Mason #2588

John Mason (1600-1672)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 and later settled in Connecticut and

Anne  Peck (1619-1672)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts with her parents and siblings aboard the Diligent in 1638.

Mason #2588

 

English Origins

John Mason was born about 1600 in England, and the circumstances of his early life in England are obscure.  Accounts of his life do not include reliable information on his parentage or specifics of his English origins.  There is some speculation that he may have come from Norwich, Norfolk, England, as noted by Louis B. Mason in The Life And Times Of Major John Mason of Connecticut 1600-1672 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1935)[1], page 19:

“About a hundred miles northeast of London in the County of Norfolk, England, lying romantically between the river Wensum, is old Norwich, with its ancient castle and Gothic cathedral dating back long centuries before the Reformation.  From this city came some of the early settlers of the New World, and among them, perhaps, was John Mason.  It is only supposition that Norwich was his native town, based on the fact that he was the promoter and leader of the town of the same name in Connecticut.  Much time and money have been spent endeavoring to learn the place of his birth and the names of his parents, but without success.  It is known, however, from the data that has been gleaned, that he was of the gentry class; otherwise he could not have held a commission in the British army.”

More is known of the English origins of John Mason’s second wife, Anne Peck.  Her family is discussed under the heading of Robert Peck (1580-1648).

John Mason was a staunch Puritan and a military man, and to modern sensibilities he seems to exemplify the worst excesses of the age in which he lived.  As a military man, he was a ferocious fighter and exhibited unusual cruelty to the vanquished foe.  In addition, he subscribed to what many would consider a misconstruction of the spirit of Christianity, which consigned its enemies to immediate and vindictive destruction by every means available.

Prior to coming to New England, John Mason is known to have served as an officer under Sir Thomas Fairfax[2] in the Netherlands against Spain, and in this context he received his military education.  He arrived with his first wife (Isabel?) in one of the ships of the Winthrop Fleet in 1630[3] at Dorchester in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  At Dorchester, he later represented that village in the General Court.

In his few years in Massachusetts, John Mason was found very useful by town and colony.  By 1633 the English Puritan settlements at Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay had begun expanding into the rich Connecticut River Valley to accommodate the steady stream of new emigrants from England.  Like many early arrivals to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John migrated to Connecticut in this period, and he is an important figure in the early history of Connecticut.  In 1635 he moved to what would become Windsor, Connecticut, in company with Rev. John Wareham, Henry Wolcott and other prominent settlers of that town.  He was made a freeman of Connecticut on 4 Mar 1635.  On 3 Sep 1635:

Captain Mason is authorized by the Court to press men and carts to help towards the finishing of the fort at Castle Island, and to return the same into the Court.

John Mason afterwards resided at Saybrook and Norwich, Connecticut, where he died in 1672.  He is buried at the Palisado Cemetery in Windsor, Connecticut[5].

Nothing definite is known of the first marriage of John Mason, except that memorandum in the old church-book at Windsor, Connecticut gives the number of those who had died in the plantation before the year 1639, and it mentions as one of them the “captain’s wife”.  No other inhabitant is known to have had at that time the title of captain, and therefore this may be pronounced without hesitation to be the wife of John Mason.  In July 1640 at Hingham, Massachusetts, John married (2nd) Anne Peck.  She was born 16 Nov 1619 at Hingham, England and died 30 Jan 1672 at Norwich, Connecticut.  She was the daughter of Rev. Robert Peck, who was born at Beccles, Suffolk, England, in 1580 and Anne Lawrence.

 

The Pequot War

The Pequot War was an armed conflict of 1636–1637 between the Pequot tribe against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Saybrook colonies who were aided by their Native American allies (the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes).   John Mason earned a reputation as a ruthless “Indian Fighter” as commander of the Connecticut forces in the expedition that wiped out the Pequot fort and village at Mystic[6] and in two subsequent operations that effectively eliminated the Pequots as a recognizable nation.  During the conflict, hundreds of Indians were killed, and hundreds more were captured and sold into slavery to the West Indies.  Other survivors were dispersed.  By the end of the war, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity.  The result was the elimination of the Pequot as a viable polity in what is present-day Southern New England.

The Uncas monument sits in a small burial ground on Sachem Street in Norwich, Connecticut. The square base of the monument was dedicated in 1833, with President Andrew Jackson participating in the dedication ceremonies. The granite column was dedicated nine years later in 1842, after organizers had resolved several problems with the monument, including quarrying granite that met their specifications and reaching a consensus on the proper spelling of “Uncas.”

