Byrnes’ text: #24 George Mason

Link to the REVISED entry for #24 George Mason

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Slim build. Height, 6 feet. Weight, 155 pounds. Born in Boston, Mass. Married. Black curly hair mixed with gray, dark blue eyes, sallow complexion. Wears a full black beard. Has a long scar on his left cheek, which is well covered by his beard. Has an anchor in India ink on his right forearm, and a heart on his left arm.

RECORD. Mason, or George B. Gordon (his right name), was arrested on December 4, 1879, in an attempt to rob the Warren Institution for Savings and the Charlestown, Mass., Post-office. The robbery was planned by Langdon W. Moore, alias Charley Adams. Mason, who gave the name of Gardiner when arrested, and a New York burglar named John Love, alias Wells, and took place on the above date. The police became suspicious, and began an investigation. Love, the outside man, took fright and ran away, followed by Moore, who was in the building, but somehow or other managed to get out. Mason, who was also in the building, did not hear Moore when he left, and consequently was captured by the police.

He was locked up, and while in jail made disclosures which led to the arrest of Moore in New York City. At the trial of Moore, Mason took the stand for the government and testified that this robbery was committed upon information obtained privately by Moore, who also had an eye on several other places in that city and vicinity. Mason, when arrested, gave the name of George B. Gardiner, but on the stand said his right name was Gordon. He has borne the names of Mason, Gardiner, Bennett, Graham, and about twenty others. He admitted that he was arrested in 1874 at Wellsboro, Pa., for a bank robbery there, and that he had been convicted for assault, burglary, and larceny.

Mason is now, in 1886, about forty-five years of age. He was born in the east end of Boston, and left there when young and went to New York, where shortly afterwards he was left an orphan. He began his checkered career in a small way, but soon adopted bank burglary, and in this line he has certainly figured to a considerable extent for the past twenty years. Before he was twenty years old he was convicted of robbing a bank in New York, and for this offense he served four years in Sing Sing prison.

After the expiration of his term there in 1863, he was concerned in the robbery of the First National Bank of Wilmington, Del., where himself and partners, Jim Williamson and old Jimmy Hope, got $63,000. In 1865, Gordon, Ned Lyons, Jimmy Hope, and another man, one of the most dangerous combinations of cracksmen that was ever made in this country, broke into and robbed a savings bank in Baltimore, Md., of $25,000, and succeeded in eluding arrest.

In 1869, Gordon, Johnny Hughes, another man, and Ned Lyons broke into the Oldtown National Bank at Oldtown, Maine, and blew the vault open. The noise of the explosion, however, very fortunately alarmed the people of the town, and the burglars were forced to flee for their lives, and succeeded in reaching Bangor in safety. Just before this attempt the same party made an unsuccessful attempt to blow open the vault of a bank at Framingham Centre, Mass., but as at Oldtown, the explosion alarmed the town and they had to run for their lives.

In 1869 Gordon, Hope, Lyons, Big Haggerty (now dead), and another man attempted to rob the National Bank at Rochester, N.H. They loaded the safe with a heavy charge of gunpowder and touched off the fuse. The force of the explosion was so great that the safe door was blown entirely off, and the building was so badly shaken that it partly fell down. The burglars had overdone their work, and the townspeople, hearing the report in the dead of the night, ran out to ascertain the cause; their footsteps alarmed the burglars, who again had to make themselves scarce.

They soon after tried their luck again on the Townsend National Bank of Massachusetts, but the result was a failure, and they only succeeded in giving the town a scare and the newspapers a sensation. Gordon, Lyons, Hope, and Johnny Hughes then tried their skill on the vault of the Fairhaven National Bank of Massachusetts. Hope and Hughes were arrested and convicted, but Lyons and Gordon escaped, and with Mose Vogle, alias “Jew Mose,” who has just (1886) finished serving a term of thirteen years for a bank robbery in New Jersey, and another man, made an attempt upon the vault of the Great Barrington Bank, and blew the vault down. The explosion alarmed the people; they gave chase to the burglars, who made good their escape.

They were more successful, however, a little later, when they succeeded in abstracting $200,000 from the safe of the Milford National Bank, at Milford, N.H. This was a masked burglary, and was well planned and carried out. Somewhat encouraged by the result of the Milford Bank, they next tried their hand on the Quincy National Bank of Quincy, Ill., in 1874. A room over this bank was quietly hired by them, the flooring timbers were torn up, and they worked down into the vault by cutting through the top. Then they let Gordon down by a rope, and he reported that none of the securities could be reached until the safe was blown. He loaded the safe with gunpowder, using an air-pump. He then touched the fuse with a lighted match, and gave his partners the signal to draw him up. They did so, and when he was about half-way between the floor and the ceiling the charge was prematurely ignited. Gordon was pulled out nearly suffocated, and as black as a coal; the party, however, got the safe open, and carried off about $200,000.

Gordon, with another party, was concerned in the robbery of $160,000 from the Planters’ Bank in Virginia, and it is well known that he was the prime mover in the Covington (Ky.) bank robbery. This bank had a large burglar and fire proof safe of the Hall pattern, which was loaded with four pounds of powder; the explosion which followed was heard all over the city, and the vault was nothing but a mass of debris when the people reached the bank soon after. The back of the safe was forced out, and the money and securities were untouched, as the burglars were compelled to fly, leaving their anticipated booty, which they had no time to move.

After this robbery Gordon was in prison several times. He was also concerned with old Jimmy Hope in the first but unsuccessful attempt on the Manhattan Bank in New York; and after his failure at Great Barrington, Vt., he returned there and robbed a jewelry store of goods valued at $9,000, to make expenses. He was also implicated in the Wellsboro, Pa., Bank robbery in September, 1874, when $90,000 was stolen. He was arrested on December 4, 1880, at Charlestown, Mass., as previously stated, turned State’s evidence against Langdon W. Moore (22), who was sentenced to sixteen years, and Gordon to three years, on March 30, 1880, for assault and battery. The charge of burglary not being pressed, he was discharged from prison on November 18, 1882.

According to his own testimony he has been a thief and burglar for twenty-five years. Mason was arrested again in Philadelphia, with John Williams, on March 1, 1883, charged with having burglars’ tools in their possession. They were convicted on March 15, 1883. They applied for a new trial, which was granted, and they were arraigned for trial again on October 30, 1883. By advice of counsel they pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to seven months in the penitentiary, to date from their former conviction (March 15, 1883), which made the State of Pennsylvania indebted to them fifteen days.

Mason was arrested again in Hoboken, N.J., on September 2, 1885, for breaking and entering a house in Hudson County, N.J., and was sentenced to five years in Trenton prison on September 11, 1885, under the name of George Smith. Mason’s picture is not a very good one, as it was taken under difficulties in December, 1880.