essay printed in 

M.P.H.C. Vol. 7, p. 145. 

3. Felch, Hon. Alpheus: Early Ban\s of Michigan. A report accompany 

ing a decision of the Michigan Supreme Court in 1845. Reprinted 
in M.P.H.C. Vol. 7, p. 145. 

4. Palmer, Gen. F.: The Old Ban\ of Michigan. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXX, 

p. 410. 

5. Utley, Henry M., Ph.D.: Wildcat BanJ(s of Michigan. Burton Collec 

tion. Reviewed in M.P.H.C. Vol. V, p. 209. 

Schools and the Development of Education 

1, Comstock, Dr. O. C.: The Rev. John D. Pierce. M.P.H.C. Vol. V, p. 184. 

2, Knight, George W., Ph.D.: History of the Land Grants for Michigan's 

Public School System. M.P.H.C. Vol. VII, p. 17. 

3, Miller, Judge Albert: Pioneer Schools of Michigan. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXII, 

p.28 3 . 


4. Norton, J. M.: Early Schools and Pioneer Life. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXVIII, 

p. 107. 

5. Pierce, John D.: Origin and Progress of Michigan's School System. 

M.P.H.C. Vol. I, p. 36. 

6. Salmon, Lucy M.: Education in Michigan During the Territorial Pe- 

riod. M.P.H.C. Vol. VII, p. 36. 

7. Ten Brook, Andrew: Rise of the University of Michigan. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. XXVI, p. 300. 

8. Utley, Henry M.: Henry Phillips Tappan, First President of the Uni 

versity of Michigan. MP.H.C. Vol. V, p. 27. 

9. Van Buren, A. D. P.: Log Schoolhouse Era in Michigan. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. XVIII, p. 107. 

10. Van Buren, A. D. P.: Old Academy and Seminary, the Classic Schools 
of the Pioneer Days. M.P.H.C. Vol. XVIII, p. 397. 

City of Detroit 1830-1840 

1. Bates, Hon. George C.: Bygones of Detroit. 1832-36. M.P.H.C. Vol. 

XXII, p. 305. 

2. Bates, Hon. George C.: General Hugh Brady. MP.H.C. Vol. II, p. 573. 

3. Burton, Clarence M.: Detroit in 1832. MP.H.C. Vol. XXVII, p. 163. 

4. Detroit City Clerk's Office: Records, 1830-1840. 

5. Detroit News: A Survey of Detroit in 1837. M.P.H.C. Vol. X, p. 102. 

6. Dewey, F. A.: Some Sketches of Long Ago: Detroit from 1838-1840. 

M.P.H.C. Vol. XIV, p. 528. 

7. Dickinson, Moses F.: What The City's Earliest Directory [1837] Shows. 

MP.H.C. Vol. XXVIII, p. 585. 

8. Fitch, Rev. W.: Reminiscences of Detroit, 1838-1842. MP.H.C. Vol. V, 


9. Ford, Dr. Henry A.: Sketch of Detroit, 1838. MP.H.C. Vol. X, p. 97. 

10. Holmes, Dr. J. C.: The Old American Hotel, Detroit. MP.H.C. Vol. I, 


11. Hubbard, Bela: When Detroit Was Young. M.P.H.C. Vol I, p. 351. 

12. Israel, Walter (Ex-Chief, Detroit Fire Department): History of the Old 

Detroit Fire Department, 1840 Onward. MP.H.C. Vol. IV, p. 410. 
This department organized during Mason's residence in Detroit. 

13. McCabe, Julius P. Bolivar: Directory of the City of Detroit, with its En 

virons, and Register of Michigan for the Year 1837. Burton Col 
lection, Burton Library, Detroit. 

14. Norvell, Col. Freeman: History of the Times of General John Norvell, 

by his Grandson, M,P.H,C, Vpl III, p. 140. 


15. Palmer, Thomas Witherell: Detroit Sixty 7 ears Ago. (1838) M.P.H.G. 

Vol. XXXI, p. 490. 

16. Phclps, Col. William: Detroit in the Year 1835. M.P.H.C. Vol. IV, 

P- 459- 

17. Smith, Mrs. Julia Talbot: Reminiscences of Detroit, 1835. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. XXXV, p. 682. 

1 8. Thompson, A.: Detroit in 1833. M.P.H.C. Vol. i, p. 395. 

19. Woodman, Elias S.: Early Recollections of Detroit, 1837. M.P.H.C. Vol. 

XVIII, p. 455. 

The Patriot War (1837) 

1. Bishop, Levi S.: The Patriot War of 183?. M.P.H.C. Vol. XII, p. 414. 

2. Dougall, James: That So-Called Battle of Windsor. Vol. VII, p. 82. 

3. McFarlan, Robert: The Battle of Fighting Island. M.P.H.C. Vol. VII, 

p. 89. 

4. Ross, Robert S.: The Patriot War. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXI, p. 509. 

The Toledo War (1835) 

1. Brown, Gen. Joseph: The Battle of Phillips' Corners. M.P.H.C. Vol. XII, 

p. 409. 

2. Detroit Free Press: Accounts by "Front-Line Correspondent", 1835. 

3. Hollo way, F. M.: History of Hillsdale County. Eyewitness description 

of the entire war by a "survivor". M.P.H.C. Vol. I, p. 170. 

4. Moore, J. Wilkie: How They Foughtl M.P.H.C. Vol. VII, p. 69. 

5. Norvell, Col. Freeman: History of the Times of Gen. John Norvctt, by 

his Grandson. Norvell was a prominent figure in this dispute. 
M.P.H.C. Vol. Ill, p. 140. 

6. Soule, Anna May, M. L.: "The Southern and Western Boundaries of 

Michigan." A thesis for a master's degree, carefully documented. 
Excerpts in M.P.H.C. Vol. XXVII, p. 346. 

7. Stuart, L. G.: Verdict for Michigan. (How the Upper Peninsula became 

a part of Michigan.) M.P.H.C. Vol. VII, p. 262. 

The Indians of Michigan 
i. Brunson, Mrs. C. C.: Pioneer Life Among the Indians. M.P.H.C, Vol. 

