THE JOHN G. MATTHEWS PIONEER HOME
(On US 183 north of Austin, Texas 28 miles)
The rock house on the Matthews Homestead Farm was built within a two year interim of time beginning in January 1870, when the family of eight moved into an old log house in the pasture, and the spring of 1872, when they moved into the unfinished three-room solid limestone house about 400 yards to the east. This part of the place was being cleared for farming.
It is not known for sure where the hand-hewn stones were quarried. There are several quarries near Liberty Hill. One limestone quarry is still in production in the Hopewell community, It would be about 10 miles away. There is an abandoned quarry on the "Old Casbeer Place" one and one-half miles west of Liberty Hill. It would be the nearest. There are several quarries in the Leander-Cedar Park area now in production, 10 or 12 miles away.
The house is a typical Texas Pioneer type building with walls almost two feet thick and double walls between the rooms. There are two fireplaces, one at each end of the house. The house faces south with a fireplace in the west room and one in the east room. There are three rooms but the center room is not the ordinary "dog-run" type of room. It is closed. The wide and tall front door has a tall narrow window on each side and a six pane transom above. There are two 12 pane windows in each of the other rooms on the front. There is a window at each end of the house beside the fireplaces. Two regular-sized doors lead to the rear or back rooms, which originally were what is called shedded. There may have been a separate kitchen.
The roof was made of wooden shingles which may have been hauled from Bastrop.
In 1943 or 1944 there was some renovation made to the house, by J.N. Matthews. The shed rooms were removed and a part of another old house was moved in and attached to make a dining room and kitchen. Porches were added on each side and one was enclosed to make a bathroom. Later one whole porch was enclosed to make a bedroom. Still, later asbestos shingles were put on the outside of this room.
The carpenters were W.C. McFarland and A.N. Mears.
About this time the wooden roof was cover with a metal roof and the inside walls were framed in and sheetrock put up for safety and comfort. At some time before this, the first windows gave way and were replaced by four-pane windows.
In 1960, Leonora and Myreta Matthews installed new windows with aluminum frames. The front porch has had to be replaced several times through the years but the serious effort has been made not to change the original look.
So far as is now known, the house was planned and built by John G. Matthews. Who actually did the stonemason work is not clear. There was a John Russell who was a stonemason and builder, but the proof is not available.
The following receipt was found among the Matthews papers. December 9th, 1874
This is to certify that I have received in full of J. Matthews all demanded completion a House. (See page 21)
Joseph A. King (No amount is shown)
The reason that John Matthews wanted a strong stone house could have been the availability of the material and the workmen as there were several such buildings in the area.
Another thing that could have influenced him was his past experience in a frontier country. He came to Travis County at the age of sixteen with his parents arriving in Austin in 1840.
He served on a Ranger Force, without pay, to protect the community from Indians. After the Civil War, there was much fear in this part of Texas from bands of roving marauders. He probably felt a strong stone house would protect his family.
The most recent repair to the house was the replacement of the front porch floor and new cedar siding to the ends of the porch roof.
New rough square cedar posts were put in. At this same time, the chimneys and all the walls were re-mortared on the outside. This was in May of 1971. The outside of the house is in good condition. The inside needs some redecorating.
In 1974 a double carport was built about 40 feet from the house. Workmen were Donald Berry and Al Nelson.
When the Rail Road was built, in 1881, from Austin to Granite Mountain near Marble Falls in Burnet County, it went through the farm from south to north. It was a strip 100 feet wide and passed between the log house and the rock house. The land on the east side continues in cultivation and extends to US 183. About 117 acres are devoted to maize and corn and in earlier times wheat, oats, cane hay, and cotton. The land on the west side of the Rail Road is pasture land. It contains about 85 acres and is bounded on the west by the South San Gabriel River. Water is always available for stock. In 1885 or 1886 the John G. Matthews family moved to the town of Liberty Hill (31/2 miles in order to send the four youngest children to school. An orphan girl lived with them at this time. The Liberty Hill Normal and Business College had just opened.
The next people to live in the rock house were the McClains. "Uncle Good and Aunt Clarsie" had four sons and three daughters. They farmed the place for more than thirty years and were good, hard-working, dependable, and lovable Negroes of the old line. They came from South Carolina to Texas.
