Fairfax Courthouse Quarterly Sessions, 1856

On December 15, 1856, the Fairfax Court "deemed it neccessary" to appoint a patrol to observe "within 3 miles" of Richard C. Mason's residence. The patrol examined "negro quarters," places with "unlawful assemblies," and routes enslaved peoples might use to travel from "one plantation to another without permission." Mason's influence at the Fairfax Court, as a former Justice, likely made it easy for him to have  a patrol appointed.

Social Elite

Alexandria Gazette, Commercial and Political, 19 December 1816

Richard C. Mason began advertising his medical practice in December 1816.

1820 Fairfax County Personal Property Tax List

The 1820 Fairfax County tax records show that Richard C. Mason enslaved seven “blacks over 16yr” and two “blacks between 12 & 16,” and owned ten horses.

1830 Fairfax County Personal Property Tax List

The 1830 Fairfax County tax records list nineteen peoples enslaved by Richard C. Mason, but the breakdown in ages is unclear. Most likely this nineteen comprised of thirteen over age 16 and six between the ages of 12 and 16. He also owned fourteen horses.

How did Richard C. Mason use his inherited land and enslaved peoples to further his position within Virginia society? The inheritance Richard C. Mason received from 1820-1826 after the deaths of his father, brother, and mother played a significant role in his increased enslaved peoples, wealth, and economic status. As the 1820s and 1830s progressed, Mason gradually accumulated a variety of positions of local authority which grew his social and political power.

            The 1820s were a formative decade for Richard C. Mason. He began the decade as a physician in Alexandria with nine enslaved peoples and ended it in the 1830s with nineteen enslaved peoples and an 800-acre estate. After completing medical training at the University of Pennsylvania, Mason announced in the Alexandria Gazette in December 1816 that he had “recently settled in Alexandria and will practice Medicine and Surgery in the town & country.”[1] Mason began ascending the local social ladder after his marriage to Lucy Bolling Randolph in 1816. Mason was recommended—and later commissioned—as a Justice of the Fairfax Court in 1823 and Captain in the Virginia Militia in 1826.[2]

Richard C. Mason and his wife Lucy B.R. Mason shared a residence named Okeley Manor. This house was built in the 1830s on an 800-acre tract of land that was originally owned by R.C. Mason’s grandfather George Mason IV. The property was passed down to R.C. Mason through his father, Thomson Mason, and bordered his brother Thomson F. Mason’s Huntley plantation. Okeley does not survive today as it was burned down in the 1860s, but it originally stood some miles west of Alexandria.[3] Richard C. Mason built Okeley manor in the 1830s after he had accumulated around twenty enslaved peoples. It is possible Mason felt his growing number of enslaved peoples, from nine in 1820 to nineteen in 1830, now made it possible to manage a plantation of 800 acres.

            Mason continued to received recognition through community positions as the decades progressed. In 1839 Mason was chosen, at a “large and respectable meeting of the Whigs,” member of a committee to unite “the Whig and Conservative parties in opposition to the present Administration,” and in 1840 he was chosen as a Whig delegate from Fairfax County. In 1845, Mason began serving as the Fairfax County Sheriff and in 1852 he became Road Commissioner.[4]

Richard C. Mason used enslaved labor inherited through generational wealth as part of his financial portfolio which afforded him these social positions. Mason also used his social authority to maintain his control over peoples he enslaved. In 1856 Mason had a patrol appointed to check “twice weekly within 3 miles of Mason residence for illegal assembly of negro slaves, checking slave quarters & places where slaves might stroll between plantations without permission.”[5] Mason’s social prominence assuredly factored into the Fairfax Court appointing a patrol around his property. His continued social prominence and wealth held in enslaved peoples were intertwined.


[1] Alexandria Gazette, December 30, 1816.

[2] Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse, Court Proceedings June 16, 1823, Court Book 1822, pg. 262; Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse, Court Book 1829, front cover; Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse, Court Proceedings April 18, 1826, Court Book 1821, pg. 221.

[3] Kate Mason Rowland, The Life of George Mason, 1725-1792 (New York: Putnam, 1892), 472-473.

[4] Alexandria Gazette, March 23, 1839. Mason also published a list of resolutions against the Van Buren administration in this paper; Alexandria Gazette, September 26, 1840; Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse, Court Proceedings November 18, 1845, Court Book 1842, pg. 251; Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse, Court Proceedings July 19, 1852, Court Book 1852, pg. 20.

[5] Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse, Quarterly Session, December 15, 1856, Court Book 1855, pg. 203.