St. Inigoes - Bob Mason and family, our workman
This image, digitized from a glass plate negative, is of great historical significance. It was found in the Woodstock College Archives, part of Georgetown’s Woodstock Theological Library https://www.library.georgetown.edu/woodstock, inside an undated envelope labeled "St. Inigoes - Photo of Bob Mason and family, our workman." The Masons were the last people enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits at St. Inigoes in St. Mary's County -- they were emancipated in [November] 1864 when Maryland abolished slavery. Based on the type of negative and the period of clothing, we believe the photograph was taken sometime between 1890 and 1910, which was after emancipation.
We attribute the photograph to Fr. John Brosnan, S.J., a Jesuit priest who took hundreds of photographs around the Jesuits' Maryland Province from the 1890s through the 1940s. This attribution was made by analyzing the handwriting on the envelope and the fact that the glass plate negative is the same medium as other photographs known to be taken by Fr. Brosnan. Glass plate negatives were most commonly used between 1880 and 1920.
We assume that the man standing in the photograph is Robert Mason. Bob (or Robert) Mason was one of the last people held in slavery by the Maryland Jesuits. His name appears in an 1867 Maryland census of people emancipated by the state in 1864. In that document, he is listed as a seven year-old boy, presumably born in 1860. He is listed alongside his mother, Louise Mason (age 45) and five brothers and sisters (Daniel 17, Ann 15, Charity 13, Thomas 11, and Josephine 9). They were owned by Rev. John B. Meurer, S.J. as agent for the Corporation of Roman Catholic Church Clergyman, the trust that held the Maryland Jesuits’ property.
The woman seated on the right remains unidentified, but may be Mary Mason, Robert's wife.
The boy standing next to Robert Mason has not been identified.
It is likely that the older woman seated on the left is Robert Mason’s mother, Louisa Mahoney Mason. She was born ca. 1812 and died in 1909, and she was one of the 272 people slated to be sold in 1838. Louisa Mahoney, however, was not sent to Louisiana with most of the rest of the group. She and her mother hid in the woods while the other slaves at St. Inigoes were taken away. Fr. Joseph Carbery, S.J., who was the manager at St. Inigoes at the time of the sale, protected them when they returned, and evidence suggests Henry Johnson then sold Louisa Mahoney back to the Jesuits. Louisa Mahoney Mason remained at St. Inigoes after 1838. Fr. Joseph Zwinge, S.J., an early 20th-century chronicler of Jesuit slaveholding in Maryland, relied on her memory of the conditions of slave life. When she died in 1909 (she would have been in her late 90s), her obituary was published in the St. Mary’s Beacon. The obituary praised her piety and fidelity to the Jesuits, and recommended that “some of the young and active take immediate steps towards erecting a monument to good Louisa Mason to perpetuate her virtues and show an appreciation of them.”
The discovery of this photograph is part of ongoing archival research arising from the Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation initiative http://slavery.georgetown.edu/ at Georgetown University, in collaboration with the Maryland Jesuits and in consultation with descendants of the Maryland Jesuit slave community. For more information and additional documentation, visit the Georgetown Slavery Archive https://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/.
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St. Inigoes - Old St. Inigoes Mansion from Painting (Before Fire of 1875) Brosnan, Rev. John, S.J. (No Date)View of painting with house on point in river with windmill and boats