The Uncas monument sits in a small burial ground on Sachem Street in Norwich, Connecticut. The square base of the monument was dedicated in 1833, with President Andrew Jackson participating in the dedication ceremonies. The granite column was dedicated nine years later in 1842, after organizers had resolved several problems with the monument, including quarrying granite that met their specifications and reaching a consensus on the proper spelling of “Uncas.”

John Mason played an instrumental role on the English side in the war.  After a series of incidents and reprisals between the English settlers and the Indians of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the situation escalated to the point that in May 1637, leaders of the Connecticut towns meeting in Hartford, raised a militia and placed Captain John Mason in command, with a resolution to adopt an offensive warfare and arrest the savages in their merciless career, by filling them with terror.  With that objective in mind, they selected the right man for the job.  John Mason set out with 90 militia and 70 allied Mohegan warriors (native enemies of the Pequots) under Uncas[7] to punish the Pequot.  At Fort Saybrook, John Mason was joined by John Underhill and another 20 men.  Underhill and Mason proceeded to the principal Pequot village, near present-day Groton, but the Pequot defended their village behind fortifications.  Without adequate resources to take the village, John Mason turned east and stopped at the village of Misistuck (present-day Mystic, Connecticut).

Engraving depicting the attack on the Pequot fort, published in 1638 - The Mystic massacre took place on 26 May 1637. The English settlers under Captain John Mason, and Narragansett and Mohegan allies set fire to a fortified Pequot village near the Mystic River. They shot any people who tried to escape the wooden palisade fortress and killed the entire village, consisting mostly of women and children, in retaliation for previous Pequot attacks.

Engraving depicting the attack on the Pequot fort, published in 1638 – The Mystic massacre took place on 26 May 1637. The English settlers under Captain John Mason, and Narragansett and Mohegan allies set fire to a fortified Pequot village near the Mystic River. They shot any people who tried to escape the wooden palisade fortress and killed the entire village, consisting mostly of women and children, in retaliation for previous Pequot attacks.

Believing that the English had returned to Boston, the Pequot sachem Sassacus took several hundred of his warriors to make a raid on Hartford.  On 26 May 1637, John Mason’s militia, accompanied by several hundred native Narragansett warriors whom John Mason had recruited the Narragansett, attacked Misistuck by surprise.  According to his own account[8], “six or seven Hundred” Pequot were there when his forces assaulted the palisade.  As some 150 Pequot warriors had earlier accompanied Sassacus to Hartford, the remaining inhabitants were largely Pequot women, children and older men.  John Mason ordered that the enclosure be set on fire.  Justifying his conduct later, he declared that the attack against the Pequot was the act of a God who:

…laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn making [the Pequot] as a fiery Oven… Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling [Mystic] with dead Bodies. 

John Mason insisted that any Pequot attempting to escape the flames should be killed.  Of the estimated 600 to 700 Pequot residents at Mystic that day, only seven survived to be taken prisoner, while another seven escaped to the woods.  The Narragansett and Mohegan warriors with Mason and Underhill’s colonial militia were horrified by the actions and “manner of the Englishmen’s fight . . . because it is too furious, and slays too many men[9]”.

After the massacre, the Narragansett left the warfare and returned home.  Believing the mission accomplished, John Mason set out for home as well, and becoming temporarily lost, his militia narrowly missed the Pequot warriors returning from Hartford.  After seeing the destruction of Mystic, they gave chase to the English forces, but to little avail.

The destruction of people and the village of Mystic broke the Pequot.  The English victory also deprived them of their allies.  Forced to abandon their villages, the Pequot fled, mostly in small bands, to seek refuge with other southern Algonquian tribes.   Sassacus led roughly 400 warriors west along the coast toward the Dutch at New Amsterdam and their Native allies.  When they crossed the Connecticut River, the Pequot killed three men whom they encountered near Fort Saybrook.

pequot_war_monument-swamp_fight

The Swamp Fight Monument, dedicated in 1904 by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, today sits on a small triangle of land along the Post Road, near a Peoples’ United Bank branch and a popular Dunkin’ Donuts outlet. A large stone monument bears the simple inscription on its east face that “the great Swamp Fight here ended the Pequot War.”

In mid-June, John Mason set out from Saybrook with 160 men and 40 Mohegan scouts led by Uncas.  They caught up with the refugees at Sasqua, a Mattabesic village near present-day Fairfield, Connecticut.  Surrounded in a nearby swamp, the Pequot refused to surrender.  In the ensuing battle, Sassacus broke free with perhaps 80 warriors, but 180 Pequot men were killed or captured. The colonists memorialized this event as the “Great Swamp Fight[10]”, or Fairfield Swamp Fight in its modern interpretation.  This was the last engagement of the Pequot War.  Sassacus and his followers had hoped to gain refuge among the Mohawk in present-day New York.  However, the Mohawk instead killed Sassacus and his warriors, and they sent Sassacus’ scalp to Hartford as a symbolic offering of Mohawk friendship with the Connecticut Colony.  English colonial officials continued to call for hunting down what remained of the Pequot months after war’s end.

