Samuel Mason

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Taken from Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia


Samuel Ross Mason also, spelled Meason (November 8, 1739 – 1803) was a Virginia militia captain, on the American western frontier, during the American Revolutionary War. After the war, he became the leader of the Mason Gang, a criminal gang of river pirates and highwaymen on the lower Ohio River and the Mississippi River in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was associated with outlaws around Red BanksCave-in-RockStack Island, and the Natchez Trace.

In the early 1790s, Samuel Mason moved his family to the Red Banks on the Ohio River, now Henderson, Kentucky, where he began his full-time criminal activities. He later settled downriver on Diamond Island and engaged in river piracy. By 1797, Mason moved the base of his operations further downriver to Cave-in-Rock on the Illinois side of the river in the Northwest Territory. The Mason Gang of river pirates openly based themselves at the prominent Ohio River landmark known as Cave-in-Rock, a huge shelter cave. Samuel Mason had a brief association with the first known serial killers in America, Micajah and Wiley Harpe, as well as Peter Alston, and possibly John Duff, the counterfeiter. Mason and his gang stayed at Cave-In-Rock until the summer of 1799, when they were expelled by the “Exterminators”, a group of regulators under the leadership of Captain Young of Mercer County, Kentucky.[12] Samuel Mason moved his operations down the Mississippi River and settled his family in the territory of Spanish Louisiana, now the present-day state of Missouri, and became a highwayman along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi Territory, now the present-day state of Mississippi. It was on the Natchez Trace that Mason received his most infamous nickname. He would leave a message after each crime (often in the blood of his murdered victims) proudly stating, “Done by Mason of the Woods”. In April 1802, Mississippi Territorial Governor William C. C. Claiborne was informed that Mason and Wiley Harpe had attempted to board the boat of a Colonel Joshua Baker between Yazoo, now Yazoo, Mississippi, and Walnut Hills, now Vicksburg, Mississippi.[13]