MANY MICHIGAN TERRITORY residents were outraged when, on this date in 1831, President Andrew Jackson appointed a teenager to be their secretary and acting governor. “We could hardly credit the evidence of our senses,” pronounced an editorial in the Detroit News.
The “Boy Governor,” as Stevens T. Mason was called, won the people over. In 1832, he helped raise forces to successfully fight the Black Hawk War and raced around Detroit and the countryside restoring order and confidence during a cholera outbreak. “With his likeable personality, he made the transition easily from child prodigy to popular governor,” wrote Burton W. Folsom Jr. in Empire Builders: How Michigan Entrepreneurs Helped Make America Great (1998).
Mason helped Michigan win statehood in 1837 and “never lost his popularity with the people,” wrote Michigan historian Lawton T. Heman. “They loved his generous nature and believed in his honesty and integrity.”
Mason was just thirty-one when we died of scarlet fever in 1843. Jack Lessenberry of Dome Magazine wrote that Mason “flashed across history like a comet, accomplishing more at a younger age than anyone could have dreamed possible and then burning out even faster.”