Old Family Fire 1

Manly W. Mumford

Delivered to The Chicago Literary Club January 27, 1997
Copyright Manly W. Mumford, 1997

My mother's mother's mother's father, Roswell Mason, was born in New Hartford, New York, September 19, 1805, the fifth of thirteen children of Arnold Mason and Mercy Coman Mason.(1) Arnold was a successful farmer and a captain of the New York Volunteers in the War of 1812. He was also a contractor and contracted to carry stone to some of the locks being constructed near Albany for the Erie Canal in 1821. There the 15-year-old Roswell helped his father by driving a team hauling stone all of that summer. He met Edward Gay, assistant engineer in charge of that part of the canal from Albany to the Mohawk River, and in 1822 was given a job as rodman in Gay's engineering party. The relationship was congenial, and several years later one of Roswell's sons was named Edward Gay Mason. He continued working as an engineer on various canal projects, often with Mr. Gay, and in 1825 was working on the Morris Canal near Parsippany, New York.

Roswell and other engineers often spent the night while travelling from Morris to the work on the canal with a contractor named Royal Hopkins. One of Hopkins's daughters, Harriet Lavinia, noticed him and thought to herself, "You are a very nice young man, but I shouldn't like to marry you."(2) She married Roswell on September 6, 1831. Later, rather than admiring the young engineer's efficient use of time and motion, she was heard to express concern that Roswell had not had to go out of his way one step to woo her because she lived on the very road that he used to travel to and from work. Yet she took consolation from the thought that, although he obtained her hand with too little trouble, she had given him trouble enough since then.(3) Toward the end of her long life this same woman was heard to declare, when her accounts refused to balance, "No one can tell me that mathematics is an exact science."(4)

They moved to Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, where Roswell was working on, and in time, supervising, the Pennsylvania Canal between Jersey City and Phillipsburg; Harriet wrote the following in a letter to her parents: "We had a wretchedly fatiguing ride, the road equaled only by Canada roads for its roughness. There are very few settlers along the valley, not a church for more than forty miles. We rode most of the night. After daylight the driver sounded his horn as usual to announce the coming of the stage and wolves howled in answer from the hill at the foot of which was the stage house."(5)

At one time during his work on the canals, Roswell wore a broad-brimmed hat which caused one villager to mistakenly tell her son, "There comes the new minister." The son replied, "That's no Methodist minister; that's Mr. Mason; he pays men big wages for good work; he's a thousand times better than any Methodist minister."(6)

Roswell started his railroad career on the survey crew for the Housatonic Railroad from Bridgeport to New Milford, Connecticut, and became chief engineer of that railroad in 1837. He stayed with that company until 1846 when he was appointed chief engineer of the New York and New Haven Railroad; when it was completed he was appointed superintendent. According to family legend he had a difference of opinion with the board of directors by insisting that the new railroad should condemn a wide enough strip of land for two sets of tracks, one for trains in each direction, rather than the less costly alternative of a single set with occasional sidings where a train could wait until the main line was clear of oncoming traffic.

The Illinois Central Railroad had originally been planned to run from Galena to Cairo via Freeport, Dixon, LaSalle, Bloomington, Clinton, Vandalia, Richview and Jonesboro -- more or less down the middle of the State. However, a land grant from Congress was required to make the project financially feasible, and this was not politically feasible because various Eastern interests saw no benefit to their states. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who lived in Chicago and had invested heavily in real estate there, managed to have the bill revised to include a branch to this City, and thereupon the Eastern interests were more interested as they believed that such a connection would send more traffic along the railroads being built toward Chicago from the East. The 245 mile branch to Chicago from Centralia (but 106 miles from Cairo) was nearly as long as the 277 mile main line between Galena and Centralia. It would pass through no settlements, but near Urbana and Bourbonnais.