In the 1920s and 1930s, several families lived there and worked the land for J.N. Matthews. Among them were the Installs, Chandlers, Faubion's, Watsons, Haydons, but not necessarily in that order.
In 1942 Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Stanford took over and moved into the house after the renovation in 1944. They took excellent care of the property until they retired in 1960. (17 years)
In 1960, Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Baker moved into the house. In 1975 they are still there. They cultivate the fields of corn, maize, and cotton and take care of cattle in the pasture.
Water on the Farm
When the family lived in the log house water was carried from a spring 100 yards away. There are several spring branches in the pasture and the South San Gabriel has a water hole that has never been known to go dry. It is called the "Matthews Hole."
There was once a dug well in the back yard of the home. Water was drawn from it with pulley and bucket and rope. It is no longer in use and was covered over for safety, but the large round stone top is there. There may have been a rainwater cistern, also.
Sometime after 1904, a deep well was drilled and a Windmill put up. This provided water at the house and for stock at the nearby barnyard.
In 1952 a new barn was built using mostly corrugated tin. In 1958 the well was made much deeper and an electric pump was installed.
Electricity was extended to the farm in 1942.
The Log House
In 1872 there were many school-age children in the community and the log house that had been the Matthews home was used as a schoolhouse. The first teacher was said to have been a man named D. Kirkpatrick. The principal equipment was a big fireplace and some long heavy benches. The first schoolhouse was also used as a place of worship.
MATTHEWS - CAROTHERS
FAMILY RECORD 1737 – 1941
Some early day happenings in the rock house as written in a first-person narrative by Joseph Neely Matthews.
The last enumeration we had of the family of John G. and Leanora Matthews consisted of one daughter and three sons. (James S. was the son of John G. and Sarah, who died in1852.) However, on May 26, 1866, a fourth son and heir were added. Before this date, we occasionally found periods that could not be completed without some guessing, but now we may launch out with more confidence for we have an eye (I), witness. First of all bear in mind this I witness is a natural-born rebel, for Texas was out of the Union and was not readmitted until March 30, 1870. Little difference did that make with us now for we had already moved to our new home in Williamson County. When we arrived at our new home we find that John G. Matthews held title to more than 800 acres of land in Williamson County. Some of this land he had bought or owned for more than ten years. Most of this land was situated on the north- side of the South San Gabriel. The original 200-acre homestead now extends from the Gabriel on the west to Highway 29 on the east. (Now US 183)
In 1869 and after John G. Matthews had sold his farm in the Colorado valley he gathered his stock of horses and cattle and moved them with his family to the Gabriel Country, as it was called. Sometime near the first of the year 1870, we arrived at the new home which consisted of a log house of one room that had been shredded. The house had one door, one small window, and a wide fireplace. To state when and by whom this house was built would be a mere guess or supposition. I will venture with two predictions. The first is that it was built as headquarters for a surveying party to protect them from Indians and give them shelter. Another supposition is that John G. Matthews had Samuel D. Carothers' (his father in law) slaves hew the logs from the post oaks on his land and raise the house. It was known that John G. Matthews owned 150 acres of fine post oak timber.
The house was situated about 400 yards from the Gabriel and a spring where the family got water which was carried in buckets. This log house was never regarded as a permanent home,
but all looked forward to the building of a better one of stone. You can very readily see that much - very much - was to be done when a farm had to be fenced and put in cultivation and a house built. With this in view, progress went steadily on for about two and one-half years. Soon wheat and corn were growing in the new ground. This gave us bread while the cattle and hogs furnished plenty of meat.
In the spring of 1872, we moved up into the new rock house. It lacked a good deal being completed or ready for occupancy. Pretty soon the plank floor took the place of the dirt floor and glass windows were installed. A cookstove soon took the place of the fireplace. I suspect you have thought that things were being unduly rushed. But, be patient and a little later you may understand the full program that was scheduled for the year. It seems now that our family was in advance of the times somewhat in thinking and planning.
At that remote age, it was not customary to have a reception party to celebrate the completion of a new home and then moving into it. At least two momentous events were on schedule for the remainder of the year.
