Samuel Mason: The Cave-In-Rock Pirate Who Prowled the Region’s Waterways. Was Bayou Mason Named For Him?

Many historians believe that Samuel Mason spent time on the eastern edge of present day Richland Parish, during the early 1800’s. Hence the likely namesake of what became known as Bayou Mason. Today this bayou is known by some as Bayou Mason, while others refer to it as Bayou Macon. Here’s a great read and NPR interview about Mason and his band of pirates known as the Cave-In-The-Rock outlaws

Kate Lochte speaks with Dr. Wagner on Sounds Good to learn more about the fearsome figure who prowled the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Highway 91 goes north from Marion, Kentucky to the Ohio River, where there’s a small ferry crossing to Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. That limestone cave, now a
— Read on www.wkms.org/post/samuel-mason-cave-rock-pirate-who-prowled-regions-waterways

Lochte, K., & Markgraf, M. (2015, June 18). Samuel Mason: The Cave-In-Rock Pirate Who Prowled the Region’s Waterways. Retrieved January 24, 2019, from http://www.wkms.org/post/samuel-mason-cave-rock-pirate-who-prowled-regions-waterways#stream/0
Cave-In-Rock, view on the Ohio (circa 1832), from Karl Bodmer’s book “Maximilian, Prince of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832–1834”
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Samuel Mason theory in terms of the naming of Bayou Mason is discussed in “Between the Rivers“, by Florence Stewart McKoin, who was a long time resident of West Carroll Parish and an accomplished historian. Quoting from her book is the following.

“…an interesting story has been told of how Bayou Macon was first known as Mason’s River.” In the late 1790’s, a river pirate named Samuel Mason lead a gang of ruffians on raids up and down the Mississippi River and the surrounding plantations. This gang had been driven out of Kentucky and came to this area where they joined with the Captain Bunch gang then located about the present site of Lake Providence terrorizing the country side.

“As they traveled, they gradually worked their way down Macon Ridge which soon became known as “Mason’s Ridge” because Mason controlled it.”

Florence Stewart McKoin

A favorite and very profitable activity practiced by this gang was to capture eight or ten slaves and hold them for ransom. These thefts took place on the large plantations on both sides of the Mississippi River. The gang with their captives, crossed the River by ferry, traveled approximately two days on foot, and another by boat, and ended up with the kidnapped slaves at their head quarters near Winnsboro. From the safety of this location the ransoms were negotiated.”

“One of the stories told is that while holding several prisoners for ransom, one of his men struck a young boy of fourteen or so. He was reprimanded by Mason, who explained that in order to collect the ransom the captives must be returned in good condition. The next day the same man was seen abusing another slave. Mason shot him dead, saying, “I never tell the same man the same thing.” The gang had committed so many crimes that a reward of $2,000 was offered for Mason’s capture, dead or alive. (In those days that was a lot of money.)”

“In 1803 he was killed by two of his crew. As he sat by the camp fire one night, they then beheaded him. In Natchez, the two men presented the head of their leader and tried to collect the ransom. While waiting for the ransom to be paid, they were identified as being part of the gang, tried, and executed. The gang broke up after this and many of them settled in the area becoming good citizens, who are no doubt among us today! So much for “Mason’s River” known later as Bayou Macon.”

McKoin, F. S. (1971). BETWEEN THE RIVERS: A West Carroll Chronicle. Baton Rouge, LA: Claitor’s Publishing Division.Pages 20-22

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