John Mitchell Mason (1770-1829)

Portrait of John Mitchell Mason

John Mitchell Mason was born on March 19, 1770 in New York City. He attended Columbia University, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1789. In 1792 Mason succeeded his father as pastor of a small ministry in New York. During his tenure with this congregation, he quickly expanded the membership by 600 people. In 1794 Mason received a doctor of divinity degree from Princeton University. He established and organized the first theological seminary of the Associate Reformed Church (now Union Theological Seminary) in 1804, and he helped to establish the Christian Magazine in 1806. He also served as a trustee of Columbia University from 1795 to 1811, and was provost of that institution from 1811 to 1816. While serving as provost, Mason became minister of the Murray Street Church in New York City in 1812. Declining health from excessive work forced him to take leave of his duties in 1816, and then again after suffering a slight stroke upon his return. Following this second recovery, Mason accepted a position as president at the newly reopened Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, beginning his term in the fall of 1821.

Because of his popularity and reputation as an orator, Mason seemed an appropriate choice to lead the College. During his time as president, Mason altered aspects of the college curriculum and initiated the issuance of reports twice a year to parents and guardians of the students. He also shifted the school year so that commencement would be held in late June or early July, with the new school year beginning in September.

John Mitchell Mason married Ann Lefferts in 1792, and the couple had seven children. Their son James Hall Mason graduated from Dickinson in 1822 and immediately began teaching at the Grammar School. Unfortunately, James soon contracted typhoid fever and died that November. Their daughter, Catherine Van Vechten, also died in 1822. These tragic events, as well as Mason's still declining health, led to his decision to resign in 1824. John Mitchell Mason died in New York City on December 26, 1829.

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Dickinson College Archives
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