One fine morning Mother asked if I would like to go up to my aunt's and play with my little cousins. Sure, I was always delighted to have that privilege. I spent the day and I was not sent for. Aunt Femmy tucked me and her children away in the trundle bed as usual when night came. Early on the morning of the 10th of June, I was sent to come home and see my baby brother. I came and I saw it. They had already named him William Franklin. To him goes the honor and distinction of being the first child born in the rock house.
First ._Wedding In The Rock House Pretty soon after the birth of the last brother there was a tall young man who wore a long dark beard, a regular Confederate soldier's beard, who made visits to our home and our only sister entertained him. One bright Sunday morning about the first of December he came riding a big dun horse and he went to the barn and put a side-saddle on Venus, our sister's saddle pony, and they rode away to the north. I asked my mother where they were going. She told me that they were going to the Liberty Hill schoolhouse to preaching but that they would be back home that evening. In a few weeks, he came again riding a fine dun horse, but it was night and he had a few friends and the preacher, Rev. W.O. Spencer, with him. The dirt floor in the west room had been replaced by a new shining plank floor. In this room, the family and the guests assembled. The bridal couple marched in and took its stand before the fireplace. In this fireplace, the cheerful fire was burning brightly. To make more light two large kerosene lamps were placed on each end of the new mantle. Someone held me high in his arms in order that I might see and hear all that happened. After the ceremony, all the people made their way to the dining room where an old-time wedding supper had been spread.
After supper and congratulations were over and the guests gone the last act of the drama of the day, December 24, 1872, was put on by a chivaree party. All agreed that the last act of the drama was a howling success. Richard Allen and Adaline Matthews had the honor of being the first couple to get married in the new rock house. (Their daughter, Cora was born here 2-13-74.)
The Last Member of the Family Born it is very near a calamity for a family to be composed of five husky boys without a sister. That was the case in our family for several years after our eldest sister married. However, on the 17th of August 1875, I was sent for the second time to play with our cousins, which I always enjoyed. On the morning of the 18th, I was sent to come home and see our baby sister. No time was lost and I was soon at Mother's side looking at the little black-headed baby. Black hair just like Mother's and she had already been named Nancy Leonora for Mother. Although it has been more than sixty-five years and she is a grandmother to some of us she is still our little sister.
Not long after our eldest sister married and went away one of our cousins, Narcis Payne, came to live with us. After a few years in our home, she married E.W. Leatherwood. She was given a wedding in all respects equal to our sister's wedding. The next day they moved to a home he had made ready for them.
It was not long until an orphan girl by the name of Lizzie Stillings came to live with us.
But we could not keep her very long. One Sunday morning a man by the name of Joe Bunton from Bastrop came to our house and they were married. He took her away in a two-horse buggy. There were no more weddings while we lived in the rock house.
The first infare dinner was given by James S. Matthews when he married Fannie Lee in 1876. In 1882 Abner Matthews married Sallie Ford. They too were honored with a splendid infare dinner. The last to be honored with an old-fashioned infare dinner in the rock house was Samuel Matthews and his bride, Fannie Kinchelo in 1883.
In 1885 a Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in Liberty Hill, with W.G. Griffith, L.G. Ford, and John G. Matthews as ruling Elders. The house and lot were deeded to these elders and their successors in office. In this house, John G. and Leonora Matthews and their family worshiped as long as they lived.
A Biographical Sketch of John G. Matthews as copied from a HISTORY OF TEXAS
The Lewis Company 1893 of Chicago J.G. Matthews, a successful businessman of Williamson County, is a son of Abner and Asenath (Henderson) Matthews. The grandfather of our subject, James Matthews, came with his wife from Ireland to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, about the time of the Revolutionary War, where they continued to reside until 1812. In that year they located in Maury County, Tennessee, where they both afterward died. Abner Matthews was born in North Carolina, in 1792, and when a young man served with General Jackson in the Creek Indian war. He was married in Maury County, Tennessee, in 1813; in 1834 located in Tipton county, that State, and five years later came to Texas. In the spring of 1840 he located in Travis County, where he died in 1862; and the mother, a native of North Carolina, died in 1852. He was a farmer by occupation, also served as Justice of the peace, and was a member of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. and Mrs. Abner Matthews were the parents of ten children, viz: Mary D., deceased; James, deceased; Nancy A., deceased; John G., the subject of this sketch; Easter A., deceased E.S., a farmer residing three miles from Austin; and Eliza J., Martha M., and Robert F., deceased.
