Dr. Mansil Walter Matthews
1806 - 1891
Ligon Portraiture, 1899
Brief Sketch Of The Life Of Mansil W.Matthews
DR. MANSIL MATTHEWS WAS A MAN with the ruggedness of adventure and independence in his blood, for we are told by his grandson, Jewell Matthews, in the Matthews Papers that:
His (Mansil Matthews) paternal ancestor, William G. Matthews came to North Carolina at the Restoration of Chas. II. to the English throne in about the year 1660. He (William G.) was a blood relative of Oliver Cromwell, and a loyal follower of the Lord Protector, hence the restoration of the monarchy imperiled his life and it was necessary for him to come to the colonies for refuge. Dr. Matthews' grandfather, Walter Matthews, served as line captain during the American Revolutionary War.
The family moved from North Carolina to Kentucky, where Mansil was born, Dec. 29, 1806, then on to Tennessee, where his youth was spent. For awhile he taught school in Alabama, as we have learned in the story of his conversion to the plea for New Testament Christianity, under the preaching of Lynn D'Spain. Immediately, he began to preach, and following the example set by Alexander Campbell (whether consciously following Campbell we do not know), he never accepted pay for his preaching. He had other plans. He went to Kentucky, studied medicine, and became a recognized physician. All his life he engaged in both medicine and preaching. The later story will reveal how he became, also, a practical lawyer.
Then in 1835 came the expedition from Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky into Texas, with the heroic departure of Davy Crockett ahead of the main group on his way to the Alamo and his death. All this, and the story of the "church on foot, on wheels and on horseback" and the winter of worshipping in Fort Clark has been told in a previous chapter (Ch. V).
Just after the battle of San Jacinto, as we related, the D'Spain family removed to Nacogdoches. Why did not Dr. Matthews go with them? They were seeking a place to settle the family. He was seeking, as a youth to serve his country, as will be observed from the following excerpt from the Matthews Papers (p. 14):
Dr. Matthews was made an army surgeon, and was with Houston attending his wounds when Santa Ana was brought in captive (Supplemental Sketch of Somervell County in Ewell's History of Hood County. A son of Dr. Matthews, Judge J. J. Matthews was living in this county.)
He served three months in the Texas army in 1836. He drew the sum of twenty-four dollars for this service. the sum of money was drawn from the Acting Pay-Master, Gen. Geo. W. Poe, by Sydney O. Pennington, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and to whom Dr. Matthews gave the power of attorney, on Dec. 13, 1836, at Columbia. Of course, he was later adequately paid in public lands.
He was a member of the First Congress of the Republic, from the County of Red River, which convened at Columbia, October 4, 1836, and of the adjourned session at Houston, May 1. He resigned from Congress and was elected President of the Board of Land Commissioners from Red River County in 1838, by the Third Congress, regular session. He was a member of the Seventh Congress which met at Washington November 14, 1842.
This is the extent, with the exception of ranger service during the Mexican War with Company F, Texas Rifles, of his services in official capacities to the Republic and to his State. He never aspired to public office, but he willingly served his country to the best of his ability during emergencies, and his record as a public servant during times which tried the souls of men is worthy enough to stir his brethren in the Faith to admiration. (All of the above data is authenticated by official records.)'
Doubtless it was by such practical experience as suggested above, that he became familiar with legal papers and proceedings so as to be of service to many friends through the years, as they testify that he was. This also made him a useful lawyer.
During these years, as Congressman and Land Commissioner, he resided at Clarksville, to which he returned promptly after the war of 1836. There he served as one of the principal factors in the church until his removal in 1843-44 to Rockwall County. With the removal of Dr. Matthews the little congregation at Fort Clark went out of existence; the D'Spains had gone on in 1836. Some time in the 1860's an entirely new congregation was organized; these had no record, or even tradition of the earlier one, or of Fort Clark, according to the letter of Mr. Charles Swain to Jewell Matthews in 1936. He had the word of Miss Eliza Gordon, 86 years of age at the time, that the new congregation was formed without any knowledge of the earlier congregation. It serves to illustrate the transient nature of that frontier population.
