Narrative of Richard Lee Mason in the Pioneer West, 1819
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In the late fall and early winter of the year 1819 Dr. Richard Lee Mason made a journey from Philadelphia to Illinois, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Some of his adventures were remarkable, and these, together with his observations on the country, the towns and the people whom he encountered, were recorded in a diary kept by him, which is now in the possession of his only surviving child, a daughter, who resides in Jacksonville, Ill. Dr. Mason was a remarkably intelligent observer, and his record of the people whom he encountered in Illinois more than three-quarters of a century ago, not to mention his notes of travel in other states, is unique and valuable.
Richard Lee Mason, whose diary is being published in THE RECORD, was born in Port Tobacco, Md. In 1806 he was married to Mary Hodge Cochrane. Seven children were born to them, of whom five lived to maturity. Soon after his marriage he was graduated from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania. For a time he did military service in the war of 1812, belonging to a cavalry company called “The White Horsemen.” For this service he was awarded a large tract of bounty land near Alton, Ill. It was to locate and take possession of this land that the long journey from Philadelphia to St. Louis was taken.
So pleased was Dr. Mason with his “promised land” and the west country, that he determined to send for his family and follow his profession in St. Louis. This he did, and he was held in high esteem, but he did not live long to enjoy the reunion with his family, and the appreciation of friends. The hardships of his trip and exposure to malarial atmosphere had impaired his health, and he died in 1824, having submitted gracefully to the heroic treatment of the day, which admitted of much bleeding and blistering.
Dr. Mason was buried in a newly purchased masonic cemetery, some distance beyond the St. Louis city limits, in ground that is now Washington avenue, between Tenth and Eleventh streets. Subsequently this ground was found too wet for the purpose designed, and Dr. Mason’s body was removed. It is of interest to know that he was the first mason interred with the honors of the order in the state of Missouri. His funeral was made the occasion of a grand procession, escorted by Capt. Archibald Gamble’s troop of cavalry.