Chiefly papers of John Young Mason (1799-1859) of Greensville and Southampton counties, Va., the majority of which consists of correspondence received while Mason was serving as the United States Secretary of the Navy under presidents John Tyler (1844-1845) and James K. Polk (1846-1849), as well as while serving as the United States Attorney General (1845-1846); as president of the James River and Kanawha Canal Company (1849-1953); and as U.S. Minister to France (1854-1859). The bulk of letters are requests for assistance with obtaining or maintaining government appointments, but the Mexican War, political patronage, state, national and international politics, and rivalries between Naval officers are also reflected.
Also included are records and correspondence concerning Mason's Day's Neck (Isle of Wight County, Va.) and Fortsville (Southampton County, Va.) plantations, and a plantation in Coahoma County, Miss.
Also included are the papers of Mason's wife, Mary Ann (Fort) Mason, and their children, Lewis Edmunds Mason (1822-1897), John Young Mason., Jr. (1823-1862), Elizabeth Harris (Mason) Heath (1830-1881), Frances Ann (Mason) Cook (1831-1908), Mary Ann (Mason) Anderson (1834-1928), Sarah Olivia Mason (1837-1926), Emma (Mason) Barksdale (1839-1900), Susan Harriet Barksdale Mason (1841-1921), St. George Tucker Mason (1844-1884), and Simon Fraser Blunt Mason (1848-1921).
John Young Mason (1799-1859) was born in Greensville County, Va. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and then studied law under Tapping Reeve in Connecticut. He was admitted to the bar in 1819 in Southampton County, Va., where he practiced law, married Mary Ann Fort, the daughter of a prominent planter, and became a planter himself. He served in the state legislature and in Congress where he chaired the U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was appointed judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 1837. He was the U.S. Secretary of the Navy under presidents Tyler and Polk, U.S. Attorney General under President Polk, and was appointed U.S. Minister to France in 1853, where he, along with James Buchanan and Pierre Soulé drew up the Ostend Manifesto. He died in 1859 while serving in France. John Young and Mary Ann (Fort) Mason had twelve children: Lewis Edmunds (1822-1897), John, Jr. (1823-1862), Coleman Fort (1825-1829), Elizabeth Harris (1830-1881), Frances Ann [Fanny] (1831-1908), Mary Ann [Molly] (1834-1928), Sarah Olivia [Saidie] (1837-1926), Emma (1839-1900), Susan Harriet Barksdale [Sudie] (1841-1921), St. George Tucker [Georgie] (1844-1884), Francis Key (1846-1848), and Simon Fraser Blunt Mason (1848-1921).
In the collections of the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va. (Mss1 M3816 d).
The repository holds additional Mason family materials. See: Mason family papers, 1805-1886 (Mss1 M3816 a), Mason family papers, 1789-1965 (Mss1 M3816 b), Mason family papers, 1813-1943 (Mss1 M3816 c), and John Young Mason letterbooks, 1853-1859 (Mss5:2 M3815:1-17).