John W. Mason (1842-1917)

Note: there are 2 sources included in the biography for John W. Mason
Source (1): West Virginia and Its People, Vol.II;
Source (2): Bench and Bar of West Virginia

Source(1): West Virginia and Its People
by Thomas Condit Miller and Hu Maxwell
Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York, 1913
Volume II, pages 577-579

The Mason family to which Hon. John W. Mason belongs is descended from a very old English family. His great-grandfather, a Methodist preacher, came to America just before or immediately after the revolutionary war, and settled near Baltimore. His great-grandfather and his grandfather, with three or four brothers, about 1790 moved into what is now Garrett county, Maryland, and thence across the line into Preston county, Virginia. His father, John McClure Mason, son of John Mason, was born in Preston county, Virginia, near the present site of Terra Alta, September 3, 1815. His grandmother, Sarah Mason, was of Scotch-Irish descent, or perhaps more correctly speaking Protestant-Irish. Her maiden name was Casey, daughter of Nicholas Casey, of Romney. Peter Casey, her grandfather, moved to Moorefield, Virginia, from Philadelphia in 1736. Several of the sons were revolutionary soldiers. Nicholas seems to have been the only one of the sons who remained in that section after the war, and he settled at Romney, where he lived for many years, and raised a large family of sons and daughters, among whom was Sarah Casey, John W. Mason's grandmother. The name Casey is extinct in that vicinity. All the sons moved to other states, but several of the daughters of Nicholas Casey married in Hardy and Hampshire counties, and among their descendants are the Parsons, Harnesses, Pancakes, Bradys, and Inskips.

His mother's maiden name was Susan B. Hutchinson. She was descended from an old English family. The Hutchinsons came to America many years before the revolutionary war and settled in Loudoun, Fauquier, Fairfax, and Prince William counties, Virginia. They were neighbors and loyal supporters of General Washington. His mother was born in Loudoun county, Virginia, November 11, 1808, near the village of Centerville. Her father, William Hutchinson, was a member of the Virginia Militia at Washington, D. C., at the time of the surrender of that city to the British army in 1814, and at the battle of North Point, near Baltimore, a few days later. Here his grandfather Hutchinson .contracted a fever, returned to his home near Fairfax Court House and died. His grandmother married James Hutchinson, a relative of her first husband, and the family moved to Preston county, then to Monongalia county about 1820, finally settling in Monongalia county, at Little Falls, where the old people died after rearing a large family. In an interview with Judge Mason he gave us in substance the following biographical sketch:

"I was born on Joe's Run, in Monongalia county, Virginia, about three miles from Smithtown, January 13, 1842. In the spring of 1846, my father moved into the village, (Smithtown) and lived there, following his trade, that of a blacksmith for about thirty-five years.

"I attended the neighborhood schools; clerked in my uncle's store (Jeremiah J. Hutchinson, my mother's brother), taught subscription school in the fall and winter of 1859-60. 1860-1. In August, 1861, I enlisted in the Union army for three years and served until September 14, 1864, when I returned to my old home and resumed my studies at the old Monongalia Academy at Morgantown. Most of my army service was as sergeant in Battery 'F' First West Virginia, Light Artillery (commonly known as Maulsby's Battery). Much of the time was spent in the Valley of Virginia Campaigns. I remained at the Academy until it was merged into the University, or as it was then known, The Agricultural College, in 1867, teaching country schools and acting as tutor at the Academy to provide the money which added to my small savings 1n the army paid my school expenses.

"The Academy was formally transferred to the state about March, 1867, and the Board of Regents of the College took charge of the school and continued it during the school year. I was employed in connection with Professor Stephen Reppert to continue the school for the year, and I thus became one of the first teachers of the college, and am entitled to rank as the oldest ex-professor. I have always regarded this as a high honor. In the summer of 1865, I taught a public school at Halleck. This was one of the first, if not indeed the first public school taught in the county. Hon. Geo. C. Sturgiss, then County Superintendent of Free Schools, gave me the certificate to teach. I felt that I was deficient in Geography and asked to be excused from an examination on this branch. The superintendent reminded me that the law required an examination, and that he could not give me a Number One certificate without it. We compromised by his issuing a Number Two. I still have the certificate and find this endorsement on the back of it, 'I accepted a No. 2 certificate rather than be examined in Geography.'

"In the summer of 1866, I taught the public school in Morgantown. This was Morgantown's first public school. I read law in Judge J. M. Hagans' office while teaching at Morgantown, during the year 1867, and was commissioned to practice December 20, 1867, and admitted to the bar at the next term of the court of Monongalia county.