The land grant was made on September 20, 1850, to the State of Illinois to assist in the construction of the railroad, and consisted of alternate, even numbered sections for six miles on both sides of the road, with the provision that the road must be completed within ten years. To compensate for the loss of the land, Congress ordered that the odd numbered sections be sold for $2.50 per acre instead of the $1.25 otherwise applicable.(7) The railroad agreed to haul government troops and property, including the mail, at reduced rates and to pay seven per cent of its gross receipts into the State treasury.(8)

In 1851, before any track was laid, Roswell Mason was appointed Engineer-in-Chief of the Illinois Central, which was the largest railroad yet built. At that time the only railroads in Illinois were the Chicago and Galena, extending 40 miles to Elgin, and another from Jacksonville to the Illinois River. By 1860 the State was criss-crossed with them. See the map at
http://www.outfitters.com/illinoi s/history/ilrails.html.

Long John Wentworth, (later the Mayor) was the publisher of the Chicago Daily Democrat and ran an article in that journal welcoming Roswell to the City and speaking of him in glowing terms. Apparently to make him seem even more important, Wentworth referred to him as "Colonel" Mason, although he had never seen any military service. The honorific title stuck as it might to a Kentuckian, and throughout the rest of his life he was known as Colonel Mason. In addition, Roswell decided that he should have a middle initial, and adopted the letter B for the purpose; he never had a middle name.

At first he stayed in a hotel during the winter of 1851-2 and then, with his family, moved into a house on Michigan Avenue between Lake and South Water Streets for a few years and later moved out onto the prairie along Michigan Avenue south of 12th Street.

Determining exactly where the railroad would be built took personal observation of the territory. Colonel Mason wrote about this experience some thirty years later, describing a round trip of 23 days:

"Leaving Chicago Nov. 10, 1852, we went by packet-boat on the Illinois & Michigan Canal to La Salle, thence by steamer on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to Cairo, arriving at St. Louis on the 14th and Cairo on the 17th of November, a very comfortable journey. But our plan was to return by private conveyance near the line of the road to Chicago. Leaving Cairo on the 18th, we reached Vandalia on the 23rd, and Decatur the 25th, with our team nearly exhausted, and unable to go any further. The roads were so bad it was thought nearly impossible to get through and it was determined to go to Springfield and then by railroad, which had just been completed to Alton, and then by the Illinois River and Illinois & Michigan Canal to Chicago. We found it difficult to get a team to take us to Springfield; but an offer of $15.00 [remember that $15 was enough to buy 5 or 10 acres of some of the world's best farm land] induced a liveryman to agree to take us through to Springfield, about 40 miles, in a day. Leaving Decatur Friday morning, Nov. 26, we toiled through mud, water and ice to a small town within twelve miles of Springfield, arriving there about dark, with our team tired out and entirely unable to go any further. The train left Springfield Saturday morning at eight o'clock; and an offer of $15.00 more induced a man who had a good team to agree to take us there in time for the train, or else forfeit the $15.00, we agreeing to go at once or let him fix the time of starting; he named two o'clock in the morning as the time to start. So getting a little rest We were under way at two o'clock. It was then very cold and ice of considerable thickness formed on the water, cutting the horses' legs quite badly to go through it. And in some cases the driver would go through on foot and break the ice before driving through it. We arrived at Springfield about twenty minutes before the train left. He earned his $15.00 and we had a comfortable journey from there to St. Louis where we stayed over Sunday and took a steamer Monday morning for La Salle, thence by packet-boat to Chicago, where we arrived December 4, 1852."(9)

To attract men to work on part of the railroad, an advertisement was posted in New York reading as follows:

On the 12th Division of the
Wages, $1.25 per Day
Fare, from New-York only $4.75
By Railroad and Steamboat to the work in the State of Illinois
Constant employment for two years or more given. Good board can
be obtained at two dollars per week.
This is a rare chance for persons to go West, being sure of
permanent employment in a healthy climate where land can be
bought cheap, and for fertility is not surpassed in any part of
the Union.
Men with families preferred.
For further information in regard to it, call at the Central
Railroad Office
Corner of Courtlandt St.
R.B. Mason, Chief Engineer
H. Phelps, Agent(10)

As many as 10,000 men were working on the project at one time. Som e we re recruited in New York and others directly from Ireland.(11)

Notices of the availability of land were published in both English and German.(12)

Another part of Colonel Mason's letter about the building of the railroad reads:

"During 1852 the entire line was put under contract and was completed on the 27th of September, 1856, but owing to the few settlements it was very difficult to get men and teams and supplies to them. Agents were sent to New York and New Orleans to get men, and in some cases their fare was paid, with the promise of refunding it out of their work. But these promises were frequently entirely disregarded. Some men would not even go on to the work a few miles only from the steamboat landing; others would come on perhaps at evening and get their supper, lodging and breakfast and start off the next morning for other quarters; but notwithstanding these drawbacks many men were procured in this way."(13)

Not mentioned in this letter was the problem of keeping the workmen sober. Family legend tells that Colonel Mason, though not a prohibitionist, found it necessary to prohibit the sale of liquor within a mile of the right of way in order to have crews capable of working.

