Woodbridge plantation was once located on the Occoquan River, opposite the old town of Colchester, Virginia. It consisted of lands patented by George Mason III, the father of George Mason of Gunston Hall. No evidence of this plantation survives today, yet remnants of what once might have been a building for a ferry remain.1  According to George Mason of Gunston Hall's will, the ferry had been in the Mason's possession for generations.2

In 1792 George Mason of Gunston Hall willed this land, along with the ferry, to his youngest son, Thomas. The ferry was well-used in its day by travelers who wanted to cross the Occoquan River. Occasionally a traveler left an account of their voyage accross the ferry. In 1796, the architect, Benjamin H. Latrobe, met the ferryman on his way to Colchester and gave a detailed description of him.3  Slave description Shortly after Latrobes account, the ferry's owner, Thomas Mason, replaced it with a tollbridge. Unfortunately for Thomas, the tollbridge proved to be a costly affair and it lasted only until 1807, when a storm washed it away.4

Thomas inherited Woodbridge and the ferry upon his father's death in 1792. Like his brother, John, Thomas was educated to be a merchant. Yet unlike John, he was unhappy with his chosen profession. On 5 July 1792 George Mason wrote to John:

    He wrote me a letter, some time ago, expressing his desire of being established in some business upon his own account; at the same time expressing much disgust at the business and profession of a merchant; which after the time he has spent in the pursuit, and which too was his own choice shewed a fickleness of disposition, and want of steadiness, that may prove highly injurious to him.5

Despite this early "fickleness" Thomas Mason achieved a measure of success in his political and family life. In 1793 he married Sarah Barnes Hooe, the daughter of another prominent Virginia family. Together, they had four children; two sons, Gerard Alexander and Thomas; and two daughters, Leannah and Elizabeth. He also retained the considerable wealth bequeathed by his father. He even had a short stint in the Virginia House of Delegates as a representative for Prince William County. 6

Unfortunately, Thomas's political and agricultural careers were cut short when he died in 1800 at the early age of thirty. The exact cause of Thomas's death is unknown. According to his obituary, he died of a short, but severe illness at Lexington, the home of his late brother, George Mason V.7  No will has ever been found thus little is known about what happened to his property. According to an 1815 auction notice in the Alexandria Gazette, the house was left in the care of his wife. It is unclear exactly what was sold in this auction. The ferry house remained within the family because Gerard Mason, Thomas's oldest child, was living there in 1849 when he was found slain there by his own slave.8

1. Steven B. Shwartzmen, Fortunate Son: Thomas Mason of Woodbridge, (Prince William; Prince William County Historical Commission, 1997), 31.
2.Will of George Mason IV.
3. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, The Virginia Journals of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1795-1798. Edited by Edward C. Carter II et al. 2 vols. (New Haven, 1977).
4. Shwartzmen, Fortunate Son, 99-102.
5. Robert A. Rutland, The Papers of George Mason 1725-1792 vol. 3 (Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina Press, 1970), 1269.
6. Alexandria Gazette, April 24, 1800.
7. Richmond Examiner, September 30, 1800.
8. Alexandria Gazette, June 28, 1815.

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Gunston Hall Plantation
Mason Neck, Virginia 22079
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