In September, the victorious Mohegan and Narragansett met at the General Court of Connecticut and agreed on the disposition of the Pequot and their lands.  The agreement, known as the first Treaty of Hartford, was signed on 21 Sep 1638.  About 200 Pequot old men, women, and children had survived the war and massacre at Mystic.  Unable to find refuge with a neighboring tribe, they finally gave up and offered themselves as slaves in exchange for their lives.[11]  Other Pequot were enslaved and shipped to Bermuda or the West Indies, or were forced to become household servants in English households in Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay.  Some Pequot descendants still live on Bermuda’s St. David Island, their Indian slave ancestors having intermarried with their African slave ancestors.  The colonists appropriated the Pequot lands and essentially declared the Pequot extinct by prohibiting speaking the name of the people.  The few Pequot who managed to evade death or slavery later recovered from captivity by the Mohegan and were assigned reservations in the Connecticut Colony.

The colonists attributed to an act of God, as expressed by John Mason in his account of the war[12]:

Thus we may see, How the Face of GOD is set against them that do Evil, to cut off the Remembrance of them from the Earth… for they are confounded, they are bro’t to Shame that sought our Hurt!… Thus the LORD was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance. 

Likewise, the Puritan justification for the action was simply stated by Captain John Underhill[13]:

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. 

Lion Gardiner, a soldier involved in the Pequot War, in his Relation of the Pequot Wars (1660), expressed a different perspective:

And now I am old, I would fain die a natural death or like a soldier in the field with honor and not to have a sharp stake set in the ground and thrust into my fundament and to have my skin flayed off by piecemeal and cut in pieces and bits and my flesh roasted and thrust down my throat as these people have done and I know will be done to the chieftest in the Country by hundreds if god should deliver us into their hands as Justly he may for our sins.[14] 

The Pequot War was an important turning point in the colonial history of America.  The war was the culmination of numerous conflicts between the colonists and the Indians.  There were disputes over property, livestock damaging Indian crops, hunting, the selling of alcohol to Indians and dishonest traders.  Besides these irritations, the Colonists believed that they had a God given right to settle this New World, and that the Indian “savages” needed to be converted to their way of their God.  The Indians were in an impossibly difficult situation.  They constantly suffered at the hands of the colonists, yet at the same time was growing more dependent on the Colonists trade goods.  They were also disturbed at the encroachment of their lands by the English colonists, but did not comprehend the English superiority in the technology of war and the ruthlessness with which they were willing to fight, employing European-style tactics of battle and siege.  There was also the “supply line” of the English colonists to the mother country that kept the colonies supplied with products and newly arriving settlers.  In addition, the various tribes were divided among themselves by traditional rivalries, and they were decimated by diseases that arrived with the European contact.  The English were able to exploit these weaknesses.  For some time after the Pequot War, the Indians were too intimidated to rise up against the colonists.  As noted historian Alden T. Vaughan[15] has observed:

“The effect of the Pequot War was profound. Overnight the balance of power had shifted from the populous but unorganized natives to the English colonies.  Henceforth [until King Philip’s War] there was no combination of Indian tribes that could seriously threaten the English.  The destruction of the Pequots cleared away the only major obstacle to Puritan expansion.  And the thoroughness of that destruction made a deep impression on the other tribes.”

The blow that had been struck brought peace to New England for nearly forty years.  In 1675, this peace came to an end with “King Philip’s War”, which marked another turning point in the conflict between the English and the native peoples.  Of course, the early accounts of the Pequot War were written by the victors.  Later histories, with few exceptions, recounted events from a similar perspective, restating arguments first used by the war’s military leaders, such as John Underhill and John Mason, as well the Puritan religious leaders, such as Increase Mather and his son Cotton Mather.  Most modern historians do not debate questions of the outcome of the battle or its chronology.  However, the causes of the outbreak of hostilities, the reasons for the English fear and hatred of the Pequot and the ways in which English dealt with and wrote about the Pequot have been re-evaluated within a larger context.  Revisionist historians have placed the background of the Pequot War within the context of European history, in which religious wars gave rise to increased violence, and Dutch and English colonization in North America, as well as the geopolitical ambitions and struggles of contending Native peoples during the first half of the seventeenth century.

 

Later career

John Mason was one of the most trusted men in Connecticut during his three and a half decades of residence there, in both civil and military matters.  In his later years, the formal colony records referred to him simply as the Major, without forename or surname.  Only a sampling of his activities can be presented here.  John removed his family to Old Saybrook, Connecticut in 1647.  He was awarded land by the state of Connecticut where Lebanon, Connecticut was founded, and in 1660 united with a number of distinguished families in the settlement of Norwich, Connecticut, where he was Deputy/Lieutenant Governor (1660-69), and Major General of the forces of Connecticut.

