Maryville Times, Thursday, June 6, 1935

James Matthews

The address delivered by Ralph Waldo Lloyd at the dedication 
of the marker placed on the grave of James Matthews, Revolutionary 
Soldier, at Friendsville, May 28, follows:

The speaker has abundant reason to be interested in this marking 
of the grave of James Matthews, For one thing, the event was conceived 
and is being carried out by the Mary Blount Chapter of the Daughters 
of the American Revolution, of which the speakers wife has the honor 
to be present Regent; and this brief historical address is being 
given in obedience to the Regent's gentile request, and another 
thing this is the oldest adult grave in the cemetery of the Friends
Church at Friendsville, the Church of the speakers mother and of his 
own childhood, and is the town of his birth; on the stones of this 
cemetery are more than one familiar and beloved name, But a more 
direct reason is the fact that James Matthews is his Great, Great, 
Great, Grandfather. The writer's mother is the daughter of the late 
Dr. Samuel Lafayette Jones, who was the son of Lucinda Matthews Jones, 
who was the daughter of David Matthews, sixth child of James Matthews 
who we have come to honor. Others among you are descendants of this 
same James Matthews, therefore, we are marking the grave not only of 
a soldier of the Revolution, and o of this region, but also of one of 
our forefathers.

James Matthews was born in Guildford, North Carolina, December 10, 1750, 
and died January 25, 1802, 133 years ago, at the untimely age of 
fifty-one. His death occurred just two years after George Washington's 
death. He was buried while Thomas Jefferson was the third president of
the United States, and Archibald roan was the second Governor of Tennessee. 
This was frontier territory then known as the Great Southwest; Sam 
Houston was but a lad of nine and was not to take up his temporary 
abode with the Cherokee Indians near the junction of the Tennessee and
Hiawassee Rivers until six or eight years later. Those who came by foot, 
or by horse to bury him made a scene vastly different from the one we, 
traveling by motor car make today. Even when his wife Susanna Lathland 
Matthews was buried beside him thirty eight years later, after her
death at the age of eighty one, the scene would be very unlike the 
one today.

The ancestors of James Matthews and his wife were of that sturdy group 
of Scotch-Irish folk that have built so much of industry, character, 
love of civil liberty and religious conviction into the life of this 
southeastern territory and the nation. They were originally Protestants 
from Scotland, being forced by the civil and religious conflicts and 
policies of the days of James I of England, to take up abode in the 
north of Ireland, and in time seeking the freedom and opportunity in 
the new world of America. James Matthews and his wife likewise were 
of this vigorous stock.

In 1769, we find James Matthews at the age of nineteen and his brother 
John, serving as Regulators in Anson and Orange Counties, North 
Carolina. According to the North Carolina State Army Records, 
Volume 16, Page 1118, compiled by Walter Clarke, a year later, or six
years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he 
enlisted in a North Carolina company, said to be that of Captain 
Donoho; evidently he enlisted and was discharged several times between 
his first enlistment and January 1788, when George Washington proclaimed 
the end of hostilities. The method of recruiting and maintaining the 
army was then much less systematic or permanent. There are records 
that show he served in the Second South Carolina Regiment under Lt. 
Col. Marian from November 4, 1775 to February 12, 1776; then seven weeks
after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we find him 
enlisting again, this time in the third South Carolina Regiment, 
under Colonel William Thompson. How Long his service lasted this time 
is not clear, one record shows him serving a fourth enlistment from 
August 1779 to February 1881, and certified records in the Roster of 
the Continental Line from North Carolina, show that he enlisted a 
fifth time on June 14, 1881 in Donoho's Company of the Tenth Regiment
of which Colonel Abraham Shephard was commander and left the service 
exactly one year later, June 14, 1882. During this yearn the Battle 
of Yorktown was fought and the success of the Revolution assured, 
although it was almost two years before the official treaties were 
completed. Some of the family records show that James Matthews 
served for a time also under Captain Blount, which, if true, may 
account in part for his late residence in Tennessee and Blount
County.

Different service records in possession of different descendants report 
him as being with Washington at the crossing of the Delaware and in 
a winter march to Valley Forge across the snow in which they left 
footprints in blood; and that he took part in the Battle of King's
Mountain. At the time we cannot be sure of the various enlistments 
and activities or engagements, since official records have not yet 
been found to support all of those reported, but we can be certain 
that he was an active soldier of the Revolution; and evidently his 
military service was considerable and the family reports of his 
extensive service in Washington's main army might well be true.

James Matthews married Susanna Lathland or as some call it Laughlin, 
or as others call it McLaughlin (all of which might have been the 
evolution of the name) in 1777, a year after the signing of the 
Declaration of Independence. We are told that during the war she 
used her home as a hospital, nursed and cared for wounded 
soldiers, scrapping her linens and packing their wounds with lint. 
She and her sisters with the help of an aged man buried thirty 
soldiers in one grave after the battle of Linley Mills, north 
Carolina.

