Bob Mitchell: I wish I'd have known Littleberry
It would have been a real experience to have known Littleberry Mason, my grandfather, three times removed. That would have required being around here in the 1800s when Mason, a native of Virginia, came to Cassville and had an obvious involvement in the town's early history.
Mason, an officer in the Army of Andrew Jackson in the war of 1812, according to family history, ended the engagements as a lieutenant colonel, having distinguished himself in some of the operations. His arrival in this area was out of Arkansas.
He arrived in Cassville in 1830, becoming one of three families to settle in the area before the town even existed. He was twice elected state representative. When the area qualified for a state senator, he was the first to be elected to that post.
Connected to the Rays
Mason's oldest daughter, Columbia, married a Pharis, who was the mother of Jenny, who in later years, married Charles Ray, son of Dr. John Ray, publisher of the Cassville Democrat in 1872. Aunt Jenny, as she was affectionately known for years, was the mother of Bess, Missie, Bland, Means and John Pharis, and my mother, Kathryn.
For years, after the death of her husband, grandmother Jenny was the patriot of Cassville, presiding over the newspaper. After the town burned in 1893, the newspaper went up in ashes with most of the square. At that time, it was on the second floor on the east side of the square.
After relocating to the south side, Jenny was daily at her seat near one of the large windows in front of the office. It was there she could greet her acquaintances or meet new people as they arrived in town.
Emory Melton speculates -- as does our family history -- that Cassville was named after another officer with Jackson by the name of Lewis Cass, later a U.S. Senator and Governor of Michigan.
Cass was highly respected in those days. Mason could have used his influence in the community during those days to make the name Cassville stick.
Mason's influence was not only in the political world but also in business during early Cassville as well. He was a merchant, cattleman and farmer.
Melton comments in his book, "The First 150 Years" copyright 1995, that the Mason family "was chosen for discussion in this book for the reason it represented a well to do and prominent family in the founding of Cassville."
The Mason home
As one of three homes in Cassville before the town even had a name, the Masons lived on what is now known as Sale Barn Road. Their log home faced Flat Creek, in the area that was once known as the Cliff Edmondson place.
Just how large his holdings were isn't a fact known today. However, back in the days when abstracts were used to complete real estate transactions, Littleberry's last will was included in the documents for several years.
Information about this document will probably be covered in subsequent columns, since it is quite lengthy and might be a good comparison of what was going on in those days, compared to present day situations.
Family history noted that the Mason home was at one time burned, but there is not a record of what happened.
Melton's research says that Mason's wife, Nancy, 39, born in Pennsylvania, was 25 years younger than her husband. She was fond of entertaining, guests often including members of the military from whichever force might have been in the area at the time. It was rumored that either Yankees or Confederates discovered that wavering of guest lists, and one side torched the building.
It would have been good to of known for sure who lit the match. For most of the early history, Yankees occupied the town.
Holdings were south
Most of Litttleberry's holdings were south of where he lived. As in most cases in early days, residences were not far from a source of water. The first house in the Cassville area was probably in the area that is now Crystal Springs Trout Farm, whose water source is a large spring adjacent to the R-4 School campus.
I have often heard my grandmother, Jenny Ray, talk about one of her favorite accomplishments -- the First Christian Church, originating in the early 1900s after being associated with other congregations. She often told of making ice cream cones and selling the treats during special events around town to "gather" funds for the building.
She was also proud of the fact that the congregation met to organize on her front porch at Townsend and Ninth streets in Cassville. The building still stands, now an apartment building.
To be continued next week.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.