XXVIII, p. 161. 
a. Copley, Alexander: The Pottawatoml. History of the tribe. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. XIV, p. 256. 


3. Goss, Dwight: Indians of the Grand River Valley. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXX, 

p. 172. 

4. House Documents, Michigan State Legislature: Annuities paid to 

Pottawatomi, 1824 and 1826, until 1830. 

5. Osband, M. D.: Indians of Michigan. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXIX, p. 697. 

6. Wake, Mrs. Minnie B.: Our Forerunners: A Vanished People. Lecture. 

M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXVIII, p. 318. 

Pioneer Life in Michigan, 1830-1840 

Van Buren, A. D. P.: Amusements of the Early Settler. M.P.H.C. Vol. 

V, p. 304. 

Foes of the Pioneer; Fever and Ague; Mosqui 
toes. M.P.H.C. Vol. V, p. 300. 
What the Pioneers Ate; How They Fared. 
MJP.H.C. Vol. V, p. 293. 

1. Ann Arbor Argus, The: Price lists of acreage, labor and crops, weekly^ 

1830-1835. And many other personal reminiscences in this collec 
tion. Michigan Historical Collections, Univ. of Mich., Ann Arbor. 

2. Beal, William H., PhD.: Pioneer Life in Southern Michigan in th? 

i8 3 o's. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXII, p. 236. 

3. Cutcheon, Byron M.: Log Cabin Times and Log Cabin People. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. XXIX, p. 609. 

4. Driggs, Alfred Latourette: Early Days in Michigan f 1831-1836. 

M.P.H.C. Vol. X, p. 57. 

Mason's Internal Improvements Project 

1. Bliss, A. N.: Land Grants for Internal Improvements, 1837. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. VII, p. 52. 

2. Comstock, Dr. O. C.: Internal Improvements. M.P.H.C. Vol. i, p. 46. 

3. Frost, Clarence: Early Railroads in Michigan. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXVIII, 

p. 498. 

4. Gilbert, John: Railroads in Michigan. See especially the chapter en- 

tided "The Great Conspiracy", showing loss to investors in the 
Whig manipulation of the Michigan Central Railroad. Reviewed 
in M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXI, p. 232. 

5. Hedrick, Wilbur O., Ph.D.: "Social and Economic Aspects of Michi 

gan's Early History." A doctorate thesis, with separate bibliography. 
Reviewed by the author in M.P.H.C. Vol. XXXIX, p. 327. 

6. Hemans, Lawton T.: "Internal Improvements" chapter from Life and 

Times of Stevens T. Mason. Best analysis of this project available. 


7. Ingersoll, John M.: Clinton and Kalamazoo Canal Celebration. M.P.H.C. 

Vol. V, p. 469. 

8. Joy, James F,: Railroad History of Michigan. M.P.H.C. Vol. XXII, p. 327. 

Maps and Charts 

Burton Collection: Map of Detroit, 1835, outlining every structure then 

existing in the city. 

Map of Detroit, 1834, accompanying census of 1834. 
Chart of Detroit, 1830, entitled "Judge's Original Plan of Detroit, 

1830", showing radiating street plan. 
Surveyors' sketch of Michigan-Ohio boundary dispute, with chart 

of conflicting lines, 1835. 
Blois* Gazeteer of Michigan, 1830, 1835, 1837. With maps of all 

Territorial roads; locations of post offices, inns; descriptions 

of counties, towns and villages; statistical tables and Directory 

for Emigrants, with Michigan Census of 1834. Some copies 

also in Detroit City Library. 


Abbott, James, 176 
Adam, John J., 220, 250 
Adams, James Q,, 209 

, John, 24, 66, 82-3 

- , John Quincy, 64, 66, 79, 82-3, 

120, 232, 234 
Adamses, 243 
Adamsville, Mich., 323 
Adrian, Mich., 160, 182, 266, 291, 323, 

388, 414 

Toledo Railroad, 323, 388 

Albany, 92, 346 

Albion, Mich., 323 

Alger, Russell, 423 

Alleghenies, 44 

Alpha, 275 

American Hotel, 97, 208, 230, 379 

Amherstbtirg, 332, 336 

Anderson, (Lieut.) (Major) Robert, 


Angell Hall, 275 
Angola, Ind., 192 
Ann, 189 

Ann (schooner), 380 
Ann Arbor, Mich,, 127, 144, 184-6, 

194, 198, 219, 239, 243, 248, 262, 

*74-5, 187, 3 02 i 3>, 3 22 -3i 34* 

357. 3&> 

Argus, 171, 248, 275-7, 280, 299 

Land Company, 274 

Western Emgrant, 144, 171, 275 

Anti-Slavery Party, 255 
Arkansas, 232 
Armistead, Robert, 45 
Arnold, Benedict, 362 
"Ashland," 44, 64-6, 84 
Astor House, 339-40, 345 
, John Jacob, 206 
Astors, 243 
Auburn, N, Y., 258 
Austin, Sarah, 269 


Backus, Lieut. Elector, 158 
Bacon, Daniel S., 281, 354 
Baldwin, 313 
Baltimore, 90, 173, 197, 205, 385/387 

Bank examiners, 289, 295 
Bank of Brest, 302 

Detroit, 301 

Lake St. Clair, 300-1 

Manchester, 303 

Michigan, 264, 289, 303, 317, 373 

Saline, 303 

Sandstone, 299, 306 

Shiawassee, 299 

Superior, 303 

the United States, 59, 101, 364, 

Barry, Mich., 299, 306 

, Catherine Mason, 35, 50, 84-5 

., John, 60, 66, 75 

, William T., 33-7, 44i 48, 54-5, 

67, 75-7. 79. 84, 87, 152 
Bath County, Ky., 58 
Battery Park, 342 
Battle of New Orleans, 45 

the Thames, 42, 155, 212 

Tippecanoe, 42 

Worcester, 24 

Battle Creek, Mich., 184, 323 
Beau Brummell, 105, 131 
Beaubien farm, 106 
Beaubiens, 165, 224 
Beaver Creek, 58 

