By Dave Shonyo
Within easy view of the Gunston Hall mansion there stands a point of land high above the coastal plain. In George Mason’s time, when the slope was not covered with trees, the point would have offered a splendid view of the Potomac and the majority of the plantation’s agricultural lands. It was here that Mason established his family burying ground.
The first occupants of the burying ground were James and Richard Mason, the prematurely-born twin sons of George and Ann. The boys were born and died in December 1772. In March 1773 their mother, Ann, followed them to the burying ground. In the early 1890’s, Kate Mason Rowland visited Gunston Hall for the purpose of gathering material for several magazine articles and a two-volume biography of Mason. In the latter she wrote, “ ‘New Town’…has passed away utterly; the very name of it is unknown in the neighborhood today. And recent owners of the land have ruthlessly ploughed up the old graveyard, one of the old tombstones having been left leaning against a tree in one of the fields.”
Only one burial is known to be documented, and that is the infant William. Mason referred to this as a family burying place, which strongly suggests that other Masons and Mason kin preceded William here. There is some, rather tenuous, evidence that Mason’s father was buried here after his drowning death in 1735. And, if that is the case, is seems reasonable to surmise that Mason’s mother would have been brought here after her death at Chopawamsic in 1762.
Jeremiah Bronaugh leased Newtown from 1731 until his death in 1749. His tombstone currently resides at Pohick Church, but Jeremiah does not. It is likely that this is the tombstone that Rowland saw leaning against the tree during her visit. This would make Bronaugh another candidate for a Newtown burying ground occupant. Bronaugh’s wife, Simpha Rosa Ann Field Mason Bronaugh was a maternal aunt of George Mason and was living at Gunston Hall at the time of her death in 1761. It is quite probable that she was buried with her husband at Newtown.
Finally, Thompson Mason, the brother of George, requested in his will that his sons remove the body of his first wife, Mary, from Gunston Hall and reinter her at his home at Raspberry Plain. Mary died in October 1771, before the present family burying ground was established at Gunston Hall. So, Mary King Barns Mason was probably buried at Newtown. Whether her body was relocated to Raspberry Plain as requested is not known.
That leaves at least nine graves with unknown occupants. The number may grow yet larger because it is planned to survey an additional area adjacent to that already completed. In any case, the last resting places of a group of people who pioneered the settlement and development of this area have now been recovered from oblivion.