Some Weeks News; Some Weeks History
The Moses Masons and their Houses
Capt Hugh D. Mason came to Boston from England in 1634.
Moses M. Mason, (Moses 1) (? – 1775), was a great-grandson of Capt Hugh Mason who came to Watertown, Mass. Moses and Lydia (Knapp) Mason settled at Newton, where four children were born, then to Sherborn, where four more were born, then to Dublin, where two more were born, and in 1795 his widow with her son and his family “started on a northern trek and settled at Bethel, Maine.” Practically all of the Masons in Bethel, Gilead, Albany, Norway, Harrison, and in Berlin, Lancaster, and Gorham, N. H., are their descendants. Source: “Descendants of Capt Hugh D. Mason” by Edna Warren Mason.
Moses Mason, Jr., (Moses 2) (1757-1836), son of Moses 1, served as a soldier in the Revolution (at Bennington) and in 1799 moved (or arrived with) his family and widowed mother from Dublin, N.H., to Bethel. His mother (a widow) came with them. Moses 2 built (with some help I’m sure) the house in Bethel now known as the Norseman Inn.
Moses Mason (also Jr.), (Moses 3), (1785-died young) was the third child of Moses 2 and wife Eunice Ayer.
Moses Mason (Jr.) (Moses 4), (1789-1866) was born in Dublin and came to Bethel with his family in 1799. Moses 4 was the one to become a doctor and serve in Congress; he built a house at Bethel Hill in 1813 that is now the Bethel Historical Society museum. In the Wikipedia History of Dublin, N.H., Moses Mason, Jr., physician and US Congressman, is listed as one of the notable people of Dublin (along with Mark Twain, author and summer resident for two years).
Moses Ayers Mason, (Moses 5), (1826-1904) was a grandson of Moses 2; he was a bachelor who was the last Mason to occupy the house now known as The Norseman. He sold the house to Charles Ryerson in 1894.
The Mason Houses
Today there are three prominent Mason houses: First is the one built by Moses 2 in 1800 known as The Norseman. Second is the smaller town house built in 1813 by Moses 4 and is today’s museum. Third is the house built by Ayers Mason probably soon after 1825 when he married Eunice Hale Mason, widow of his brother Charles.
The first Mason house (1800), for the last 50 years The Norseman, has been described by Ruby Clark Eldridge who lived there as a girl at the time Moses Ayers Mason owned the farm. The white painted farmhouse faced the road to Gilead (which then ran between the Norseman barn and the Briar Lee Inn. *The east side faced the road to Newry; but the front door with its long stone step centrally located faced south (faced the river). The door opened into a good sized hall with stairs. At the right as one entered was the parlor and at the left mother’s bedroom and mine. Upstairs the east room was for guests and the west was bedroom for my two brothers. It was a two and a half story house. *William Rogers Chapman had the town re-position the Gilead road to its present location.
Uncle Moses had built a brick furnace for warmth and baking, which was in the kitchen located in the Ell which then was only one and a half stories. The barn with the big “M” was built about 1882.
John and Dale Cheney who have owned The Norseman for the last 24 years are the thirteenth owners. During the 1894-1910 period (the Ryerson’s ownership) the place was known as the Riverside Hotel after them William Rogers Chapman, owner from 1911-1918, called it Riverside Farm and from about 1930 until 1961 it was known as Bethaven. For more see the Bethel Journals – The Masons and Their Houses.
Dr. Moses and Agnes Straw Mason’s home on Broad Street (1813) has been dealt with extensively by the Bethel Historical Society and one should refer to the Society’s website. Dr. and Mrs. Mason had no children and so that they were the only actual Masons to live there.
The Ayers Mason* house on the Middle Interval Road (now Sunset Farm) was built by Ayers Mason (and others) after his marriage in 1825 – their first child was born in 1827 so I’m guessing that the house was built about that time. This house stayed in the Mason family until 1943 – the longest Mason ownership of the three houses. From all angles appears to be a copy of the Mayville farm house including the front door facing south and the side door being the main entrance. *Ayers Mason was the youngest son of Moses 2; he was born in Bethel 1800. He lived to be 90.
The Ayers Mason family had a number of interesting connections to other Bethel personalities. Two of them are: Ayers and Eunice Mason’s daughter Maria married Clark S. Edwards – whose photo is currently on display in the Maine State Museum as Col. Edwards was commander of the 5th Maine Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg. The other connection is William Wallace Mason, son of Ayer; he was a partner with Chauncey Bryant in the late 1890s when the two men started a meat business which later became Bryant’s Market. Herman Mason was the last Mason owner; a photo of Herman his home and buildings were featured in the Citizen’s 1931 Special Edition.
The William Rogers Chapman Fireplaces
Going back to the first Mason farm, the Norseman, one of the permanent additions to the original Mason home are two fireplaces created during the early days of Chapman’s ownership – the period of his directing of the Maine Musical Festivals. Chapman supposedly collected stones from around the farm to make the fireplace foundations while the elaborate mantels were filled with special mineral and gem stones given by members of the different Maine choruses and by friends from “around the world”. In the dining room one of the “stones” is the head of an Indian tomahawk given by members of the Oldtown Chorus.
Mountain View Mall
The following is an extract from Pauline Davis’s 1993 paper on the history of Bridge Street, Cross Street and Riverside Lane
MINI MALL – (intersection of Cross Street and Route 26)
A. Dan Forbes sold the land to Bennett's Garage on Sept. 4, 1954, as space for a parking lot for storage of their new and used vehicles for sale. They sold the land to Harold, Laurel and Floyd Jones of Windham in 1976.
This swampy area was filled in, and soon after contractors constructed a mini mall consisting of several possible business spaces. Renters have been: Dick and Sheila Waterhouse for a cheese shop; Jeff Prest for a Radio Shack; Dick Thompson for a car parts store, a furniture store and a shoe store; Albert Buck for a Western Auto Store; Cisco and Poncho's, a Mexican restaurant; the Bethel Chamber of Commerce; Al Carson, accountant; Wendy Penley, Mahoosuc Realty, and Port Sports. Cisco and Poncho's expanded their restaurant in late 1992 and now share the building only with Port Sports.
For photos accompanying this article see the Bethel Journals – Bethel News September 17. See also the Masons and Mason Houses.