Mason County's namesake known to hoist a jar or two

From the Dec. 9, 1859, Pioneer & Democrat:

This week, Governor R.D. Gholson announced that, “The public arms are in excellent condition. They are as follows: 194 rifles; 84 rifle-muskets; 37 small arms (damaged); 660 muskets; 4 carbines; 4 howitzers; 15 sabres. In addition to these, 1,088 have been distributed to the counties.”

He also recounted that since the last annual governor’s message, “It is my painful duty to announce that he who last addressed you upon a similar occasion ‘has gone to that bourne from whence no traveler returns.’ The Hon. Charles H. Mason is no more! Wise beyond his age, in his death the Territory has lost one of its ablest statesmen and devoted defenders. Devoted to the land of his adoption, liberal, just, educated and refined, he has fallen in the bloom of his youth – in the prime of his manhood.”

Mason, former secretary of state and acting governor, died at age 29, and was much esteemed. As recounted in an earlier column, though many historians say he was a teetotaler, in an examination of Mason’s probate papers, dated July 1859, a bill was presented by Mr. Hefron, owner of the Capital Saloon, listing Mason as owing him for 5 gallons of whiskey, 10 drinks at the bar, two bottles of Porter, one bottle of Ale, two boxes of cigars (and nine cigars bought individually), to say nothing about a quantity of oysters and crackers. One might wonder if this may not give a clue as to the cause of his untimely death.

In 1864, Suwamish County, named for a tribe living there, was renamed Mason County as a tribute to him. He was buried in Bush Prairie Cemetery, off Littlerock Road.

“Obituary. – In Steilacoom, on 3d inst., of typhoid fever, Jas. L. Westbrook, aged 30 years. His remains were brought to Olympia for interment on Sunday (Forest Cemetery). The funeral was attended by a large concourse of citizens.”

James Westbrook was an Olympian who had been a saloonkeeper here.

He had moved to Steilacoom, where he had lived only a little more than a year, and become very well liked. The Puget Sound Herald published in Steilacoom on Dec. 9, 1859, stated, “Never have we chronicled a death with such deep-felt sorrow as we experienced in announcing last week, that of James L. Westbrook. Not long was the town in ignorance of the loss it had sustained, the gloom was observed to grow deeper and deeper, until it seemed as though every person in Steilacoom had lost a brother and a friend.”

“The Scalp of Col. Ebey Recovered. – We were shown yesterday the scalp of Col. Ebey, who was murdered on Whidbey’s Island by a party of Kake Indians, in Aug., 1857. The scalp is entire, with all the hair and ears. The skin is free from fleshy matter, appears white, but slightly discolored with smoke.”

Ebey, a former Olympian, purported to be the coiner of the name “Olympia” from its former name of Smithter or Smithfield, had moved to Whidbey Island as one of its first settlers.

The Indians, who had come from their home about 750 miles north of Victoria, B.C., were intent on murder to revenge the killing of one of their own by a white man. Ebey was buried headless, as the natives had taken his head with them. They believed that a person couldn’t go to heaven if mutilated or if a part of the body was removed.

Compiled by South Sound historian Roger Easton, who can be reached at