Gunston Hall, Home of George Mason
  Guide to the John Mason Papers  


JOHN MASON (1766-1849), the eighth surviving child of George and Ann Eilbeck Mason of Gunston Hall, was a Georgetown merchant and civic leader in the District of Columbia. In partnership with James and Joseph Fenwick, Mason began his career in 1788 exporting goods from Bordeaux, France. He lived in France until 1792 when he returned to the United States and managed the firm from its Georgetown offices. In 1798 he became president of the Bank of Columbia (chartered 1793). In 1815 he purchased the Columbia Foundry in Georgetown. In 1796 he became a director of the Potowmack Canal Company and in 1817 he became its president. When the District of Columbia militia was formed in 1802, Mason was appointed its commander by President Thomas Jefferson with a rank of brigadier general, a post which he held until 1811. President Jefferson also appointed him as Superintendent of Indian Trade in the District of Columbia in 1807, an office which he fulfilled until 1815. During the War of 1812 Mason was appointed as Commissionary General of Prisoners.

In 1796 John married Anna Maria Murray of Annapolis and they had ten children. They lived in Georgetown and also had a mansion on Analostan (now Theodore Roosevelt) Island. In retirement (after some financial reversals) John and Anna moved to “Clermont,” a farm about four miles west of Alexandria.

SCOPE & CONTENT: Approximately 350 items

ACQUISITION: Donated by Virginia Dawson Beebe, 1981

RESTRICTIONS: Unrestricted Access



Manuscript, 41 pages, with an additional 8 pages being copies of the "Recollections" in three other hands. One manuscript dated 1822; others late 1820s to 1839. This manuscript provides a vivid picture of Gunston Hall and its occupants. It provides details on plantation life, including gardens, landscaping, slaves, agriculture, and accounts of the rooms and furnishings of the mansion itself. There are sections mentioning the education of the children and domestic pursuits, including dining and drinking habits.


1783 Jan. 8, Gunston Hall, to his son George Mason. A long letter concerning business affairs, the evacuation of Charles Town by The British, George Rogers dark's Indian country raid, and the free navigation of the Mississippi.
1788 June 12. Richmond, to John Mason. A hortatory letter explaining to his son how to succeed in foreign trade. Written just prior to the son's departure for France.
1789 July 31. Gunston Hall, to John Mason. Regarding business affairs and commenting in detail on his son's business partner, Joseph Fenwick.
1791 Dec. 9. Gunston Hall, to John Mason. Regarding sales of wheat and tobacco.
1792 May 11. Gunston Hall, to James Fenwick. Concerning business affairs and the situation in France ("very doubtful and unsettled").
1792 June 18. Gunston Hall, to John Mason. Discusses the proposed Federal City including the matter of where a Potomac River bridge would be built.
1792 July 5. Gunston Hall, to John Mason. Comments on his sons in business, with advice. He asks that John, who is in Richmond, consult Mr. John Marshall on "the subject of my suit...against John Hooe Banbury & others, ..[l] am afraid it is neglected by Mr. Marshall, who tho' a very worthy man, is an indolent one...."
1792 July 9. Gunston Hall, to John Mason. Expressing irritation at the delay of a shipment of Cypress Scantlin to Norfolk.


