George Mason IV and Ann Eilbeck Mason

Photograph of Wedding Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. George Mason IV

Wedding Portrait of George Mason and Ann Mason

Gunston Hall was a large plantation in the northern region of the Colony of Virginia. There, George Mason IV and his first wife Ann Eilbeck Mason (1734-1773) started their lives as a married couple on April 4, 1750.[1] Ann Eilbeck grew up in a prosperous family as the only child of William Eilbeck and Sarah Edgar Eilbeck in Charles County, Maryland. William Eilbeck was a well-connected merchant who owned many African people. It is said that he died with 40 enslaved individuals still in his possession.[2] William Eilbeck's Will assigned a very young enslaved person to each child of his daughter Ann and her husband George Mason IV.  These bequeathed human gifts displayed the Eilbeck family's considerable wealth.[3]

Inside Gunston Hall, 2017

Researchers at Gunston Hall Plantation, May 2017
Left to right: Rebecca Martin, Elizabeth Perez-Garcia, Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott, Ayman Fatima, and Kye Farrow
Not pictured but present: Alexis Bracey, Farhaj Murshed, and Dr. Benedict Carton

George Mason IV came from a family with deep roots in colonial Northern Virginia. His mother, Ann (Thomson) Mason, is succinctly described in Lorri Glover's Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries as “one of two heiresses of a . . . royal appointee” who was among the “sought-after brides in Virginia’s marriage market.” [4]  She became a powerful woman who took over the family plantation after her husband George Mason III died intestate in 1735.  As a widow, Ann Mason was left to handle her husband's complex finances.[5] At the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, a key primary source was uncovered, which contained papers from a suit brought by the plaintiff Sarah Brooke against the defendant Ann (Thomson) MasonThis docket not only reveals their dispute over property, but also Ann Mason’s knowledge of the law.  The defendant’s victory in this case suggests that her expertise in navigating court proceedings, a skill evident in the written record, may have inspired her son George Mason IV  to focus his legal interests on protecting personal ownership of property as a fundamental right and measure of power.[6] 

[1] While the Mason family (of George III) and the Eilbeck family were basically plantation neighbors in Charles County, Maryland, there is no evidence to support the interpretation that the marriage between George IV and his first wife Ann (Thomson was arranged: Terry K. Dunn, Among His Slaves: George Mason's Struggle with Slavery (Alexandria, VA: Commonwealth Books of Virginia, 2016), 63 and, accessed July 2017.

[2] Dunn, Among His Slaves, 76.

[3] Dunn, Among His Slaves, 75.

[4] Lorri Glover, Founders as Fathers:The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 11; Robert Rutland, George Mason: Reluctant Statesman (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1961), xi-xii.

[5]Dunn, Among His Slaves, 21.

[6] "Sarah Brooke v. Ann Mason," Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection (MSS2932), Library of Congress Manuscript Division. George Mason IV’s interest in law and property is a major subject of study in Jeff Broadwater, George Mason: Forgotten Founder (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).   See also: Rutland, Reluctant Statesman, 23.

Creator: Elizabeth Perez-Garcia

George Mason IV and Ann Eilbeck Mason