Iron Works, 66 

Beeson, Lewis, 8 

Belgian sisters, 114 

Bell, Digby, 289, 301, 303, 307-8 

Belle Isle, 163, 247, 265 

Belvedere, 301 

Benton, Jesse, 55 

, Thomas H., 232 


-, Mrs., 84 

Bertrand, Mich., 323 

Biddle, Edward R., 342-3, 351, 394 

, Major John, 113, 222-3 

Bill of Rights, 24 
Bingay, John Crichton, 245 

, Malcolm, 148, 245 

"Bison Street," 38 

Blackfeet, 174 

Black Hawk, 155-8, 162, 172 

War, 156, 161-2, 416 

Blackstone, 29-30 
Commentaries, 29 



Bladensburg, Md., 52 
Blissfield, Mich., 160 
Blois' Gazeteer, 225, 325 
Blue Ridge Mountains, 38-9, 65 
Board of Loan Commissioners, 337 
Bonnick, Sydney, 8 
Bonnie, Prince Charlie, 24 
Boone, Daniel, 7, 34-5, 37-8, 44 

Trail, 37 

"Boone's Trace," 38 

Boosters' Club, 317 

Boston, 165, 171, 265, 275 

Boyd, Dr., 410 

Brady, Gen. Hugh, 158, 331-3, 335-6 

Guards, 246, 253, 313, 3151 33* 

Branch, Mich., 323 

, Mrs., 84 

Bread lines, 265 
Brest, Mich., 301, 303 
British Army in Canada, 330 
Bronson, Mich., 184 
Brooks, Col. Edward, 369 

, Major, 103 

Brown, Dr., 116 

, Gen. Joseph, 159-61, 197, 199-201 

University, 268 

Buffalo, N. Y., 92, no, 162, 324, 333, 

346-7> 359, 397 ^ 
Bureau of Indian Affairs, 82, 87 
Burr Conspiracy, 31, 121 
Burton Library, 419 
Busch, Charles, 116 
Butler, Benjamin F., 195, 204, 240 
Byron, Lord, 254, 349 

Cadilac, 114, 1 66 

Cahill, Judge Edward, 422 

Calhoun, John G, 79-80 

County, 298 

California, 8, 22 
Cambridge, Mass., 276 
Campean, Barnabas, 265 

, Joseph, 114, n6 

Campeans, 165, 187, 349 

Canada, 41-2, 94, 118, 295, 328, 331, 


Land Co., 329 

Canals, 318 , w , , 

Candid e, 36 

Capitol Park, 108, 421-2 

Carters, 25 

Cascade, Mich., 301 

Cass, Lewis, 88-90, 104, 106, no, 114, 
119, 121, 126-30, 136-9, 147, 169, 
184, 192, 196, 202, 205, 224, 226, 
236, 240, 246-7, 254, 280, 384 

County, 261 

Cases, 349 

Castle Garden, 91 

Centerville, Mich., 273, 298, 323 

Ceres, 248 

Cerro Gardo, 52 

Chamber of Commerce, 317 

Charles II, 24 

Chelsea, Mich., 180, 322-3 

Cherokee Indians, 34, 137 

Chesapeake Bay, 36, 41 

Chicago, 93, 158, 160-4, * 8 3> 22 5 3 2 *- 2 

3 2 4-5 

River, 158 

Turnpike, 280 

Chipman, Henry, 153 
* Cholera, 163-9, 177, *86, 226, 268, 282, 

34 2 349 399> 4*3 
Christmas Eve, 76 
Cincinnati, 70-1, 177, 181, 186, 272 
Cincinnatus, 243 
Circe, 248 

Citizens' Bank of Michigan, 303 
City of Portsmouth, 301 
Civil War, 124, 277, 309, 335, 36, 4 2 
Clarke, Dr., 103 
Clay, Henry, 7, 44, 54> 5^ 6 3 6 7> 75~7> 

84, 121, 123-4, 280 

, Mrs., 55, 63 

Cleland, Charlie, 142, 151, 159 

Clemens, Judge Christian, 148 

Cleveland, Ohio, 305 

Clinton, Mich., 160 

and Kalamazoo Canal, 325, 338, 

37 2 389 

County, 212 

River, 301, 320 

Codd, George P., 421-2 

"Coffin handbills," 76 

Coldwater, Mich., 183, 323 

College of Literature, Science and 

Arts, 275 

Colonial Advocate, 329 
Commercial Bank of St. Joseph, 301 
Conant, Shubael, 143-4 
Confederate currency, 309 
Conger, 301 



Congress, 33, 37, 53 , uo , ^6, i ?I> I?5? 
189. 191* *95-<5, 202, 205-6, 213-14, 
217, 227, 229, 237, 239-41, 243, 
245, 379 

Constantine, Mich., 323 

Continental Congress, 135 

Convention of Dissent, 240-1 

Convis, Ezra, 219 

Cooley, Judge Thomas Al, 306 

Cooper, Rev. D. M., 422 

Corunna, Mich., 321 

Coty, 49 

County of York, Ont., 329 

Covington, Ky., 35 

Crary, Isaac E., 213, 219, 228, 268, 281, 

Crawford, William H., 64 

Cromwell, 24 

Cumberland Gap, 34-5, 37-9 

Mountains, 65 

"Currency Meeting or Bankers' Con 
vention," 307-8 


Davis, Jefferson, 156, 172 
"Davis place," 60- 1, 66, 74 
Dearborn, Mich,, 160, 323, 384 
Dearbornville, Mich., 231, 299, 310, 

_ t 3J* 33 x, 334 

Delafield, John, 341 

Desnoyer, Josie, 04 

-, Judge, 114 

, Peter J., n6 

Desno^ers, 165 

De Quindres, 165, 187, 349 

Detroit 8, 22, 78, 88, 90-2, 94-102, 
103, 106-33, *39 *43, H5 *5, 
157-8, 161-3, 166-9, 173, 176-7, 
181-3, ^5-8, 207, 210, 223-6, 228, 
230, 237, 246-7, 249, 256, 261, 265, 
271-2, 281-2, 287, 310-12, 316, 320- 
2 327, 331, 334A 34<> 347, 352, 
356, 360-4, 381, 387, 401-2, 404, 406, 

City Bank, 303 

Advertiser, 148, 185, 265, 347, 361, 


- - and Pontiac Railroad, 318 

- & St. Joseph Railroad, 227, 291-2, 
3*o, 3 l8 

- Bar Association, 153, 416 

Courier, 08, 109, 139, 185 

- Free Press, 116, 139, 142, 147, 153, 
159, 170, 230, 245, 284, 369, 374-5, 
384, 404, 413 

Gazette, 98, 103, 153 

Journal, 141-2, 146, 151 

Journal and Courier, 226, 413 

River, 42, 95, 119, 142, IJ$9 2(Sl? 

