Mathews family (Virginia)

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Mathews of Virginia and West Virginia arms.png
Arms of the Mathews of Virginia and West Virginia [1]
Ethnicity British-American
Current region United States
Earlier spellings Mathew, Mathes
Members George Mathews, Sampson Mathews, Henry M. Mathews
Connected families Early, Otey, Patrick, Posey, Reynolds

The Mathews family was a United States political family from Virginia and the American South.[1][2] Its role in public service spanned British Colonial, Confederate, and United States authority, during which seven of its members served in the Virginia Legislature. Additional members have served in West Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and the United States in positions including US Representative, US Consul, Governor, State Supreme Court Chief Justice, State Attorney General, State Senator, and State Delegate.[2]


The Mathews surname originated in Llandaff, Glamorgan, Wales with Sir David Ap Mathew (1400-1484), a Welsh Knight and Lord of Llandaff, who was named Standard Bearer of England after the War of the Roses Battle of Towton in 1461 while saving the life of King Edward IV. Sir David adopted as his surname, the first name of his father, Sir Mathew Ap Evan.[3][4] (Ap means 'son of').

Anthologist John Boots suggests that John Mathews (d. 1757) was a descendant of Sir David through his 3rd great-grandson Theobald Mathew (d. 1699), who lived in Thurles in County Tipperary, Ireland.[5] Boots states that children of Theobald Mathew settled in Ulster, Northern Ireland, when the family property was passed to a senior branch of the family,[6] and from Ulster immigrated to America during the early years of the Scotch-Irish immigration of 1717–1775.[7] Other historians agree that Mathews was an immigrant from Ireland, though they do not speculate on his ancestry.[8][9][10]

Colony of Virginia[edit]

John Mathews settled in Augusta County, Virginia, near Natural Bridge, in 1742.[11] He held a variety of local offices,[12] and served as a captain of Virginia militia in Braddock's army during the French and Indian War.[10] He and wife Ann Archer had eleven children, including George, Sampson, Archer, and William Mathews.[1][8]

Revolutionary War Era[edit]

George Mathews (1739–1812) was a Virginia Burgess and delegate to the First Virginia Convention.[2] He rose to the rank of brevet brigadier general in the Continental Army, serving in George Washington's Philadelphia campaign.[10][13] He was afterward twice Governor of Georgia and a representative to the 1st United States Congress.[13][14] In 1811 he served as a secret agent for President James Madison, leading a filibuster campaign to claim parts of Spanish Florida for the United States. This campaign is now known as the Patriot War of East Florida.[10][13]

Sampson Mathews (1737–1806) was a Virginia state senator and colonel of Virginia militia who led the American defense against Benedict Arnold's 1781 Raid of Richmond.[8][15][16] He was a founding trustee of Liberty Hall (later Washington and Lee University), the ninth oldest institution for higher learning in the country.[9]

Archer Mathews (1744–1796) was a Virginia Delegate.[17] William Mathews (1741–1772) was a justice of the peace in Botetourt County, Virginia.[1] Other Mathews who served as Virginia Delegates in the early years of the Republic include Sampson Mathews Jr., son of Sampson Mathews, and John Mathews and James W. Mathews, sons of William Mathews.[9][17][18]

Civil War Era[edit]

George Mathews, Jr. (1774–1836), Presiding Judge of the Louisiana Supreme Court

George Mathews, Jr. (1774–1836), son of George Mathews, was a judge of the superior courts of the territories of Mississippi and Orleans, and the first presiding judge of the Louisiana Supreme Court.[19] His 1835 decision in the Marie Louise v. Marot freedom suit, in which he ruled that a slave cannot be reduced again to slavery if transported to a territory not permitting of slavery, was cited as precedent by dissenting Justice John McLean in the Dred Scott v. Sandford U.S. Supreme Court case.[20][21]

Mason Mathews (1803–1878), grandson of William Mathews, was a Virginia Delegate during the American Civil War.[22] He was brother-in-law to Confederate States Army (CSA) general Alexander W. Reynolds (1817–1876).[1] He was the last member of this family to be involved in Virginia politics, as Greenbrier County where he lived was taken into West Virginia on its creation in 1863. He continued to serve in the Virginia Legislature until the conclusion of the war.[23]

Henry M. Mathews (1834–1884), son of Mason Mathews, was a CSA officer and later Attorney General of West Virginia and governor of West Virginia.[24][25] His election represented the rise of the Bourbon Democrats.[24][26][self-published source]

Alexander F. Mathews (1838–1906), son of Mason Mathews, was a CSA officer and aide-de-camp to General Henry A. Wise, and later a West Virginia University regent.[1][27] Joseph W. Mathews (1841–1897), son of Mason Mathews, was a CSA officer and assistant adjutant general to General Carter Stevenson.[1]

Later Generations[edit]

George G. Mathews Jr. (1855–1944), great-grandson of George Mathews,[5] was US Consul at Pará, Brazil, for President Grover Cleveland,[28] and later a Florida state representative.[5]