While the poster that drew men from New York was accurate about the cheap land (one acre for two days' pay at the price Congress had fixed; Illinois Central land went for up to twelve dollars per acre (14) or almost ten days pay), its advertisement of a healthy climate neglected to mention cholera. "Men at work one day were in their graves the next. Many panic-stricken workmen fled from the camps at the first signs of the epidemic."(15)

According to family legend, another railroad was building a line from east to west that would cross the tracks of the Illinois Central. Its builder, a Mr. Mattoon, offered to bet Colonel Mason that his men would get there first. Colonel Mason declined to wager money, but proposed that the winner have the privilege of naming the station to be located at the crossing, which would be important sometime though empty prairie just then. The working crews made a race out of it, and the Illinois Central won. Colonel Mason then named the station after Mr. Mattoon.

Subsequently the Village of Mason, Illinois, (on the Illinois Central's branch to Chicago, of course) a few miles south of Effingham, was named after Colonel Mason; but, with a 1990 population of 1,411, it is of considerably less note than the City of Mattoon with its 18,441.

One obstacle that did not deter Colonel Mason was the refusal of the Michigan and Southern Railroad to permit the Illinois Central to cross its tracks at Grand Crossing (now 75th Street and South Chicago Avenue). One night "a crew of husky Illinois Central trackmen descended upon and overpowered the Michigan and Southern Watchman. The rays of the morning sun showed a new grade crossing completed and ready for use." Each railroad ignored the other's use of the crossing until a collision in 1853 that left 18 dead and 40 hurt.(16)

In 1859 Colonel Mason helped to create a corporation called "South Branch Dock Company," and was its first president. This company developed the lumber district by making slips and docks for the unloading of lumber from the ships that brought it from the forests of Wisconsin, Michigan and even Canada. There were twelve miles of such slips and docks, mostly in the area along a mile of river frontage west of Halsted and south of 22nd Street. "There more than a dozen short canals, each over a quarter mile long, fingered north from the river. Along these canals were hundreds of standard lots measuring 244 by 100 feet. Each one had 100 feet of canal frontage, and at the back of each was a railroad siding connecting the lot via the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy with every railroad line in the City. Once a wholesale dealer had purchased a shipload of lumber at the cargo market, the entire vessel floated down the river to a dock at one of these yards. A crew of lumber shovers' then unloaded and stacked the lumber on the owner's lot. There the boards sat until some retail dealer purchased them for shipment to another city, whereupon they had only to be moved no more than a couple of hundred feet to the railroad car that carried them to their final destination"(17)

Family legend tells that Colonel Mason built the first bridge across the Mississippi at Dubuque, but that legend was not clear whether he built the first bridge across that river, and built it at Dubuque, or that of the bridges at Dubuque his was the first. My quandary was settled when I learned that the Rock Island Line built a bridge that first carried a railroad across the river from Rock Island to Davenport on April 22, 1856.

In 1865 Colonel Mason was appointed by the State legislature as a member of a commission of four engineers to work with the Mayor of Chicago to deal with the City's sewage which then drained into Lake Michigan and made many people sick. Following the commission's recommendation, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was deepened, pumping works were established at Bridgeport and the summit of the canal was lowered so that the Chicago River was turned around to drain into the Illinois River. So now you and I can drink the water as well as swim in Lake Michigan without fear of cholera.

During the spring and summer of 1869 Colonel Mason invited a number of other civil engineers to his office to discuss the founding of an engineers' club. There resulted an organization initially called the "Civil Engineers Club of Chicago" and then the "Civil Engineers Club of the Northwest" until 1880 when it became the Society of Western Engineers. Colonel Mason was the first president. In 1938 that organization commissioned one C.A. Mottier to write his biography, a copy of which has furnished much of the information in this paper.