327> 331-3 

Typographical Society, 416 

Young Men's Society, 171, 287 

Dexter, Mich., 184, 323, 357 
Dickinson, 85 

Dictionary of American Biography, 

Donelson, Major Andrew Jackson, 80, 

Douglas, Frederick, 283 

, Stephen A., 173 

strike, 232 

Dowagiac, Mich., 323 
Drainage systems, 317 
Dunbar, Seymour, 38 


East Lansing, Mich., 271 

East Lynne, 250 

Eaton, Major, 80, 82, 84, 137 

- Peggy, 80, 84-5 

Economic and Social Beginnings of 

Michigan, 99 
Edgeworth, Miss., 114 
Edwards, James M., 394 
Edwardsville, Mich., 323 
Elkhart, Ind., 192 
Ellis, Edward, 283, 287 
England 22, 26, 35, 121, 319, 349 
English Channel, 24 
Erie and Kalamazoo Rail Road, 291-2 
Canal, 93-5, 216, 225 

Co., 92 

Established Church, 329 
Europe, 286, 420 
Evalena, 49 
Exchange Bank, 308 

Fairfax County, Va., 16, 25 
"Family Compact," 329-30 
Farmers' Bank of Homer, 298 

Sharon, 302 

and Mechanics' Bank of Detroit, 

264, 289, 303, 373 



Farmers' Bank Continued 

Pontiac, 300 

St. Joseph, 298 

History of Detroit, 226 

Farmington, Mich., 384 

Farasworth, Elon, 360 

Federalists, 121 

Felch, Alpheus, 262, 289, 299, 302-7 

Fighting Island, 332-3 

First Protestant Society, 117 

Fitzgerald, Thomas, 360, 362 

Fletcher, William Asa, 275, 281 

Flint, Mich., 321 

Florida, 32, 85 

Forsyth, John, 207-9 

Fort Brady, 389 

Chissel, 38-9 

Dearborn, 160 

Gratiot, 164 

Mason, 22 

Shelby, 105, 117, 158 

Sumter, 335 

Wayne, 416 

Fortress Monroe, Va., 163 
Founding Fathers, 22, 330 
France, 24 

Franklin, Benjamin, 36 
French and Indian War, 224 

Market, 106, in 

Frost-Bitten Convention, 243-4, 253-4 
Fuller, 99, 150, 225, 289 

, Dr. George N., 8, 185, 244 

Fulton, John A., 192 
Line, 192, 194 

Galahad, Sir, 362 

General Brady, 334 

Gibralter, Mich., 247, 301 

Godard, Lewis, 302 

Gordon, James Wright, 354, 361, 416 

Grand Rapids, Mich., 273, 321, 378 

River, 127, 134, 257, 321, 326, 378 

Granny Peg, 29, 36, 46, 49, 62, 66, 73, 

lox, 115, 165 

Grass Lake, Mich., 184, 323 
Gray, Mr., 109 

, Dr. Asa, 274 

Grayson, Dr., 410 
Great Lakes, 32, 41, 93, 217 
Great Lakes, The, 229 
Green Bay, 119, 207, 238 

Greenly, 414 
Griswold, 103 
Grosse He, 223, 404 
Gunston Hall, 17-18, 23-6, 32 


Hamilton, Alexander, 16, 121 
Hamtramk, 386-8 
Harrington, E. B., 365-7, 369 
Harris, William A., 193 

Line, 194, 235 

Harrison, William Henry, 42, 240-1, 

382, 385, 401 
Harvard Yard, 276 
Hatcher, Harlan, 229 
Havre, Mich., 323 
Hayne, Gov., 188 
Hays, John G., 313 
Heidelberg, Germany, 276 
Heinemann, David E., 403 
Hemans, Lawton T., 46, 84, 138, 244, 

348, 380, 390, 396, 407, 418-22 

, Mrs., 418-20 

Henry Clay, 150, 162-4, 168 

"Hermitage, The," 54, 241 

History of the People Called Quakers, 


Hog Island, 163 
Holland, 95 
Homer, Mich., -298 
Horace, 248 

Homer, John Scott, 202, 204, 207-12, 
217, 232-3 

, Mrs., 208, 232 

Houghton, Dr. Douglas, 112, 228 
House of Burgesses, 23 

Representatives, 54 

Houston, Sam, 7, 136 

Howard, Benjamin, 33, 35, 37, 43 

, Mary Mason, 35, 43 

, Benjamin C., 197-8 

, Jacob M., 295 

Hudson River, 41, 91 
Hudson's Bay Company, 329 
Hull, Gen., 40, 131, 366 

residence, 150 

Humphrey, Levi S., 318 
Hunt, James B., 318 
"Hunting lodges," 334 

Society, 335 

Huron River Bank, 303 
Hurons, 90 



Illinois, 78, 155-6, 234, 296 
Independence Hall, 24 
Indian Fields, 67 

Territory, 278 

Indiana, 09, 134, 160, $83, 192-3, 227, 

234, 324, 343 

Indians, 34-5, 39, 41, 89, 122 
Ingersoll, John N., 413 

, Mrs., 84 

Internal Improvements, 291, 296, 318- 

20, 326-7, 337, 344, 357, 370 , 372, 

388-9, 398 

County, 223, 306, 323, 402 

Ionia County, Mich., 212 

Iowa, 89 

Irish Hills, Mich., 183 

Irving, Washington, 47, 173, 188, 211, 

293, 343, 409 

Jackson, Andrew, 7, 43, 46, 53-7, 67, 
75-7i 79 84-5, 97, 112, 120-3, 136-7, 
130-40, 145-6, 150, 195, 197-8, 202, 
204-5, 207, 211, 227, 236, 241, 243, 
245-6, 263, 280 

