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Rebecca (Lewis) Mason


Mrs. Rebecca Jane (Lewis) Mason was over 93 when she died in 1924.
We often imagine that people did not reach an old age back 100 years ago. Perhaps because the average life expectancy was much lower than it is today. However, that average is overweighted by the very young. Early childhood was a dangerous time in the 1800s, before modern surgery, antibiotics, penicillin and vaccines. Sadly, many infants and toddlers went to an early grave. If you could survive those first tough years though, you might well live into your 80s and 90s.
Mrs. Mason defied those odds and reached the age of 93 years old. Born in Maryland in the summer of 1830, Ms. Lewis was likely enslaved. One reason that we believe this is that we do not find her in the county’s census records by name until 1870. That first census after the 13th Amendment was the first Federal recognition of the formerly enslaved people as residents and citizens of the United States. We have yet to find her parents.
In 1870, she is with her husband, Mr. Beall Mason and their younger children. Like most African Americans in 1870 (nearly 80% of those living in the US), they were illiterate. This literacy rate compares to 20% of the white population being illiterate during that same year.
The Masons had at twelve children, only 8 of whom lived to adulthood. Their eldest was Ms. Amanda (Mason) Walker, who was born in 1852. Given that Amanda was born during the Slave Times, her parents were likely living as husband and wife since about 1850. Marriages among enslaved people were not recorded at the county courthouse. Even so, the weddings were often celebrated by the local ministers and the relationships widely recognized by the community.
Mrs. Mason continued to live in Westminster, past her husband’s death (which occurred sometime before 1900). During the 1900 Census year, she lived with her daughter, Mrs. Amanda Walker, and her family. In 1910, she lived with Mr. Ellsworth Walker and his wife, Caroline. Mr. Ellsworth Walker was likely named for the same man, Col. Elmer Ellsworth, for whom the cemetery was named.
In 1919, Mrs. Mason moved from Maryland to Philadelphia. She likely lived with her daughter, Mrs. Amanda Walker, and grandson, Mr. Carl Walker.
In March of 1924, Mrs. Rebecca Jane (Lewis) Mason died, due to old age. She was returned to Westminster and buried at Ellsworth Cemetery.
Her beautiful and elaborate headstone awaits professional restoration, as part of the general restoration of Ellsworth Cemetery, near Westminster, Maryland.

The Hanover Evening Sun


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