The photos below show the monument to Mason and the other founders of Norwich, in Norwich Connecticut:

The Norwich Founder’s Monument was erected on the site of the Ancient Norwich Burying Ground – also known as the “Post and Gager” Cemetery.  Although none of the original gravestones remain, it is probable that most of the early Norwich settlers were buried at this location.

Norwich Founders memorial plaque, Norwich, Connecticut

Norwich Founders memorial plaque, Norwich, Connecticut

The Ancient Norwich Burial Ground was the first cemetery in the town of Norwich.  The first death in the new settlement was that of Mary Post, wife of Thomas Post, in the year 1661.  Thomas Post was one of the original proprietors, and his home-lot lay adjacent to Richard Edgerton on Town Street.  Mary Post was buried on a plot of land at the rear corner of the Post home-lot.  The Norwich proprietors later voted to purchase the surrounding area as a burial place.  A memorandum on the Norwich town records notes that: The Towne hath purchased a burying place of Thomas Post – in the home lot of said Post – towards the rear of his lot.

The Founder’s monument lists the names of thirty-eight of the first settlers of Norwich, including all thirty five of the original proprietors. Namely:

Side 1: Major John Mason*, Rev. James Fitch*, John Pease, John Tracy, John Baldwin, Jonathan Royce, John Post, Thomas Bingham, Thomas Waterman, Robert Allyn*.
Side 2: Ensign Wm Backus, Francis Griswold, Nehemiah Smith, Thomas Howard, John Calkins, Hugh Calkins, Richard Egerton, Thomas Post, John Gager+.
Side 3: Thomas Leffingwell, Richard Wallis, Thomas Adgate, John Olmstead++, Stephen Backus, Thomas Bliss, John Reynolds, Josiah Reed, Christopher Huntington.
Side 4: Thomas Tracy, Samuel Hyde, William Hyde, Morgan Bowers, Robert Wade, John Birchard, Simon Huntington, Stephen Gifford, John Bradford.

* 9th g-grandfather; + 9th g-grand uncle (brother of Sarah Gager, my 9th g-grandmother); ++ husband of 8th g-grand aunt (Elizabeth Marvin, sister of Rebecca Marvin, my 9th g-grandmother)

The original township of Norwich has changed considerably since its original layout in 1659.  The Old Burying Ground on Town Street is now situated on a hilltop adjacent to the Connecticut Turnpike, although isolated and out of view.  The burying ground fell into disuse long ago, but was kept in the ownership of the Norwich proprietors and is now maintained as a public park by the Town of Norwich.  The Ancient Burying Ground is now relatively wooded, as can be seen in some of the photos above.  The cemetery is enclosed by a stone fence with a metal gate at the entrance.

Norwich Founders memorial bench

Norwich Founders memorial bench

A large stone bench built on the site bears the following inscription:

Near this spot lie buried the first settlers of Norwich. This stone dedicated to their memory August 11, 1940, by the Society of the Founders of Norwich, Connecticut and the John Mason Monument Association.

In 1640 an event took place that forever changed the political boundaries of the Connecticut River Valley.  From its founding until that time, Springfield, Massachusetts (then called Agawam) had been administered by the Connecticut Colony along with Connecticut’s three other settlements: Wethersfield, Hartford, and Windsor.  In the spring of 1640, grain was very scarce and cattle were dying of starvation.  The nearby Connecticut River Valley settlements of Windsor (then called “Matianuck”) and Hartford (then called “Newtown”) gave power to William Pynchon, the founder of Springfield, to buy corn for all three English settlements.  If the Indians would not sell their corn at market prices, then Pynchon was authorized to offer more money.  The natives refused to sell their corn at market prices and then later refused to sell it at “reasonable” prices.  Pynchon refused to buy it, believing it best not to broadcast the English colonists’ weaknesses, and also wanting to keep market values steady.  Leading citizens of what would become Hartford were furious with Pynchon for not purchasing any grain.  With Windsor’s and Wethersfield’s consent, the three southerly settlements commissioned John Mason to travel to Springfield with “money in one hand and a sword in the other”[16].

