Hon. John W. Mason, distinguished attorney in the early years of the town of Grafton, was born in Monongalia county January 13, 1842, and at the age of 20 years enlisted for service in the Federal army and served for four years. He was honorably discharged from the service at Wheeling at the close of the hostilities and entered the office of Attorney J. Marshall Hagans at Morgantown to study law.
In 1967, he completed his studies and was admitted to the bar of Monongalia county and immediately came to Grafton and opened an office for the practice of his profession and came into prominence both politically and socially. In 1873, he had an old brick mansion erected on the site now occupied by Grafton High school which was the showplace of Grafton for many years.
He was chosen chairman of the Republican County committee in 1876 and arranged all of the details of the colorful campaign of the 70s and 80s. In 1876, at the great Centennial celebration held on the old Taylor County Fair Grounds, he was chosen to relate the history of Taylor county from the time the first white man came from the east in search of a place of abode to escape the intolerable conditions imposed on them by the British rulers of the American Colonies, his struggle for existence in a unbroken wilderness and the formation of Taylor county and the main events for a century past.
In 1882 he was nominated for congress to represent the old Second West Virginia district and so great was his popularity, he was defeated by the very narrow margin of ten votes by the Democratic opponent, Hon. William L. Wilson of Jefferson county who later gained fame as the author of the Wilson bill and as a postmaster general under President Cleveland. Doubtless the early training of the Hon. John Barton Payne and Colonel John T. McGraw and other young attorneys in his Grafton office had much to do with the success and fame that came to them in later life in the profession they chose for their career.
Through his efforts, Hon. James G. Blaine, candidate for president, and general John A. Logan, candidate for vice-president, were brought to address the citizens in that exciting and colorful campaign of 1884. He was chosen commander of the local Grand Army post and in 1903 began the movement to have the body of Thornsbury Bailey Brown exhumed from the old Baileytown cemetery between Astor and Flemington and placed where it rightfully belonged in the United States National Cemetary in West Grafton. He made the dedication speech when the local post erescted the modest shaft that marks the resting place of this first man who gave his all for the preservation of the Union of States in the great Civil war.
In 1886, he arranged with the Hon. Green B. Raum, collector of Internal Revenue of the United States, to make the Memorial address at the National cemetery and arranged with president of West Virginia university to have the cadet corps take part in the Memorial Day exercises that year, the only occasion that body was ever used in this event.
In 1888, he was nominated for the office of the Judge of the Supreme court of West Virginia but was unable to overcome the strong Democratic vote in the state and defeated for this office by a reduced Democratic majority.
In 1889, he was commissioned collector of internal revenue for the United States by President Benjamin Harrison and with his family took up his residence in the city of Washington and resided there until 1894.
At the close of his term as collector he removed to Fairmont to take up the practice of law. In 1905 was elected president of the State Bar association. In 1916 elected Judge of the Supreme Court of west Virginia. During the controversary with Virginia over the question of West Virginia’s share of the debt due Virginia after the separation brought about by the Civil war, Virginia filed a bill in equity in the Supreme Court of the United States in 1911 and Judge mason was appointed one of the commissioners by Governor H.D. Hatfield to aid tax commissioner Fred O. Blue to arranged the settlement with Virginia. He died at his home in Fairmont April 24, 1917.
The members of the Taylor County Bar association at the convening of the spring term of court held a meeting in the courtroom with Judge Neil J. Fortney, with Attorney W.R.D. Dent president of the local bar association, John L. Heckmer, J. Granville St. Clair, Harry Freidman, J. Guy Allender, Hugh Warder, Jed W. Robinson, Abraham W. Burdett, J. Sidney Burdett, W.P. Samples, Sidney H. Sommerville, Samuel M. Musgrove, H.W. Dent, J. Frank Wilson and, O.E. Wyckoff were appointed a committee to draft resolutions of respect and have the same published in the Grafton and Fairmont newspapers.
Thomas J. McAvay purchased the old Michael Boland property on the south side of Latrobe street and contracted with the Grafton Planing Mill for the erection of a two-story brick business building on the site. The old frame house that stood on the lot was one of the first buildings that faced this old street and was erected in 1854 by Michael Boland for a family home. Practically all the other buildings that were erected in the squares between the present Brinkman alley to the ford of the Tygart Valley river all faced the tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and were built up to the property line of the railroad and when the yard was widened for storage tracks, the railroad cut back the ground to the property line leaving no room for a street paralleling the railroad. In 1894, Mr. McAvay set a force of men at work at the early spring clearing the ground in preparation for the new building and at its completion opened a retail and wholesale liquor house the first business of this kind in Grafton.
Andrew, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bailey of West Grafton, telegraph operator at Petroleum, riding the rear of a caboose on a Grafton bound freight train accidentally lost his balance while the train was passing over a high trestle at Petroleum and was instantly killed in the fall from the caboose. He was one of the lads who participated in the march of “Young America” on July 4, 1876, held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of American Independence.
January 5, 1894, J.C. Stewart presented an amusing comedy in the Opera House entitled “The Two John’s,” that dealt with the amusing situations of the mix up between two cousins, Phillip and Peter Johns, whose resemblance to each other was so remarkable confusion often occurred during the three acts of the play. The musical number especially of Charles Hartley, Fred Barr and Clerise Sisters and the Spanish dance of Miss Frances Gray were most enjoyable and appreciated by the audience.
The town council purchased the land adjoining Bluemont cemetery from the heirs of the late Arthur Sinsel for additional burial ground at the price of $1,700. This land, part of the holdings of the John W. Blue estate on which the body of Nancy, sister of John W. Blue, was interred 52 years before its purchase by the town council was the only grave on this land and possible the only resting place of a body buried some ten years prior to the settlement of Grafton.
Grafton Lodge No. 31, Independent Order of Odd Fellows appointed a committee composed of Louis Adelson, Samuel J. Heflin, Clark Madera and John L/ Magill to negotiate with the town council for the purchase of a part of the old Dr. Matthew Campbell lot on which to erect a business and office building and fraternal quarters, M.F. Giesey, Wheeling architect, was engaged to prepare plans and specifications for the proposed building.