Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 

John Giles Matthews
(1824 - 1903)
Historical Marker, Liberty Hill, Texas


by: John Christeson
8/16/2005
SH 29, 2 miles west of Liberty Hill, in Liberty Hill Cemetery

 A Ranger for the Republic of Texas
and
Mexican War and Civil War Veteran

also view John Giles Matthews Pioneer Home

 
  Marker Text
(March 3, 1874-November 4, 1903) Tennessee native John Giles Matthews came to Texas with his parents in 1839 and settled in the new town of Austin. A Ranger for the Republic of Texas, Matthews served in the Mexican War and the Civil War before moving to Williamson County in 1870. Here he was a farmer and was active in church, school and civic activities. The father of 9 children, he was first married to Sarah (Strong) (d. 1852). In 1855 he wed Leanorah (Carothers) (d. 1892).


 
   

JOHN GILES MATTHEWS  (1824 - 1903)
Historical narrative by Myreta Matthews,

John Giles Matthews, son of Abner B. and Asenath Henderson Matthews was born March 3, 1824 in Maury County, Tennessee and died November 4, 1903 at his home in Liberty Hill, Williamson County, Texas. [1]

 He came with his parents to Texas in 1839 along with some of the other nine children in the family. "After Abner Matthews had sold his land and disposed of his personal property, except his slaves, he was ready to start to Texas. He chose the water route, and secured passage for his family and his slaves on the same boat that carried his household goods." [2]                                         

After the trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and on the Gulf to Galveston, thence by schooner to Matagorda, and next by wagon to Fayette and Travis counties, Abner Matthews was present at the first sale of lots in Austin. In September of that year he rented land near the city, and then purchased a place within the limits of the condemned land of Austin. [3]

 When the capitol was known to be permanently established in Austin people moved into the community very rapidly, but these homes were un­protected from marauding Indian bands. In order to be prepared to protect their homes the people of the infant city organized what was known as a home guard. All the boys of a certain age or over were enlisted in the guard. Each one furnished his own equipment which consisted of a horse, saddle and gun, and any other necessary arms and equipment. As soon as he reached the age John Matthews became one of the members of the guard. He served from the age of sixteen for ten years, mostly as a scout. [4]

 In 1842, he was among the Texas Rangers who went to Kenny Fort near Round Rock to bring back the Texas State Official Papers that were being moved from Austin to Houston in what is known in history as the "Archives War." [5]

 John Matthews was with another group of Rangers who went to a place in North West Williamson County to bury Dr. Thomas Kenny, Henry Castleberry and John Courtney, who had been ambushed and killed by Tawakoni Indians. [6]

 According to family history John Matthews participated in many skirmishes with the Indians in Travis and surrounding counties. One skirmish or battle as it was called took place on Brushy Creek not far from Taylor. A shining polished water gourd, a trophy of that incident is still in the hands of his descendants. It was abandoned by some Indian in his flight. John used it for a powder horn.

 His military service also includes enrollment in the Republic of Texas Rangers from Travis County. This Ranger Company under Captain D.C. Cady became a part of the United States Army and was sent into Mexico in the War with Mexico, 1846 - 1848. It took part in the Battle of Buena Vista. [7]

 During the Civil War, John Matthews was appointed as Captain of a squad of men in Travis County to patrol an area in east Travis County. The appointment was made by the Commissioners Court. [8]

 In 1863, the military age for service in the Confederacy was raised and he was appointed Second Lieutenant Junior Grade for the Texas Cavalry. He was sent to Brownsville to patrol the border. His military career ended with the close of the war and he and his companions were mustered out while on the border and had to make their way home on foot. [9]

 Aside from his military duties, John Matthews had an interesting home life and was active in civic affairs. In 1850, he and a friend by the name of Wade Henry, went back to Tennessee and married their childhood sweethearts. They made the trip overland and besides their brides, brought a number of fine horses and mares to Texas. John's bride was Sarah J. Strong. In June of 1852 a son, James Strong Matthews was born. On October 4, 1952, the young mother died and is buried in the old part of Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. [10]

 In October of 1855, he married Nancy Leanorah Carothers, who had come to Texas with her family from South Carolina in 1854. John and Leanorah had five sons and three daughters. They lived in Travis County near Austin until 1870 when they moved to Williamson County near the village of Liberty Hill on what is now US highway 183.

 John Matthews was a farmer and stock raiser. However farms in the Travis County area were small and for that reason the young men looked to some other source for their money. A great deal of land in the frontier counties was government controlled and had not been surveyed and even some counties themselves had not established their lines. No doubt, John was in many of these surveying parties, since it is recorded that his father Abner Matthews inherited his father's (James Matthews, Sr.) tools and surveying instruments. He was familiar with many leagues and other land lines. As evidence of this he was called on many times in his old age to show different parties where certain old established corners were located. [11]

 Another occupation that attracted many young men was freighting. Traffic was carried by means of wagons and teams. Freighters were constantly making trips from Austin to the head of navigation where boats unloaded their cargo. From there the imports were transported by ox team to Austin. After disposing of their export commodities, such as corn, wheat, hides and other items, the freighters loaded their wagons with goods for the merchants. These consisted of many house­hold articles. Sometimes wagoneers hauled their produce as far east as Houston and Galveston. Several weeks were required to make the trip and return. Bad weather, muddy roads and sometimes Indians were to be con­tended with. For that reason a number of wagons went in one train. An ox team consisted of from one yoke to eight or ten yokes. It is reasonable to presume that John Matthews had at least two teams for we are told

that he usually drove one team and his slave negro, Plum, drove another. At night the oxen were turned loose to rest and graze and after the drivers had eaten supper they lay down to rest. If it was bad weather both occupied the same wagon bed. Race differences were for­gotten in time of necessity or danger. [12]

