The Greenville Messenger
October 28, 1898
The Death of John Mason, a Pioneer Citizen of Texas
We are called this week to chronicle the passing of our best and truest friend, Grandpa John Mason, who departed this life at 6:30 o’clock Monday evening, October 24th. It is a task which is undertaken with deep sorrow and with many misgivings as to our worthiness – we truly fee our incompetency to rightly honor his memory. Some may say he was murdered through the carelessness of a pair of reckless, dissipated wantons, who, on last Friday afternoon, drove a horse and buggy over him, finishing their mad ride with driving to death the poor beast which they forced over the tottering frame of the man whose days were already numbered and whose weakening footsteps then brinked the tomb. These two brazen representatives of the demi monde are now in custody and will answer for their criminality to the law. From the injuries he received Grandpa was stricken down and died on Monday evening as stated heretofore. His final summons could not have been stayed long, it is true, but it sore grieves the heart that his last hours were full of pain. He doubtless had many faults, but who is perfect? Like Ingersoll said of his brother so we say of him, “If every one for whom he did some loving act of kindness were to place a bud on his grave he would sleep to-night beneath a wilderness of flowers.” It is said that “charity covereth a multitudes of sins.” If this be true his sins are buried beneath mountains for no deserving man ever called upon John Mason for help and was turned away. His faults are buried with his clay, his virtues will live after him “full many a day.” “He speaks though he be silent.”
John Mason was what might be called an “Old School Southerner.” He held that his word was as good as his bond and in his daily life he enacted this principle to the letter. His enemies, while hating him bitterly, trusted his fidelity as they feared his wrath. His friends vouched for his honesty and swore by his loyalty. He was born in Giles county, Tennessee, November 4th, 1816, and moved from there to Izzard county, Arkansas, in 1836, and on the 22nd day of June, 1839, was married to Miss Elizabeth Walker, as food and pure a woman as ever the sun of God shone upon. This union was blessed with seven children , more extended mention of whom will be made further on in this article. From Arkansas in 1845 John Mason and his young wife moved to “Old Warren,” a villafe on the Texas bank of Red river, in Fannin county. From there he enlisted in Col. Montague’s regiment of calvary to serve until the close of the war, returning after being discharged from the army and moving with his family to a farm on Turkey creek, 4 ½ miles southwest of Black Jack Grove, a place then famous or notorious as a stopping place for freighters between this section and the then Texas metropolis, Jefferson. From Turkey Creek Grandpa and his family came to Greenville, stayed here one year and returned to Black Jack Grove, where he engaged in the mercantile business for some time. While there he was appointed, in 1859, sheriff of Hopkins county to fill out the unexpired term of Sheriff Potts, deceased. He was afterwards twice elected sheriff of Hopkins county, the county seat of which was then “Old Tarrant,” located about six miles north of the present county seat, Sulphur Springs. From “Old Tarrant,” he moved back to his farm on Turkey Creek, lived there two years and was elected, in 1866, to the office of sheriff of Hunt county. During the days of reconstruction nearly all of the civil officers of Texas were removed by the Federal authorities but he served until 1869 (sheriffs of Texas were then elected to terms of four years) when he resigned and entered the hotel business at the historic old frame building known as the “Star Hotel.” From there he moved to and purchased an old two-story frame house that stood for many years in front of where the city hall now stands and where he conducted a boarding house. A few years later he built the house in which he died this week. His first wife, Elizabeth, passed away January 3rd, 1894, and he was married June 7th the following to Mrs. Charlotte C. Haymaker, of Wolf City, with whom he lived until her death, which occurred July 24th of this year.
Of his seven children only three survive him, these being Mary, the eldest, wife of John Green, Sarah, wife of Henry Wagner, of this city, and Jeff. Uzza, his oldest son, was a Confederate soldier and lost his life during the civil war, his death occurring in the marine hospital at Evansville, Ind. A minister of the Methodist denomination, Rev. Jesse L. Walker, was with the young soldier ad great deal before his death and wrote the following to his father and family:
SPRINGFIELD, Mo., March 29, 1867.
