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Hon. William Ernest Mason


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/6/2001 at 13:36:08

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
William Ernest Mason, of Chicago, is one of Van Buren County’s most eminent pioneers. He is a native of Franklinville, Cattaraugus County New York, born July 7, 1850, and is the son of Lewis J. and Nancy Winslow Mason. In 1858 the family moved to Bentonsport, Van Buren County, where the father died in 1865, the mother surviving him ten years, dying in 1875. William being thus early thrown upon his own resources; developed an independence of character which has marked all his public acts. His education was obtained in the public schools, with two years’ attendance at Birmingham College. He afterwards taught during two winters in district schools, and in 1868 went to Des Moines where he was employed the next two years in teaching. Having determined to enter the legal profession, in 1870 he began his law studies in the office of Hon. Thomas F. Withrow, of Des Moines. Mr. Withrow soon afterwards removed to Chicago, Mr. Mason accompanying him, remaining in his office one year, and then entering the office of Hon. John N. Jewett, where he continued his studies and practice five years. He then formed a partnership with Judge M.R.M. Wallace. The firm had an extensive practice. As an advocate Mr. Mason is noted for his superior qualities, being numbered among the best jury lawyers of Chicago.
Politically, Mr. Mason is an earnest and enthusiastic Republican. He has taken an active part in many political campaigns, and has served his adopted city and State in the Illinois Legislature in both branches, and as a member of Congress from the Third District. In the latter body he took front rank, and was largely instrumental in securing for Chicago the World’s Fair.
Mr. Mason possesses personal and social qualities of a high order, and has attracted to himself many friends. Me was married in 1873 to Miss Julia Edith White, daughter of George White, a wholesale merchant of Des Moines.
Mr. Mason always loves to talk about his life and his experience in Van Buren County, and makes it a point to visit his old home in Bentonsport once a year, or oftener, if possible. In speaking of this old town the other day, to the writer of this article, he said: “We went to Bentonsport in 1858. It was after the panic of ’57, and my father moved to Bentonsport to start anew. At that time the railroad known as the Keokuk, Fort Des Moines & Minnesota Railroad ran from Keokuk to Bentonsport, and my father, who worked in a wagon shop for seventy-five cents per day, made the tables, chairs, bedsteads and furniture necessary to start a boarding house known as the ‘Western Exchange.’ The other hotel, known as the ‘Ashland House’, was kept by a man named John P. Robinson; but we soon got started, and in a year or two bought out the Ashland House, where I spent the most of my life as a boy.
The Location of Bentonsport makes it one of the most beautiful spots in the world, in a sharp, well-defined valley along the Des Moines River, and although it has gone down in a business and financial way, yet the people there, and in the county are the most generous and warm-hearted people I ever knew.
The best teacher I ever had was J.D. Hornby, who taught the public school in Bentonsport for many years. I went to school after that to the Birmingham College, but most of my old friends there remember how I graduated by going in the front door and being kicked out at the back.
Some of my pleasantest recollections are connected with Van Buren County, and it is full of splendid homes and splendid people. My parents were buried at Bentsonsport, and I presume that is why I will never lose the interest I have in the place and in the people.”
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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