J.G. Matthews was born in Maury County, Tennessee, on March 3, 1824, and was sixteen years of age when he came with his parents to Texas. During the 40s he was principally engaged in ranger service, was a member of a squad of Jack Hays' rangers, under Lieutenant Coleman; served on the frontier and had many skirmishes with the Indians. His house was located in the extreme western settlement from Austin. (This may be an error - stories handed down relate that they were in east Austin near Howard's Nursery.) Mr. Matthews followed farming in Travis county until 1870, and for the following twenty years was engaged in the same occupation near Liberty Hill, Williamson county. He then came to this city.
At the time of the annexation of Texas to the United States, he was a member of Captain D.C. Cady's company of rangers, which afterward became a part of the United States Army, and served during the Mexican war. He was principally engaged in scouting duty and now draws a pension from the Government for services rendered in that struggle. Mr. Matthews was a member of a volunteer company during the latter part of the Civil war, of which he served as Lieutenant, and did duty on the southern coast of the State. He now owns one of the finest farms in Williamson County, consisting of 250 acres, 125 acres of which is cultivated. In his political relations he affiliates with the Democratic Party; socially, is a Master Mason; and religiously an Elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Matthews was married in Travis County, in October 1855, to Leanorah Carothers. Her parents came from South Carolina to Texas in 1853. To this union have been born seven children, namely: Addie M., wife of R.E. Allen, residing three miles from Liberty Hill; Abner B., a merchant of this city; Sidney J., a school-teacher by profession; Neely, attending the Huntsville Normal; and William Franklin and Leonora, at home. The wife and mother died April 1, 1892, having been a member and prominent worker in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Members of this family buried in the Liberty Hill Cemetery two miles north-west of Liberty Hill are:
John G. Matthews 1824 - 1903
Leanorah Matthews 1838 - 1893
Richard E. Allen 1845 - 1916
Addie M. Allen 1856 - 1940
Abner B. Matthews 1858 - 1948
Emma J. Matthews 1874 --__1969
Joseph Neely Matthews 1866 - 1944 Leonora E. Matthews
Emma Marrs Matthews 1875 - 1947 1901 - 1964
Mattie Farrow Matthews 1872 - 1938 Several grandchildren.
JOHN GILES MATTHEWS HOMESTEAD FARM
John G. Matthews 1860 and 1871 Joseph Neely Matthews 1904 Leonora and Myreta Matthews 1928 Myreta Matthews 1965 Field notes to the following described land lying and being situated in Williamson County Texas, being a part of the Jno.B. Robinson Survey, Patent No.584, Vol. 2, Cert. 157, Abstract No. 521, and described as follows:
Beginning in the West line of the Highway which runs from Austin to Burnet via Liberty Hill,(U.S. 183 to S.H.29) and at the S E corner of a 35 acre of land now belonging to John Womack (Now Herman Hedge) out of the said survey for the N E corner thereof: Thence S71 W and with the South line of said John Womack's South line 833- 1/3 vrs to his S W corner in the West line of a tract of land now belonging to Frank D.Love, for a corner hereof; Thence S 19 E 4.3 vrs a corner, being the S E corner of said F.D. Love tract of land; Thence S 71 W and with the South line of said Robinson League; Thence S 19 E 75 vrs to the middle of the South San Gabriel River; Thence down and with the center and meanders of said San Gabriel River about S 74 E 900 vrs for the S W corner hereof and N W corner of the Leatherwood tract of land;
Thence N 71 E 1 1794-1/3 vrs to the West line of said Highway above mentioned for the S E corner thereof, same being the N E corner of an 86 acre tract of land belonging to J.N.Matthews(now H.M. Spangler); Thence N 19 W and with the West line of said Highway 535.7 vrs to the place of beginning, and containing 206 acres of land, as surveyed by Walter Rowntree, County Surveyor of Williamson County, Texas, on Feb. 4, 1931.
This place is 31/2 miles southeast of Liberty Hill, Texas on US 183-about 28 miles north of Austin, Texas.