 After the close of the Civil War in 1865, John made his way home to his wife and five children, four sons and a daughter. He found that his family had suffered many hardships, also. The children had been sick, his cattle had been stolen or died, his fine Tennessee mares had been confiscated or were gone and many repairs had to be made to his house and fences. [13]

 Old documents show that John G. Matthews was awarded a land [14] grant of 340 acres in Williamson County on the headwaters of the North San Gabriel River. It was dated 1845 and was signed by the President of the Republic of Texas, Anson Jones. Since it is known that he did not live on this land, it is presumed that he sold it or traded it for other acreage in the county.

 A very old deed, dated 1861, verifies the purchase of land in several tracts out of the J.B. Robinson Survey. [15] A county tax receipt for 1870 shows he owned almost 800 acres in Williamson County in the Robinson and Greenleaf Fisk Surveys. Both tracts are a few miles southeast of Liberty Hill, Texas. [16]

 In 1870, having made a new start in the farming business, John Matthews moved his family, which now consisted of his wife, Leanorah, one daughter Addie and five sons; James, Abner, Samuel, Sidney and the newest one, Neely. They came to his land in Williamson  County and occupied a two room log house near the south San Gabriel River about three and one half miles southeast of Liberty Hill. There was plenty of wood with a good spring of water close by. The house is said to have been used as headquarters for a surveying crew in earlier days. It had two fireplaces but with very few openings as a precaution against the Indians, no doubt.

 In June of 1872, the family moved into a new house of hand-hewn, native limestone. The youngest son, Frank was born on June 12, 1872 and he liked to say that they had to hurry up the house building so he could be born there. It seems the inside was not completely finished and that plank floors replaced dirt floors after the family moved in. The youngest child, a daughter named Leanorah was born August 18, 1875.

 In the fall of 1870, a school was opened in the log house in the pasture. The neighborhood was being settled more rapidly as people were moving into the new territory because of available land that was cheaper than farther east. John Matthews was a trustee for this school and continued to be after a new building was erected in an adjoining pasture. His children continued to attend this school as long as they lived on the farm.  [17]

 Liberty Normal and Business College opened on January 1, 1885 18 in the village of Liberty Hill. Anticipating the opening of this new school John Matthews had purchased a house and eleven acres of land on Main Street in 1884. Main Street was then the Austin-Burnet road and was a stagecoach route. Most of the children in the family had grown up, married and settled into homes of their own but there were still four to be educated including a beloved orphan girl who had lived with them for many years. This house was home until all of the children had married and the parents had died.

 A Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1884, 19 in Liberty Hill, with John G. Matthews acting as one of the three Ruling Elders. The other two were L.G. Ford and Wm. G. Griffiths.

 It was, also, in 1884 that he became a member of the Liberty Hill20 Masonic Lodge No.432 A.F. and A.M. His wife, Leanorah was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star Chapter No. 12.

Old  bookIets  by-laws show that both were members of the Farmers Grange and the Auxiliary. 

An old badge indicates that John was a member of the Mexican War Veterans Association and attended some of their conventions. 

John and Leanorah Matthews were active, outgoing and able citizens of the community. 

Nancy Leanorah Matthews died at the age of 54, April 1, 1892 and is buried in the Liberty Hill Cemetery. John Matthews lived on in the home with his youngest daughter, often visiting is married children. He drove his horse and buggy as far as thirty miles to see his sons who lived in Hutto and Briggs. He died of pneumonia having caught a cold, on one of these trips, from which he could not recover. He was seventy nine years of age when death came on November 4, 1903. He is buried beside his wife in the Liberty Hill Cemetery.

 The following description of the funeral and eulogy was found among the unpublished manuscripts of Joseph Neely Matthews, fifth son of John G. Matthews.

 "John G. Matthews died at his home late in the afternoon of November 4, 1903 at the age of 79 years, 8 months and 1 day. The next day, Brother John Munro came with his family hack and conveyed the body to the cemetery where the Masons took charge. James Elliott, °Uncle Jim', a well informed Mason, acted as master of ceremonies. After the solemn rites were over and the grand honors given, 'Uncle Jim' made the following remarks:

 Before we leave I feel like I should say something of his life and character. It was my privilege to serve through two wars with him. In the Mexican War we were mere youths but in the Civil War we were mature men. We shared the same palate on the wet ground many a bad night. We cooked our meals on the same camp fire often in the rain. He gave many years of his early life to the protection of innocent women and children and in chasing down criminals and the enemy. In creed and in fact he stood guard at the very doors of his neighbors and at the door of civilization as well. I saw him tried as I have seen few men tried, he was never known to betray a friend or shun an obligation. If he was ever wounded, it was in front; for he always faced the enemy.

 To men like him we owe much of our splendid civilization, with its fine churches and magnificent schools. He played his part in the drama of life in a living theater, where all characters were living men. Now we come to the last ast in the drama of a noble life. The last curtain has dropped and we can do no more than drop a sympathetic tear and commit his body to the ground and his spirit to God who gave it.            Amen." [ 21]

   

John_Giles_Matthews_endnotes.pdf

 


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