Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dr. Edward Beecher Mason

Below is the full obituary of Edward Beecher Mason, D.D., published in the October 4, 1907 issue of The Brunswick Record. In brackets, I have added information about Dr. Mason, who led the First Parish Church from 1890 to 1903.

Undated photograph of Dr. Edward Beecher Mason by Brunswick photographer A.O. Reed. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1979.36.27.

Widely Known, Much Beloved Clergyman, Was Former Pastor of First Parish Church"

"Dr. Edward Beecher Mason, formerly pastor of the First Parish church, died on Tuesday morning at his home on College street in this town, after a long illness. His death was due to a disease of the larynx from which he had suffered for about five years. His voice was impaired to such an extent that he gave up his pastorate and preaching in 1902. During the past year his general health became seriously affected, and last spring he submitted to a surgical operation. This gave him little relief but served to prolong his life through the summer. For many weeks he knew that his life was nearing its end, and although voiceless and weakened by his illness he was sustained by a wonderful courage even to the end.

"Few men have ever lived in Brunswick who were more beloved than Dr. Mason.

"The funeral was held yesterday afternoon, brief services at the home at 2:30 o’clock and another service at the First Parish church at 3:00 o’clock, both being conducted by the pastor, Rev. Herbert A. Jump. During the half hour from 2:30 to 3:00 the church bell was tolled 69 strokes, one for each year of his age.

"In the church, the pastor read portions of Scripture and a part of Browning’s poem, Abt Vogler. Miss Mary Ward at the organ played selections which had been favorites of Dr. Mason, the Pastoral Interlude and Come Unto Me, from Handel’s Messiah, and a Chorale from Bach. The bearers were Prof. William A. Houghton, Prof. Henry Johnson, Prof. George T. Little and Prof. F.E. Woodruff. Ushers were chosen from the deacons of the church.

"Brief services were held at the grave. Interment was in a portion of what has been known as the Abbott lot in Pine Grove cemetery.

"Dr. Mason was born in Cincinnati on March 7, 1838. His father, Timothy B. Mason, was a life-long friend of Dr. Lyman Beecher, having charge of his choir when he lived in Boston and in 1835 accompanied this noted preacher to Cincinnati where Dr. Beecher was president of Lane Seminary. [His mother was Abigail (Hall) Mason.]

"The Mason family, descendants of Robert Mason, a member of John Winthrop’s company who settled the town of Roxbury, Mass., in 1630, is one of the most distinguished in New England.

"Dr. Lowell Mason, whose fame as a composer is widely known, was Dr. Mason’s uncle, and William Mason, the eminent New York pianist, is his cousin. Members of the same family were pioneers in the manufacture of pianos and organ in New England. [Ashby's History of the First Parish Church mentions that Mason and his family had a gift for music: "They had the knack of playing almost every musical instrument. They were particularly interested in singing..."(360) Dr. Mason himself was very interested in hymns, and one of his first projects upon arriving at First Parish Church was to choose and purchase a new hymnal (Ashby, 374-375).]

"Although born in Ohio Dr. Mason was virtually a New Englander. His father and four generations before him were born in the town of Medfield, Mass., and the family still holds property there. A previous ancestor was one of the original landholders in Dedham, Mass.

Undated photograph of the First Parish Church taken from across Maine Street, where Dr. Mason preached from 1890 to 1903. Note that the streets are unpaved. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1993.22.70.836.

"In his career as a clergyman Dr. Mason was a pastor of only five churches, and had he chosen he could have remained a life time in his first pastorate. He was educated at Knox College, Gambia, O.H., and at Farmers College in Cincinnati, graduating from the latter in 1858 with the highest honors. Farmers College is no longer in existence, but its alumni included such men as Murat Halstead and [President] Benjamin Harrison. Three years later, in the summer of 1861, Dr. Mason graduated from Andover Theological Seminary.

"He went from Andover to Ravenna, Ohio, where he remained 12 years. The people of Ravenna became strongly attached to the young pastor, and when he was called by the Fourth Presbyterian church of Indianapolis, the people of the church and town made every effort to retain him. They offered to make a life contract to keep him in Ravenna. The pastors of the Methodist church, the Catholic church, the Disciples church and the Episcopal church signed a note expressing their assurance of high personal esteem and requesting, if consistent with his sense of duty, that he should not separate from them. Two hundred women marched to his house and read a paper protesting against his going away, and a meeting of citizens expressed the same sentiment. Twenty years later they asked him to return.

"Dr. Mason delayed his answer to the call from Indianapolis, but in March, 1873, decided to accept. He had known Garfield in Ravenna, and in Indianapolis, as a member of the literary club, he was associated with such men as Benjamin Harrison and Thomas A. Hendricks.

"In the spring on 1878 Dr. Mason was called to Detroit where he became pastor of the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian church. This was a very large and wealthy church, and greatly interested in philanthropic work and missions.

"Mr. Mason received the degree of D.D., from Miami University while he was in Detroit, it being the result of a commencement address delivered before the student sin the summer of 1881.

"Having remained in Detroit about four years Dr. Mason had a desire to return to New England, and receiving a call from the Congregational church at Arlington, Mass., he accepted that pastorate. There he worked hard for six years, until his health broke down. Among other things he rebuilt the church at Arlington, and it may be mentioned that he wrote a hymn which was sung at the dedication to music which he composed.

"In 1888 on account of shattered health Dr. Mason was given a leave of absence, but seeing little prospect of being able to resume the work at Arlington, he resigned in February 1889. As a member of the Monday club in Boston, Dr. Mason had contributed forty sermons to their published series.

"The call that brought Dr. Mason to Brunswick was extended to him on February 26, 1890. He accepted on April 4, and began his work here on May 4th of that year. At his installation the sermon was preached by Rd. Alexander McKenzie of Cambridge.

"His work in Brunswick during a pastorate of 13 years gave him the same pleasure that he found in Ravenna, and his usefulness and influence here has been far-reaching. In the physical up-building of the First Parish church it will be remembered that he built the chapel, and the room back of the pulpit at a cost of about $6000, and the memorial winds that beautify the walls of the church were put in while he was pastor. Among them is one which bears the inscriptions 'The Sunday School; to Its Founders and Promoters. 1812-1898.'

"Among the most notable addresses he has given are: 'A Memorial to Garfield,' delivered in Detroit; five Lenten addresses before the three Congregational churches in Bangor; and a memorial sermon on Rev. Edward G. Guild, a man greatly beloved in this town, who died Nov. 6, 1899. Dr. Mason is the author of a volume of sermons entitled 'The Ten Laws' published by Anson D.F. Randolph of New York.

The tablet gravestone of Dr. Edward Beecher Mason, who is buried with his wife, Myra, and their daughter, Maud. His grave is located near the end of the second row from the right.

"He was married on July 15, 1863 to Miss Myra Campbell [1838-1916], who is a member of the distinguished family known as the Cherry Valley Campbells of New York. He is survived also by a son, Edward C., who graduated from Harvard and now practices law in Boston; and a daughter, Miss Maud [1868-1962], who lives in Brunswick. [The Masons lived at the home they built in 1903-1904 at 24 College Street (Ashby, 378). According to Ashby, Mason died at his home 5 years to the day after he formally resigned from First Parish Church.]"

Ashby, Thompson Eldridge. A History of the First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine. Brunswick: J.H. French and Son, 1969.
"Death of Dr. Edward B. Mason." The Brunswick Record. 4 October 1907.
"Edward Beecher Mason." From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 1737.5 (pamphlet 361).

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