Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jeremiah Mason House

The Jeremiah Mason House is located at 634 State Street, on the southeast corner of State and Summer Streets.

Born in Connecticut, Jeremiah Mason graduated from Yale in 1788 and received his law degree three years later. An imposing man who was 6’ 6” tall, he came to Portsmouth in 1797, when he was twenty-three years old, and married Mary Means two years later. They lived in the Meserve-Webster House on Vaughan Street, a home that no longer exists, until Jeremiah Mason built this home in 1808. The area became known as “Mason’s Hill”.

Mason was appointed Attorney General of New Hampshire in 1802. In this office, he argued many court cases against a worthy opponent: Daniel Webster. His law office was on the second floor of the Market Square bank that became known as the Oldest Bank Building. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1813 and served through 1817. Later, he was elected to the New Hampshire Legislature.

When Portsmouth received word in 1814 that British troops had burned government buildings in Washington, including the President’s House and the Capitol, the town organized a twelve-person committee of defense that included Daniel Webster and Jeremiah Mason. The committee apportioned over $9,000 to equip a force of 4,500 militia volunteers.

Jeremiah and his wife Mary attended a grand ball at Franklin Hall, where the Franklin Block is located today, on May 21, 1823. Almost four hundred people gathered at the gala in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first New Hampshire settlement. All of the most prominent citizens of Portsmouth attended, including Daniel Webster and his wife, the Wendells, the Sheafes, and the Wentworths.

 Jeremiah Mason lived in this home until he moved to Boston in 1832, where he died in 1848. During his lifetime, he received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Yale, and Doctor of Laws degrees from Bowdoin, Harvard, and Dartmouth. In his autobiography, Daniel Webster said the following about Mason: “As a lawyer, as a jurist, no man in the Union equaled him and but one approached him.” The man to whom he referred was John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

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