-, Mich., 8, 184-5, 2 33i *57 273, 
209, 322-3, 388 

County, Mich., 184, 247, 303 

Bank, 299 

, John, 36-7, 46, 49, 65-6, 73 

Prison, 258, 304, 398 

, Rachel, 86 

Jacksonburgh, 127, 168 

Jamestown, 24, 29 

January, Mr., 47-40-50 

Jefferson, Mich., 247 

, Thomas, 66, 82-3, in, 121, 242 

Jemmy, 189 

Johnson, Col. Richard, 153 

, Richard M., 211-12, 384 

Jones, DeGarmo, 230, 375, 391, 394 

, George W., 213 

Jonesyille, 158, 160 

June insurgents, 65 

Juno, 248 


Kalamazoo, Mich., 184, 277, 281, 322-3, 

River, 303 

Keens, Hotel, 55 

Kensington, Mich., 301 

Kent County, Mich., 212, 301 

Kentucky, 19, 29, 33-4, 37-8, 40-6, 49, 
58, 61, 64-5, 70, 73, 75, 94-5, 101-2, 
103, 123, 142, 153, 255, 283, 326, 
. 335, 3<58 

King, James, 342 

"Knobs, The," 65 

Kundig, Father Martin, 114, 165, 181, 

Lake Michigan, 134, 163, 192, 205, 229, 

261, 293, 303, 325 

of the Desert, 238 

Ontario, 321 

St. Clair, 164, 301, 320, 325 

Shore Railroad, 388 

and Michigan Southern Railroad, 

Superior, 119, 205, 207, 228-9, 

238, 293 

Lancaster, Pa., 150 

Lansing, Mich., 8, 223, 309, 419, 422 
Lapeer, Mich., 321 

Bank, 300 

Larned, Charles, in, 187 

Lathrop, Edwin H., 415 

Lebanon, Ky., 56 

Lee, Robert E., 52, 420 

Lees, 25 

Leesburg, Va., 20, 26, 29-30, 34, 37 

Lenawee County, Mich., 198, 295 

Bank, 301-2 

LeRoy, Daniel, 261 

Lexington, Ky., 35-9, 40-1, 43, 48, 53-7, 

59-60, 62-73, 77, loo-i, 114 
-Gazette, 40, 53-4, 57, 75 
Licking River, 71 
Lincoln, Abraham, 45-6, 78, 156, 173, 


Livingstones, 243 
Lockport, 92 
Locofoco, 363 
London, England, 18, 30, 260 

, Ont., 42 

Loudon County, Va., 15, 26 
Louisa County, Va., 45 
Louisiana, 68, 80, 278, 368, 409 
Purchase, 32, 35 



Louisville, 70, 76, 177 

Lower Canada, 328 

Lucas County, Ohio, 190, 193-4, 200-1 

Gov., 190-1, 197, 200, 202, 205-6, 

214, 235, 239, 323 

Lyceum Society (Staten Island), 409 
- and Historical Society (Detroit), 

Lyon, Lucius, 205-6, 214, 222, 228, 230- 

3, 235-A 357-8, 386 


McCarty, Ann Thomson Mason, 20, 32 

, Col, John, 50-1 

McCartys, 25 
McDonnell, Judge, 103 
McKenney, Col., 82, 87-90, 126 
McKinstrey, Col. David C., 143-4, 203, 


McKnight, Sheldon, 148, 230, 413 
Mack Andrew, 143-4, 22 & 
Macks, 149 

Mackenzie, William Lyon, 329-30 
Mackinac, Mich., 205, 273 

Island, 206 

Straits, 331 

Mackintosh, 36 
Macomb, John, 265 

County, 301 

Madison, James, 31-2, 82, 121 

Ma-ka-tai-she-kia-kiak, 155 

Maiden, Ont., 184, 332 

Manhattan, 01 

Manila, 360 

Mann, Ambrose Dudley, 100 

Mansion House, 98, 104, 106, 126, 150, 

154, 175, 202, 224 

Mantelli, Madame, 67-8 

, Louise, 68 

, Marie, 68 

, Waldemar, 68 

Marat, 82 

Marble Cemetery, N. Y., 412, 418 

Marquette, Mich., 277 

Marshall, Mich,, 168-9, 184-5, 2<5<5 > 2<58 

27^ 3*3, 36* 
Martineau, Harriet, 188-9, 226, 247-8, 

*55 2 7.8 
Mason, Mich., 323, 402, 418 

, Armistead T., 22, 26, 31, 50-1 

, Catherine (sister of John T.), 


, Catherine (daughter of John 
T.), 50, 67, 114-15, 176-8, 181, 256 
, Charles, 22 

, Cornelia (daughter of John T.), 
115, 144-6 
County, 402 

, Dorothea Eliza, 387, 420 
, Elizabeth Mok, 35, 39, 43-5, 52, 
fo-3, 73-5, 79> *oi, 104, 109, 114, 
135, 170* *77 180-*. 277-8, 293, 
348, 359, 364, 367-8 
, Emily Virginia (daughter of 
John T.), 45, 49'5> 67-8, 74"7* 
xoo-i, 104, 114-15, 131, 165, 170, 
172, 176-7, 179, 181, 188-9, 2 5<$ 
272, 277-8, 293-4, 335-A 348-50i 
352, 367, 381, 408-13, 420-1 
, George, I (British Colonel), 24-5 
, II, 25 
, III, 25 
, IV, 25 
, George (patriot), 17-18, 22-4, 


-, James Murray, 22 
, John Thomson, 15, 18, 20 
, John T. (brother of Ajrmistead) , 
26-7, 40, 44-8, 54-5, 57-9, 61-73, 
77, 79, 84-90, 94-100, 108, 112, 118, 
121, 124-9, J 34-<5, ite *&?i 188, 
278-9, 364, 367-8, 385, 409-13, 420 
, John Young (Secretary of the 
Navy), 22 

