From the Fortress of Solitude
Welcome back to the Fortress for another digital family reunion. Yesterday we celebrated Charles Williamson’s 74th birthday. I’m sure you found our virtual strawberry shortcake delicious! Now that we’ve had our fun for the weekend its time to get back to the business of telling our family’s story. I’ve been doing more research in my copious amounts of spare time (said sarcastically) and found our 12th Great Grandfather, Major John Mason.
John Mason lived from 1600 to 1672. He was an English army major who immigrated to New England in 1632. John Mason married Anne Peck in July 1640, at Hingham, Massachusetts. She was born on November 16, 1619 in Hingham, England and died on January 30, 1671/72 in Norwich, New London County, Connecticut. She was the daughter of Rev. Robert Peck. He was a graduate of Cambridge University with the degree of A. B. in 1599, and that of A. M., in 1603. He was a talented and influential clergyman and Puritan who had fled his Norfolk church after the crackdown against the Puritans.
In 1637 he joined those moving west from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the nascent settlements along the Connecticut River that would become the Connecticut Colony. Tensions there rose between the settlers and the dominant Indian tribe in the area, the Pequots, ultimately leading to bloodshed. After some English settlers were found dead, the Connecticut Colony appointed our Grandfather John Mason to lead an expedition against the Pequot stronghold in Mystic, Connecticut. The result is known as the Mystic Massacre. It was the major engagement of the Pequot War, which virtually destroyed the Pequot tribe.
Captain John Underhill, one of the English commanders, documents the event in his journal, Newes from America :
Down fell men, women, and children. Those that 'scaped us, fell into the hands of the Indians that were in the rear of us. Not above five of them 'scaped out of our hands. Our Indians came us and greatly admired the manner of Englishmen's fight, but cried "Mach it, mach it!" - that is, "It is naught, it is naught, because it is too furious, and slays too many men." Great and doleful was the bloody sight to the view of young soldiers that never had been in war, to see so many souls lie gasping on the ground, so thick, in some places, that you could hardly pass along.
The massacre at Mystic is over in less than an hour. The battle cuts the heart from the Pequot people and scatters them across what is now southern New England, Long Island, and Upstate New York. Over the next few months, remaining resistors are either tracked down and killed or enslaved. The name "Pequot" is outlawed by the English. The Puritan justification for the action is simply stated by Captain Underhill:
It may be demanded, Why should you be so furious? Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. Sometimes the case alters, but we will not dispute it now. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.
He took a company of Englishmen up the river and rescued two English maids during this war. On 8 March 1637/8, in the aftermath of the Pequot War, the Connecticut General Court
"ordered that Captain Mason shall be a public military officer of the plantations of Connecticut, and shall train the military men thereof in each plantation".Please note that John Mason fought alongside two Native American tribes, namely the Mashantucket and Narrangansetts.
John Mason was one of the most trusted men in Connecticut in both civil and military matters. In his latter years the formal colony records referred to him simply as "the Major," without forename or surname.
John moved his family to Old Saybrook, Middlesex County, Connecticut in 1647. He was awarded land by the state of Connecticut where Lebanon, New London County, Connecticut was founded and in 1660 united with a number of distinguished families in the settlement of Norwich, New London County, Connecticut where he was Deputy/Lieutenant Governor (1660-1669), and Major General of the forces of Connecticut.
During the winter of 1647/8 a fire broke out at the Saybrook Fort where John Mason and his family lived. The record says that,
In the depth of winter, in a very tempestuous night, the fort at Saybrook was set on fire, and all the buildings within the Palisado, with all the goods, etc., were burnt down, Captain Mason, his wife, and children, hardly saved. The loss was estimated at one thousand pounds, and not known how the fire came.In the summer of 1669 residents of Easthampton, Southampton and Stonington addressed letters to Mason, warning him of an impending attack by several groups of Indians. Mason passed these letters on to the colony authorities in Hartford, and added his own strongly worded advice.
In the summer of 1670 John Mason acted as an intermediary between Roger Williams and the Connecticut government regarding a boundary dispute between Rhode Island and Connecticut.
After the war, Mason became Deputy Governor of Connecticut. He and a number of others were instrumental in the founding of Norwich, Connecticut, where he died in 1672.
Mason's Island in Stonington, Connecticut, is named after John Mason.
A statue of Major John Mason is on the Palisado Green in Windsor, Connecticut. The John Mason statue was originally placed at the intersection of Pequot Avenue and Clift Street in Mystic, Connecticut, near what was thought to be one of the original Pequot forts. The statue remained there for 103 years. After studying the sensitivity and appropriateness of the statue's location near the historic massacre of Pequot people, a commission chartered by Groton, Connecticut voted to have it relocated. The State in 1993 relocated the statue to its current setting.
John Mason Jr. and Maria Eaton
Abigail Mason and John Draper
Abigail Draper and John Batelle
Mary Battelle and Mathew Hastings
Hannah Hastings and Nathaniel Evans
Nathaniel Evans Jr. and MaryToothaker
Hannah Evans and John McCrillis
Joseph McCrillis and Almira Swift
Isabel Deanora Helgerson McCrilles and John Mayberry Dennis
Vesta Althea Dennis and Walter Edwing Pierce
Violet Mae Pierce and Walter Albert Mattson
Luella Mattson and Charles Williamson
Kim, Victor, Kevin, Janice, Jon, Jilane, Lisa, Annette