24 January 2006
Born 1 Dec. 1846, William Henry (Billy) Mathews migrated with his family to Mississippi from his birthplace of Abbeville, SC, as a young boy of about five years old. He grew up in the hill country of Pontotoc MS, helping his father on the farm.
Inheriting his fathers land, William ‘Billy’ Henry took on the duties of a mercantile in addition to those of farming. With a couple of team of oxen and two wheel carts, Billy would make the trip to Memphis and pick up supplies and whisky to sell in his store located on his farm. On one such trip he was accosted by Indians, set to rob and possibly murder him. After getting them good and drunk, he simple drove off his carts, leaving the Indians to sleep off their whisky, and saving his precious cargo.
Coming from a small family, William was to have a large brood of children to pass on his legacy. He married Harriett Ann “Hattie” Roye in 1871, the daughter of a Confederate Veteran [7th MS Inf], Lemuel Roye, and grand-daughter of Henry Roye, a veteran of the War of 1812. By their 10th year of marriage they had produced four children: John Joseph, Lemuel Newton, Mary Jane and Euzella, and went on to have 11 children, 6 boys and 5 girls. One of which was born in 1884 and named Henry Thomas, my grandfather.
Billy farmed his entire life. A cousin, Delaine Matthews, stated just a few years ago, "Grandpaw Billy made a crop of cotton behind a pair of mules at age 92." Billy outlived his wife by 35 years. He is buried at Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Pontotoc County on Hwy 15S, as are so many of the Mathews'. His tombstone reads: William H. Mathews, Dec 1 1846-Apr 22 1938, "He died as he lived, trusting in God."
There were almost 10 years between each of the boys. By the time of their father's death in January 1854, none of the boys were living in SC. Joseph Alexander had left home at the age 18 and ended up in Fayette/Hardeman County, TN. Ezekiel left before 1850 and his family shows up in Arkansas, and Thomas with his second wife and two sons, migrates to Pontotoc County, MS in ca. 1852.
"Thomas first saw Jane Christopher at the time of his sister Jane's wedding (married George Ambus Christopher, Nov. 1844). He went to see her and asked her to marry him, the next time he saw her he married her," or so goes the lore of TJ's courtship of Jane. TJ and Jane married in late 1843 or early 1844.
Their first child, John Lewis was born in 1844. My great-grandfather, William Henry, was born 1 December 1846, and they had twins that were born dead around 1848. The likelyhood that Jane died while attempting to give birth to the twins is strong, for by the 1850 US census Jane has died and Thomas is listed as a widower, living with the two boys in Savannah River Regiment of Abbeville County, SC.
TJ, the last of the Mathews boys remaining in Abbeville, loaded up his two sons and new wife, Mary Jane Fortescue, and headed for Pontotoc, MS about 1852. TJ would have been 32 and Mary Jane would have been 19 years old in 1852. The boys would have been 8 and 5 years old. They travelled by wagon, pulled by oxen. (William Henry (Billy) would tell his grandchildren about trampling down brush in the gullies in order to level the ground for the wagon to cross on this journey.)
Upon moving to Pontotoc Co., Mississippi, Thomas and his family took up farming on a track of land south of the town of Pontotoc (Note: Homestead located south of Pontotoc, 1 mile south of Pleasant Grove Cem. on Hwy 15, take right on gravel road (Lon Mathews old house on the corner), 1.1 miles take left onto dirt road, old homestead about 1/2 mile up in stand of white oaks (nothing remains of home, burned in 1948).
Records indicate that in 1860 TJ is farming in Pontotoc County, MS. In addition to his family, he has his 24 year old brother-in-law, Richard Fortescue, living with him (Richard probably came to MS with TJ when he moved).
By the time the Civil War erupted, John Lewis was a teenager and enlisted in the CSA. He died in the hospital at Columbus MS of measles in 1862, having never married. Young Billy (Wm Henry) was eager to follow in his brother’s footsteps but the family was able to hang onto him for the duration. Legend has it that Billy saved the records from the Pontotoc courthouse when the Union soldiers, in one of their regular acts of pillage and destruction, torched the courthouse.
