Mason: a medieval occupational surname indicating a skilled stone mason, from the Old French ‘masson’ 
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Part 1: Isaac Mason Sr (c1787 - 1868)
Early life and marriage to Ann Collicott
earliest known Mason was Isaac
Mason who was born c1787 in Bere Ferrers (also known as
‘Beerferris’), a village on the Bere peninsula, north of Plymouth,
Devon, England. It is possible his parents were Isaac Mason and Ann Crouch
and he might have been baptised 25 November 1787 in Bere Ferrers Parish
It is very likely Isaac married Ann Collicott (c1791 - ?) 26 December 1811 at Stoke Damerel Parish Church, Devon. They had five known children: John, Isaac, Elizabeth, William and James. The family settled in Tamerton Foliott (now written as ‘Tamerton Foliot’, a village across the river Tavy from Bere Ferrers (and now part of Plymouth). Some of their children may have had some schooling, unlike their parents. Isaac worked as an agricultural labourer all his life. He often moved, living in cottages that were probably associated with farms where he worked. Ann died sometime between 1851 and 1861 and Isaac died in 1868, aged about 84.
Children of Isaac and Ann
(1812 - c1878) was born 17 November 1812 and baptised 06 December the
same year in Tamerton Foliott Parish Church. He married Jane
Beer (c1813 - 1873) 25 May 1834 at East Stonehouse Parish Church,
Plymouth. They had ten children, many of whom died young: John Isaac
(c1835 - 1840), twins Mary (c1837 - 1839) and Eliza (c1837 - 1840),
Elizabeth Jane (c1840 - 1848), John Henry (1842 - ?), Jane Ann (c1845 -
?), Ellen (c1847 - 1937), Thomas (c1849 - 1850), Mary Elizabeth (c1850 -
1927) and Richard (1852 - ?). Jane was sometimes referred to as
‘Elizabeth’ on some of her children’s baptism records and this may
have been a middle name. Like his father, John was an agricultural
labourer but when he was in his 40s, he sought a seafaring life and
moved to Stoke Damerel, Devonport, where HM Dockyard was located. John
worked as a stoker (feeding coal on board a ship) but it seems he was
not part of the Royal Navy.
was admitted to the Devon County Lunatic Asylum in Exminster 14
September 1870. It is not known what her condition (described as
‘lunatic’) actually meant in modern terms. She was discharged almost
two years later, 06 August 1872 as a ‘relieved’ patient, which meant
she was not cured but someone was willing to look after her. Jane died a
year later, aged 62, and was buried 13 November 1873 in Ford Park
Cemetery, Plymouth in a common grave. However, a memorial reference to
her was located in Section G, No 70, Row 8. John died c1878, aged 65.
(c1820 - ?) was baptised 16 April 1820 in Tamerton Foliott Parish
Church. She worked as a house servant in Tamerton Foliott and then
married mariner Joseph Teppett
(? - 1861) at Stoke Damerel Parish Church 26 April 1855. Elizabeth was
35 when she married,
which was over a decade above the average age for single women to marry.
had two sons: Joseph Isaac (1856 - 1930) and Walter John (1857 - ?).
Joseph Sr was stationed on HMS Vengeance and within a year, the family
were living in another important naval city, Portsmouth. A year later
they were back in Devonport, living in Morice Town.
Joseph departed England on board the gun vessel ‘Espoir’ 27
September 1860 which was ‘…employed on the African coast… cruising
against slavers’, according to p4 ‘The Globe’, published 18 April
1864, upon the ship’s return to England. Although slavery
within the British Empire was abolished in 1807 (though it took until
1838 to achieve), several European and South American countries
continued the slave trade, as well as the United States (despite it
being abolished there in 1808). 
‘Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United
Service’ 23 April 1864 gave a detailed account of the adventures of
the ‘Espoir’ and Joseph
took part in capturing ships laden with slaves. It was a hazardous
voyage with three-quarters of the crew struck down with fever, although
almost all made a recovery. Sadly, two did not, one of whom was Joseph.
