A Narrative History
The People of Iowa
SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN
EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY,
EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M.
Curator of the
Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa
THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc.
Chicago and New York
EDWARD R. MASON. There are few men in Iowa who have attained to a higher
position in the confidence of the public and the legal profession than has
Edward R. Mason, one of the learned and scholarly lawyers practicing at the bar
of Des Moines, and a man whose record of achievement is worthy of permanent
preservation, for it proves what can be accomplished by an American citizen.
Edward R. Mason was born at Franklinville, New York, December 18, 1846, a
son of Lewis James and Nancy (Willow) Mason, both of whom were natives of New
York, he born at Oxford, and she at Berlin, that state.
They came to Iowa and settled at Bentonport,Van Buren county, in April, 1858. While he was a mechanic in New York State, Lewis James Mason bought a hotel after coming to
Bentonport, and continued to operate it until his death, in it entertaining many of the most distinguished men of the state.
Of the fourteen children born to him and his wife Edward R. Mason is the only survivor, and he was the eleventh in order of birth, but a number of the family lived to maturity, and one of them attained to distinction, Senator William E. Mason, first congressman and later senator of the United States Senate from Illinois. The parents were members of the Episcopal Church in New York State. When they came to Iowa, not finding any church of their faith, they united with the Congregationalists. For years he was a Mason and belonged to the Good Templars, one of the early prohibition societies. Until 1856 he was a Democrat, but in that year became a Republican, and continued loyal to that party until his death.
While in New York he served as a justice of the peace, and after he came to Iowa he was a member of the board of supervisors of Van Buren County from 1860 to 1868, when he died. While his educational opportunities had been very limited, he possessed such good judgment and natural wisdom that men came to him for counsel from all classes, and he was known over a wide territory as a powerfully convincing speaker. The oratorical powers of his sons were undoubtedly
inherited from him.
Edward R. Mason entered the Bentonport Academy after coming to Iowa, and he
remained one of its students until he was sixteen years old, at which time he
began clerking in a general store, leaving it to go to Keokuk, Iowa, where
he continued clerking, but that was in a drug store, and, after gaining
considerable knowledge of the business, returned to Bentonport and bought an
interest in a drug store. While conducting it he read medicine, but his studies
were interrupted by his military service during the closing months of the war
between the states, five in all, having taken with him into the war fifteen
associates whom he induced to enlist. After his honorable discharge he resumed
his study of medicine. He also took a correspondence course, and when he
secured his license to practice he engaged in it at Bentonport for six or eight
In 1869 Mr. Mason came to Des Moines, and after reaching the capital drove a
delivery wagon for ten dollars a month and board. This not proving
satisfactory, he secured a position as a clerk in a grocery store, and he continued
to that position for some time.
In May, 1870, Mr. Mason took upon himself added responsibilities, as he was
then married to Miss Alice Losie, who was born at Cleveland, Ohio, but
educated in the public schools of Keokuk, Iowa. Mrs. Mason died in 1877, leaving a
daughter, Caroline May, who is the wife of James A. Stewart, industrial
commissioner of the Rock Island Railway. On August 22, 1888, Mr. Mason was
married at Kansas City, Missouri, to Fannie Kiefer Rider, born at Norwich, New
York, and two children were born of this marriage; George Rider, who served in
the World war, and died in France; and Edward Winslow, who was in the
automobile business at Des Moines, Iowa, and is now with Sears Roebuck.
Following his marriage the first time Mr. Mason went to Missouri, but
remained but sixty days, and then returned to Des Moines, and in August, 1870, was
appointed deputy clerk of the United States District Court, which office he
continued to hold until 1910, during which period he studied law. In the
meanwhile he was admitted to the bar, in September, 1873, and began practice in
1910, and has continued in it ever since, handling a general line of cases, as
he is equally able in all branches of his profession. A man of diversified
talents, he established an automobile business at Des Moines in 1906, with the
intention of manufacturing the Mason automobile, a splendid car, and after
he had built up a good business he sold it. Like his father and brother,
Senator Mason of Illinois, he is a Republican, and he has served as a school
director in his district for twenty years. While his office is in Des Moines, he
resides on a small farm adjoining the city where he has raised fast horses
and Jersey cattle, which he has exhibited in years past at different fairs and
stock expositions, winning many ribbons for his stock. He also built a
cotton mill in the city in 1886, and conducted it for three years with marked
success, but it was destroyed by fire in 1891, and this loss almost bankrupted
him. However, in other lines he has been very successful, and as he had not a
dollar when he began to be self-supporting at the early age of sixteen years,
too much credit cannot be accorded him.
When Mr. Mason was in the Federal District Court he served under Judge
Dillon, and that eminent jurist frequently declared that Mr. Mason was the best
clerk that Iowa ever had, and that there were few better lawyers in the state,
and so earnest was he in this that he even embodied these sentiments in a
Although now past the eightieth milestone on the road of life Mr. Mason is
still actively engaged in the practice of law, and his sagacity, his profound
knowledge, not only of the law, but human nature as well, and his
resourcefulness make him a powerful opponent in the courtroom, while in matters of
counsel he is unsurpassed. His life has been an eventful one, and it has always
been a useful one, and one filled with kindly deeds and helpfulness, for he
has never forgotten his years of struggle before he was able to secure a
foothold, and is glad to assist others less fortunate than he.
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