John Mason (c. 1600–1672) was an English Army Major who immigrated to New England in 1632. Within five years he had joined those moving west from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the nascent settlements along the Connecticut River that would become the Connecticut Colony.
Tensions there rose between the settlers and the dominant Indian tribe in the area, the Pequot’s, ultimately leading to bloodshed. After some English settlers were found dead, the Connecticut Colony appointed Mason to lead an expedition against the Pequot stronghold in Mystic, Connecticut. The result is known as the Mystic Massacre, and it was the major engagement of the Pequot War, which virtually destroyed the Pequot tribe.
After the war, Mason became Deputy Governor of Connecticut. He and a number of others were instrumental in the founding of Norwich, Connecticut, where he died in 1672.
Mason was born in England about 1602. He became an officer in the English army and served as a lieutenant under Sir Thomas Fairfax.
In 1632 Mason immigrated to America and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where he represented that village in the General Court. He was elected freeman March 4, 1634/5 (as "Captain John Mason"). "Major John Mason" is shown in the October 9, 1681 list of Connecticut freemen in Norwich.
In his few years in Massachusetts John Mason was found very useful by town and colony. On July 2, 1633, an order is "given to the Treasurer to deliver to Lieutenant Mason £10 for his voyage to the eastward, when he went about the taking of Bull".
On November 5, 1633, "Sergeant Stoughton is chosen ensign to Captain Mason". On September 3, 1634, "Captain Mason" was appointed to a committee to "find out the convenient places for situation, as also to lay out the several works for fortification at Castle Island, Charelton, and Dorchester". A rate was gathered for the support of Captain Mason on December 29, 1634.
In 1635 he moved to what would become Windsor, Connecticut, in company with the Reverend John Warham, Henry Wolcott, and others, prominent settlers of the town. He was elected an assistant or magistrate of the Connecticut Colony from Windsor in 1642.
On September 3, 1635, "Captain Mason is authorized by the Court to press men and carts to help towards the finishing of the fort at Castle Island, and to return the same into the Court".
He married Ann Peck in July 1639. She was the daughter of Rev. Robert Peck
On May 1, 1637, the Connecticut General Court gathered a force of 90 men to be under the command of Captain John Mason for an offensive war against the Pequot. Mason commanded the successful expedition against the Pequot Indians, when he and his men immortalized themselves in overthrowing and destroying the prestige and power of the Pequots and their fort near Mystic River, on the Groton side.
During the attack, they killed virtually all of the inhabitants, about 600 men, women, and children. This event became known as the Mystic massacre. The event is commemorated by a boulder monument that formerly was on Mystic Hill upon the pedestal of which is a life-size statue of Major Mason drawing his sword, representing the moment when he heard the war-whoop of "Owanux" in their fort.
Mason took a company of Englishmen up the river and rescued two English girls during this war. On 8 March 1637/8, in the aftermath of the Pequot War, the Connecticut General Court "ordered that Captain Mason shall be a public military officer of the plantations of Connecticut, and shall train the military men thereof in each plantation".
John Mason was one of the most trusted men in Connecticut during his three and a half decades of residence there, in both civil and military matters. In his latter years the formal colony records referred to him simply as "the Major," without forename or surname. Only a sampling of his activities can be presented here.
Mason moved his family to Old Saybrook, Middlesex County, Connecticut in 1647. He was awarded land by the state of Connecticut where Lebanon, New London County, Connecticut was founded and in 1660 united with a number of distinguished families in the settlement of Norwich, New London County, Connecticut where he was Deputy/Lieutenant Governor (1660-1669), and Major General of the forces of Connecticut.
Mason's descendants number in the thousands but some of his notable descendants include; David Brewster, journalist, Diane Brewster, actress, Martha Wadsworth Brewster, a poet and writer and one of the earliest American female literary figures.
Catherine Drew Gilpin Faust historian, college administrator, and the president of Harvard University. James Rudolph Garfield, politician, lawyer and son of President James Abram Garfield and First Lady Lucretia Garfield. Harry Augustus Garfield, lawyer and academic. He was the eighth president of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. James Butler Hickok, better known as Wild Bill Hickok, John Mason Kemper, was the 11th headmaster at Phillips Academy, George Trumbull Ladd, philosopher and psychologist, Brice Lalonde, is a former socialist and green party leader in France, who ran for President of France in the Presidential elections, 1981.
Jeremiah Mason, was a United States Senator from New Hampshire. John Sanford Mason, was a career officer in the United States Army who served as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War. Robert Noyce, nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley", was the inventor of the integrated circuit or microchip.
Robert Charles Winthrop, was a lawyer and philanthropist and one time Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.