On reaching what would become Springfield, John Mason threatened the local Indians with war if they did not sell their corn at a “reasonable price.”  The Indians capitulated and ultimately sold the colonists corn; however, John Mason‘s violent approach led to the Indians’ deepening distrust of the English colonists.  Pynchon, an avowed “man of peace,” believed in negotiation with the Indians (and thus, quickly made a fortune), whereas John Mason believed in subduing natives by force.  This philosophical difference led to John Mason using “hard words” against Pynchon.  Pynchon’s settlement, however, agreed with him and his philosophy, and that same year voted to separate from the Connecticut Colony and be annexed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  As this local controversy was heating up, the Massachusetts Bay Colony decided to reassert its jurisdiction over the land bordering the Connecticut River, realizing that it was its most valuable for farming.

On 2 Jun 1647 the Court ordered:

…that Captain Mason should for the peace, safety and good assurance of the Commonwealth, have the command of all soldiers and inhabitants of Seabrooke, and in case of alarum or danger by approach of an enemy, to draw forth or put the said soldiers & inhabitants in such posture for the defense of the place as to him shall seem best and whereas Captain Mason, at the special instance & request of the inhabitants of Seabrooke, together with the good liking of the Commonwealth, did leave his habitation in the River and repair thither, to exercise a place of trust.  It is this day ordered, that his former salary of £40 per annum be continued. 

During the winter of 1647/8, Winthrop records 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. 

Prior to the sitting of the court on 6 Oct 1651, Captain John Mason had sent a letter to the court,

…wherein he desires, among other things, the advice of this Court touching a motion propounded by some of New Haven interested in Dillaware design, for his assistance of them in that business, with some encouragements for his settling there. 

The Court did not like the idea, but admitted they could not prevent him and gave reluctant permission to attend the service for 3 months, provided he will engage himself to return within that time and continue his abode amongst them as formerly.

New Haven was at this time attempting to establish a daughter colony on the Delaware River.  By the sitting of the Court on 18 May 1654 John Mason had been advanced from Captain to Major, the rank that he would hold for the remainder of his life.  On 13 June 1654 he and Captain John Cullick were sent to Boston as agents of Connecticut, to discuss Cromwell’s plans for fighting the Dutch at New Amsterdam.  In April 1657 he received from the General Court an extensive commission, requiring him to go to Southampton and investigate the complaints of the inhabitants of that town (then under Connecticut jurisdiction) regarding depredations made by the Montauk Indians.

On 15 June 1659 Mr. Willis was:

…requested to go down to Sea Brook, to assist the Major in examining the suspicions about witchery, and to act the rein as may be requisite. 

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.  John 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[17] and the Connecticut government regarding a boundary dispute between Rhode Island and Connecticut.

John Mason acquired a significant amount of land in his lifetime:

On 10 Feb 1635 Captayne Mason received a grant of 2 acres in Dorchester. He drew 6 acres of meadow beyond Naponset in lot #73.

In the Windsor land inventory on 28 Feb 1641, John Mason held several parcels:

a home lot with some additions to it, 10 acres; in the Palisado where his house stands and mead adjoining, 20.5 acres; in the first mead on the north side of the rivulet, for mead and addition in swamp; 8 acres; in the northwest field for upland; 8 acres, with some addition on the bank side; over the Great River in breadth by the river twenty-six rods more or less, and continues that breadth to the east side of the west marsh, and there it is but sixteen rods in breadth and so continues to the end of the three miles“, 9 acres; of land by Rocky Hill and by a deed of exchange with Thomas Duy [Dewey] … on the east side of the Great River in breadth eighteen rods more or less, in length three miles.

On 5 Jan 1642, the Connecticut Court ordered:

…that Captain Mason shall have 500 acres of ground, for him and his heirs, about Pequot Country, and the dispose of 500 more to such soldiers as joined with him in the service when they conquered the Indians there.

On 12 Jul 1644 John Mason of Windsor sold to William Hosford of Windsor 8 acres in a little meadow with addition of swamp.

On 11 Sep 1651, the island[18] commonly called Chippachauge in Mistick Bay is given to Capt. John Mason, as also 100 acres of upland and 10 acres of meadow near Mistick, where he shall make choice.

On 14 Mar 1661, the jurisdiction power over that land that Uncus and Wawequa have made over to Major Mason is by him surrendered to this Colony. Nevertheless for the laying out of those lands to farms or plantations the Court doth leave it in the hands of Major Mason. It is also ordered and provided with the consent of Major Mason, that Uncus & Wawequa and their Indians and successors shall be supplied with sufficient planting ground at all times as the Court sees cause out of that land. And the Major doth reserve for himself a competence of land sufficient to make a farm

On 14 May 1663, the Court granted unto the Major, our worshipful Deputy Governor, 500 acres of land for a farm, where he shall choose it, if it may not be prejudicial to a plantation already set up or to set up, so there be not above 50 acres of meadow in it.

On 13 Oct 1664, the Major propounding to the Court to take up his former grant of a farm, at a place by the Indians called Pomakuck, near Norwich, the Court grants liberty to him to take up his former grant in that place, upon the same terms as it was granted to him by the Court.

