Biography from the
Oglethorpe Echo
Crawford, Georgia
Friday - May 14, 1875
Subject:  Governor George Mathews
Excerpt of by  Albert Winter
Retyped by: Brenda Pierce
 



As I stated in my last sketch, I propose now to give short biographical
sketches of the early settlers of the Goose Pond or Broad River settlement.
I will commence with Governor Mathews, who, besides being the first settler,
was the most prominent of the many prominent men who settled the#e in 1784,
the year after the great struggle ended.

John Mathews, the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Ireland,
but emigrated to Virginia and settled in Augusta county, in the western part
of the State in 1787. This part of Virginia was then on the extreme western
limit of civilization, and the settlers were accustomed to conflicts with
the Indians almost incessantly. The savages in this part of the colonies
were under the immediate influence of the French settlers then scattered
along at regular intervals from the Great Lakes of the North to the French
settlements at New Orleans. It was a part of the great plan to recover
French Dominion in North America - to corinect the settlements at Quebec and
those in the extreme South, in what is now the State of Louisiana, by a line
of forts and settlements.  It is a remarkable fact in the early settlement
of this country that the French always had the good will of the natives, and
were consequently free from the great misfortunes that followed their
enmity.

On the contrary, the English colonies, from the time they landed on the
shores of the New World, were engaged in deadly war with the natives, and
very many of them fell under the scalping knife of the savages. The cause of
this is apparent at a glance to those who are acquainted with plans of the
two countries in regard to the Indians. The French never dispossessed the
aborigines of their lands without giving at least a semblance of pay, and
besides they treated them with that kindness and courtesy characteristic of
the Frenchmen wherever he is found.

On the contrary, the English colonists seemed to regard the unfortunate
savages as legitimate prey, whom to rob, murder and plunder was doing God
service. As the direct result of this inhuman policy, there was constant and
deep seated enmity between the two, and a struggle protracted and bloody
which called and could end only in the extermination of the Indians.

>From an early age George Mathews was inured to these conflicts, and
developed a courage which marked him as a future soldier.

In 1761, a family that lived near his father was murdered by the Indians.
Young Mathews, in company with several other young men, heard the firing,
and supposing that some of the neighbors were engaged in a shooting match,
which were then very common, rode over to join them. When they rode into the
yard, what was their surprise to see the dead bodies of their friends
scattered around, horribly mutilated. As soon as they found their mistake
they wheeled their horses to fly. The savages poured a volley into them as
they retreated, and a shot passed so near the head of young Mathews that it
cut off the cue at the back of his head. The impetuous Mathews, roused by
the murder of his friends and stimulated by the narrow escape he had himself
made, soon gathered a party to go in pursuit. Placing himself at the head of
the pursuers, he soon overtook the murderers, and gave them a severe
punishment, killing nine.

At the heat battle fought at Point Pleasant, on the Kenawah, in 1774,
Mathews commanded a company, and by his bravery and management contributed
no little to the complete victory gained by the colonists. After the
conflict had been raging all day, with no decided result, Mathews, together
with two other Captains - Shelby and Stuart -I separated their commands from
the main body of the army, and entering the bed of a creek which was very
low, they succeeded in gaining a position in the rear of the Indians. Not
expecting an attack from that quarter, and totally unprepared for it, the
Indians soon broke in conversion, and were pursued across the Ohio.

When the war of the Revolution broke out the knowledge that had been gained
by Captain Mathews in the conflicts with the savages served him a good
purpose and, indeed most of the officers who figured conspicuously in that
great struggle learning their profession of arms on the frontier, Washington
himself having served with great gallantry and success against the savages.
Mathews was, in 1775, appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Ninth Regiment of
Virginia troops, which regiment was soon after placed, by order of Congress,
on the Continental establishment. The regiment was ordered to service on the
Chesapeake Bay, under command of Gen. Andrew Lewis, and remained for two
years under the poisonous influences of the malaria arising from the swamps
on the shores of the bay, and the hardy mountaineers, accustomed to the
bracing atmosphere of West Virginia, died rapidly from the effects of
confinement and impure water.

But when the contest began in good earnest, and it was evident that it had
become a life and death struggle between the mother country and recreant
colonists, Washington, who knew the value of Mathews' courage and
experience, ordered him to join the main army, a short time before the
battle of Brandywine was fought. At this battle Colonel Mathews did good
service, his regiment having broken the centre of the British line, but
being unsupported, he had to fall back.

At the battle of Germantown he again pushed the British forces opposed to
him back, and had captured them, when his command became enveloped in the
dense fog, which lost the Americans the day. In the contusion that followed
he was attacked, his troops repulsed, himself knocked down and a bayonet
driven through his body. He was made a prisoner and carried to New York.

Colonel Mathews was confined in the British prison ships in New York, and
must have suffered greatly, for he appealed to the Continental Congress for
protection against the cruelties of his enemies, Jefferson, at that time
Governor of Virginia, interested himself in the matter, and besides writing
to the commander of the British army in regard thereto, he also wrote to
Mathews, consoling him for his sufferings and referring to the time when he
would be free from such persecution. I make the following extract from Mr.
Jefferson's letter to Col. Mathews:

We know that the ardent spirit of hatred to tyranny, which has brought you
to your present situation, will enable you to bear up against it with that
firmness, which has distinguished you as a soldier, and will enable you to
look forward with pleasure to the day when events shall take place, against
which the wounded spirits of your enemies will find no comfort, even from
reflections on the most refined of the cruelties with which they have
glutted themselves.

Col. Mathews was not exchanged until near the close of the war. He then
joined the army in the South, under the command of General Greene, as
Colonel of the Third Virginia Regiment. It was while he was with the
Southern army that bought the Goose Pond tract, the title to which was in
dispute. As soon as the war ended, he removed with his family to his
purchase, and through his persuasions, many to his friends soon after left
the old Dominion and settled in his immediate neighborhood.

 The fame of his exploits with the Indians and meritorious services during
the time that tried men's souls, made him soon after his settlement in
Georgia one of her most prominent citizens.

He was elected Governor of the State, which office he held for two years,
and by his stern devotion to duty made himself feared by the Indians, who
were then very troublesome on the northern borders of the State. It was
during his administration that the celebrated battle of Jack's Creek, Walton
county was fought. The Indians were totally defeated.

When the first Congress of the United States, under the present
Constitution, assembled, Mathews was a member. It was during his service in
Congress that he gave the celebrated evidence of the strength of his memory.
An important public document was lost, the contents of which be could repeat
from memory, verbatim.


He was elected Governor of the State again in 1794. And now I approach a
period in the life of this remarkable man when the lessons of his earlier
years seem to have been forgotten.  He gave his support to measures which
have received the unqualified reproval of all good men, since that day. I
refer to the celebrated Yazoo Fraud, as it was called, and not which was
passed by the General Assembly of the State, granting all of the present
States of Alabama and Mississippi to a company of speculators, for the
insignificant sum of five hundred thousand dollars.

 

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