Dr. Matthews' aged parents accompanied him to Rockwall and there he buried them. Incidentally the Matthews Papers (III, 1, 2) tell of a piece of vandalism to the graves of the parents. Some persons greedy for the grave yard ground for a business house removed the gravestones, which were later found scattered in a field.
In 1848 we hear from Dr. Matthews through the Millenial Harbinger (Feb., 1849) from White Oak, Texas, November 10, 1848:
The congregation here are not as yet properly organized for the want of proper materials; yet I think the cause of truth is onward. Many who oppose us are fond of your writings and preachers often quote you without placing to your credit. I will name for your satisfaction the names of some of the most prominent proclaimers of the ancient gospel in the northeastern division of Texas, (viz.) Wm. Stirman, John McClosky, Green Weaver, E.D. Moore -- Gibson, and two brothers Wilmeth...- M. W. Matthews.
That Dr. Matthews was a citizen of "no mean" standing in the community and of no small recognition, in influence, is obvious in every reference to him in the story of the time. During the stirring and dangerous days of the Civil War he was among those numerous thoughtful and influential citizens who opposed secession, until the war became an actuality. This put him under suspicion during the period of the conflict. So we find in Smythe's Historical Sketches of Parker County (1897, pp. 65ff)
During 1864, the arrest of James M. Luck and others, including Rev. Mansfield (sic) Matthews, on serious political charges created such an intense excitement in the community that the meeting place was, for a time, again changed from the schoolhouse to the residence of Thos. U. Toler, "for greater protection."
This was in connection with the story of the Christian Church in Parker County, where, obviously, Dr. Matthews was one of the well-known preachers. More light is thrown on this episode by a popular article in the Fort Worth. Star-Telegram (Sunday, Oct. 30, 1949):
During the Civil War organized law enforcement still was superseded by community action, represented by the high vigilance committee, which ruled the land. Their mission was to find and liquidate traitors to the Confederacy.
One of the men arrested and brought before the committee at Gainesville was Dr. Mansell Matthews, a noted evangelist who was traveling by caravan and who was popular in the Fort Worth region. He was accused of treason -- the charge that invariably brought the death penalty.
Hearing of the popular preacher's arrest, E. M. Daggett - an early builder in Fort Worth who voted against secession-journeyed at once to Gainesville, telling the court Matthews' mind may be with the North but his heart is with the South. The Court reconsidered, decided Matthews should not die, but that he should remain in jail three days without knowing his life had been spared.
Daggett thought the edict was cruel, and determined to tell Matthews, whom he was allowed to visit under escort. Daggett and Matthews immediately began a long and learned discussion of the Bible, boring the guard who became inattentive. Daggett then asked Matthews for his favorite Bible quotation, and Matthews asked Daggett for his.
"Fret not thy gizzard and zizzle not thy whirlagig; thy soul art saved," Daggett told the preacher. Matthews looked at the floor and trembled, daring not to show more emotion before the guard.
Dr. Matthews was a man of superior intelligence and practical managing ability. "He had sufficient intelligence to pursue other business as well as to preach and was a good financier until the war came up and freed his negroes, his lifetime accumulation of wealth and what he considered very safe property." So says a private letter from J. G. Matthews, a nephew, to Jewell Matthews, Nov. 27, 1916, in the Matthews Papers (Typescript p. 16). The same nephew surmises that the fees from the Office of Land Commissioner, "the regular fees allowed by law for administering the oath to emigrants to Texas, and writing a certificate based upon the affidavit" was the basis of his accumulations. He also says, "The history of the family all says that Aunt Gegahan (Dr. Matthews' first wife) inherited something when she married (him)." So to the Doctor "money was no object unless after he was broke."