, Julia Phelps, 349-50, 352-3, 359- 
<5o, 3<$5 37<5~7 38o, 382, 384-5, 
387, 391, 404-13 

, Laura (daughter of John T.) 
50, 67, 114-15, 181, 367-8, 381 
, Mary daughter of John T.), 32, 
40-50, 62 

, Mary (sister of John T.), 32-3, 
, Mary Armistead, 19, 32-4, 64-5, 


, Col. Stevens Thomson, 22, 26, 31, 

34-7. 135 

, Stevens Thomson II, 20, 29, 32, 

, Stevens Thomson (son of Ar 
mistead), 52 

, Stevens T. (grand-nephew), 8, 
22, 421 

, Stevens Thomson, Jr, (son of 
Governor), 360, 376-7, 385 



, Sunshine Mary (daughter of 

John T.), 104, 115, 180 

, Thaddeus Phelps, 407 

, Theodosia, 62, 67, 101, 114-15, 

135, 180 
, Thomson (Chief Justice, Va.), 

*2-3 30, 32 
, Thomson (son of Geo. IV), 

26, 30 
- -, Dixon Line, 22 

Hall, 275, 402 
School, 402 

Slidell incident, 22 

and Pritchette, 365, 369, 404 

Massachusetts, 195 

Maumee Bay, 190, 192, 200 

Canal, 194 

River, 334 

Menominee River, 205, 238 

Mercer, Charles Fenton, 51 

"Mercury," 322 

Mexican War, 22, 53 

Mexico, 278 

Michigan, 7, 36, 40, 88-91, 94-95, 101, 
118-19, 121, 133, 147, 151-2, 158, 
161-2, 173-5, 182-3, 185, 189-92, 
200, 204-5, 209, 213, 215-17, 221-6, 
232-54, 259, 264, 275, 288, 292, 309, 
319, 325, 327, 334-5, 341-3, 351-4, 
358-9, 362-3, 370-1, 376, 382-4, 394, 
396, 398, 400-1, 413, 415 

- Agricultural College, 277 

Center, 398 

- Central Railroad, 292, 310, 315, 
318, 321-3, 342, 357, 372, 388, 398-9 

City, Ind., 322, 324 
College of Mines, 277 

- Constitution, 215, 220, 227, 231, 

Historical Commission, 8, 186, 

3* 5 '. 4*9 
- Historical Society, 8, 254, 420 

Normal College, 277 

- Northern Railroad, 318, 320, 


. Observer, 359 

Pioneer and Historical Collec 
tion, 204, 217, 225, 249 

- School System, 268-73, 399 

Southern Railroad, 292, 318, 323- 

5, 338, 342, 388 

State Bank, 350, 363, 366 

State College, 271, 277 

State Museum, 68, 309 

Volunteers, 176 

Middle Temple, 30 

West, 89, 95, 156, 320 

Military Road, 325 

Millers' Bank of Washtenaw, 303 

^Mineral Point, Wis., 119, 213 

Range, 238 

Mississippi River, 41, 118, 155, 207 

Missouri River, 119 

Territory, 35 

Moir, David Macbeth, 28 

, Elizabeth, 28-9 

, Mrs. 28, 35 

, Prof. William, 27-8, 36-8, 46-8, 

60, 66 

, Mrs. 101, 135 

Moirfield, 28-29, 31, 35, 79, 90 

Mona Lisa, 339 

Monroe, James, 31-3, 41, 53-6, 77, 82-3, 


, Mrs., 33 

, Mich., 40, 199, 209, 262, 266, 273, 

281, 283, 289, 302-3, 305, 312, 323, 

338, 342, 388 

Montieth, Rev. John, 166 
Montreal, Que., 321, 331 

River, 238 

Moore, Hannah, 114 

Mormons, 398 

Morris Canal and Banking Company, 

343-4, 347-8, 350, 354-5, 364-5, 373- 

6, 390, 392, 394, 419 
Morrison, 67 
Mott, Dr., 410-12 
Mottville, 167-8, 323 
Mount Clemens, Mich., 148, 325, 338 
Sterling, 59-61, 66-7, 69, 72, 74, 

76-7, 79, loo-i, 145, 406 

Vernon, 18, 25 

Mud Lick, 67 

Mullett, John, 107 

Mundy, Edward, 212, 219, 281, 287, 

3 r 3 337 34 r 35 
Murphy, Frank, 362 
Muskegon, 378 


Napoleon, 187 
National Hotel, 384 
Nauvoo, 111., 398 
Navy Island, 334 



Newark, N. J., 343, 420 
New Buffalo, Mich., 322-4 
New England, 42, 93-4, 250 

Town Meeting, 243 

New Haven, Conn., 276 

New Jersey, 343, 390, 419 

New Orleans, 43, 54, 76, 216, 278, 

2 93 335 

New Salem, 156 

New York American, 82 

Bar Association, 406, 412 

Central Lines, 388 

City, 8, 90-1, 94, 171, 173, 177, 

188-9, 20 5? 2ll i 22 6, 2 4<> 260-1, 
265, 269, 272, 276, 286, 293, 298, 

3 OI > 3 2 7 336, 338, 347> 35, 35 2 
359-60, 367-8, 384, 397, 415 

State, 42, 272, 335, 353, 368 

Times, 420 

Newberry, Oliver, 143-4 

Newberrys, 149 

Niagara, Ont., 336, 346 

Nichols, Haskell, 8 

Niles, Mich., no, 167, 226, 273, 322-3 

Northwest, 35, 123, 132, 229, 409 

Fur Co., 206 

Journal, 98, 109-10, 112, 139, 226 

Territory, 118 

Norton, John, Jr., 350 

Norvell, Col. John, 176, 178, 195-6, 
222-3, 22 7-8, 230-1, 233, 236, 357 
, Mrs., 176 


