Thomson Francis Mason

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Thomson Francis Mason
Thomson Francis Mason

DiedDecember 21, 1838
Residence Colross, Alexandria, Virginia
Huntley, Fairfax County, Virginia
Chestnut Hill, Leesburg, Virginia
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Occupation jurist, lawyer, councilman, judge, and mayor of Alexandria, D.C.
Spouse(s)Elizabeth "Betsey" Clapham Price
Children9, including Arthur Pendleton Mason
Parent(s) Thomson Mason
Sarah McCarty Chichester
Relativesgrandson of George Mason IV

Thomson Francis Mason (1785 – 21 December 1838) [1] [2] was a prominent jurist, lawyer, planter, councilman, judge, and the mayor of Alexandria, District of Columbia (now Virginia) between 1827 and 1830. [2]

Jurist Legal scholar or academic, a professional who studies, teaches, and develops law

A jurist is someone who researches and studies jurisprudence. Such a person can work as an academic, legal writer, law lecturer and practice law (lawyer), depending on legislation in the respective jurisdiction. In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and in many other Commonwealth countries, the word jurist sometimes refers to a barrister, whereas in the United States of America and Canada it often refers to a judge.

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

Judge official who presides over court proceedings

A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers or solicitors of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate.


Early life and education

Mason was born in 1785 at his grandfather George Mason's Gunston Hall plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia. [1] [2] [3] [4] He was the second eldest child and eldest son of General Thomson Mason (1759–1820) and his wife Sarah McCarty Chichester. [1] [5] Mason was primarily raised at Hollin Hall, his father's plantation. [5] [6]

George Mason American delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention

George Mason IV was an American planter, politician and delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution. His writings, including substantial portions of the Fairfax Resolves of 1774, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, and his Objections to this Constitution of Government (1787) opposing ratification, have exercised a significant influence on American political thought and events. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, which Mason principally authored, served as a basis for the United States Bill of Rights, of which he has been deemed the father.

Gunston Hall United States historic place

Gunston Hall is an 18th-century Georgian mansion near the Potomac River in Mason Neck, Virginia, USA. The house was the home of the United States Founding Father George Mason. It was located at the center of a 5,500 acre (22 km²) plantation. The home is also located not far from George Washington's home. The construction period of Gunston Hall was between 1755 and 1759.

Plantations in the American South large farms in the antebellum southern US, farmed by large numbers of enslaved Africans, typically growing cotton, tobacco, sugar, indigo, or rice

Plantations are an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum era. The mild subtropical climate, plentiful rainfall, fertile soils of the southeastern United States, and Native American genocide allowed the flourishing of large plantations, where large numbers of enslaved Africans were held captive as slave labor and forced to produce crops to create wealth for a white elite.

On 24 October 1805, Mason entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) as a member of the junior class. [3] That same year, he joined the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. [3] Mason graduated from Princeton with honors and subsequently stayed to study law. [3] He graduated from law school in 1807 and returned to Virginia. [4] [6]

Princeton University University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.


Upon his return to Virginia, Mason began practicing law in Fairfax County. [4] [6] In 1812, he set up his law practice in Alexandria, which was then located in Alexandria County of the District of Columbia. [3] Mason served as Justice of the Peace in Alexandra three times. [5] Mason played an important role during the 1820s in the fight to retrocede Alexandria County from the District of Columbia to Virginia. [4] [6] Because of this, he became increasingly involved in Alexandria's political activities. [4] [6] Mason served as mayor of Alexandria between 1827 and 1830. [2] [3] [4] [6] He was elected to the office four times. [4] [5] Six months before his death in 1838, President Martin Van Buren appointed Mason as the first judge of the newly organized Criminal Court of the District of Columbia. [3] [4] [6]

Alexandria, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 139,966, and in 2016, the population was estimated to be 160,530. Located along the western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 7 miles (11 km) south of downtown Washington, D.C.

District of Columbia retrocession Return of some land of the District of Columbia to Virginia

The District of Columbia retrocession was the process of returning to the U.S. commonwealth of Virginia a part of the land that had been ceded to the federal government of the United States for the purpose of creating its federal district for the new national capital of the United States, the City of Washington. The land was taken in 1790. It was returned, after many stages of federal and state approval, in March 1847.