In correspondence to relatives in SC, TJ writes of farming cotton, corn, wheat and oats. He mentions that the watermelons are so plentiful "we have more than we can destroy." His patch of watermelons numbered well over 100 weighing from 16 -20 pounds each. TJ writes on 30 July 1861, "We planted about six acres of corn in new ground and some little in old land on the 4th or 5th of July, and now it is from waist high to as high as my head, and it never has been worked until now."
The mood had changed by 1864. In a letter from Mary Jane to her mother on 12 Feb., she writes, "Wheat crops are badly injured from the freeze. The big white wheat is all killed and the little red Alabama wheat is injured... haven't enough seed to sow it all over." Food was scarce and the war was at their 'backdoor'. John Lewis was dead and most of the men folk in the area were away serving the Confederacy.
Reconstruction hit Mississippi hard and they write in April 1865 that they have heard from Lucretia and that Ezekiel's boys in Arkansas met with 'misfortune' during the war, and the Yanks destroyed everthing they had. "They have turned all the men out of office at Pontotoc and appointed just such as they want," they write of the carpetbaggers. As for the crops... "Too wet to plow. Planted 3 or 4 acres of cotton. I want to make 2 bales and that will make it if nothing happens to it. We want to have 10 acres of cotton if we can get it planted. Garden... peas and beans are in bloom, beets, etc. look fine. We want to set our cabbage plants and potatoe slips today. My chickens are doing no good. "
Three families down the road from the Mathews' lives Samuel Roye (Roy) and family. His youngest daughter from his first wife, Harriett Ann Johnston, is Harriett Ann Roye. The daughter, Harriett is 5 1/2 years junior to Billy, but they hit it off and start a courtship that cuminates in marriage 1 Nov 1871, when they are 19 and 25 years old. Billy and Harriett Ann are my great-grandparents.
Joseph held the rank of Captain in the militia and was the Parsecutor at Hopewell Church. It was his duty as parsecutor to parcel out the lines of the hymns to be sung by the congregation. His trade is listed as tanner and cobbler on some census records.
Joseph and Margaret had 14 children, three boys and 11 girls. The boys were Ezekiel Waddell, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Alexander. The girls were Jane Brough, Nancy Ann, Eleanor Caroline, Jane Adeline, Mary Louisa, Rachel Calhoun, Elizabeth, Margaret Eliza, Martha Laura, Amanda Catherine (died at age 1), and the youngest Lucretia Ann.
True to the era, the children of Joseph and Margaret would marry and venture west. Of the 14 children, I can only confirm of two that remained in Abbeville, Rachel, who married James Patrick McCaslin, and Margaret Eliza, who married Samuel Clark McGaw. The descendants of Joseph and Margaret ventured west to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas.
MATHEWS: Family history has the Mathews coming to America from Ireland sometime prior to 1750. (They probably came from county Down or Antrim in Ulster Ireland between 1720-1750) John Mathews with son's John Jr. and Isaac are the first Mathews I have found. Lore has it that they came to America from Ireland and that their port-of-entry was Charleston, SC. These men settled in Old 96 Dist of the South Carolina frontier, which later became Abbeville County.
I descend from Isaac. Notes say he bought his homeplace located fourteen miles southwest of Abbeville Court House within two miles of Little River on which Calhoun Mill was situated. He had close ties to the Calhoun family, having married Anne Calhoun, the daughter of William Calhoun and Agnes Long (who had immigrated from Ireland in 1733). Neither were 'spring chickens' by the time they wed. Anne was 29 and Isaac was at least in his mid-thirties when they wed on 12 October 1784 in Calhoun Settlement, Abbeville District, SC.
Anne had been captured by the Cheroke Indians at the Long Cane massacre 1 Feb 1760 and held for a period of years (some say three years, others say as long as fourteen years). She was freed sometime after the end of the French and Indian War. Her own personal account leads one to believe it was three years.
Isaac was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, having served as a Private before and after the reduction of Charleston by British forces.
Isaac and Anne had five children: Joseph Calhoun, Lewis, Nancy Ann, Mary and John. Joseph, the oldest child, was named after Anne's older brother. Her brother Joseph served in both the House and Senate of South Carolina; he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1807, serving until 4 Mar 1811 when he declined to run again for reasons of health and was succeeded by his cousin, John C. Calhoun (who went on to be Vice-President under two US Presidents -- Adams and Jackson). My line runs through Joseph.