Nominally a Republican and also a temperance man, Colonel Mason was elected Mayor of Chicago on November 2, 1869 on the People's Ticket in a public revulsion against corruption in public office. "It was a time of easy morals and easy money. Roswell B. Mason, the Illinois Central Builder, was in the mayor's chair. The Tribune and the Evening Journal called him an honest man presiding over a den of thieves. Gambling thrived and brothels operated freely. Barrel houses and concert saloons were spread through the town. Councilmen were accused of making fortunes from paving, bridge and tunnel contracts. Taxes shot up 400 per cent in ten years."(18)

The reform that happened in Mayor Mason's term was more architectural than political.

"Besides the fact that the Great Chicago Fire started around 9 o'clock on Sunday evening, October 8, [1871] somewhere in or very near the O'Leary barn, the exact particulars of its origins are unknown. But, given the dry summer and the careless way the city had been built and managed, a kick from a cow would have been sufficient but by no means necessary to burn Chicago down."(19) As recently as January 7, 1997, The Chicago Tribune carried a front page story of an amateur historian who cast serious doubt on the cow legend by pointing out that, due to an intervening building, one Peg Leg Sullivan, the principal witness to the earliest part of the fire, could not have seen the beginning of the fire from his front porch where he said he'd seen it.

"Chicago averaged about two fires a day the previous year, including twenty in the preceding week. The largest of these occurred just on Saturday night. Firemen still might have been able to contain the Sunday blaze but for a series of technological and human failures in the alarm system. The fire, driven by a strong wind out of the southwest, headed straight for the center of the city. It divided unpredictably into separate parts by hurling out flaming brands on the superheated draft it generated, leaping the South Branch of the Chicago River around midnight. . . . By 1:30 it reached the Courthouse tower, from which the watchman barely escaped through the burning stairway by sliding down the banisters. When city officials realized that the building was itself doomed, they released the prisoners from the basement just before the great bell plummeted through the collapsing tower."(20)

Mayor Mason was called out at midnight by a man on horseback in a tone of distress, "Mayor, come give orders to save the city."

As the fire threatened the courthouse which was also the city hall, Mayor Mason gave the order to release the jail's prisoners. According to family legend, when he saw a large black man who was being held on a murder charge trying to escape custody, he ordered his son, "Seize him!" The son, who was not large, did his best, but when he grasped the fleeing man the latter knocked him down with one blow of his fist and ran off.

Mayor Mason stayed in his office in the courthouse as it began to burn, sending telegrams to Milwaukee and Detroit begging for fire engines; to many other cities he sent a telegram reading, "Before morning one hundred thousand people will be without food or shelter. Can you help us?" He left when the bell in the tower came crashing through.

To return to his home on Michigan Avenue south of Twelfth Street he had to cross the river northward on the Wells Street Bridge and then southward on the Rush Street Bridge. On the way, he directed the destruction of buildings on Wabash Avenue and Harrison Street to prevent the fire from going farther south and east, arriving home about 4:30 A.M. According again to family legend, Mayor Mason was so disheveled and begrimed with soot, and looked so haggard, that his wife Harriet did not recognize him and refused, for several minutes, to let him enter his own home.

From the many materials pertaining to the fire on the Chicago Historical Society's Internet page I quote the following: "Chicago just before the fire was much like the catastrophe that befell it. The city struck many as a titanic natural force in itself, unpredictable, unstoppable, all-consuming, and impossible to ignore."(21)

Yet the fire itself may be considered the least significant of three major phenomena; the other two are the extent of the charitable help received from many parts of the country and of the world, and the will with which the citizens rebuilt -- but they didn't re-build, they built a new and better city.

Among Mayor Mason's proclamations issued on Monday were the following:

WHEREAS, In the Providence of God, to whose will we humbly submit, a terrible calamity has befallen our city, which demands of us our best efforts for the preservation of order and relief of suffering, be it known that the faith and credit of the City of Chicago is hereby pledged for the necessary expenses for the relief of the suffering.
Public order will be preserved. The police and special police now being appointed will be responsible for the maintenance of the peace and protection of property.
All officers and men of the Fire Department and Health Department will act as special policemen without further notice.
The Mayor and Comptroller will give vouchers for all supplies furnished by the different relief committees.
The headquarters of the City Government will be at the Congregational Church, corner of West Washington and Ann Streets.