Inasmuch as "nobody ever heard of him refusing to go and preach" he naturally traveled far and wide in this mission. We read of his holding a meeting, along with Brother Polly, as far south as Center Point. He preached at Mantua, the early church of the McKinney group. And that raises the wonder if these two pioneer companies of Disciples became acquainted and intermingled. Our wonder is not satisfied by any multitude of their intervisitations, but it is fully resolved when we learn that a grandson of Collin McKinney, Collin Milam, married Helen Matthews, the daughter of Mansil Matthews. We give you the complications in the words of Maggie Kelly, of the McKinney line (written in 1936 to Jewell Matthews)
I was raised by my Grandma Milam who was a daughter of Collin McKinney, and her oldest son, Collin Milam, married Helen Matthews, a daughter of Bro. Mansil Matthews. I remember him quite well-tall and very straight, must have been six feet, blue eyes, hair white and whiskers always so nice looking.... Aunt Helen died and left two little children Eliza and Jeff, our mother died and left four of us, so Grandma raised us and we never knew the difference in all being brothers and sisters and we all said "Grandpa" Matthews. He came often to our home, always so pleasant. I remember his preaching at Mantua.
Later in the same letter she mentions a second intermarriage of the two families:
Uncle Joe and Aunt Laura's last daughter died four weeks ago, Eliza Matthews Currie. She lived in Cleburne and had no children. So you see that two of Grandma's children married Matthews.
Thus intimately did these two lines of Disciple pioneers intermingle in family life and church services.
During these years we presume that Dr. Matthews was living at Rockwall, but his final home was in Wise County where he passed to the life beyond at the age of 85, in 1891, in the community of Paradise, and there he was buried.
Besides being a man of practical affairs and successful, he must have been a preacher of power. A grandson, J. G. Matthews, writes from Greenville in 1916:
He was doubtless, and it was conceded to be a fact by all, the most eloquent in the state from 1837 until along in the '70's.
He tells of the effect of Dr. Matthews' preaching on a crowd on one occasion:
(We) arrived on the grounds about twelve o'clock and heard about five or ten minutes of Dr. Polly's discourse. The crowd at that time seemed like any other crowd of two thousand people, and as Dr. Polly sat down, Uncle Mansil arose and talked as the audience sang, and all at once it looked as though a pentecostal shower such as happened on the day of pentecost moved the entire audience. That great animal magnetism that he at that time possessed to warm the crowd from the center to the utmost limit of the crowd. He had a voice that was music and could be understood as far as you could hear the sound, his words perfectly clear and of deep tones such as you are not likely ever to hear.
Thus expresses his devoted grandson. Obviously either the grandson was not so partial or else the uncle not always so obviously eloquent for he continues:
In about '76 we had him here in Greenville for a few days and I heard him several times.... At this last time he had the largest audience that has ever been in Greenville and did much good. (He) was known and recognized by all who heard him as a great preacher but on this last occasion it seems that he tried to divest himself of that wonderful oratory that he possessed, as he told us that he wanted his sermons to be remembered after he was dead and gone, and to take the crowd with his pathos like a cyclone that did not leave fruit only in the recollection of the man and not his words.
Perhaps it will be well to borrow from this same member of the Matthews tribe a description of another Matthews, J. C. (Clint) Matthews, who affords a more common example of the frontier preacher.
(He) was a very sound logician but entirely different in power and eloquence from Uncle Mansil. He possessed what is called an analytical mind that went to the bottom of everything, and was a regular talking machine.... He was one of those preachers that was always poor, never received anything from the church as a salary ... but he was able to do a land-office business if he could get a good dinner and his board while he was preaching. Sometimes he would stay a whole week, preaching and baptizing, while his wife and children were at home making a crop.... But of all the men I ever heard talk, I think that Clint Matthews could preach more and teach more at the same time than any other man I ever heard.
In closing this chapter, let us express a fervent prayer of gratitude for pioneers of such high caliber and faithfulness as these two Matthews who laid well the foundations. Let us also become better acquainted with the third generation of this family, Jewell Matthews, the collector and compiler of the Matthews Papers, to which reference has been so frequently made in this and several other chapters. Jewell was the son of Judge J. C. Matthews of Somervell County, who was the son of Dr. Mansil Matthews, by his second wife. Jewell was born about the time of the death of his grandfather, Dr. Matthews, so he knew but little of him until he became more mature. He was pastor of the church at Weatherford in 1920, of McAllen 1922-28, then at Temple until his death in 1937. As he studied into the history of the Disciples he became aware of the importance in that history of his pioneer grandfather and became imbued with the desire to ferret out the story and give it to the brethren. So he wrote multitudes of letters to courts of record, patriotic societies and to his several cousins and other kin, seeking accurate information from direct sources. By 1936 he had accumulated sufficient data to publish in the Christian Courier a series of seven articles running monthly from April through October. These articles presented fresh information and awakened a wide-spread interest in the pioneer background of the Texas Cause in Texas. He continued to gather information and was diligently devoted to the enterprise, when unexpectedly, he was called to his final home in 1937, leaving his wife and four children.