1781 Aug. Nantes. Jonathan Williams to George Mason.
1789 Aug. 21, Bordeaux. John Mason to his brother.
1790 May 11, Bordeaux. John Mason to [ ].
1790 Oct. 10. Bordeaux. John Mason to his father [George Mason].
1811 June 7. "Analostan Island." John Mason [Jr] to his grandfather, Dr. James Murray.
1811 June 18. Alexandria. C. T. Chapman to John Mason.
1813 Aug. 30. Paris. John Mason [Jr.] to Mrs. [Joel] Barlow.
1815 Apr. 13. Paris. John Mason [Jr.] to Mrs. [Joel] Barlow.
1817 Dec 5. [Annapolis]. Mrs. S. E. Murray to Maria S. Mason.
1818 May 13: [Annapolis]. Mrs. S. E. Murray to Maria S. Mason.
[ ]. Mrs. S. E. Murray to Dr. [James] Murray.
1821 Aug. 12. [Statesburg, S.C.]. M. A. Natalie Surnter to Maria Mason.
1823 Aug. 5. Baltimore. W.B. Magruder to John Mason.
1825 Aug. 14. Extract from funeral sermon preached by the Rev. Mr. Blanchard in St. Anne's Church, Annapolis [death of Isabella E. Steele, Aug. 6].
[undated]. [Mrs. Steele?] to Maria Mason, enclosing above extract.
1827 Sep. 1. Bedford Springs. [John Mason to his son].
1834 Jan. 30. Sydenham. C[atherine] E. Rush to Mrs. A[nna] M[aria] Mason.
1844 Jan. 28. Clermont. [Mrs. A. M. Mason?] to Mrs. Eleanor Anne C. Mason.
1844 Mar. 6. Clermont. J[ohn] T[homson] Mason to Mrs. Eleanor Anne C. Mason.
[18]47, Sep. 16. Washington. J[ohn] Mason, Jr., to Col. [Richard C.] Mason, California.
1848 July 29. Clermont. John Thomson Mason to James Murray Mason.
1857 Dec. 2-5. Lothian. Philip J. Thomas to Mrs. Maria S. Cooper. Enc.: Poem on death of Anna Maria Mason.
[ ], Oct. 19. [George]town. Thomson McCarty to Gen. John Mason.
n.d. John Mason to George Mason, Jr. [fragment].
n.d. J[osep]h Lopes Dias to Gen. John [Mason]. [fragment].
n.d. Memorandum on the Boston Massacre.
n.d. Poem on Perry's victory on Lake Erie.
n.d. Plats on squares 5,6,17,42,44, and 55 in Washington, D. C.
n.d. Memorandum of birth and death dates of children of John and Elizabeth Smith.
n.d. Notes on ceremonies in Athens.
n.d. Verses entitled "To the Maiden Choristers of St. Johns" and "The Bible."


1789 Apr. 1. London. John Mason to Capt. James Fenwick
1789 Aug. 8. Bordeaux. John Mason to Joseph Fenwick. [partly in French].
1789 Sept. 8, Bordeaux. John Mason to Mr. Fenwick.
[17]89. n.p. John Mason to Capt. James Fenwick.
1794 Sep. 25. Bordeaux. Joseph Fenwick to John Mason.
1794 Sep. 20. Paris. D'Allarde Swan & Co. to Messrs. Mason and Fenwick. Copy of letter from Joseph Fenwick,, enclosed in above.
1803 Aug. 25. Paris. Memorandum by Joseph Fenwick.


1781 Oct. 31. Pisa [Italy]. Philip Mazzei to George Mason, Jr.
1800 Nov. 5 and 1801, Sep. 4. Washington, [Ky?]. Bills of exchange.
1803 Mar. 13. Philadelphia. Clement Biddle to John Mason.
1804 May 9. Paris, l[saac] Cox Barnet to John Mason.
1812 Apr. 20. White Chimneys, Va. Francis Corbin to John Mason.
1823 July 1. London. Wil[lia]m Murdoch to John Mason.
1823 [July 1. London.] Wil[lia]m Murdoch to John Mason.
1823 [Sep. 1. Philadelphia.] Chandler Price to John Mason.