Martin Van Buren Eighth president of the United States

Martin Van Buren was an American statesman who served as the eighth president of the United States from 1837 to 1841. He was the first president born after the independence of the United States from the British Empire. A founder of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the ninth governor of New York, the tenth United States secretary of state, and the eighth vice president of the United States. He won the 1836 presidential election with the endorsement of popular outgoing President Andrew Jackson and the organizational strength of the Democratic Party. He lost his 1840 reelection bid to Whig Party nominee William Henry Harrison, due in part to the poor economic conditions of the Panic of 1837. Later in his life, Van Buren emerged as an elder statesman and important anti-slavery leader, who led the Free Soil Party ticket in the 1848 presidential election.

Mason was also involved in several of Alexandria's transportation infrastructure projects. [4] He served as president of and attorney for the Middle Turnpike Company for eleven years until his resignation on 16 July 1838 to accept President Van Buren's judicial appointment. [3] [4] [6] The Middle Turnpike, now known as the Leesburg Pike (Virginia State Route 7), [7] was completed shortly after his death. [3] As Alexandria's mayor and as chairman of the Alexandria Committee, Mason was involved with the construction of the Alexandria branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. [3] [4] The Alexandria Canal was later completed in 1843. [3]

Virginia State Route 7 state highway in Virgina, United States

State Route 7 (SR 7) is a major primary state highway and busy commuter route in northern Virginia, United States. It travels southeast from downtown Winchester to SR 400 in downtown Alexandria. Its route largely parallels those of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and the Potomac River. Between its western terminus and I-395, SR 7 is part of the National Highway System.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal canal in Washington, D.C. and Maryland

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, abbreviated as the C&O Canal and occasionally called the "Grand Old Ditch," operated from 1831 until 1924 along the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal's principal cargo was coal from the Allegheny Mountains.

Alexandria Canal (Virginia) United States historic place

The Alexandria Canal was a canal in the United States that connected the city of Alexandria to Georgetown in the District of Columbia.

Marriage and children

Colross Colross Alexandria VA 1916 05.jpg

Mason married Elizabeth "Betsey" Clapham Price of Leesburg, Virginia, on 19 November 1817. [1] [2] [4] [6] He and Elizabeth had ten children, five sons and five daughters: [1] [4] [8]

Leesburg, Virginia Town in Virginia

Leesburg is the county seat of Loudoun County, Virginia. It was built circa 1740 and occupied by some of Virginia’s most famous families, being named for Thomas Lee, ancestor of Robert E. Lee. In the War of 1812, it became the temporary seat of the United States government, and in the Civil War, it changed hands several times.

Thomson and Betsey's surviving five daughters and three sons attended various schools in Alexandria, where they learned music, drawing, and French in addition to reading and writing. [4] The couple were friends with members of the Lee family, the Washingtons, the Madisons, and other landed gentry. [4] Thomson and Betsey entertained lavishly at their Colross and Huntley estates. [4]


Huntley Historic Huntley Restored.jpg

Upon the death of his grandfather George Mason on 7 October 1792, Mason's father Thomson inherited a portion of the Gunston Hall estate. [10] Around 1817, Mason's father Thomson divided the property into two plantations: [4] [10] Dogue Run farm for Mason's younger brother Richard Chichester Mason (1793–1869) and Hunting Creek farm for Mason. [10] On his Hunting Creek tract, Mason constructed his secondary home known as Huntley between 1820 and 1825. [4] [6] [10] Huntley never served as a permanent residence for Mason who owned a number of houses in Alexandria including Colross, his chief homestead. [4] [6]

Mason died on 21 December 1838 in Alexandria at the age of 53. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] Originally interred at Colross graveyard in Alexandria, Mason's remains were reinterred at Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery, also in Alexandria. [2] Twenty years after Mason's death, his widow Betsey attempted to sell Huntley and its accompanying Hunting Creek farm in 1859. [6] [10] When she was unable to sell the property, Betsey transferred ownership on 7 November 1859 to her sons John "Frank" Francis Mason and Arthur "Pen" Pendleton Mason. [6] [10] In 1989, Huntley was acquired by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The main house has been restored and is open for regular tours on Saturdays, April through October, and hosts special programs and events. Renovation of the nearby tenant house was completed in 2017 and it is used as a visitor welcome center for tours and programs. [4]


Thomson Francis Mason was a grandson of George Mason (1725–1792); [1] [2] nephew of George Mason V (1753–1796); [1] [2] grandnephew of Thomson Mason (1733–1785); [1] [2] son of Thomson Mason (1759–1820) and Sarah McCarty Chichester Mason; [1] [2] first cousin once removed of Stevens Thomson Mason (1760–1803) and John Thomson Mason (1765–1824); [1] [2] second cousin of Armistead Thomson Mason (1787–1819), John Thomson Mason (1787–1850), and John Thomson Mason, Jr. (1815–1873); [1] [2] first cousin of George Mason VI (1786–1834), Richard Barnes Mason (1797–1850), and James Murray Mason (1798–1871); [1] [2] second cousin once removed of Stevens Thomson Mason (1811–1843); [1] [2] and first cousin thrice removed of Charles O'Conor Goolrick. [1] [2]