On 20 May 1668 the Major desiring this Court to grant him a farm of about 300 acres, for one of his sons, his desire is hereby granted (provided there be not above 30 acres of meadow) and Lt. Griswold & Ensign Tracy are hereby desired to lay it out to him in some convenient place near that tract of land granted Jer[emiah] Adams, it being the place the Major hath pitched upon, the name of the place is Uncupsitt, provided it prejudice no plantation or former grant.

On 9 May 1672 Ensign Tracy is appointed to join with Sergeant Tho[ma s] Leffingwell in laying out to the Major and Mr. Howkins their grants of land according to their grants.

 

Offices:

  • Deputy for Dorchester to Massachusetts Bay General Court, 1634-35.
  • Captain by 1637.
  • Deputy for Windsor to Connecticut Court, Nov 1637, Mar 1638, Apr 1638, Sep 1639, Feb 1641, Apr 1641 and Sep 1641.
  • Assistant, 1642–1659, 1669-71 [CT Civil List 35].
  • War committee for Saybrook, 1653-54
  • Major, Jun 1654 (but he was called Major at the General Court of 18 May 1654).
  • Commissioner for United Colonies, 1654-61
  • Connecticut Deputy Governor, 1660-68.
  • Patentee, Royal Charter, 1662
  • Militia Committee, 1667-72
  • Assistant to the Governor of Connecticut, 1669-1671

The record of births of John Mason‘s children by his second wife, Anne Peck, was entered in Norwich vital records, even though none of the births had occurred there, with only the month and year of the birth given.  The division of births between Windsor and Saybrook is based on the knowledge that John Mason was in Saybrook by 1647.

 

The John Mason statue was moved from Mystic to Windsor, Connecticut

The John Mason statue was moved from Mystic to Windsor, Connecticut

Memorials:

  • 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.  Over the years, there has been considerable controversy involving the statue dedicated to John Mason and his role in the Pequot War.  The 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 and 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.  In 1996 the State of Connecticut rededicated the statue in its current setting.  The book published in 1889 at the time of the statue’s first dedication (A History of the Statue Erected to Commemorate the Heroic Achievement of Maj. John Major) makes for interesting reading in light of the heated controversies that later ensued involving questions of history, national identity, fairness and revisionism related to events on a May morning 350+ years ago.
A statue of Captain John Mason used to stand in this traffic circle, in a quiet residential neighborhood Mystic, Conneticut. It was removed to his hometown of Windsor, Conneticut, in 1996.

A statue of Captain John Mason used to stand in this traffic circle, in a quiet residential neighborhood in Mystic, Conneticut. It was removed to his hometown of Windsor, Conneticut, in 1996.

The children of John Mason and Anne Peck are listed as follows[19]:

  1. Pricilla, born Oct 1641 and died 1714 at Norwich, Connecticut.  On 2 Oct 1664 at Windham, Connecticut she married Rev. James Fitch[20].
  2. Samuel, born Jul 1644 and died 30 Mar 1705 at Stonington, Connecticut.  On 20 Jun 1670 he married (1st) Judith Smith at Hingham, Massachusetts, and on 4 Jul 1694 he married (2nd) Elizabeth Peck[21].  Elizabeth was about 30 years younger than Samuel.  After Samuel’s death, Elizabeth married (2nd) Gershom Palmer of Stonington, son of Walter Palmer (1585-1661), my 9th g-grandfather.
  3. John Mason (Jr.), see below.
  4. Rachel, born Oct 1648 and died 4 Apr 1679 at New London, Connecticut.  On 12 Jun 1678 she married Charles Hill at New London, Connecticut.
  5. Anne, born Jun 1650 and died in 1709.  She married John Brown in 1672.
  6. Daniel, born Apr 1652 and died 28 Jun 1737 at Stonington, Connecticut.  On 8 Feb 1673 He married (1st) Margaret Denison.  On 10 Oct 1679 he married (2nd) Rebecca Hobart, at Stonington, Connecticut.
  7. Elizabeth, born Aug 1654 and died 31 Jan 1699, both at Saybrook, Connecticut.  On 8 May 1671 at Guilford, Connecticut she married (1st) and on 1 Jan 1675 at Norwich, Connecticut, she married (2nd) James Fitch (son of Rev. James Fitch, above), also at Norwich, Connecticut.

The names of the children (if any) of John Mason his first wife (Isabel?), who died before 1639, are not known.

Great Swamp Fight Memorial South Kingston, Rhode Island, was the site of the last stand of the Narragansett Indians in King Philip's War against the Colonists - In 1906 a rough granite shaft about 20 feet high was erected by the Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars to commemorate this battle. Around the mound on which the shaft stands are four roughly squared granite markers engraved with the names of the colonies which took part in the encounter and two tablets on opposite sides of the shaft give additional data.