William G. Mathews (1877–1923), son of Henry M. Mathews, was a federal judge and clerk of court for Kanawha, West Virginia.[29][30]

Mason M. Patrick (1863–1942), grandson of Mason Mathews, was commander of the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I and the Interwar Period.[31] He drafted and proposed the 1926 Air Corps Act to Congress, creating the U.S. Army Air Corps from the existing Air Service.[31][32] In 1947 the Air Corps was made into the United States Air Force.[31]

Political Family Tree[edit]

Other Mathews of Virginia[edit]

Lt. Col. Samuel Mathews (1630–1660), a commonwealth governor of Virginia, who died while in office (1656-1660), was a member of the first branch of the Mathews family to settle in the New World when his father, Captain Samuel Matthews arrived in Jamestown from England around 1622.[45] Mathews County, Virginia, named for the family and home to their residence Mathews Manor, later known as Denbigh Plantation.

Thomas Mathews (1742–1812), a Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, was born in Saint Kitts, an island of the West Indies, and came to the Piedmont region of Virginia in the years before the American Revolution. Both Samuel and Thomas Mathews have been connected to the Mathews of Augusta County by some historians,[5][38][46] though the connection has not been noted by others.[5][9][45]

Robert Israel Mathews (1836-1888), a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War, was born in Warren County, Virginia in 1836./ Robert Israel Mathews was a farmer until the American Civil War broke out. He enlisted in the 49th Virginia Infantry regiment in the Confederate Army, which was commanded by William Smith. The regiment was nicknamed, "Extra Billy Smith's Boys" in 1861. Robert fought in the Battle of First Manassas, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Second Bull Run, Battle of Gettysburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, and the Battle of the Wilderness where he would be shot through the jaw. After the war, Robert told stories to his children and his grandchildren, one of the stories thought to be of the Fairfax Court House in 1861 and John Quincy Marr. After his death in 1888, his grandchildren found a pair of boots he wore and the grandchildren donated them to the Front Royal Civil War Museum in Front Royal, Virginia. He was buried in Browntown, Virginia.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cole, J. R. (1917). History of Greenbrier County. Greenbrier Historical Society: Lewisburg, WV. p 67–72 Retrieved November 2, 2012
  2. ^ a b c Leonard, Cynthia Miller 1978. The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: a bicentennial register of members. Virginia State Library., pp 105, 109.
  3. ^ Lecture given by Mr J. Barry Davies at the Friends of Llandaff Cathedral 2003 annual lecture, published in "Friends of Llandaff Cathedral 71st annual report 2003/4"; Notes from site of Barry L. Matthews,
  4. ^ Clark, George T (1886), Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae, London
  5. ^ a b c d e Boots, John R. (1970). The Mat(t)hews family: an anthology of Mathews lineages. University of Wisconsin - Madison
  6. ^ Rogers, Patrick (1943). Father Theobald Mathew: Apostle of Temperance. Browne and Nolan Limited, 1943, pp xi-xxi.
  7. ^ "... summer of 1717 ...", Fischer, David Hackett, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, Oxford University Press, USA (March 14, 1989), pg. 606; "... early immigration was small, ... but it began to surge in 1717.", Blethen, H.T. & Wood, C.W., From Ulster to Carolina, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 2005, pg. 22; "Between 1718 and 1775", Griffin, Patrick, The People with No Name, Princeton University Press, 2001, pg 1; etc.
  8. ^ a b c d Waddell, Joseph A (1902) Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871, Waddell's Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871, retrieved October 20, 2012
  9. ^ a b c d e f Washington and Lee University (1890). Historical Papers, Volumes 1–2. New York Public Library: Washington and Lee University, 1890 Retrieved November 3, 2012
  10. ^ a b c d Herndon, G. Melvin (1969). George Mathews, Frontier Patriot. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 77, No. 3 (Jul., 1969) pp. 307–328
  11. ^ a b Orange County Virginia Deed Book 10, Dorman, pg. 54
  12. ^ a b c d Chalkley, Lyman (1912), Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, 1745–1800 (Washington, D.C.: Daughters of the American Revolution, 1912).
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Patrick, Rembert W. (2010). Florida Fiasco: Rampant Rebels on the Georgia-Florida Border, 1810–1815. University of Georgia Press, 2010. ISBN 0-8203-3549-5, 9780820335490
  14. ^ Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Retrieved online from
  15. ^ a b Clem, Gladys B. (1965), It Happened Around Staunton in Virginia (Staunton, Virginia: Second Edition) p. 21–23
  16. ^ Randall (1990), pp. 582–583
  17. ^ a b Rice, Otis K. 1986. A History of Greenbrier County. Greenbrier Historical Society, p. 116
  18. ^ Knott. Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth, p.48