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Huntley, also known as Historic Huntley or Huntley Hall is an early 19th-century Federal-style villa and farm in the Hybla Valley area of Fairfax County, Virginia. The house sits on a hill overlooking Huntley Meadows Park to the south. The estate is best known as the country residence of Thomson Francis Mason, grandson of George Mason of nearby Gunston Hall. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR), and the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites.

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Colross,, is a Georgian mansion in Princeton, New Jersey; it was built as the center of an estate in the Old Town neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia. Colross is currently the administration building of Princeton Day School. The Colross property originally occupied the entire 1100 block of Oronoco Street; Alexandria merchant John Potts developed it as a plantation and began building the mansion in 1799–1800. In 1803, Jonathan Swift—also an Alexandria merchant and a city councilman—purchased the property and during his ownership continued constructing the mansion. After Swift's death in 1824, Colross was purchased by Thomson Francis Mason (1785–1838), son of Thomson Mason (1759–1820) and grandson of Founding Father George Mason (1725–1792) of Gunston Hall. Mason served as a judge of the Criminal Court of the District of Columbia and as mayor of Alexandria. During his ownership, Mason made Colross his chief homestead; he substantially modified and added to the mansion. After successive ownerships, the area around Colross became heavily industrialized. The mansion was bought by John Munn in 1929; between that year and 1932 it was transported brick-by-brick to Princeton, where in 1958 it was sold to Princeton Day School, which uses it as a school administration building housing its admission and advancement offices.

Richard Chichester Mason was a prominent physician practicing in Alexandria, Virginia. Mason was a grandson of George Mason and his wife Ann Eilbeck.

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Thomson Mason was a prominent entrepreneur, planter, civil servant, and justice. Mason was the son of George Mason, an American patriot, statesman, and delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention.

Okeley Manor was an early 19th-century plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States. Okeley, the residence of prominent Alexandria physician Richard Chichester Mason (1793–1869), was one of the principal Mason family estates in Northern Virginia. Mason' plantation house was used as a hospital during the American Civil War and burned to prevent the spread of smallpox.

Thomas Mason was an early American businessman, planter, and politician. As a son of George Mason, a Founding Father of the United States, Mason was a scion of the prominent Mason political family.

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Chestnut Hill is an 18th-century Federal-style mansion north of Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia, United States. Chestnut Hill was a home of Thomson Francis Mason, a prominent jurist, lawyer, councilman, judge, mayor of Alexandria, and grandson of Founding Father of the United States George Mason. Chestnut Hill was also a home of Mason's son, Dr. John "Frank" Francis Mason. It is located at 13263 Chestnut Hill Lane near Leesburg.

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The Mason family of Virginia is a historically significant American political family of English origin, whose prominent members are known for their accomplishments in politics, business, and the military. The progenitor of the Mason family, George Mason I (1629–1686), arrived at Norfolk, Virginia on the ship Assurance in 1652. Mason was a Cavalier member of the Parliament of England during the reign of Charles I of England. George Mason I's great-grandson was George Mason IV (1725–1792), an American patriot, statesman, and delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention. Along with James Madison, George Mason IV is known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights." For these reasons, Mason is considered one of the "Founding Fathers" of the United States and raised the Mason family to national political prominence.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Gunston Hall. "Thomson Francis Mason". Gunston Hall. Archived from the original on 2009-07-23. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 The Political Graveyard (June 16, 2008). "Mason family of Virginia". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Shirley Scalley. "Thomson Francis Mason 1785-1838". Huntley Meadows Park. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Fairfax County Park Authority. "Historic Huntley". Fairfax County Park Authority. Archived from the original on 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Alexandria Library (May 2005). "Thomson Mason Papers" (PDF). Alexandria Library. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (March 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form: Huntley" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  7. Smithsonian Institution Architectural History and Historic Preservation. "4.0 BACKGROUND RESEARCH". Smithsonian Institution Architectural History and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  8. Alexandria Gazette November 18, 1844 p.2
  9. Alexandria Gazette November 18, 1844 p. 2
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Shirley Scalley. "Huntley Meadows Park". Huntley Meadows Park. Retrieved 2009-03-08.