Mrs. Matthews was thoughtful to gather his papers and preserve them. Carter Boren utilized them in preparing his Master's Thesis for Chicago University in 1937. Later in 1948, Mrs. Matthews, realizing the importance of these papers, historically, and appreciating the wisdom of placing them in a permanent depository, offered them to Brite College of the Bible. The daughter, Miss Charlotte, was then residing in Fort Worth; I went by and picked them up. Miss Charlotte soon after that became Mrs. H. G. Oliver of San Antonio. Her brother, George, had been, about that time a student in Brite College, and is now a minister at Burleson; two other children: Lt. Col. Jewell Matthews, Jr., and Mrs. R. E. Worden, nee Marcia Matthews.
The papers consisted of miscellaneous correspondence, clippings, typed and script excerpts and such. Through the T. C. U. Library they were arranged in order and for the sake of permanency, were microfilmed; they are now filed in the T. C. U. Library. Without doubt, much interesting and valuable information is thereby preserved that otherwise would never have been recovered. We owe much to the diligence and interest of this good minister of the Gospel, Jewell Matthews. He was a man of large frame seemingly robust and always hearty in fellowship. Thanks, too, to the wife and daughter for their part in preserving these records.
'This information is supported by affidavits which are on file in the Matthews Papers, some of which are on the micro-film records in the library at TCU.
-From Texas Disciples, by Colby D. Hall, TCU Press, Ft. Worth, Texas, c.1953 pages 63-70
Mansil Walter Matthews, Minister And Physician
Dr. Mansil W. Matthews, the other preacher who was a member of the Clarksville company, was born in Kentucky, Dec. 29, 1806. His paternal ancestor, William O. Matthews, came to North Carolina at the Restoration of Charles II to the English throne in about the year 1660. William O. Matthews was a blood-relative of Oliver Cromwell and a loyal follower of the Lord Protector, hence the restoration of the monarchy imperiled his life and it was necessary for him to come to the colonies for refuge. Dr. Matthews' grandfather, Walter Matthews, served as a captain of the line during the American Revolutionary War.
When the Doctor was a youth, his family moved to Tennessee where he was reared to manhood. He returned to Kentucky and studied medicine, then returned to Tennessee where he married Sarah Gehagan and practiced his profession. Sometime before he went to Kentucky to study medicine, he taught school in northern Alabama where he made the D'Spain family and where he came in contact with the Restoration Movement. Shortly after his obedience to the Gospel, he began to preach. He continued to preach and practice medicine as long as he lived. During his long life, he never accepted a cent of money for his preaching. When he came to Texas in 1836, he was both preacher and physician.
After making their families secure at Clarkesville, most of the men, including Dr. Matthews, hastened to join Houston's army. The recruits arrived too late for the Battle of San Jacinto, but Mr. Ewell, in his "History of Hood County," says: "Dr. Matthews was made army surgeon, and was with Houston attending his wounds, when Santa Anna was brought in a captive." (Supplemental Sketch of Somervell County). He served three months in the Texas Army in 1836. He drew the sum of twenty-four dollars for this service. This sum of money was drawn from the Acting Paymaster General, Geo. W. Poe, by Sydney O. Pennington, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and to whom Dr. Matthews gave the power of attorney, on October 13, 1836 at Columbia. Of course, he was later adequately paid in public lands. He was a member of the First Congress of the Republic from the County of Red River which convened at Columbia October 3, 1836 and of the adjourned session at Houston May 1, 1837. He resigned from Congress and was elected president of the Board of Land Commissioners for Red River County in 1838 by the Third Congress, regular session. He was a member of the Seventh Congress which met at Washington on Nov. 14, 1842. This is the extent, with the exception of ranger service and service during the Mexican War with Company F, Texas Rifles, of his services in official capacities to the Republic and to his State. He never aspired to public office, but he willingly served his county to the best of his ability during emergencies, and his record as a public servant during times which tried the souls of men is worthy enough to stir his Brethren in the Faith to admiration. (All of the above data is authenticated by official records.)