"In February, 1868, I located at Grafton and practiced law there for twentyone years. In March, 1889, I was appointed Commissioner of Internal Revenue by President Harrison and held that office, residing at Washington, D. C., until April, 1893. I then moved to Fairmont where I have since resided. In 1897 Judge Hagans' health failed and I held court for him as Special Judge most of the time until his death. July 1, 1900, I was appointed Judge to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge Hagans, and was elected at the November election 1900, for the unexpired term. In 1904 I was elected judge for eight years without any opposition, and my term will expire January 1, 1913, when I expect to retire permanently to private life, resuming the practice of law, with my son, at Fairmont.

"I was twice tendered appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court, and twice practically offered Republican nominations for Governor at times when my election seemed sure, but I very much preferred the position of Circuit Judge among my home people.

"September 6, 1870, I was married to Rebecca E. Wallace at Morgantown. We have one child living, a son, who is a graduate of the West Virginia University and of Yale Law School.

"I am yet and have always been an ardent loyal Republican. Have voted twelve times for Republican candidates for President, commencing with Lincoln in 1864. In 1882, I was the Republican candidate for Congress in the Second Congressional district and was defeated by William L. Wilson by ten majority, the normal Democratic majority then being about 2,500. In 1888 I was the Republican candidate for Supreme Judge. I was Chairman of the Republican State Committee from 1872 to 1876 and was a member of the Republican National Committee for West Virginia from 1876 to 1888.

"On the 16th day of July, 1808, President McKinley commissioned me a Major in the U. S. Quarter Master Department, but I had no liking for Quartermaster service and declined the commission."

A distinguished member of the bar who has been a life long friend of Judge Mason says of him:

"His most important decisions are State vs. Gaughan declaring slot machines to be gambling devices, 55 West Va. Reports. In this case the Supreme Court did him the honor of adopting his opinion as the opinion of the Supreme Court. This is the only time this was ever done by our Supreme Court. This decision put several thousand of these gambling tables out of business. His decision in the case of The South Penn Oil Co. vs. County Court of Monongalia County settled the question of the right to tax oll and gas leases. No effort was ever made to appeal the case. A series of cases decided by him, known as the King Land Cases, the most important of which are reported in the 64th volume West Va. Reports, has practically settled the laws of this state regarding forfeited and waste lands. These are by all odds the most important cases ever decided in this state. He spent about two years preparing this series of decisions. They were approved by the Supreme Court of this state and by the U. S. Supreme Court.

"He early took advanced grounds in relation to naturalization, requiring applicants to speak the English language, and produce satisfactory evidence of bona fide citizenship, long before the present Act of Congress was passed requiring these.

"He has always refused to grant divorces until it was satisfactorily proven that there was a guilty and an innocent party.

"He has endeavored to restore in its purity Common Law Pleadings, except where modified by statute. The result is that in his opinion this circuit has more good Common Law pleaders than any other circuit in the state.

"He has always insisted upon the enforcement of laws against illegal sales of intoxicating liquors, and violations of the election laws, and has been reasonably successful whenever sustained by public sentiment, and he has had the loyal support of the officers of the Court."

As a citizen Judge Mason is highly esteemed and respected for his probity, his genial manners, free from ostentation and assumption of superiority. His influence and counsel is always given for the moral and religious uplift of the community where he has resided. As a jurist he has brought to the performance of his duties a sincere desire to ascertain the facts in every case before him and then to apply the law to the case in hand without fear, favor or regard to private interests, and consequently both client and counsel feel assured that whether rulings or decisions be favorable or adverse to them, he has given their cases careful consideration and the result is the best judgment of an honest, able and impartial judge As a churchman he has given of his time and money to advance the cause of Christianity, and while loyal to his own church (Presbyterian) he is dominated by a broad catholicity of spirit that enables him to cooperate with Christian workers of all other churches.

Source(2): Bench and Bar of West Virginia
by George Wesley Atkinson
Virginia Law Book Company
Charleston, W.Va.; 1919
Pages 82-84, Judge John W. Mason

Photograph - John W. MasonThe subject of this sketch will doubtless ever be known and remembered as one of the rugged and able lawyers and jurists of West Virginia. He was born on a farm in Monongalia County, Virginia, January 13, 1842, and departed this life in the adjoining county of Marion, April 23, 1917. Although his opportunities for schooling were somewhat meager, he was far from being uneducated. He attended the public schools of his neighborhood for a number of years, and later graduated from the Monongalia Academy at Morgantown, which subsequently became the foundation of the West Virginia University, in which, for a short time, he was a teacher. Being an earnest seeker for an education, he acquired, by the careful and systematic reading of good books, a varied and substantial learning, and thus became master of a clear, terse and vigorous style, both in writing and in speaking.