1725 Sep. 23. Whitehaven [England]. Jos[eph] Aderton,and Peter Howe to Messrs. Edward Smith and William Eilbeck. [Lettercopy]
1793 June 20. Bordeaux. Appointment of John Mason of "Virginia" as attorney for Robert Pigott, citizen of France. [certified, signed and sealed by Joseph Fenwick].
1799 Dec. 5. Annapolis. Letter of administration to John Mason in regard to property of the late Robert Pigott in Anne Arundel County. Printed form, filled in and signed by John Gassaway, Register of Wills.
1803 Mar. 23. [West] River. John Thomas to John Mason.
1803 May 15. Havre. Hottinquer & Co. to John Mason.
1803 Sep. 30. New York. James P. Watson to John Mason.
1803 Dec. 26. Georgetown. Fleury [Francois Louis Teisseydre, Marquis de], receipt for money for registering three letters of exchange received from John Mason. [in French].
1805 June 21. Paris. Bill of exchange drawing on Treasurer of the U. S. for payment to Fenwick Mason & Co. Printed form filled in, signed by John Armstrong, U.S. Minister Plen. to France. Endorsed for payment to John Mason.
1805 June 21. Paris. John Armstrong to Treasurer of the U.S. re. above note. Printed form filled in and signed by Armstrong.
1805 June 27. Paris. John Armstrong to Treasurer of the U.S. [Lettercopy, certified by Joseph Fenwick].
1805 June 27. Bills of exchange (nos. 413 and 416). Printed forms filled in/ signed by Armstrong, Enc. in above.
1805 July 20. Wilmington. Thomas J. Beatty to John Mason. [Lettercopies (2) certified].
1806 Aug. 23. Georgetown. Thomas Moore to Thomas Jefferson.
1809 June 12. Washington. John P. VanNess to [John] Mason.
1811 Feb 26. Congress Hall [Washington, D.C.]. Nathaniel A. Haven to John Mason.
1812 Apr. 1. Baton-Rouge. George Covington to John Mason.
1812 Oct. 21. [Washington]. Paul Hamilton to J[ohn] Mason.
1812 Dec. 1. London. Commission and instructions from British Commissioners for conducting His Majesty's Transport Service to Thomas Barclay, as British Agent for Exchange of Prisoners of War in U.S.
1813 Dec. 10. Frankfort, Ky. B[ ] Geale to Piers Geale. [Lettercopy and endorsement]. Endorsed [by Gen. Mason]: "copy of a letter from a British officer to his brother in England on retaliation. "
1814 May 26. Norfolk. Seth Poster to St. George Tucker. Enclosed in: 1814, May 29, Richmond. St. G[eorge] Tucker to Gen. [John] Mason.
1824 Apr. 3. Edw[ard] Herbert. Affidavit, certified by W[illia]m Wirt.
1814 June 3. [John Mason] To [B. W. Crowninshield]. Endorsed: "Copy to the Secretary of the Navy."
1814 June 27. [John Mason] to [Tobias] Lear. Endorsed: "d[ra]ft of Instructions for Col. Lear."
1817 Oct. 3. Indenture between William Paten and Mary, his wife, of Alexandria, D. C., and Noblet Herbert of the same place, for land in the said District.
[1818]. M. Hale to [John Mason?]. Endorsed: "Application of Dr. Hale for appt. of Post Surgeon 1818."
1823 Mar. 23. John D. Dutton to John Mason.
1823 Aug. 8. New York. J. and C. Bolton to John Mason. Enclosure: J. and C. Bolton to Thomas Spaulding. [Lettercopy]
1823 Nov. 13. Samuel L. Southard to John Mason.
1823 Nov. 13. J[ohn] M[ason] to Samuel L. Southard.
1823 Nov. 13. Georgetown. S[ ? ] Mason to Samuel L. Southard.
1823 Dec. 12. New Orleans. BenjaCmin] Morgan to John Mason. Followed by copy of: 1823 Nov. 10. Villere to Jos[eph] Bennett Eves.
1823 Dec. 13. Havana. Vincent Gray to John Mason.


1805 Sep. 25. New Haven. Joel Barlow to John Mason. Asks that Mason arrange suitable habitation for him and Washington.
1809 Nov. 22. West River Farm [Md.]. John Francis Mercer to John Mason. Regarding the establishment of a National Agricultural and Manufacturing Society and the raising of money for it.
1805 Sep. 3. J[oel] Barlow to John Mason.
1816 Mar. 8. Bordeaux. Rob[ert] Andrews to John Mason.
1823 Aug. 8. Philadelphia. Chand[ler] Price to John Mason.
1810. Certification for the Merino ram, "Grand Turk"
1789. Paris. Tailor's account for John Mason.
1813 Feb. 5. Bill, John Ott (Drugs & Medicine) to Genl. John Mason.
1790 Alexandria. Receipt, Fenwick & Mason to George Mason, Jr. on account of William Hartshorne and Gurden Chapin.


A group of 74 manuscripts, composed of papers relating to the ships Pigeon, 1794-1800 (16 pieces); St. Ubes, 1796-1822 (6 piec); Prosperity, 1793-95 (22 pieces); Maryland, 1793-1803 (20 pieces); and Molly, 1794-1824 (10 pieces).


A group of 219 manuscripts, dated between 1790 and 1834, arranged in chronological order. There are more manuscripts for 1790 than for any other single year, caused by the large number of receipts and other papers concerned with workmen employed by Mason.

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