Friday, November 17, 2017

William Mason's Father

© Kathy Duncan, 2017

The search for William Mason's father has occupied the better part of four decades for me. William Mason was my great-great-great grandfather. He married my great-great-great grandmother Matilda Lewis in Madison County, Alabama in 1823.

They moved to the Hardin County, Tennessee area prior to 1850. By 1850 they were in Hopkins County, Texas with a houseful of children. According to the 1850 census, William Mason was born in Tennessee. By the late 1850s, William Mason had removed to Cass County, Texas and then Marion County, Texas, where he died, intestate, about 1857. Matilda seems to have predeceased him since she is not mentioned in his probate records.

William Mason's son Joseph M. M. Mason became his administrator, but son Joseph died just a couple of years after his father. By 1861, William's son-in-law Rutherford Porter Cawthon (my great-great grandfather) was the administrator of the estate. Among the estate papers is a guardianship petition, naming Rutherford P. Cawthan as the guardian of his own daughters, Leona Gray Cawthon and Mary Charlott Cawthon. This document makes reference to William Mason's father being deceased with an unsettled estate in Mississippi. That has always been an intriguing piece of information. However, William's father was unnamed in the petition as was the whereabouts of the estate in Mississippi.

It's been like looking for a needle in a haystack.

One strategy that I tried years ago, was to put queries on Mason genealogy message boards, asking if any Mason researchers had come across a Mason estate in Mississippi that contained any reference to a Rutherford Porter Cawthon. I figured that Rutherford had at least attempted to contact the administrators of that Mason estate in Mississippi. I never received a response. That left me to guess that there was no reference to R.P. Cawthon, or that the estate records were in a burned county, or that no one was researching that particular Mason family.

What's a person to do? Read all the Mason probate estate settlements in Mississippi? Well, yes, now that digitalized records make that task easier. Through Heritage Quest, I was able this evening to read the probate settlements in Mississippi that have been digitalized so far. I almost overlooked the one I needed because I was looking for Mason estates that predated 1861 because I figured that phantom estate record would actually predate William Mason's death in 1857.

The estate I've been searching for turned out to be for Joseph Mason of DeSoto County, Mississippi, case 543, dated 20 April 1861. The first page in this case file was the very document that I hoped to see. A document with R.P. Cawthan's name on it.

The next thing I hoped to see was a reference to William Mason of Texas as an heir. 

In this final decree, William Mason is not mentioned as being in Texas, and his heirs are unknown, but I'll take it. 

In the next folder were copies of the Marion County, Texas guardianship papers that Rutherford P Cawthon had drawn up for his daughters Leona Gray Cawthon and Mary Charlotte Cawthon!! These are labeled as part of case 543.

On 21 May 1861, the heirs of Joseph Mason, who received legacies were John Mason; Jeptha Langston adm. of M.J. Mason dec'd; George W. Mason; James S. Nelson; Richard S Young and wife; Mary Mason, a minor; R.S. Drake (or Duke) and wife R.J. Drake; John E. Van Pelt and wife C.O. Van Pelt; Ruth Lusk; Robert Kelsey and wife Mary Kelsey; unknown heirs of William Mason; and the heirs of Elizabeth Robertson. 

Now I need to figure out how all of these people are related to each other. Mostly, they are probably siblings. So far, I have figured out that Elizabeth's surname is probably Robinson and that she is the wife of David Robinson. If Joseph Mason did in fact marry Isabel Peoples (or Peebles) as his findagrave memorial in DeSoto County, Mississippi indicates, then they married in Carter County, Tennessee.  If that is the case, then based on my google search so far, some of their children may have married Lusk, Van Pelt, and Kelsey cousins.

Lots of new information to search for and play with and verify. Finally!!

Mother, Merry Christmas a bit early.

Revised: December 19, 2017


  1. Very interesting research. Congrats on answering your 40 year question. (Happy dance time!)


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