He early decided upon the law as a profession, and began the reading of legal text books. However the Civil War came on, and at the age of seventeen he entered the military service of the United States as a private soldier, and after attaining the rank of a non-commissioned officer, and had engaged in a number of hotly contested battles, he returned to his native county, and took up the study of the law, which he earnestly pursued by reading the required text books, until he was able to pass the necessary examination as a licensed attorney in 1867. He often stated that his four years of army experience was most helpful to him in after years. He was a Republican, and for a time was quite active in the politics of the State and Nation, although he was never an office seeker. He was once nominated for a seat in Congress, and was only defeated by ten votes. He was four years Chairman of the Republican State Executive Committee, and for twelve years he was a member of the National Executive Committee of that party. He was not only a good organizer, but ranked high as a platform speaker during political campaigns. But at no time did he allow politics to interfere with his large and ever increasing law practice, and repeatedly refused to accept nominations for Governor, Supreme Court Judge and Federal appointments. In 1889, he, however, accepted the position of Commissioner of Internal Revenue at Washington, D. C., which was tendered to him by President Harrison, and he filled that great office in a most acceptable manner for four years.

For thirteen years he served as Circuit Court Judge of the Fourteenth Circuit, and it was universally conceded that he was one of the foremost judges in ability and acceptability in the entire State. Shortly after his voluntary retirement from the Bench he was made a member of the Virginia State Debt Commission, in which capacity he rendered invaluable service to the State. In the summer of 1915 a vacancy occurred on the Supreme Court of the State, and Judge Mason was appointed to that important office November 1st of that year to fill said vacancy, and until January 1, 1917, he made the same high record as an Appellate Court Justice that he maintained as a nisi prius judge. After leaving the Supreme Court Bench he retired to private life in his splendid home in the city of Fairmont.

Judge Mason was happily married to Miss Rebecca E. Wallace, of Morgantown, in 1870, to them only one son was born, John William Mason, Jr., who is a young lawyer of great promise at Fairmont, and who, like his father, offered his services as a volunteer in defense of his country, and is now at the front in the terrible war now prevailing in Europe.

Judge Mason was a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church for many years prior to his death. He was also a member of the Masonic Fraternity, and he is remembered as an able lawyer, a just judge, a true and faithful husband and father, and a man whose life and character was enriched with noble qualities of head and heart.

Additional Information


Death Certificate, Marion County WV, #7215
Full-name: John W. Mason
Date-of-death: Apr. 23, 1917 at age 75y-3m-10d
Date-of-birth: Jan. 13, 1842 in Monongahela [sic]
Son-of: John Mason & Rebecca Hutchison (both born in Virginia)
Marital-status: married
Occupation: Lawyer
Burial-place: Morgantown, WV

Birth Register, Taylor County WV 1871, page 87, line 183
Mason (infant male), born Jan 28, 1871
son of: J. W. & R. E. Mason
Father's occup: Lawyer

Death Register, Taylor County WV 1881, page 17, line 110
Clyde T. Mason died Feb 22, 1881
Cause-of-death: Scarlet Fever
son of: John W. & Rebecca

Birth - Taylor County WV 1885
John W. Mason, Jr. was born April 9, 1885 in Grafton, Taylor Co.
son of: John William Mason and Rebecca Elisa Wallace

Death-Certificate, Harrison County WV #4291
Name: John William Mason Jr.
Date-of-Death: April 17, 1956 in Clarksburg VA Hospital
Usual-Residence: 519 Prospect Ave., Fairmont, Marion County
Date-of-Birth: April 9, 1885
Occupation: Mgr. Travel Agency
Son-of: John W. Mason and Rebecca Wallace
Burial: Oak Grove Cemetery, Morgantown, Monongalia County WV


1880 Census, Taylor County WV
ED:81, the Town of Grafton, hw-page no. 37
Lines 23-26; Enum-Dwelling #343; Enum-Family #361
MASON, John W (age 38), Lawyer, VA-VA-VA
", Rebecca E (age 37), wife, Keeping-House, PA-PA-PA
", Clyde T (age 2), son, WV-VA-PA
CARRIGAN, Maggie (age 22), servant, VA-IRE-IRE

1900 Census, Marion County WV
ED:51, Union District, Fairmont Ward 1, Sheet 13B
Haymond Street; Lines 94-97; Enum-Dwelling #250; Enum-Family #270
MASON, John W (head), Jan-1842, age-58, mar-30yrs, WV-WV-VA
", Rebecca E (wife), Dec-1842, age-57, 4-children/1-living, PA-unknown-NY
", John W Jr (son), Apr-1885, age-15, WV-WV-PA, attends school
TRADER, Katie (servant), July-1876, age-23, WV-WV-WV

1910 Census, Marion County WV
ED:58, Fairmont City, 1st District, Sheet 14B
Lines 52-57; Enum-Dwelling #268; Enum-Family #314
MASON, John W (head), 68, mar-35-yrs, WV-WV-Va, Judge, Circuit Court
", Rebecca E (wife), 67, 3-children/1-living, PA-US-NY
", John W Jr (son), 25, WV-WV-Pa
", Bess (niece), 26, WV-WV-WV
FAIRCHILDS, S. J. (Sister-in-law), 80, OH-US-NY


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