Great Swamp Fight Memorial South Kingston, Rhode Island, was the site of the last stand of the Narragansett Indians in King Philip’s War against the Colonists – In 1906 a rough granite shaft about 20 feet high was erected by the Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars to commemorate this battle. Around the mound on which the shaft stands are four roughly squared granite markers engraved with the names of the colonies which took part in the encounter and two tablets on opposite sides of the shaft give additional data.

The second son of John Mason and Anne Peck is John Mason (Jr.), born Aug 1646.  In about 1668 he married Abigail Fitch (daughter of Rev. James Fitch, above).  On 18 Sep 1676 at Norwich, New London, Connecticut, he died of wounds suffered several months earlier in the “Great Swamp Fight” engagement of King Philip’s War, on 18 Dec 1675 at Narragansett, Rhode Island.  During this engagement, John Mason (Jr.) commanded the 5th Company of the Connecticut Regiment under Major (later Governor) Robert Treat.

Though he was scarcely thirty years of age at the time of his death, John (Jr.) stood high in public esteem, both in a civil and military capacity.  He had represented the town of Norwich at three sessions of the Legislature, and was chosen an assistant the year of his decease.  In the probate of his estate before the County Court he is called the worshipful John Mason.

The children of John Mason (Jr.) and Abigail Fitch are listed as follows:

  1. Ann Mason, born about 1669 and died 17 Jun 1753, both at Saybrook, Connecticut. On 3 Mar 1701 she married Samuel Cogswell.  She had previously been the wife of John Denison (1669-1700).
  2. John Mason, born 1673 Norwich, Connecticut and died at London, England on 23 Dec 1736.  He was the third in lineal succession who had bore the name “John” and title of “Captain”.

The lineage of Ann Mason and Samuel Cogswell is continued under the heading of John Cogswell (1592-1669).



[1] Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, LLC in 2007.

[2] Thomas Fairfax, 1st Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1560-1640) was an English soldier, diplomat and politician, his title being in the Peerage of Scotland. He was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Denton, Yorkshire and Dorothy Gale, and was born at Bilbrough, near York. As a young man he saw military service in the Low Countries, where he commanded a company of foot under Sir Francis Vere. Sir Francis Vere (1560-1609) is famous for his career in Dutch service. The young Francis Vere first went on active service under Leicester in 1585, and was soon in the thick of the war raging in the Low Countries. At the siege of Sluys he greatly distinguished himself under Sir Roger Williams and Sir Thomas Baskerville. In 1588 he was in the garrison of Bergen op Zoom, which delivered itself from the besiegers by its own good fighting, and was knighted by Lord Willoughby on the field of battle. In the next year Sir Francis became sergeant major-general of the English troops in the Low Countries, and soon afterwards the chief command devolved upon him. This position he retained during fifteen campaigns, with almost unbroken success. Working in close cooperation with the Dutch forces under Maurice of Nassau, he helped to step by step secure the country for the cause of independence. Vere won the reputation of being one of the best English soldiers of the day. His troops acquired a cohesion and a training based on the Dutch model fitting them to face the best Spanish troops, and his camp became the fashionable training-ground of all aspiring English soldiers, amongst others not only his younger brother Horace, but men of such note as Ferdinando (Lord) Fairfax, Gervase Markham and Captain Myles Standish of the Mayflower, who settled at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620.

[3] According to some sources, John and his first wife arrived with Rev. John and Susanna Warham, which would place him on the Mary & John voyage of 1630. This is a possibility but is not confirmed by any known passenger list.

[4] Apparently the purpose of this mission was to hunt down a pirate.

[5] The inscription on his monument reads as follows: Major John Mason / Born 1600 in England / Immigrated to New England in 1630 / A Founder of Windsor, Old Saybrook, and Norwich / Magistrate and Chief Military Officer of the Connecticut Colony / Deputy Governor and Acting Governor / A Patentee of the Colonial Charter / Died 1672 in Norwich / This Monument Erected at Mystic in 1889 by the State of / Connecticut / Relocated in 1996 to respect a sacred site of the 1637 Pequot War.  The original inscription on the monument, when it stood at Mystic, Connecticut was: Erected AD 1889 By the State of Connecticut to commemorate the heroic achievement of Major John Mason and his comrades, who near this spot in 1637, overthrew the Pequot Indians, and preserved the settlements from destruction.

[6] This incident has become known as the “Mystic Massacre”.