All persons are warned against any act tending to endanger property. Persons caught in any depredation will be immediately arrested.
With the help of God, order and peace and private property will be preserved.
The City Government and the committee of citizens pledge themselves to the community to protect them, and prepare the way for a restoration of public and private welfare.
It is believed the fire has spent its force, and all will soon be well.

R.B. MASON, Mayor
GEO. TAYLOR, Comptroller
CHAS. C.P. HOLDEN, President Common Council.
T.B. BROWN, President Board of Police

[October 9, 1871, 3 P.M.]

* * *

In consequence of the great calamity that has befallen our city, and for the preservation of good order, it is ordered by the Mayor and Common Council of Chicago, that no liquor be sold in any Saloon until further orders. The Board of Police are charged with the execution of this order.

R.B.Mason, Mayor. Chicago, Oct. 9. 1871.

Other executive orders established the price of bread, banned smoking, and forbade wagon drivers from charging more than their normal rates.

Two days later came the following controversial proclamation:

The preservation of the good order and peace of the city is hereby entrusted to Lieut. General P.H. Sheridan, U. S. Army.

The Police will act in conjunction with the Lieut. General in the preservation of the peace and quiet of the city, and the superintendent of Police will consult with him to that end.

The intent hereof being to preserve the peace of the city, without interfering with the functions of the City Government.

Given under my hand this 11th day of October, 1871.

R.B. Mason, Mayor

Illinois Governor Palmer later maintained that this action amounted to a violation of the sovereign rights of the State, and persuaded the Illinois House of Representatives to adopt a bill so declaring; the bill failed in the Senate.(25) Family legend tells that Mayor Mason had first asked the Governor for National Guard troops without success due to political antipathy. Then he requested troops from his friend Phil Sheridan, who happened to be commanding general of the nearest U.S. Army base. Governor Palmer's recollections differ. The need to protect the citizens against lawbreakers was clear.

Three family letters written immediately after the Fire have been preserved. Sarah Caroline Mason Miller, (the Mayor's daughter and my great grandmother) wrote the following to her sister, Mrs. James Trowbridge, wife of the Presbyterian minister in Riverside, Illinois, on Tuesday, October 10:

Dear Ally-- .... About an hour after you left a barn was set on fire on the corner of Michigan Ave. and Peck Court, and intense excitement prevailed through all our neighborhood. We sent all our pails, tubs, coalscuttles, everything that would hold water. So did everyone living near, and water was passed up from the lake to the burning building by a line of men hastily formed -- another line passing down the empty vessels -- and the fire was soon put out. Poor Father looked utterly discouraged and gave orders to have the carriage to take us all to Riverside.

He immediately issued a proclamation that all alleys should be guarded by day as well as by night. The night guarding had been done before. Oh, this blessed rain. How thankful we are for it, and it still continues. God has opened the wonders of heaven. How continually He is giving us new causes of thankfulness and joy
. ....

The next day her husband wrote the following letter to his mother, Mrs. Abner Miller of Westmoreland, New York:

Chicago Wednesday Oct. 11, 1871

My Dear Mother

I thank God that our dwelling has been spared - & that my dear wife and children are safe. We have passed through a dreadful calamity. But we have just cause to rejoice that we are as well off as we are. Do not be alarmed about us. My stores books and office are all gone, but these, or all that is needful of them, with health I can in time replace. I write on my back & therefore with a pencil because I am unwell, but I hope I shall be out tomorrow. Sadie with the children are at her sisters, Mrs. Trowbridge, in Riverside, about 12 miles out. We thought it safer for them to leave yesterday until the city is more quiet. Already people are commencing the work of rebuilding or at least making contracts for that purpose. I hope you are well and that I shall still be able to keep you comfortable.