He died 12 December 1861 in the hospital on Ascension Island, the Royal
Naval station in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
of Joseph’s death would reach Elizabeth within a year. She was taken
care of by the Royal Navy, receiving an annuity. Joseph Jr followed in
his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy. He was able to
attend the Royal Hospital School in Greenwich, London, which had been
established to provide for the orphans of seamen, and became a
respected naval school master. 
Elizabeth lived with various members of her family in Plymouth and died
in 1901, aged 81. She was buried 14 April at Hooe Parish Church.
(c1822 - 1907) was baptised 29 December 1822 in Tamerton Foliott Parish
He worked as a farm servant in Saltash, Cornwall, just across the River
Tamar from Plymouth. He married laundress Mary
Elizabeth Hayman (c1829 - c1886) 23 October 1859 at Tor Mohan Parish
Church, Torquay. Unlike William, Mary was unable to sign her name when
she married. William was working as an ‘excavator’ at the time, a
term often used to describe those working on canals or railway lines.
From 1857 until 1859, a branch line was built by the South Devon Railway
Company from Torquay to Paignton and it is most likely William was
employed on this project. They moved to Stoke Damerel, Devonport, and
then to Torpoint, Cornwall, across from the Devonport Docks. William
worked as a labourer and then returned to being an agricultural
labourer, being employed on Mutley Farm, just outside of Plymouth, for
over a decade. They had only one child William Emmanuel (1863 - 1948)
who became a builder. Mary died c1886, aged 57, and William moved in
with his son and his family in Plymouth. William was still working at
least until his late 60s. He died in 1907, aged 83, one year before the
means-tested Old Age Pension Act 1908 was introduced which gave people
over 70 a weekly pension of 5 shillings a week (about £14 in today’s
(c1828 - 1923) was baptised 21 December 1828 in Tamerton Foliott Parish
Church. Like his father and brothers, he started life as an agricultural
labourer. He married servant Grace
Veal (c1829 - 1871) 28 July 1850 at Stoke Damerel Parish Church.
Neither James nor Grace could sign their name. They had both been living
in Plymouth prior to their marriage but settled in James’ childhood
village of Tamerton Foliott. They had seven children: Elizabeth (c1852 -
?), Thomas (c1853 - 1853), Fanny (c1854 - ?), Thomas (1857 - 1926), Mary
Grace (1860 - ?), Annie (1864 - 1928) and Alice Mason (1868 - c1937).
James’ ancestors had been baptised, married and buried within the
Church of England but James and Grace’s last child was baptised in the
Tamerton Foliott Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. Whether James and Grace
became Methodists is not certain. Some of their children married within
the Church of England as did James again after Grace’s death, even
though the Marriage Act of 1836 allowed adherents of other faiths or
other Christian denominations (such as Methodists) to be married in
their own place of worship (provided it had been legally registered for
that purpose). A chapel had been in existence in Tamerton Foliott since
1814 (according to a conveyance record held by the Plymouth and West
Devon Record Office) and the family lived on the same street as the
chapel (Fore Street) for a time.
Grace died in 1871, aged 42. James married widow Elizabeth Bayly or Bailey (c1834 - ?) 25 October 1875 at Charles the Martyr Parish Church in Plymouth. Elizabeth was a potter and had been married to mason George Ferris (c1838 - ?). Elizabeth had a daughter Frances (c1851 - ?) but it is not clear if George was her father. James turned to farming in Tamerton Foliott and then became a market gardener (as opposed to a domestic servant gardener). It is not known how much land he had but he worked for himself growing produce and selling it (probably in the local markets). Elizabeth died between 1901 and 1911 and James retired to live with his eldest daughter’s family in St Budeaux, Devonport. He died in 1923, aged 94.
Next: Isaac Mason Jr