Stevens T. Mason celebrates the big 2-0-0

Who’s celebrating his bicentennial tomorrow?


Stevens Thomson Mason is one of my all-time favorite characters from Detroit history. Determined! Dreamy! Stubborn! Stylish! Triumphant! Tragic! The boy governor had it all.

This time last year we were re-interring Stevens T. Mason for the FOURTH time. Buried first in New York City after his death in 1843, his remains were moved to Detroit with great fanfare in 1905, then disinterred and moved across the park during a bus station improvement project, then lost, and found again, in 2010 during Capitol Park’s renovation. Here is what I wrote about him in the closing chapter of my book:

Every time Detroit feels young again, we turn to the Boy Governor. Just nineteen when President Andrew Jackson appointed him secretary of the Michigan Territory and only twenty-five when he became acting governor, Stevens Thomson Mason is a handsome touchstone for anyone in a youthful, voracious mood. And he was the perfect first governor for a capital city perpetually on the brink of a massive shift.

Every generation dredges up his memory. Most generations have also dredged up his casket.

Please enjoy these posts about Stevens T. Mason as a celebration of America’s youngest-ever (and studliest-ever? And certainly most frequently unearthed) Governor.

Settlers beware (June 10, 2011)

Scenes from Stevens T. Masons Reburial (October 28, 2010)

Walking with Stevens T. Mason to Capitol Park (June 30, 2010)

173 Years of Michigan Statehood (Jan. 26, 2010)

You might also want to join the Michigan Historical Commission and the Detroit Recreation Department at Capitol Park tomorrow —that is Thursday, 10/27, at 12:00 p.m. — for a 200th birthday bash. The commission will unveil a new state historical marker at the site. More info at!

See you there!

#birthdays#boy governor#hidden history of detroit#stevens t mason


  1. Todd Scott - October 26, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    You may want to add “Racist!” to the list as Mason was a supporter of slavery. His family brought their Virginia slaves illegally into the Michigan Territory. He also made a number of formal extradition requests for Southern slaves that had escaped to Canada. He apparently was no friend of Native Americans according to the excellent book, “I’ve got a home in Glory Land.”

  2. amy - October 27, 2011 @ 8:45 am

    Eeesh. I didn’t know this, but I can’t say it doesn’t make lots of sense now that you mention it. The Masons were a VERY institutional, influential Virginia family; during the Civil War, Stevens’ sister Emily was a Confederate nurse (”The Florence Nightingale of the Confederacy”) and BFFs with Robert E. Lee, and after the war she wrote his biography. During his administration Mason maintained ties to plenty of his monied Southern friends and fellow politicians; reading up after your comment came in last night, I found one letter from the Governor of Mississippi urging Mason to make abolitionist activity a crime. (Mason passed it to the legislature with little comment.)

    And sadly I don’t think anyone in political power in the Michigan Territory was ever a friend to the Native Americans. They were the primary obstacle to promoting settlement and investment in the Territory. When Andrew Jackson brought Lewis Cass into his cabinet, it was in part because Cass had proved adept at Indian removal strategies in Michigan.

    Thanks for keeping me honest, TS. I want to explore this more.

  3. amy - October 27, 2011 @ 8:56 am

    I mean, someone really needs to write a 21st century Stevens T. Mason biography. I heard a rumor that Don Faber (author of The Toledo War) was working on one. Wonder if that is still the case.

  4. Todd Scott - October 27, 2011 @ 9:47 am

    I know. I was very disappointed to read about it that Glory Land book, which is amazing if you haven’t already read it. It’s primarily about the Blackburn’s escape from Kentucky and their long trek to freedom, including a couple years spent in Detroit.

    The book mentioned Mason was a prosecutor of Indian removal policies during the Black Hawk War.

    I would love to know if Mason ever butted heads with Zachariah Chandler over the issue of abolition.

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