Your affectionate son, Henry G. Miller

When donations from elsewhere started to come in to help the victims of the fire, a group of members of the City Council tried, in the Chicago tradition, to gain control of the distribution of the money and goods. Mayor Mason suspected that this group hoped to enrich themselves and with a group of businessmen, took action to prevent it, issuing the following proclamation on October 13:

I have deemed it best for the interests of the City of Chicago to turn over to the Chicago Relief and Aid Society all contributions for the suffering people of this city. This society is an incorporated and old established organization having possessed for many years the entire confidence of our community, and is familiar with the work to be done. The regular force of this society is inadequate to this immense work, but they will rapidly enlarge and extend the same by adding prominent citizens to the respective committees, and I call upon all citizens to aid this organization in every way possible.

I also confer upon them a continuance of the same power heretofore exercised by the Citizens Committee, namely, the power to impress teams and labor, and procure quarters, so far as may be necessary for the transportation and distribution of contributions and care of the sick and disabled. General Sheridan desires the arrangement, and has promised to cooperate with the association. It will be seen from the plan of the work as it is detailed below, that every precaution has been taken in regard to the distribution of contributions.

The next week Sarah Caroline Mason Miller wrote the following to her mother-in-law, Mrs. Abner Miller:

Chicago, Oct. 21st, 1871

Dear Mother

Don't be too anxious about us. We are cheerful and happy. We shall have less to live on than we had before, but we can live on less. We are so thankful, oh! so very thankful, for our home spared from the fire. And we are all well, which is a great mercy. Your son's credit is good, and he will borrow money and go about rebuilding immediately. Of course we shall be in debt for some years, but our new buildings will rent well, and we shall gradually work our way out of debt as we did before. We believe, dear Mother, that 'all things work together for good to those who love God,' and that these losses are among the 'all things' that are for our good. I hope we shall be better Christians, and if we are made purer, more like our blessed Saviour by our trials, then surely they are 'blessings in disguise'

* * *

Ally and Carrie are still in Riverside. Nellie and little Harry are at home. Carrie was not frightened, and not half as much excited as you would have supposed. Most providentially she slept all night, the worst night of the fire, and when she waked and found us packing up our things in such haste, she enjoyed the fun of it and brought all sorts of things to put in the trunks. We had on our hats and shawls for three or four hours, all ready to run when word should come that it was necessary, and each one had all that we could carry in our hands. Carrie had a big wax doll of Ally's and kept saying "I must save Ally's doll, whatever is lost," but I still don't think she realized the danger. When they told us that the fire was sweeping off in another direction, and our house was safe for the present, Carrie was disappointed not to go, and said "Now we've got our trunks all packed I think we'd better go travelling somewhere."

However after that, there were buildings fired near us, and on Tuesday afternoon I took the children and seven trunks containing our silver, jewelry and clothing to Riverside, Mr. Miller and Aunt Maria De Forest staying in the house.

Father's family move in here tomorrow.....

Have I told you that my brother Ned went to England a few weeks ago, on business. As soon as he heard of the great Chicago fire he telegraphed that he would come home immediately. We expect him this week. Poor fellow. He will hear such sad news when he comes. His office with everything in it is burnt. Then he will feel dreadfully, as we all do, to have Father's house, our dear old home, rented to strangers. But worst of all, his wife was prematurely confined last Thursday, and the baby which they have expected so lovingly, lived only four hours. Julia has been very sick, but is better now, and we hope she will recover, but she will be weak a long time. What changes in a few short days.

In the North Presbyterian Church, the church of which we were members so many years, of one hundred and twenty-six families who had homes of their own, only seven have homes left.. The rest are all burnt out. I could fill pages writing about the fire but I have not time.

* * *

Henry, and his partners, are all at work in their new office (our parlor). I am glad enough we can spare it for them. We enlarged our house just in time. The sign, "Miller, Frost & Lewis", hangs by the side of our front door. Don't you hope they will get plenty of business. I think they will. I can recommend them as good lawyers.

We hear every day from friends who were burned out. Many who were rich have been clothed by charity. Large amounts of clothing and provisions have been sent here from many different places, but there are so many thousands of destitute people that it is all needed. It is feared there will be great suffering during the winter, but every precaution is being taken against it. The money that has been sent us, except what is absolutely required to relieve present distress is to be kept for the use of sufferers during the winter. God has blessed us in opening so many hearts and hands to relieve us in our great distress.