  19. ^ Dart, Henry P. (September 22, 1922). "Mazureau's Oration on Mathews". Louisiana Historical Quarterly. New Orleans, Louisiana: Louisiana Historical Society. 4 (1): 149. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
  20. ^ "Champion of Civil Rights: Judge John Minor Wisdom". Southern Biography Series: LSU Press, 2009, p 24. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  21. ^ Finkelman, Paul. "Scott v. Sandford: The Court's Most Dreadful Case and How it Changed History" Archived 2012-12-03 at the Wayback Machine., 82 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 3 2007. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  22. ^ The American Historical Society (1923). "Mathews Family of Greenbrier." The History of West Virginia, Old and New (Chicago and New York: The American Historical Society, Inc.) 2: 7–9. Retrieved 2012-10-19
  23. ^ Rice, Otis K. 1986. A History of Greenbrier County. Greenbrier Historical Society, p. 264
  24. ^ a b Addkison-Simmons, D. (2010). Henry Mason Mathews. e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from
  25. ^ White, J.T. (1904), The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time. New York Public Library. p 431. Retrieved November 1, 2012
  26. ^ Key, Joe (2008). The Clay Pipe. Xlibris Corporation, 2008, p.149 Retrieved December 11, 2012
  27. ^ West Virginia University. Undergraduate catalog, Volume 1867–1869. Morgantown, WV : The University. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
  28. ^ United States Consular Reports: Reports from the Consuls of the United States on the Commerce, Manufactures, Etc., of Their Consular Districts. United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1807, p.28 Retrieved February 5, 2013
  29. ^ See David A. Skeel, Jr., Debt's Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America, Princeton University Press 2001 (sample online at [1]).
  30. ^ West Virginia Bar Association (1908). The Bar: West Virginia, Volume 15. University of California. Retrieved December 9, 2012
  31. ^ a b c d White, Robert (2001). "Mason Patrick". Smithsonian, 2001
  32. ^ Head, William Pace (1995). Every Inch a Soldier: Augustine Warner Robins and the Building of U.S. Airpower. Volume 37 of Texas A & M University military history series. Texas A&M University Press, 1995: Issue 37, p. 75 ISBN 0-89096-590-0, 978-0-89096-590-0 Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  33. ^ Cecere, Michael. Captain Thomas Posey and the 7th Virginia Regiment. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2005. ISBN 0-7884-3584-1.
  34. ^ a b Foote, William H. (1855). "Sketches of Virginia: Historical and Biographical, Volume 2" (W.S. Martien: Harvard University). p 162. Retrieved from on October 8, 2012
  35. ^ a b c Virginia State Library (1922), "Justices of the Peace of Colonial Virginia, 1757–1775". Davis Bottom, Superintendent Public Printing, 1922: Bulletin of the Virginia State Library
  36. ^ Dayton, Ruth W. (2009). "Greenbrier Pioneers and Their Homes." The History of West Virginia, Old and New (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009) p.215. Retrieved October 23, 2012
  37. ^ Callahan, James Morton (1923). "History of West Virginia, old and new, in one volume, and West Virginia biography, in two additional volumes (1923)." Chicago, IL: The American Historical Society: v.2. Retrieved November 2, 2012
  38. ^ a b Lexington Gazette (1938). "Capt. John Mathews and his Descendants." 1738–1938. Bi-centennial Issue: Commemorating the Settlement of the Rockbridge Section of Virginia by the White Men. A Tribute to the Scotch-Irish Pioneers. Lexington Gazette (Virginia)
  39. ^ McClintic, Judge George W., "Archer, Mathews and Others", - article in the West Virginia News, June 16, 1938, on the 160th anniversary of Greenbrier County, quoted in University of VA, "The Renicks of Greenbrier," by bf Harlow Jr. (Lexington, VA, 1951)
  40. ^ a b c d Combs, James Thurl (1987). "Greenbrier, C.S.A. Wartime Letters of Mason Mathews to his son Captain Joseph William Mathews, C.S.A." The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society (Parsons, West Virginia: Greenbrier Historical Society) V (1): 5–44.
  41. ^ Atkinson, George W. (1919). Bench and Bar of West Virginia. Harvard University:Virginia law book company Retrieved December 9, 2012
  42. ^ Greenbrier Historical Society (1938) Greenbrier Historical Society Historical Booklet, Greenbrier Co., 1938. Retrieved 2012-10-19
  43. ^ West Virginia Daily News(1967, June 7). Two distinguished soldiers native sons of Greenbrier county: World War Heroes of Greenbrier to be Honored in Special Exercises of 160th Anniversary Celebration. West Virginia Daily News.
  44. ^ Mason Mathews Patrick: Major General, United States Army(2010). Retrieved November 2, 2012 from
  45. ^ a b Meyers, Virginia M. and Dorman, John F. (1987). Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia. Order of First Families of Virginia
  46. ^ Harris, J.D. (1901) "General Thomas Mathews". The Virginia Law Register, Vol. 7, No. 3 (July 1901), pp. 153–158 Retrieved October 25, 2013