[7] Although born into the Pequot tribe, Uncas (1588?-1683) became leader of the Mohegan tribe. He rebelled against Chief Sassacus (1560?-1637), his father-in-law, and with his followers formed the separate Mohegan branch. Uncas aided the English colonists in the Pequot War of 1637 and fought a series of wars with the Narragansett Indians, whom he defeated in 1643. In 1661, however, he made war on an ally of the English, Chief Massasoit and his Wampanoag tribe, and the English intervened and forced Uncas to relinquish his captives and plunder. Upon the outbreak of King Philip’s War in 1675, he was required to turn over his sons as hostages to the English in assurance of his neutrality. A character named Uncas was immortalized in literature in The Last of the Mohicans (1826) by James Fenimore Cooper. In Cooper’s book (which is set at a much later date, 1757), Chingachgook’s son named Uncas. Cooper seemed to confuse or merge the names of the two tribes – Mohegan and Mahican. This well-known book helped confuse popular understanding of the tribes to the present day.

[8] John Mason’s posthumously published account, published as A Brief History of the Pequot War: Especially of the Memorable taking of their Fort at Mistick in Connecticut in 1637 (Boston: S. Kneeland & T. Green, 1736) is the most complete contemporary history of the Pequot War of 1636-37 (although obviously self-serving). It was written about 1670 and published in part in 1677 (although misattributed by Increase Mather to John Allyn).  The complete text was issued by Thomas Prince in 1736.

[9] William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, 1620-1647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), p. 29; Volume IVolume II. and John Underhill, Nevves from America; or, A New and Experimentall Discoverie of New England: Containing, a True Relation of their War-like Proceedings these two yeares last past, with a figure of the Indian fort, or Palizado (London: I. D[awson] for Peter Cole, 1638), p. 84

[10] Another battle, also known as the “Great Swamp Fight”, occurred on 18 Dec 1675 in Rhode Island, during King Philip’s War, between colonial militia of New England and the Narragansett tribe.  John’s son, John Mason (Jr.) was fatally shot in this battle.

[11] For first-hand accounts of Pequot enslavement and its logic, see Lion Gardiner, “Relation of the Pequot Warres” in History of the Pequot War: The Contemporary Accounts of Mason, Underhill, Vincent, and Gardiner (Cleveland, 1897), p. 138, and John Mason’s account in the same volume. For historical analyses of Pequot enslavement, see Michael L. Fickes, “‘They Could Not Endure That Yoke’: The Captivity of Pequot Women and Children after the War of 1637,” New England Quarterly, vol. 73, no. 1 (Mar 2000), pp. 58-81; Ethel Boissevain, “Whatever Became of the New England Indians Shipped to Bermuda to be Sold as Slaves,” Man in the Northwest 11 (Spring 1981), pp. 103-114; and Karen O. Kupperman, Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 172.

[12] John Mason. A Brief History of the Pequot War (published 1736), p. 21

[13] John Underhill. Nevves from America; or, A New and Experimentall Discoverie of New England: Containing, a True Relation of their War-like Proceedings these two yeares last past, with a figure of the Indian fort, or Palizado. Also a discovery of these places, that as yet have very few or no inhabitants which would yeeld speciall accommodation to such as will plant there . . . By Captaine Iohn Underhill, a commander in the warres there (originally published  1638)

[14] Gardiner, Lieut. Lion. Relation of the Pequot Warres (1660). Hartford Press, 1901, p. 24.

[15] Alden T. Vaughan. New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians 1620-1675 (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press) originally published 1980.

[16] Isabel MacBeath Calder, The New Haven Colony (1934), p. 192

[17] My 10th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading

[18] Mason’s Island, as it is called, lies at the mouth of the Mystic River, in Stonington, Connecticut (part of the region of Mystic, Connecticut). John Mason who was granted the island in recognition of his leadership of English troops and neighboring tribal nations in the brutal defeat of the Pequot nation at Mystic.

[19] The family is registered at Norwich with this heading: “The names and ages of the children of Maj. MASON. The day of the month is not given, nor the place of birth. Based on our knowledge from the colonial records of where John Mason resided as of the dates in question, the first three were probably born in Windsor, and the others at Saybrook, Connecticut.

[20] My paternal 9th g-grandfather. James Fitch’s daughter by his first wife, Abigail Whitfield is Abigail Fitch, who married John Mason (Jr.), the son of John Mason (1600-1672).

[21] Samuel Mason and Elizabeth Peck are 2nd cousins. Robert Peck (1548-1593) is the g-grandfather of Elizabeth and the grandfather of Samuel’s mother, Anne Peck.

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One comment

  • John Barker

    A Great,G …grandson of Palmer Tingley here. A militia man at Mystic Fort. Plan to visit area sometime in next year or two. I have a small camper, where would folks recomend staying. NICE PAGE John Barker

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