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Planned monument to depict general site of Fort Mason

This early map of the Missouri Territory, supplied by Bill Dexheimer, shows the location of Saverton, Missouri, and to the south, Fort Mason.


To the south of the Saverton Dam, in Ralls County, Missouri, lies the former site of Fort Mason, a military post established during the War of 1812.

Bill Dexheimer, who has lived nearby in a subdivision known as Fort Mason Estates for some 40 years, has made it his retirement years’ mission to gather all available information about the fort, and to establish its location for posterity.

His mission is on the cusp of becoming a reality.

A monument is in the planning stages, to be located on a small parcel of land in Riverview Acres, below Lock and Dam 22, donated for this purpose by Joe and Vicki Bird.

A committee of like-minded individuals, including, but not limited to, Dexheimer, David Mobley, John Nemes, Ron Leake, Junior Muehring and John Lake, are meeting regularly in order to create a design for the monument, and to raise the estimated $50,000 necessary for the establishment of a permanent marker for the site.

The project will be done in three phases.

First, site preparation, will likely commence this spring. There are trees to be cut, and grading work to be completed.

Phase 2 will consist of pouring a footing, foundation and slab for the monument.

Phase 3 will be the monument itself, including bronze plates which will offer information about the site.

Right now, Dexheimer and the others are focused on fundraising. They are contacting Ralls County businesses for support, and are looking at possible grant opportunities.

As the property is on the edge of the flood zone, they are looking at materials that can withstand the wrath of nature.

“We’ve looked into concrete and granite and an iron fence, materials that won’t deteriorate for a long time,” he said.

Fund raising has begun. “I started passing out fliers a week ago,” he said, and he is making presentations to various service clubs. 

“This is a passion for me,” Dexheimer said. “I’m a veteran, I love Missouri history, especially when it is at my back door. People know about the war on the coast, but they don’t really know what transpired up the Mississippi River.”

During his research, he has compiled a paper of 120-130 pages on the topic of Fort Mason.

“The paper is a compliation of facts and recorded events, put all in one place for the benefit for anyone who wants to read it,” he said.

The fort

According to territorial papers, Fort Mason was built by rangers of Capt. Nathan Boone’s company, and a detachment of the First Regiment of Infantry, from Fort Belle Fontaine, Dexheimer said. “They were directly supervised by Missouri Territorial Governor, Benjamin Howard, who actually rode up here himself on a horse to pick the site.”

The fort “continued to be garrisoned by First Regiment troops until May of 1813, when they moved closer to St. Louis,” Dexheimer said. “Rangers under Capt. Boone, rode on horseback in this territory, only staying at the fort occasionally.” They kept on the move, all the way to the Missouri River, trying to protect the frontier.”

Dexheimer believes it was named Fort Mason, after Benjamin Howard’s wife, Mary Mason. “I’m sure it was named after his wife’s family.

“During the time the fort was here, it primarily was a stopping off place for supplies going up to Fort Madison.”

“In a letter Gov. Howard wrote to the secretary of war, he said that the fort was to aid in the protection of the frontier of the Missouri territory in general,” Dexheimer said.

A primary source that Dexheimer used to locate the site for the monument was an interview with William Ewing, grandson of one of the rangers, which was published in the Shelby County Herald in 1906.

“He told that the fort was located at the corner of his yard,” Dexheimer said. “I have an ariel photo from 1939. Based on that information, we will set the monument in the general location of Fort Mason.”

Dexheimer doubts that any tangible remnants of the fort will be uncovered in the future.

"There have been several events that have altered the landscape since the existence the fort,” he said, “the first being the construction of the railroad in the 1870s, then flooding over 200 years, and finally the building of Riverview Acres subdivision” in the 1960s.

He does have an artifact, however. “My nephew found a 6-pound cannon ball just below my house. We’re confident it belongs to the fort.”

That cannon ball will be incorporated into the monument’s design.

“The project is being funded with tax-deductible donations from those interested in preserving our past for future generations,” Dexheimer said, “and those who are thankful for the sacrifice and service of the soldiers who endured hardships beyond our modern-day understanding to defend our then young nation.”

Donations may be made to: County of Ralls, P.O. Box 400, New London, Mo. 63459 Memo: Fort Mason Monument Project

Dexheimer can be reached at


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