Historic Detroit

Stevens T. Mason Monument

Capitol Park was the birthplace of democracy in Michigan as the site of the state’s first Capitol building.

This monument honors the man who led Michigan to statehood.

In 1831, at the age of 19, Stevens Thomson Mason was appointed Secretary of the Territory of Michigan by President Andrew Jackson. He was born Oct. 27, 1811, in Loudoun County, Va., into a politically powerful family. The political prodigy successfully petitioned Congress to declare Michigan a state and was named its acting territorial governor in 1834 at the age of 22. He was elected governor at age 24 in 1835. Mason is the youngest state governor in American history, and his youth earned him the nickname of the Boy Governor.

In 1841, Mason left Michigan for New York City, where his wealthy father-in-law, Thaddeus Phelps, lived. Mason tried to establish a law practice there, but struggled to build a clientele. He caught pneumonia in the winter of 1842 and died Jan. 4, 1843. The Boy Governor was only 31 years old.

Mason was initially interred at New York Marble Cemetery, but it was later determined that his remains should be relocated to the site of Michigan’s first Capitol, as he was the state’s first governor. On June 4, 1905, his remains were brought from New York to Detroit, accompanied by his sister Emily Mason, then age 92; his daughter, Dorothy Mason Wright; three grandsons; and several grand-nephews and great-grandchildren. Services were conducted by the Rev. David M. Cooper, who had known Mason as governor 70 years earlier. Other notable attendees included then-Gov. Fred M. Warner and Detroit Mayor George P. Codd.

This monument was unveiled over his final resting place in 1908. Sculptor Albert Weinert depicted Mason standing confidently on a pedestal representing in relief two fasces, or bundles of sticks bound with a double-headed axe, the Roman symbols for the power of magistrates. A semicircular platform and balustrade once surrounded the statue, but they have since been demolished.

The statue is cast in bronze from melted-down cannons from Ft. Michilimackinac in northern Michigan.

Mason’s remains were uncovered under his monument as part of the remodeling of Capitol Park in June 29, 2010, that necessitated the moving of the statue. They were reinterred in the statue’s present location centered on the east side of Capitol Park during a ceremony at 1 p.m. October, 27, 2010 — on the 199th anniversary of Mason’s birth. U.S. Sen. Carl Levin was among the dignitaries at the ceremony.

The monument now stands between Grand River Avenue and State Street on the west side of Griswold Street, at approximately 1317 Griswold.

“We owe much of our democratic heritage to Stevens T. Mason,” former Michigan Gov. William Millikin said at the time of Mason’s reinterment. “On this site, in our first state capitol, he helped usher a growing populace into full membership in the union of states that form this great nation. That it is the final resting place for our first governor is fitting.”