Oak, Tiston M., 6 

Oakland County Scouts, 99, 160 

Ohio, 119, 124, 134, 160, 180, 189-94, 

197-200, 227, 234-5, 26 5, 3*8 3 2 3-5, 


River, 34, 65, 70-1, 76, 177 

Oklahoma, 99 

"Old Hickory," 54, 240 

Olympian Springs, 63 

O'Neil, Peggy, 84 

Ontario, Province of, 353, 391 

Oswego, N. Y., 346 

Ottawa County, Mich., 212 

Otter Creek, 305 

Owingsville, Ky., 58-9, 66, 100, 419 

Owosso, Mich., 321 

Oxford, England, 276 

Palmer, Mich., 273 

, George, 176, 180, 365 

, Thos., 97, 103 

Palmers, 114, 149, 176, 282, 349 

Palmyra, Mich., 160, 247 

Palo Alto, Gal., 276 

Panama Canal, 229 

Panic of 1837, 263, 265, 267 

Papineau, Louis, 330 

Paris, 82-3 

Parks, 317 

Parliament, 328 

Parma, Mich., 249 

Parton, 54, 56, 80 

Patagonia, 93 

Patriot War, 295, 327-36, 416 

Perl, 36, 49, 66, 73, 101 

Penn, William, 36 

Pennsylvania, 150, 152, 181, 244, 272, 


Perry, Commodora, 42 
Perrysburg, Ohio, 192, 198-200 
"Peter Cooper," 313 
Pettibone, Samuel, 167 
Phelps, Julia, 293-5, 299, 327, 336, 

339-40, 348 

, Thaddeus, 293, 348, 405, 411 

Philadelphia, 38, 84, 90-1, 150, 177, 

197, 264-5, 2 9*i 3*3 35*. 364 
Pierce, Rev. John D., 220, 268-9, 2 77 

, Mrs., 169, 268 

Pinckney, 82 

"Pioneer No. i," 313 

Pittsburgh, Pa., 34, 202 

Plato, 32, 248 

"Pleasure Car," 292 

Pontiac, 89 

, Mich., 144, 167, 186, 222, 250, 

261, 273, 300 
Porcupine Mountains, 238 
Port Huron, Mich., 320-1, 335, 365 

Lawrence, Ohio, 183, 185, 191-2 

Township, 194 

Porter, Gen. Andrew, 150 

, Benjamin, 258 

, David Rittenhouse, 150 

, George B., 149-51, 162, 168-9, 

174-5, 181-3, 185, 202 

, Mrs., 150-1 

Postmaster General, 75 



Potomac River, 16-17, 2 5 3 1 
PottaWatomis, 90, 127, 158 
Pray, Ezekiel, 244 
Preston, Senator, 205 
Prime, Ward and King, 342-3 
Princeton, N. J., 276 
Pritchette, Kintzing, 175-6, 219, 262, 
289, 299, 301, 303, 305, 307, 364-6, 

3*9. 373-<5> 380, 385, 39*i 405 
Proctor, Gen., 42 
Prussia, 269-70 
Public buildings, 317 
Pulaski, Va., 38 
Put in Bay, 253 


Quebec, 328 
Queen Elizabeth, 49 
Quillen, Robert, 57 


Railroads, 288, 291-2, 310, 317-18 

Randolph, Dr., 82 

Raspberry Plain, 26, 30, 32-4, 37, 47, 


Red River Valley, 135, 278, 368 
Redstone Fort, Pa., 34 
Reed, Ebenezer, 153-4 
Republican Party, 233 
Retrospect of Western Travel, 189 
Review of the Progress of Ethical 

Philosophy, 36 
Revolutionary War, 15, 17, 26, 30, 38, 

135. i5<> 22 4 243, 328 
Rice, Dr. Randall S., 163, 186 
Richard, Father Gabriel, 166 
Richmond, Va., 24, 37, 409 
Ripon, Wis., 233 
River Basin and Lake Erie Rail Road, 


Raisin massacre, 40-3, 155 

Roads, 318 

Robert (gardener), 49 

Rochester, N. Y,, 284 

Rocket -, 185 

Rocky Mountains, 23$ 

Ronieyn, Theodore, 345-7, 355, 392-3, 


Roundheads, 24 
Rowland, (Major) (Col.) Isaac S., 

176, 178-0, 199-200, 217, 246, 256, 

366, 416 

, Kate Mason, 179, 367-8, 411 

, Major Thomas, 113 

Rowlands, 336 
Rush, Richard, 197-8 

Saginaw, oo, 122, 144 

Bay, 255 

St. Charles Hotel, 216, 293 

Joseph, Mich., 183-5, 2 93 *9& 

Louis, Mo., 119 

Marys Falls Canal, 228, 293, 296, 

320, 389 
Saline, Mich., 160 

Bank of, 300 

Salt, 291 

Sam (gardeners), 49 

Sandstone, Mich., 247, 299, 303 

Creek, 249, 303 

Sandwich, Ont, 336 

San Francisco, 22 

Sanilac County, 301 

Sangatuck, Mich., 325 

Sarnia, Ont., 321, 335 

Schoolcraft, Henry R., 113, 206 

Schwartz, Gen, John E., 143 

Scotland, 319 

Scott, Gen. Winfield, 157, 160, 335-6 

, Guards, 416 

, Sir Walter, 349 

Secretary of State, 65, 140, 208 

War, 137 

"Serenity Hall," 45-50, 53, 55, 57, 59, 

62, 79, 87, 101, 420 
Shaler, Charles, 202 
Sheldon, John P., 103 
Sheldon Thompson, 163 
Shiawassee, Mich., 303 

Bank, 301 

County, 303, 308 

Sibley, Solomon, 153 

Six Nations, 224 

Simmons, 99 

Singapore, Mich., 301, 303 

Sinkiang, 70 

Sioux, 174 

Sisters of Mercy, 165, 187 

Smith, Adam, 36, 78 

- , John, 103 



Smith Continued 

, Alvin, 220, 261 

Smoky Mountains, 38 

Social Register, The, 304* 409 

Society in America, 189 

Soo Canal, 229, 235, 238, 293, 296, 320, 

South Africa, 90 

Bend, Ind., 192, 324 

Carolina, 188 

Specie Circular, 264 
Spoils System, 243 
Springwells, 164 
Spy in Michigan, The, 283 
S.S. Governor Mason, 378 
Stafford County, Va., 25 
Staffordshire, England, 25 
Stage coach companies, 318 
Staten Island, 407-8 
Steamboat Hotel, 175, 379 
Stephenson, George, 185 
Stinckney, Major, 199, 253 

