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Richard Barnes Mason

Richard Barnes Mason

United States general
Richard Barnes Mason
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro United States general
Was Military officer Soldier Officer
From United States of America
Type Military
Gender male
Birth 16 January 1797, Lexington, Virginia, U.S.A.
Death 25 July 1850, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. (aged 53 years)
Father: George Mason V
Peoplepill ID richard-barnes-mason
The details (from wikipedia)


Richard Barnes Mason (January 16, 1797 – July 25, 1850) was a career officer in the United States Army and the fourth military governor of California before it became a U.S. state. He came from an ancient American family and was a descendant of George Mason, a framer of the U.S. Constitution and father of the Bill of Rights.

Gen. Mason is especially important to the history of California, because as military governor, he wrote the official report that led to the California Gold Rush.

Mason was "an aristocratic Virginian, a large portly man, six feet in height. He possessed all the peculiarities of a Southerner, accentuated," but he was known to have confined Jefferson Davis to quarters, who was under his command. A Lt. James Abert described him so, "It would be presumption in me to speak of so accomplished and well known an officer; but I cannot refrain from expressing my grateful sense of the kindness and hospitality with which we were received and treated by himself and his amiable lady, and indeed, by all the officers and ladies attached to the command."

Early life

"Richard Barnes Mason, born in Fairfax County, Virginia, January 16, 1797, was the son of George Mason and Elizabeth Mary Ann Barnes Hooe, who were married April 22, 1784."

Military career

Mason was commissioned into the Army in 1817 and served in the 1st U.S. Infantry during the Black Hawk War. In 1833, he transferred to the 1st U.S. Dragoons as its first Major. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1836. During the Mexican-American War, he served in New Mexico Territory and California, rising to the rank of Colonel in 1846.

Following the war, he was appointed military governor of California, serving from May 31, 1847, until April 13, 1849. When gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, Mason made a report of the finding to President James K. Polk. That official description of the massive gold discovery is credited with sparking the California Gold Rush, resulting in the settlement of the land.

Mason died in 1850 at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri and was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery.

In the US Federal Census of 1850 for Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis County, Missouri, dated 18 August 1850, the following annotation is located at the bottom of the third page: "Brig Genl Mason died at Jefferson Barracks July 1849 of Cholera." However, The St. Louis Intelligencer reported the General's death on Saturday, July 27, 1850, (p. 3, cols. 1, 4.)

Marriage and children

Mason married Elizabeth Margaret Hunter on 28 January 1836. Richard and Elizabeth had three daughters:

  • Emma Twiggs Mason Wheaton (17 October 1836–16 February 1864)
  • Elizabeth Mary Ann Sally Mason (20 August 1838–19 November 1912)
  • Alice Graham Mason (c. 1843–10 February 1847)


In 1882, the Post at Point San Jose in San Francisco, California was renamed Fort Mason in his honour, and served as an Army base for more than 100 years. There is also a Mason Street in downtown San Francisco.


Richard Barnes Mason was a grandson of George Mason (1725–1792); son of George Mason V (1753–1796); brother of George Mason VI (1786–1834); grandnephew of Thomson Mason (1733–1785); first cousin once removed of Stevens Thomson Mason (1760–1803), John Thomson Mason (1765–1824), and William Temple Thomson Mason (1782–1862); first cousin of Thomson Francis Mason (1785–1838) and James Murray Mason (1798–1871); second cousin of Armistead Thomson Mason (1787–1819), John Thomson Mason (1787–1850), and John Thomson Mason, Jr. (1815–1873); and second cousin once removed of Stevens Thomson Mason (1811–1843).


The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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