By Jeffry C. Burden
Hazel Mason Jeter of Virginia, whose father Silas Mason served in the 1st Maine Cavalry and whose status as a “Real Daughter” was a secret for years, has finally received the recognition due her.
I was proud to represent the Loyal Legion during a visit to her home to present a MOLLUS certificate and challenge coin to her. Members of the Brady Camp #63 (Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War) of Williamsburg/Petersburg, Va. also made the trip to her home in Varina, just outside of Richmond, on March 30.
We recounted her father’s service and brought greeting from both organizations.
Since our meeting, Hazel has been profiled in a special feature in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. As far as we know, she is one of only four sons or daughters of Civil War service members in Virginia, and the only such Union descendent.
Hazel turned 96 on March 26. Her story was never known outside of the family until a neighbor suggested that, in conjunction with her birthday, her status as a “Real Daughter” be publicized. The family agreed, so the neighbor contacted Bob Krick of the National Park Service, who contacted me.
Silas Mason was born in Belfast, Me. in 1842. He enlisted as a Private in Co. “D” of the 1st Maine Cavalry in February 1864, and served with the unit in the latter stages of the 1864 Overland Campaign (including within a few miles of Hazel’s current house) and also later that year around Petersburg. Badly injured at Ream’s Station in August 1864, Silas was mustered out of federal service in late 1865.
Silas moved to Giles County in southwest Virginia about 1905 and married his third wife Nellie Banes, Hazel’s mother, there a few years later. He and Nellie had five children, of which Hazel was the last.
Hazel has some memories of her father, who died in 1923 when she was six. Most vividly, she recalls him visiting her school and bringing candy to the kids — which apparently irritated the school principal!
Silas is buried in Farmville, Va., where he was living and working until his death.
Hazel’s mother died in 1962. Hazel’s daughter Mildred Watson, who joined us for the certificate presentations, says her mother and grandmother never really talked about Silas’ service.
Hazel still lives alone in her Varina home, where she was cutting grass until a few years ago. She is a charming, gracious Southern lady who, thanks to the Loyal Legion and the Sons, now has a new appreciation for her amazing Civil War — and Union Army — heritage.
Jeffry C. Burden is the commander-in-chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. He lives in Richmond, Va. Originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of the “Loyal Legion Historical Journal,” this article has been republished with permission in “Maine at War.”
For additional information about Jeter’s amazing story, log onto http://www.timesdispatch.com/entertainment-life/four-children-of-civil-war-soldiers-still-live-in-virginia/article_2af45d6c-0523-5075-8d44-c7b2b0af04f2.html
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