Photo by Jack L. Hiller
Ann Eilbeck Mason (Nancy)
January 13, 1755 - 1814
Nancy took over the management of Gunston Hall after the death of her mother in 1773. In a 2 October 1778 letter her father noted:
My eldest Daughter Nancy (who is blessed with her Mother's amiable Disposition) is Mistress of my Family, & manages my little domestic Matters, with a degree of Prudence far above her Years…
In his "Recollections" John Mason also mentions that there were housekeepers assisting with the household management after his mother's death.
In 1789, at age 34, Ann married Rinaldo Johnson, the son of Thomas and Ann Johnson of Pleasant Grove or Green, near Baltimore. Nancy and Rinaldo apparently lived at Aquasco in Prince Georges County. Rinaldo was a farmer, an attorney, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1781-1782, and a Justice in the local courts.
When Nancy married Rinaldo he was encumbered by serious financial difficulties. He owed the State of Maryland huge sums as a result of standing surety for Thomas Williams, collector of the tax for Prince Georges County. When Williams died in 1784, he owed the state more than £15,000 in uncollected taxes. Rinaldo Johnson was one of two men liable for this debt.
In order to protect his daughter and her property, the day of Nancy’s marriage George Mason signed an indenture with the bridegroom. The indenture conveyed 17 slaves to Nancy as well as £1,549 from five bonds, but it also specified that Rinaldo could not dispose of this sum. However, in the end, Rinaldo spent Nancy’s money to pay part of his debts. Despite financial assistance from his parents and his wife, Rinaldo was forced to mortgage or sell all his property to pay his creditors. By 1803, he was an insolvent debtor.
In her will written in April 1804, Nancy says of Rinaldo: "…he was so Honourable before marriage as to disclose his embarrassments and insisted upon my Estate being placed beyond the reach of liability." Nancy goes on to say that Rinaldo showed her "the most tender and affectionate regard" "the whole course of my marriage state."
NOTE: George Mason provided in his will that each daughter should receive a bequest of money and personal property. Each also inherited money and a slave from their grandfather, William Eilbeck, along with £100, slaves, and jewelry from their grandmother, Sarah Eilbeck. John Mason in his "Recollections" mentions that "The Tutoress for my sisters was Mrs. Newman of Virginia, she remained in the family for some time."6 We do not know whether Mrs. Newman came before or after Ann Mason's death.
Rinaldo Johnson, February 4, 1789
Thomas Rinaldo Johnson, 1792 - March 31, 1836
Ann Eilbeck Mason Johnson, October 10, 1793 - June 1843
Sarah Johnson, 1795-1836
1. Papers of George Mason, I: 433-434.
2. "The Recollections of John Mason," transcriber Terry Dunn, ed. Estella Bryans-Munson, unabr. ed. ([Mason Neck, VA: Board of Regents of Gunston Hall], 1989, photocopied typescript), 33.
3. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, vol. 2 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press), 463-465.
4.Will, Ann Mason Johnson, written April 4, 1804, recorded March 12, 1816, Court Records, Prince Georges County, Maryland, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD.
5. Papers of George Mason, I: 148-149.
6. "Recollections," 39.