Of course, we delight in the services which our fathers rendered the Republic and Sate as civil servants, but we are particularly interested in their contribution to the cause of Christ in Texas. Dr. Matthews lived in the vicinity of Clarksville until 1843 or 1844, when he moved to lands near the present city of Rockwall. He was one of the principal factors in maintaining the Church at Clarksville while he was a resident of that section of the Republic. When he moved to the Rockwall area, he opened a Church in his house. He preached throughout the territory adjacent to his home. Brother R. C. Horn, when a youth, heard him preach at Old Mantua.
In the passing, I should like to say that Dr. Matthews buried both his father and mother at Rockwall. A building now covers the little grave yard where they were buried. A number of years ago a man desiring the burial lot for a business sites, so at night he had all the tomb stones removed and had the plot plowed up. He erected his building over the remains of some of the most worthy of Texas' early pioneers. This is one of the most repulsive acts of vandalism ever perpetrated in the State. The old tomb stone which was placed at the father's grave was recently found a long distance from the place of burial. It bears the inscription: In memory of Joseph Matthews, age 89 years. A member of the Church of our Lord 60 years. Died triumphantly in said Church in hope of the glorious immortality on the 31st. day of December, 1855 in hope of a glorious resurrection."
As a minister of the Gospel, Dr. Matthews was very effective. I shall offer in this connection two quotations from men who knew him. The first one is from the pen of a nephew, the late James g. Matthews of Greenville, Texas; the other, from Hood County's historian, Mr. Thomas T. Ewell.
Judge James Matthews writes: "Uncle Mansil was doubtless, and it was conceded to be fact of all, the most eloquent speaker in the Republic or State from 1837 to along in the 70's. It was my good fortune to hear him on two different occasions. One of these was when he and old brother Polley were conducting a meeting at Old Center Point in 1866. I was then a lad of fourteen years of age and had ridden from old Tarrant in Hopkins County, and arrived on the grounds about twelve o'clock and heard about five or ten minutes of Dr. Polley's discourse. The crowd at the time seemed to be like any other crowd of two thousand people. As Dr. Polley sad down, Uncle Mansil arose and talked as the audience sang, and all at once it seemed as though a Pentecost shower, such as happened on the Day of Pentecost, moved the entire audience. That great animal magnetism which he at that time possessed seemed to warm the crowed from the center to the utmost limits. He had a voice that was music and it could be understood as far as you can hear the sound, his words perfectly clear and of deep tone, such as you are not likely to ever hear. I have heard all of our preachers, and also many of the denominations, and I have never heard in my experience of fifty years anything like the voice of eloquence of the only uncle I ever knew. He was known and recognized by all who knew him as a great preacher."
In his History of Hood County, Mr. Ewell inserts the following interesting paragraph (page 61): "There was a sort of neighborhood postoffice kept by a preacher on Squaw Creek of Aston's, and near by was a small log meeting house where the people in an early day met for religious service, which, with an occasional sermons, consisted mainly of exercises in singing. The olnly means of transportation in those early days being the road wagon and horseback, it was, therefore, a matter of great curiosity when, one day, a dignified gentleman came driving up Squaw Creek to the little meeting house in a top buggy, the first that had ever been seen here. The occupant of this strange craft was Dr. Mansil Matthews, a man of such wonderful versatility of talents as to be able to not only preach with great force, but also to conduct himself in the practise of both medicine and law, and besides, which it is told of him that he was useful to his fellows citizens in many other respects. On the occasion of this visit to Squaw Creek, although the Doctor was of the reformed Christian Church, whose polity eschews the excitement of the mourner's bench, yet so powerful were his sermons in their influence upon these souls, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, that a rousing big meeting, fraught with loud shouts of joy and glorification after the manner of the Methodists and Baptists, was the result."
