Captain John Mason was a colonizer, merchant and sailor. Born in 1586 in King’s Lynn, England, he won the favor of King James I by helping to reclaim the Hebrides (islands off the west coast of Scottland). In 1615, he was appointed governor of the Cuper’s Cove Colony, Newfoundland, a title which he held until 1621. While back in England, he wrote a book called A Brief Discourse of the Newfoundland (1620), along with the first known English map of the island.
After his governorship in Newfoundland ended, he sought Sir William Alexander about colonizing Nova Scotia. It was at this time that he became aquianted with Ferdinando Gorges for the colonization of a better area further south.
In 1622, Mason and Ferdinando Gorges received a land patent called “The Province of Maine” from the Council for New England for the lands between the Merimack and Kennebunk Rivers. In 1629, they split the patent, with Mason taking from the Merrimac to Piscataqua, and Gorges from the Piscataqua to the Kennebenc. Along with other rich merchants, they called themselves the “Ligonia” or Laconia Company, which is mentioned extensively throughout this blog.
In the spring of 1623, the Laconia Company sent David Thomson, Edward Hilton, and his brother William, with several other people, to start a settlement, which was at what is now Odiorne Point.
Mason/Gorges’s attention were diverted when England went to war against Spain in 1624 and France in 1626. By the time they ended, “The Great Puritan Migration”, which occured between 1620-1640, saw a huge number of settlements in the Bay Colony, but populations in NH/Maine stayed smaller. By the time they were able to redirect they attention overseas, they were both at the end of their life.
From inventories from his two main settlements at Hilton (Dover) and Newichewonnock (South Berwick) it seems that Mason provided for his tenants well. They had an abundance of arms, clothing, copper, tools, naval stores and fishing gear, cattle from Europe (the first to live in New England). (17)
A lot happened in 1635. Mason was appointed vice-admiral of New England. In September, Gorges sold to Mason a tract of land on the northeast side of the Piscataqua, from it’s mouth by the ocean to three miles inland, and all the way up to the saw mills at Newichewannock. He was preparing for his first voyage to his colony.
But Captain John Mason passed away November 26th, 1635. He poured vast sums of money into his settlements but received little benefit in return. He willed Mason Hall to his gransdon Robert Tufton, and to John Tufton his estate in New Hampshire, requiring them each to take the name Mason. Though he never visited New England, and his estate was valued at ten thousand pounds. (17)
Mrs Anne Mason, executrix of Mason’s will, appointed Francis Norton her attorney, also with powers to take the management of the estate into his hands.
Mrs. Mason found that little income came back from the colonies and neglected to send much else. Many people left the plantations, and those who remained, kept posession of the buildings and lands, and claimed them of new own.