John Mason

Chaplain John Mason, Chaplain to West Point

John Mason was born in Linlithgowshire, Scotland, in 1734. He trained in Scotland for the Presbyterian ministry, and was ordained in 1761 and was sent to New York as minister of the Cedar Street Presbyterian Church, a congregation that had seceded in 1757 from the Wall Street Presbyterian Church. During the Revolution, Mason was exiled from New York City. From Peekskill, 26 November 1776, he wrote to Robert Harpur a letter (forwarded to the military committee of the state government) including a request for an appointment as chaplain: “Next week I return to my family, near Bound Creek impressed with the melancholy reflection that my congregation is dispersed that I have little prospect of being useful whilst every visible source of supporting a rising family is dried up. I do not however despond. My allsufficient God will provide, and I will not I hope suffer me to be altogether useless. I am open to his direction, and wait for a call to serve him in the station of a Chaplain for the Army, or any other consistent with my office.” He adds in a postscript: “Give me leave to beseech you to urge in Convention the absolute necessity of making every preparation for rendering our river unnavigable by ships of War through the Highlands.”

He was requested as chaplain by Col. Lewis Dubois, for the Fifth Regiment; however, Mason was appointed 21 November 1776 chaplain to the Third New York Regiment, under Col. Peter Gansevoort. Mason was reappointed 13 January 1777. He resigned 19 July 1777, but he was appointed 31 October 1778 chaplain to posts on the Hudson, and served to the close of the war. He was granted New York State bounty land of four 500-acre lots, 3 July 1790.

After the war Mason returned to pastoral duties in New York. He was a trustee of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton, University) from 1779 to 1785, and was awarded the degree of D.D. in 1786. In the midst of a sermon, “his memory suddenly failed him,” and he died soon afterwards, in New York, 19 April 1792.

John Mason married (1) Catharine Van Wyck (bpt. December 1742; d. 13 June 1784); he married (2) Sarah Van Alystyne, of which marriage there was no issue. Of the first marriage there were nine children, of whom three survived to maturity: Helena Mason; John Mitchell Mason (b. 19 March 1770); and Margaretta Mason.

Abstracted from Francis J. Sypher, Jr., New York State Society of the Cincinnati Biographies of Original Members & Other Continental Officers (Fishkill, N.Y.: New York State Society of the Cincinnati, 2004), 302-03. Chaplain John Mason has been represented in New Hampshire Society since 1927 by four generations of descendants.