This opportunity came when Mason's body was exhumed during reconstruction of Detroit's Capitol Park, site of Michigan's first state house. Mason was originally buried in New York City, where he died in 1843. In 1905 his remains were moved to Detroit amid much ceremony. Since then, they have stayed in the park but have been moved two more times, in 1955 to make room for a bus station and in 2010 during a major revamping of the park aimed at revitalizing the area.
When Faber heard of the latest move, he asked permission from the funeral home to view the body, explaining that "I wasn't some kind of ghoul, but a serious scholar." They agreed to let him look into the casket. "Seeing his remains was very meaningful," says Faber, adding, "What was left was pretty much a skeleton."
Faber became interested in Mason while working on his 2008 book, The Toledo War: The First Michigan-Ohio Rivalry, in which Mason played a prominent part. "I wanted to go more in-depth on this young man. He was such a visionary. And there had not been a good biography of him in some time," says Faber.
Mason was just nineteen when president Andrew Jackson appointed him acting secretary of the Michigan Territory in 1831. Although severely criticized by Jackson's political opponents, the appointment was not as inappropriate as it sounds. Mason had already been helping the previous territorial secretary--his father, a friend of Jackson's--as well as then-territorial governor Lewis Cass.