|The Plantation Community
JOHN MASON REMEMBERS
READ AND DISCUSS
I. What are "recollections"? Recollections are stories about the past. Sometimes, they are written down on paper and other times, they are only spoken. We are lucky to have on paper the recollections of John Mason, George Mason's fourth son. These stories, which John wrote when he was quite old, tell us what it was like to grow up at Gunston Hall plantation at about the time of the American Revolution.
When John was young, Gunston Hall was a busy place. There were a lot of people who lived and worked here. John and his eight brothers and sisters slept in bedrooms, called chambers, on the second floor of the large brick house. Sometimes, they may have shared their rooms with guests. Visitors from 50 or 100 miles away stayed at Gunston Hall for days, even weeks. It took so long to get someplace in the 1700s that you didn't pick up and leave right away.
II. Farming and taking care of the house were two important jobs at Gunston Hall. There were also special tasks such as blacksmithing, barrel making, weaving, and spinning. These jobs were carried out by slaves, indentured servants (who worked for several years in exchange for transportation to the Colonies and room and board), and paid workers. John remembered that several slave families lived in a group of log houses on the plantation. Sadly, these houses have been lost over the years.
III. John went to school with his brothers and sisters at Gunston Hall. John's father built the schoolhouse and hired the teacher, called a tutor. The tutor lived right above the classroom and ate his meals with the Mason family. Learning to read and write was a privilege in colonial Virginia.
When John wasn't studying, he helped Mr. Mason with plantation business. His father was in charge of all the paperwork for the farm, so there was plenty to do. John also spent time simply having fun. He and his brothers and sisters played with marbles and dolls, flew kites, and rode horses. Some of the other children on the plantation may have played with the Masons, when they finished their work.
IV. John recalled when America was still a group of colonies under Great Britain. As a boy, he listened to his father and other adults talk about the unfair actions of King George. Once, out of earshot of his father, John even cursed the King -- then, he begged his brothers and sisters not to tell on him!
During the American Revolution, John told us, his father spent many hours at his desk in the family's small dining room. There, George Mason studied and wrote. Every so often, he left his desk to meditate in the garden near the house. John did not disturb Mr. Mason during these times. He knew his father was working on important business for the new country.
Do you want to learn more about everyday life in the colonial period? You may want to look at If You Lived in Colonial Times, by Ann McGovern (Scholastic, Inc.); A Williamsburg Household, by Joan Anderson (Clarion Books); or the coloring books, Early American Trades and Everyday Dress of the American Colonial Period, by Peter F. Copeland (Dover Publications).
Write down or tape record stories about your own life. Call these stories "My Recollections."