Susanna Lathland was but nine years younger that her husband, being 
born October 8, 1759, but she lived thirty eight and a half years 
after his death; he died at the age of fifty-one. That she was a 
woman alike of strong body and strong will is seen in the fact that 
evidently much of her heroic service to the victims of war was 
rendered in the years during which her first two children were
born.

Ten children were born to James Matthews and Susanna Lathland 
Matthews. Large families were not uncommon in those days, although 
the death rate, both of children and adults, was much higher than 
in our day of medical and sanitation knowledge and facilities. 
Just yesterday I was reading an autobiography of a Leonard 
Matthews of St. Louis (who is not connected with our James Matthews 
so far as we know) who told of his father and mother moving to Missouri
with their twelve children; being unable to find suitable residence 
for so large a family, they rented a small hotel. There are hundreds 
of descendants of James Matthews; one member of the family has listed 
over three hundred of them. It is really true that if all of us 
could trace our ancestry back far enough many of us who never dreamed 
of such a thing would discover ourselves to be related to one another. 
It might be a good thing for us to become better acquainted with our 
own family.

It appears that James Matthews brought his growing family to this 
region sometime after the war. Mr. Jeff D. Kinser has in his 
possession a grant by which 588 1/4 acres of which his present farm 
is a part, in the vicinity of Unita and Kiser Station on what is now 
Cloyd's Creek but was formerly known as Hesse's Creek, were conveyed 
to the heirs of James Matthews by Governor Willie Blount, of 
Tennessee, in 1807, five years after the death of James Matthews. 
It is supposed that this is the tract that the family settled upon 
coming to this area; I believe that at that time all of this 
surrounding section was in Blount County.

Some of the family records say that James Matthews and his wife 
were members of the Friends Church at Deep river, North Carolina, 
and that they were among those who formed the nucleus of the 
settlement here where the Newberry Monthly Meeting was set up six 
years after the his death and where the town of Friendsville was 
officially laid off some forty years ago. Of course, after more 
than a century and a quarter, our knowledge of some of these things 
is uncertain; there does not seem to be any very definite information 
concerning the church life of James Matthews, some wonder a little 
at the record of his affiliation with the friends for at least two 
reasons; (1) One is that in general the Matthews of recent years 
have been more often in the Presbyterian or other churches than the 
Friends, and that Scotch-Irish were likely to have been Presbyterians
originally; (2) The other reason for doubt is that the Quakers 
peace-loving habits and convictions against war seem somewhat out 
of harmony with such an extensive war career as that of James
Matthews.

Over against these things are the facts that the records of his 
membership in the Friends society seem definite and that his 
associations in North Carolina and Tennessee were in the Quaker
settlements; it might well be that the original Matthews family 
were Presbyterians before coming to America, became Quakers 
because of the dominance of that group here, and in later
generations tended to drift back into other groups. Furthermore 
the emergencies of war might lead even the conscientious Quaker 
to take up arms, as they did in fact in my own case, or James
Matthews might not as a young man been especially conscientious 
in matters of the Church; those were rough and undisciplined 
days on the frontier when life was hard and the vices of gambling, 
drinking, and the like were violent. We live far enough away and 
the service of such pioneers is well enough attested to prevent 
either harm or disrespect if we recall in this connection one 
family tradition to the effect the when seventeen years old James 
Matthews, who is said to have loved good horses, was once 
suspended from the Friends Church for his part in horse-racing, 
this indicates his repentance as we find him restored later.

The conditions of life in those days demanded strength of those 
who built as substantial a home as did James Matthews. And 
the Noble character of the Friendsville community during the
century following indicates that those original settlers 
possessed qualities of goodness as well as strength.

Men and women then must be strong to do the work and endure the 
hardship; they must be courageous to fact the wilderness with 
its uncertainty; they must have a spirit of adventure to develop 
new places; they must have loyalty to take their place with the 
straggling Revolutionary army against the world conquering 
British nation in behalf of liberty and an ideal; they must 
have faith in God sufficient to sustain them as they fought 
their battles, established their home, reared their children, 
organized their schools, built their churches, and set out to 
form a government to transform the uncontrolled life of the 
frontier into a homeland for their people, of whom we are part.

It is fitting, therefore, that we today take this means of 
commemorating one who represents a great host who were willing 
to die and to live for the cause of justice and free citizenship, 
who cut away the wilderness for their children, and who gave to 
this section and the nation a family heritage of health, 
intelligence, and character, which has enriched and shall enrich 
the lives of all.

Those all died in faith, not having received the promises, but 
having seen them and greeted them from afar having had witness 
borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God
having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from 
us they should not be made perfect.


 

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Daniel L. Chesnut 1983