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Philip Coombs Mason was bom in the old seaport town of Newburyport, Mass., March 5, 1834. He was the youngest son of WiUiam S. and Abigail (Jackman) Mason, there being two older sons and a daughter in the family. His father and grandfather (William Mason) fought in the war of 1812, and his grandfather was captured and confined in Dartmoor prison, in England, as a prisoner of war. All of his ancestry were of the typical New England stock.
The coat-of-arms in the possession of the family bears the emblems of the Scottish and English. It is known that the Masons were among the first settlers of Newburyport. Both grandfathers of Philip were seafaring men, and William S. Mason, his father, was for many years captain of the trading ship "Nikola" of Newburyport, and did an extensive business with Russia and other foreign countries.
Lieutenant Mason received his education in the Newburyport schools. After leaving high school, he learned the photograph business of Mr. John McArthur. When the Civil War broke out he was one of the first volunteers to go from Newburyport in Company A of the Seventeenth Regiment. By faithful and meritorious service he rose from first sergeant in the old company to second and first lieutenant which latter promotion came to him on July 8, 1863.
He participated in all the engagements of the old regiment and was mustered out with it in 1864. After serving his time in the war. Lieutenant Mason took up the photograph business in Newbern, N. C, where he remained until a serious illness compelled him to return North. In 1867, he married Sarah L., daughter of Benjamin French of Salisbury, Mass. She, too, came of old New England parentage, whose ancestors came to this country in 1640. Both paternal and maternal grandfathers distinguished themselves in the Revolutionary War.
During President Grant's administration, Lieutenant Mason was appointed United States Gauger of Internal Revenue under Mr. Charles C. Dame, collector of Newburyport. He remained in the service twelve years, when, through change of administration, he lost his position. After a lapse of twelve years, however, he was reinstated in his old position, where he remained until November, 1903, when illness compelled him to give it up in order to regain his health.
Lieutenant Mason was a member of Post 49, G. A. R., of Newburyport, and one of its past commanders, but he has resided in Somerville for nearly twenty-five years.
(A brother officer of the Seventeenth contributes the following more full account of Lieutenant Mason's war service.)
"At the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion, Lieutenant Mason joined the company known as the 'City Grays,' and after having helped to organize and drill the company for several weeks, he was appointed first sergeant of it. As first sergeant he went to the seat of war in Company A of the Seventeenth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the company being commanded by CaptainDavidF. Brown of Newburyport and Captain Henry Splaine of Haverhill.
"He was promoted second Heutenant September 25, 1862, and first lieutenant July 8, 1863. At the expiration of his term of enUstment, he was mustered out of service August 3, 1864, at Lynnfield, Mass. During his three years of service he never lost a day on accoimt of sickness. He was an ideal first sergeant, was an intrepid and gallant lieutenant, a good drillmaster, a judicious manager, and never neglected to look after the interests of Company A and the others with whom it was his privilege to serve. He was on every march, and in every fight that his regiment took part in during his term of service.
"Many first sergeants, it may be said were not as fortunate as Mason for with him, when everything else failed, an appeal to the Hibernian tent was invariably successful. No matter whether they were tired or hungry, these men were always ready to help Sergeant Mason out of a difficulty. All he had to say was, 'Boys, I must have two men for special duty. I know it isn't your turn. but, then, what am I going to do?' At that announcement all would spring to their feet and say; 'Sure, Mr. Mason, we will do am^thing in the world for you.'
These conditions and doings, as may be judged, brought about a feeling of mutual regard and respect between Mason and his Hibernian friends. A treaty of reciprocity was established between them, and Mason kept his end of the treaty as sacredly as the others did theirs. He did many acts of kindness for them, saved some of them from getting into trouble, and when it did happen that one of them did get into trouble. Mason would be the first one at headquarters to make a special plea in his behalf. It often appeared to the writer that Mason, like the Geraldines of old, was more Irish than the Hibernians themselves, and that the Hibernians were more Yankee than Phil Mason himself.
"Many of the officers and sergeants joked Mason about the happy and handy relations existing between him and his Irish friends; but at that early stage of their lives they evidently had not studied environment and its effect upon human conduct.
"The friendship thus formed between Phil and his comrades, it may be added, was continued into the private life of both succeeding their war service, and both parties never tired of telling of instances illustrative of their mutual service and good will. So much did these influences attend Phil Mason for years after his army service that one day be became father of a beautiful boy, and, behold, the child was born on St. Patrick's day. Served him right. So much for environment association." Of Lieutenant Mason's three children, two of them are alive at this writing, and are most usefuland respected members of the community: Miss Abbie Daniels Mason and Mr. Arthur French Mason.