Mayor Mason's term expired two months after the fire, and a group of citizens asked him to run for another term. He declined. Family legend tells that he threw up his hands in horror over the prospect of serving again. He was succeeded by Joseph Medill, owner and publisher of The Chicago Tribune, who, not surprisingly, ran on a "fireproof ticket."(27)

One old letter to Mayor Mason tells of the reaction of Sally Hewit, who was taking care of his wife Harriet during an illness. Wrathfully Sally came downstairs to stop the excessive noise that some of the eight Mason children were making just as he entered the house, "'At last I shall see Mr. Mason cross,' she said to herself, 'He ought to be cross with those brats.' But all you did was smile and say, 'Well children, I don't believe I'd make so much noise when Mother's sick.' 'And the worst of it was that that angel of a man stopped the noise that way and when I told him I had never been so disappointed with him in my life and it was wicked in him not to have been cross, there really wasn't anything to scold him about!'"(28)

According to another family legend, well after the Fire, The Chicago Tribune started a rudimentary society page. On one occasion it ran an innocuous story of a ladies tea given by Mrs. Mason and her daughters. Mayor Mason saw this at breakfast, and, interrupting his meal, tucked the newspaper under his arm, took his hat and walking stick from the front hall closet, and walked briskly over to the Tribune offices. There he demanded to see Mr. Medill at once, and was immediately ushered into the latter's office. Mayor Mason showed the article to Mr. Medill, saying, "I hope, sir, that I shall never again have to ask you to refrain from publishing information about my family." Mr. Medill replied, "Of course, sir. It was an inexperienced reporter who wrote this, and I promise that my newspaper will never again mention your family."

Of Roswell and Harriet's eight children, four of the five sons and Henry G. Miller, the husband of their daughter Sarah Caroline (and my great grandfather) became members of The Chicago Literary Club. They delivered an aggregate of 25 papers. Edward Gay Mason was President of the Club during the 1878-79 season.(29)

Mayor Mason continued active in civic affairs, including serving on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, as a ruling elder of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, and as president and a member of the board of McCormick Theological Seminary. He died January 1, 1892 at the age of 86.
================================================================ =========
(1) Much of the material herein was adapted from the Biography of Roswell B. Mason by C.H. Mottier, 1938, published by the Society of Western Engineers of which Roswell Mason was a founder and first president.
(2) Mason Trowbridge, Family Annals, 1958, privately published. p.71.
(3) Trowbridge, p.72.
(4) Trowbridge, p.82.
(5) Mottier, p.74.
(6) Trowbridge, p.72.
(7) Robert P. Howard, Illinois, A History of the Prairie State, William R. Eardmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1972, p. 244.
(8) Howard, p. 244.
(9) Mottier, p. 18 et seq.
(10) Herman Kogan and Lloyd Wendt, Chicago, a Pictorial History, Bonanza Books, New York, 1948, p. 101.
(11) Mottier, p. 28
(12) Howard, p. 245.
(13) Mottier, p. 22.
(14) Howard, p. 250.
(15) Mottier, p. 28.
(16) "Why Such Problems? Because the Iron Horse Got Here First" by John Carpenter, Chicago Sun-Times, Sunday, November 19, 1995 p. 16, quoting the railroad's official history.
(17) William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1991, p.175.
(18) Kogan and Wendt, p.101.
(19) "The Great Conflagration" essay, The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory, Copyright 1996 by the Chicago Historical Society and the Trustees of Northwestern University, last revised 10-8-96, available on the Internet at http://www.chicagohs.org/fire.
(20) "The Great Conflagration."
(21) "A Bird's Eye View of Pre-Fire Chicago" essay, The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory at http://www.chicagohs.org/fire.
(22) "Official Actions" The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory, http://www.chicagohs.org/fire/rescue/
(23) "Official Actions"
(24) Kogan and Wendt, p.125.
(25) Robert Cromie, The Great Chicago Fire, Copyright 1958 by Robert Cromie, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. New York, Chapter 22, pp. 270 et seq.
(26) Mottier, p. 43.
(27) Cromie, p. 282.
(28) Trowbridge, p.83.
(29) The Chicago Literary Club, The First Hundred Years, 1874 - 1974, 1974, p. 113.