Dr. Matthews lived in many places in Texas during his life and wherever he lived, he set up the alter of worship for the benefit of his family and his neighbors His whole household, which was large, was duly impressed with the life of faith. Even the coloured people were given religious opportunities. In fact, they were considered a part of the family and felt free to participate in the worship. At the close of the Civil War, old Isaac, the Doctor's oldest and most dependable coloured man moved to Waco and spent the rest of his days there in rearing a fine family and in preaching the Gospel. He had committed most of his master's sermons to memory and was able to preach in a very acceptable manner.
To Dr. Matthews and Sarah Gehagan were born either nine or ten children. His first wife died in about 1870. Two years later he married Margaret Spencer. To this union, four children were born.
Dr. Mansil Walter Matthews died at Paradise, Wise County, Texas, April 13, 1891 at the age of 86. He was active until death claimed him. He preached in his home Church on the day before he died.
—Jewell Matthews, Historical Sketches of the Early Disciples Of Texas, Unpublished Documents from the Matthews Papers made available by Texas Christian University to the web editor – Chapter III, pages 13-18
M. W. Matthews Letter To David Lipscomb
M. W. Matthews writes from Thornton, Ala., August 13, '88: "I confessed my Savior and was buried with him in baptism by Bro. Jno. Mulkey in spring Creek, Franklin county, Ala., in 1823. Commenced publicly proclaiming his cause in 1825, having brother B. F. Hall for my co-laborer, often associated with B. W. Stone, Scott, Johnson, Smith, Palmer, The Mulkeys, Moore, Hill, Griffin and a host of other pioneer preachers of the restoration. We went and labored without the hope of earthly reward. Our lives were freely spent expecting our reward beyond the cold river. I believe the departures now going on under the name "sanctified common sense" calculated to destroy the labors of the glorious cause of Christ. I am now near eighty years of age, have been trying to advance the cause of Christ about sixty-five years. Am now waiting to cross over and receive my reward and meet my beloved companions and with them join in praises with my redeemer forever. The object of this note (as there are some left who remember my name) is to say before I go hence on the word of God I stand and intend to die. Where the Bible speaks I speak—where it is silent I am silent. Your position Bro. L. is right. May the Lord bless and lengthen your days to battle for His truth. I realize that the churches in this country in the main are disposed to ignore the old pioneer preachers that wore copperas or jeans pants, tread down the grass and swam water courses for the love of truth. They are made to stand aside, and the young and stylish with their hair parted in the middle, who can sport a massive chain, charm and diamond ring on the finger are those who are fit to advocate the cause of Him, who, while the foxes had holes and the birds nests, had not where to lay His head."
—Gospel Advocate, August 22, 1888, p. 14
Location of the Grave Of Dr. Mansil Matthews
The final resting place of M. W. Matthews is in Paradise, Texas. What a fitting place to be buried! Paradise is a very small town just 35 miles north of Ft. Worth, Texas. Take I-35W North toward Denton. Just a few miles north of the I-820 loop, you will bear off northeast on Hwy 81/287. Travel 15 miles and take the Bridgeport - Hwy. 114 Exit and turn left (west). Travel 15 miles toward Bridgeport, and you will come into the community of Paradise. You will see the town off to your left in the distance. However, continue traveling on Hwy 114 to a traffic light. It will be the crossroads of Hwy. 444. Continue on Hwy 114 through the traffic light and go about a block. A sign is posted showing the city cemetery to the left. Turn on that left (Honeysuckle Rd.) and go about a block and turn left on Pecan St. You will see the cemetery on your right. Enter the gate and proceed to the back of the cemetery and turn left. Follow the little dirt road to the southeast corner of the cemetery. When you bear back to your left again, stop the car, for you are at the site. The grave is enclosed with a short concrete curb, under a little tree. Your webmaster had the pleasure of visiting this wonderful site January 13, 2002, 111 years after the death of our dear brother in Christ.
Dr. M. W.
Dec. 29, 1806
Apr. 13, 1891