, Two, 199, 208 

Stony Creek, 303 

Stuart, Robert, 390, 392, 394 

Suez, Mich., 301 

Canal, 229 

Superior, 162 
Superior, Wis., 238 
Svengali, 123 
Swanberg, W, A., 8 
Sylvan Center, Mich., 247 
Sylvania Township, Ohio, 194 
Syracuse, N. Y., 276, 291, 346 

Tammany, 211-12, 243, 384, 412 
Taylor, Zachary, 156 
Tecumseh, 35, 89, 155, 266 

, Mich., 160, 198 

Ten Eyck, U. S. Marshal Conrad, 286, 

311, 316, 319, 333, 379 
Ten Eycks, 160, 231, 254 
Tennessee, 37-8, 76, 80, 136 
Territorial Council, 119 
Territorial Road, 227, 310-11, 323 
Texas, 32,^135 
Thames River, 42 
Thespian Corps, 112-13 
Thomsons, 25 
Tibet, 70, 243 
"Tippecanoe and Tyler too," 382 

Tishey (cook) , 49, 66 
Todd, Levi, 44 

, Mary, 45 

Toledo, Ohio, 183, 190-2, 198-201, 205- 

6, 291, 302, 324 
Strip, 206, 214, 228, 234, 238-9, 

War, 191, 201, 208-9, 221, 223, 

2 35, 253, 357 
Toronto, Ont., 321, 329 
Transylvania Land Co., 38 

University, 66-7, 74 

Trowbridge, Charles C., 113, 281, 


Trowbridges, 281, 349 
Troy, N. Y., 177-8, 180-1, 381 
Turner, Eliphalet, 167, 399 
, Robert, 186 


United States, 42, 121, 229, 270, 328, 

33o-?4 397 

Army, 229, 336, 389 

Bank, 46, 48, 264, 289-90, 342, 351 

Constitution, 23-4, 26 

U. S. S. Constitution, 286 

Senate, 50, 54, 105, 151, 386, 389, 


University of Edinburgh, 28 
Michigan, 166, 215, 237, 262, 272- 

7, 358, 370 

Library, 274 

Upper Canada, 328 

Peninsula of Michigan, 207, 214, 

228-9, 231-2, 235-6, 238-9, 277 
Utica, N, Y., 346 

Van Buren, Martin, 240-1, 250, 281, 

331, 334, 362, 382 
Vanderbilts, 243 
Van Fossen, Gen. John, 315 
Villa, 156 
Virginia, 15-16, 18-19, 22, 24, 28, 30, 

3<5, 46-7, 65, 123, 173, 189-90, 208, 

2 55 
Voltaire, 36 


Wagstaff, Capt. Robert, 286 
Wales, 319 



Walker, Capt., 164 

Walk-in-the-Water, 162 

War of 1812, 35, 51, 54, 65, 130, 152, 

155, 211, 3*9-30* 382, 384 
Warrenton, Va,, 202 
Warner, Fred M., 421-2 
"Warrior's Path, The," 38 
Washington, D* C, 19, 31, 37* 55 79- 
80, 82, 85-6, 89-92, 09, 121, 126, 
136, 142, 171, 174, 177, i79 *8i, 
192, 195-8, 206, 213-14, 224, 228, 
231, 240-1, 254, 335-6, 362, 364, 
368, 398- 

- Globe j 141, 150 
, George, 18, 25-6, 57, 78, 81-3, 

156, 330 

- Square, 339 
Washtenaw County, 244, 287, 302 
Wayne, Gen., 224 
, Mich., 323 
Wayne County, 287 

Bank, 209 

Wealth of Nations, 36, 78 

Webster, Daniel, 280, 401 

, Daniel, Jr., 280 

Weems, Parson, 78 

Weese, John, 284 

Weinert, Albert, 422 

Wells, Hezekiah, 281 

West, 15, 191 29, 3*" 2 ' 57i 6 5i 3 2 4> 39 8 

Western State Teachers' College, 277 

Whig, 121 

White Earth River, 119 

- House, 36, 8o~i, 84-5, in, 137-8, 

146, 177, 263 

Peogeon, Mich., 273 
_ Rock City, 301 
Whiting, Dr. John L., 163, 187 
Whitney, G. L., 284 
"Wigwam, The," 80, 84 
Wildcat money, 288-* 10 

Wilderness Road, 38 

Willard, Miss Emma, 177 

William and Mary College, 26-7, 30, 

William Penn, 163-4 

Williams, Gen. John R., 158-61, 173 

and Wilson's warehouse, 384 

Williamses, 281 

Williamsburg, Va., 23, 46, 79 

Windsor, Ont., 266, 331, 336 

Wing, Austin E., 171 

Winnebagoes, 157, 183 

Wisconsin, 89, 118, 133, 157, 174, 182, 

206, 233 
Witherell, Judge Benjamin, 281, 391-3 

, James, 88, 122, 125 

, Mrs., 187 

Witherells, 114, 149, 349 

"Wolverine," 323 

Woodbridge, William, 103, in, 121-3, 
129, 132-4, 143, 146, 149, 152-4, 
158, 213, 230, 238-9, 251, 260, 266, 
282, 287, 295, 348, 350, 352, 354-8, 
361-2, 364-6, 369, 371-77, 378-82, 
386, 389-93, 395-6* 398-4 01 * 4*4 

Woodbury, Levi, 246 

Woodward, Judge Augustus B., in 

Woodworth, Ben, 175-7, 180, 379 

Worcester, England, 24 

, Mass., 272 

Worth, Col., 335 

Worthington, Sheriff, 168 

Wren, Sir Christopher, 254 

Wright, Mrs. Dorothea Mason, 420-1 

, Capt. William, 421 


Yadkin River, 38 

Ypsilanti, 167, 184-6, 210, 232, 268, 277, 
291, 300, 310, 312-16, 319, 3 2I > 3 2 3