John Mason, Black jack Grove, Texas
At the request of your son, Uzza Mason, who died at Hospital No. 2, in the city of Evansville, Indiana, in 1862, I have saved his dying words until mail boats are established, and hereby send them to you. I am a minister of the gospel, in the M. E. church, and was at that time stationed at Evansville, and made frequent visits to the hospital, and paid special attention to the prisoners that were held by the Federal government. At one of these visits, at the request of your son, I took down his words that he wished to send home and now I copy and forward hoping they may at least be of some consolation to you in the hours of affliction and trials of life. He says as follows:
“I was wounded at Pittsburg Landing, a flesh wound, on Monday about 12 o’clock, was carried off the battle field and put into a small open hut, and lay there for five days without my wounds being dressed, when the Federals came and moved me to a little house where there were surgeons who dressed my wounds, and took care of me. In about three or four days, they hauled me to their gunboats, and I was there put on Steamer Grey Eagle, and carried to marine hospital, Evansville, Indiana, where I have had as good care taken of me as any one could ask. The hospital is large, nice and clean and the officers and people are very kind to all the prisoners. I got up once, so that I could not go about without crutches; but I took erysipelas in my leg which gave me a backset. The next morning I took a kind of chill, and the fever lasted two days and a half, and from that time I have had no appetite to eat and have not for two weeks.
I am lying here now, and expecting every day to die. My dear father, tell mother not to grieve after me. I am prepared, and expect to go to heaven. Parson Walker had been very kind and read the Bible, talked with and prayed for me; and now I want mother to be a good woman, an meet me in heaven. Tell her to forgive me for the way I used to aggravate her when I was a boy.
Tell Lettie Jane to persevere in her religion, and meet me in heaven, for I have an assurance that I shall reach that peaceful and happy place. Tell Mary Green to turn her course, seek religion, and meet me in heaven.
Tell Pheby, Eveline and Jefferson to be sure and seek religion in early life, and make sure of heaven. May God in his mercy, keep them from the evils of this life.
Now, Dear Father, I want you to be fully prepared by grace to walk before the children in a religious life. Learn them by your example to love and serve the Lord, you must repent of your sins, and seek the Lord, in the salvation of your soul, or else where God and his Christ is, you can never come. So live, that when done with earth and its troubles you can meet me in heaven. Good bye one and all.”
I have given his exact words as he lay on his bed of death. I done all I could to make him comfortable and also to point him to the Savior. He died a few days after this, when I was absent, and the exact date of his death I cannot give, though if you wish I can write and get it. I will be glad to hear whether you get this letter or not. Please answer.
Jessie L. Walker
William, another son, died at home from the effects of gunshot wounds received while discharging his duty as deputy sheriff, complicated with pneumonia. Phoebe, a daughter was married February 22nd, 1871, to Charles. F. Dennis. Two sons being born to them. This daughter and her husband both died within the year, 1876. Evaline, the youngest daughter, died while yet a young lady in 1871. Many other relatives mourn the sad death of Grandpa, not so much that he died but the manner in which the “grim reaper garnered the sheaf.” Of his many friends of former years few live after him but these will drop a tear of silent grief when they learn of his summons to that unknown home. Two of his old slaves yet live in Greenville, Margaret Bell and her son, Webster Bell and these visited and ministered to him in his last hours and humbly followed his remains to their last abode.
We have humbly tried, in our weak way, to partially portray the life and character of John Mason, but the effort in incomplete at best. Ti his memory we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid and we can only offer this as a sorry but sincere tribute to his kindness and consideration.
Transcribed from a Xerox copy of the Greenville Messenger of October 28, 1898, word for word maintaining original spelling and punctuation. Mary Virginia Jacobs, 308 Whitechurch Lane, Victoria, TX 77904.