CHARLES HENRY MASON. The records of Southern Illinois show that a great majority of its most successful men are those who have been the architects of their own fortunes, who in spite of handicaps and discouragements have won their way through to positions of influence and honor, overcoming the obstacles in their path and earning not only financial independence but the esteem and respect of their fellow men. In this connection no better example could be found than the career of Charles Henry Mason, a prosperous farmer and stock breeder, drainage commissioner for the Belknap Drainage district, and county commissioner of Johnson county, Illinois. Mr. Mason was born on June 1, 1864, on a farm near Monmouth, Illinois, a son of Benjamin P. and Elizabeth (Campbell) Mason, and a grandson of Adam Mason, who was born December 23, 1795, and reared in Pennsylvania, of German descent, and settled at Brownsville, Indiana, at a very early day.
Benjamin Franklin Mason was born in Union county, Indiana, and migrated to Illinois in 1858, settling on a farm near Monmouth, where he resided until 1865, at which time he removed to Pulaski county, near America, Illinois, and there purchased four hundred acres of land. He engaged in the lumber and timber business, operating a saw-mill, and amassed considerable wealth; at the time of his death, in 1898, he was the owner of a great deal of land. He married Elizabeth Campbell, who was born November 19, 1832, in Franklin county, Indiana, and died August 3, 1908. They were the parents of a family of twelve children, of whom two died in infancy, while the others were as follows: Sarah C., or "Mangold," who became Mrs. Wilson; Mrs. Alice M. Full; Oscar M., a farmer in Pulaski county; Hugh A.; Charles H.; John, who is now deceased; William C.; Mrs. Mary E. Steers; Mrs. Rose S. Leidigh; and Ira, who is deceased.
Charles Henry Mason spent his boyhood days on the home farm and attended the district schools until he was twenty-one years of age, and for a few years thereafter continued to assist his father in the farming operations. During the fall and winter of 1886-7 he attended Valparaiso College, and in the next year he cultivated his father's property, then renting land from him and raising several crops. In 1893 he entered into partnership with his father in the lumber business and in the fall of 1894 bought land and a tile factory at Belknap, which he operated until the fall of 1895, when he failed in business and went into voluntary bankruptcy, but emerged with his credit unimpaired and eventually paid every dollar owing to his creditors.
In 1895 Mr. Mason married Oma B. Parker, of Vienna, Illinois, daughter of Rev. I. A. J. Parker, and during the fall of the same year she died. Mr. Mason then resided on the homestead until the fall of 1896, and for a period of four months again assisted his father in operating his lumber mills. Determined to complete his law studies, he returned to Valparaiso College in 1897 and remained for one year, spending the summer of 1898 at home. He then returned to college and stayed there for a part of the school year, but completed his studies in the Chicago School of Law, graduating therefrom in the spring of 1899. During the remainder of the year he traveled through Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin on commercial business, and then returned home, his father having died in September, 1899. His share of the estate amounted to eight hundred and seventy -six acres, but much of this was considered worthless swamp land, and all but forty acres was in timber. Now five hundred acres are cleared, and he is the owner of two thousand one hundred acres of good soil, although five hundred acres are in swamp land and are awaiting draining by the Cache River Drainage Project, of which he was one of the originators, which will redeem thousands of acres of rich land lying in Johnson, Massac and Pulaski counties, the other original promoters of the project being S. B. Kerr, of Massac county, and Robert Main, of Pulaski county.
Mr. Mason ships much live stock, sending three carloads of hogs to the markets each year, and has about fifty head of horses and mules on his farm and sixty head of Hereford and other fine cattle, the assistance of from ten to twenty men being necessary for the care of this vast property. His place is known as the Alfalfa Stock Farm, and on it is situated the fine residence, Forest View, as well as modern barns and outbuildings of every description. This great property has been developed through the untiring energy and perseverance of Mr. Mason, who, when he first engaged in agricultural pursuits, was the owner of a pair of mules valued at eighty dollars, a horse worth thirty dollars, and a few old and practically valueless farm implements. Starting with a handicap of four thousand dollars in debts, he persistently and steadily fought his way to the front.
In political matters Mr. Mason is a Republican. He was elected county commissioner in November, 1910, and is probably the only candidate ever elected in Johnson county who did not make a personal canvass for election. Since 1902 he has served as drainage commissioner of the Belknap Drainage district. His religious affiliation is with the Methodist Episcopal church, and fraternally he is associated with Belknap Blue Lodge, Vienna Chapter and Cairo Knights Templar, of Cairo, Illinois.
In 1897, while attending Valparaiso College, Mr. Mason met Miss Eloise Sabine Shanor, whom he married August 24, 1904. She is a daughter of Stephen and Elizabeth A. Shanor, of Rochester, Pennsylvania, the former a railroad engineer who died in 1881, while her mother passed away in 1876. Thus left an orphan at a tender age, Miss Shanor was taken to raise by her aunt, Mrs. Elizabeth Shanor, who lived in Alleghany, Pennsylvania, and who several years after her husband's death married Joseph Brodnix, of Van Wert, Ohio. Mrs. Mason attended the Van Wert schools and entered Valparaiso College in 1897, where she spent one year and returned to complete her studies in 1899, the college romance developing into a marriage in 1904, when Miss Shanor was still a college student. Mr. and Mrs. Mason are the parents of one child, Charles Henry, born on June 21, 1908.
The very obvious lesson to be drawn from the career of Mr. Mason is one that should encourage the youth of the present generation, or any who have met with discouragement or set-backs. In it they may see that the price of success is unfailing energy, strict integrity in business dealings and a determination to win at any legitimate cost, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties in the path.
Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 2, page 1021-1022