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Biography of Hon. Charles H. Mason

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HON. CHARLES H. MASON. – Mr. Mason was born at Fort Washington, on the Potomac river, Maryland, in 1830. At the age of seven, with his widowed mother, he removed to Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated in 1850 with distinguished honors at Brown University, and was admitted to the bar of Rhode Island in 1851. On the election of President Pierce, he was recommended by the Rhode Island bar for the office of United States district attorney for that state. On the declination of the secretaryship of Washington Territory by Major Farquaharson, in September, 1853, Mr. Mason received the appointment and arrived in the territory in October, and continued in office until his death.

It was, however, as acting governor of the territory through several critical periods that he distinguished himself, and endeared himself to our people. His first gubernatorial services were from March 26, 1854, to December 1st of that year. Again, when Governor Stevens went to the Blackfoot Council at Fort Benton, from May 12, 1855, he acted as governor until January 19, 1856. It was during this time that the Indian war was inaugurated; and his administration during the trying months of October, November and December was marked with energy, decision and wisdom. He immediately called for volunteers. He wisely and promptly separated the friendly from the hostile, humanely treating all Indians as friendly who were not arrayed with the hostiles, or had not broken out into actual hostility. He proclaimed the country from Olympia to the Snohomish river on the eastern side of the Sound as war ground, and established the friendly Indians upon the islands and the western shore upon reservations in charge of agents. In other parts of the territory the same segregation was made, the same policy pursued. An Indian found in the war limits after due notice had been given was an enemy, and was treated as such. He also endeavored to conciliate the disaffected; but, against those who took the field, his course was vigorous war.

Early after Governor Stevens’ return (January 19, 1856) Governor Mason repaired to Washington City to assist in securing congressional aid. Co-operating with Colonel Anderson (Washington’s delegate) and General Lane (Oregon’s delegate), an appropriation of three hundred thousand dollars was secured to restore and maintain peace among the Indian tribes of the Pacific coast. This enabled the territorial authorities to feed the Indians; and their friendship was secured, peace continuing while the rations lasted. As the fund was sufficient to outlast the war, that timely appropriation greatly lessened the number of hostiles in actual operation in the field.

Upon Governor Stevens’ election as delegate (1857), Secretary Mason again acted as governor until the arrival of Governor McMullan. On the return of the latter (August, 1858) to the States, he was again governor until the arrival of Governor Gholson (July 5, 1859). He died after a brief illness at Olympia, July 22, 1859. Brilliant talents, learning and distinguished administrative abilities entitled him to popular regard; but those who were admitted to his personal friendship will treasure him in memory for genuine and uniform amiability and evenness of temper, loyalty to friends, his conviviality and generosity, his child-like frankness, genial social qualities and his perfect accessibility to all, regardless of rank or condition of life.

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