Monday, September 22, 2014

Episode 232 (9-22-14): "Samuel Mason" by Andrew and Noah vanNorstrand Recalls a Notorious, Virginia-born River Pirate

Click to listen to episode (3:10)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 22, 2014.

This week, we feature a song about a frontier Virginian who became an infamous river pirate.  Have a listen for about a minute.


You’ve been listening to “Samuel Mason,” by the Andrew and Noah vanNorstrand, from their 2010 album, “All the Good Summers,” on Great Bear Records.  Born in Norfolk in 1739, Mason was a Revolutionary War soldier and a farmer on the western Virginia frontier.  But he was known for criminal activities, and in the 1790s he became one of the most notorious pirates targeting riverside dwellers and boat traffic, particularly in the area around Hurricane Island and Cave-in-Rock on the Ohio River in Illinois.  Mason’s killing in 1803—by fellow pirates seeking reward money—helped lead to the end of well-organized piracy on the Ohio and other waterways on the early-U.S. frontier.  By that by-gone era was, unfortunately, only a part of the long-tragic history of piracy that continues in the 21st Century on several of the world’s seas.  Thanks to Andrew and Noah for permission to use this week’s music, and we end with about 10 more seconds of “Samuel Mason.”


For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 9/21/14]


“Samuel Mason” and “All the Good Summers” are copyright by Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand and Great Bear Records, used with permission.  More information about Andrew and Noah and their bands is available online at

Sources for this episode

On Samuel Mason:

“Going to See the Varmint: Piracy in Myth and Reality on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, 1785-1830,” by Mark J. Wagner and Mary R. McCorvie, in X Marks the Spot: The Archeology of Piracy, Russell K. Skowronek and Charles R. Ewen, eds., University of Florida Press, 2006.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Cave-in-Rock State Park Web site,

“Mississippi Legends: Samuel "Wolfman" Mason Takes on the Natchez Trace,” Legends of America Web site,

“Samuel Mason at Cave-in-Rock, by Mitchell Cannell, in Illinois History, February 2001, online at

On modern-day piracy:

“Piracy and robbery against ships,” International Maritime Organization, online at