An exciting discovery: Lewis Matthews/Mathis (Edgefield, SC)

There are times when the cosmos seems to open wide and drops a family history nugget of gold right into your lap.  You kind of know when this happens.  For starters, there’s the goosebumps. Goosebumps are swiftly followed by the hairs on your arms and the back of your neck standing on end. A delicious little shiver races up the spine. Gravity seems to take a short holiday. And if you’re like me, when the shock wears off, you’re left sitting in front of your PC, MAC, laptop, notebook, tablet or smartphone wearing a huge ole soppy grin.

This was me last Thursday.  And even better, this experience involved one of my direct Matthews ancestors in Edgefield County, SC. This is a family that I know very little about when compared to other branches of my family’s tree. So this was something extra special.

Image Lewis Matthews / Mathis of Edgefield County, S.C.

Lewis Matthews / Mathis of Edgefield County, S.C.

Like any other day, I logged into Ancestry.com on Thursday.  And there they were…quite a few ‘hints’ delivered through Ancestry.com.  For those of you unfamiliar with the service, once you start entering in details for your ancestors in the service, Ancestry.com pings you about possible record matches for the people in your family tree. On this day there were hints for Lewis Matthews (b. abt 1824 in Edgefield County, SC), my 3 x great grandfather, and his wife, Martha Bottom, born around the same time and in the same location. This is the first time I’d ever received hints for either of them.

This was no ordinary hint. The hint pointed to me another Ancestry.com member, Mr. T. Abney, and his family tree.  This was the first person I’d found who shared the same direct Matthews ancestor. The best piece of content he had was a photo of Lewis Matthews.  Not only could I look upon the efface of a gentleman I’d tried to research for the past 3 years to little avail….I could see the strong family resemblance between him and my Matthews grandmother and two of her brothers.

As serendipity would have it, Thursday would turn out to be a red letter day.  Thirty minutes after looking upon the face of Lewis, I found details covering his life in the book I bought last month:

Image for Lucas, Gloria Ramsey (2010), Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C. Edgefield County Historical Society.

Image for Lucas, Gloria Ramsey (2010), Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C. Edgefield County Historical Society.

So there he is, right there in the image below. On 19 January 1831, his ownership passed from Drury Matthews, who died, to Drury’s widow, Mourning (Pope) Matthews.

Lewis Matthews, P 251, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

Lewis Matthews, P 251, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

Now this is the first time I’ve found one of my ancestors in a slavery record. To say I experienced a range of emotions would be an understatement. I actually had to walk away for a while to gather my thoughts and grappled with conflicting emotions: joy at discovering him.  Joy at discovering who his owner(s) were which would point to specific areas for further research where Lewis was concerned. And other emotions were experienced at seeing any human being reduced to a dollars and cents valuation. It’s inevitable.

In terms of US history, if you’re descended from African slaves, Irish Catholic slaves (yes, Irish Catholics were sold into slavery too in their hundreds of thousands), Spanish slaves or Native American slaves, your first experience with slavery records will be a mixed blessing. That’s just being honest. However, this shouldn’t put you off. That’s part of the family history bargain.  You’re never in control of what you’ll find or what your reaction to that information will be.

Needless to say, with composure regained, I returned to Ms. Lucas’s book. I had the name of Lewis’s new owner.  I was curious to see what happened to him after his sale to Mourning Matthews.  Lo and behold, there he was again on page 252 of the book. On 17 February 1847, his ownership passed from Mourning, upon her death, to her daughter, Susanna Matthews Pope.

Lewis Matthews, P 252, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

Lewis Matthews, P 252, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

And here Lewis’s story ends, for the time being. I have yet to find anything relating to Martha Bottom…yet.

Apart from the joy of being able to put a face to a name (and I can’t really begin to do justice to that feeling), I can take some measure of cold comfort in knowing that Lewis and his family remained within the sphere of the Matthews family until the end of slavery.

Judging by his image and by two descriptions of being ‘mulatto’, this naturally raises questions about his paternity. Was Lewis a Matthews by birth or through association? Only time, or perhaps DNA tests, will tell. The adventure continues…

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21 Comments

Filed under AfAm Genealogy, AfAm History, ancestry, Black History, Edgefield, family history, genealogy, Matthews/Mathis family, South Carolina

21 responses to “An exciting discovery: Lewis Matthews/Mathis (Edgefield, SC)

  1. A great find and a great day for you. However I believe you can pat yourself on the back, as I am sure it was caused by your hard work.

  2. Awesome discovery! Congrats!

  3. Justice

    Wow!! Thanks for sharing. I was actually looking for something else and stumbled across this photo and my 86 year old grandmother says it looks like her grandfather. She was raised in Johnston, Edgefield County, South Carolina. Her great-grandfather was Lewis Mathis. I have found it spelled several ways throughout the census records, including Matthews and Mathias. While the name Martha does not ring a bell to her, the name’s Bottom and Abney are familiar. I’d be happy to send you the information I have on the Mathis family from Edgefield.

  4. embryan

    Great discovery!

  5. T Abney

    My name is Timothy Abney the great great grandson Lewis Mathis ,my grandfather is john (Johnnie )Mathis the last child born of Lewis Mathis . Email me at bigtim_2010@yahoo.com .I am T Abney on anc.com I have the picture of Lewis Mathis have seen the picture of Martha Mathis I also have somemore information .Send me a direct email.

    • Tim Mathis

      I am a g grandson of Drury Mathews who owned your Lewis Mathews. I thought you might like to know that there is a slave grave yard behind the graves of Drury and Mourning Pope Mathews. The home of Drury and Mourning is still standing. If you might like to talk email me at Way8458@aol.com. Tim Mathis Rome, Ga.

  6. The photo appears to have been taken in the 1920s. The hat, collar, knotted tie, and jacket indicate this. Also the photo emulsion. If Mathis was born in 1824 the photo would be a Daguerreotype and taken before the Civil War and very differently done.
    My folks are also from Edgefield — The Lloyds. Ever hear of them?

    • Hi Gary

      Thank you for the comment. The picture comes courtesy of a Mathis cousin in SC. I take your point. His family are pretty adamant about the identity 🙂

      My family, on the other hand, know very little about the history of my Matthews Grandmother’s family. I’m coming across family names we’ve never heard before, like the Petersons, for instance. I’m afraid I haven’t come across any Lloyds. Which side of the Matthews/Mathis family are your connected to?

  7. Scott Williams

    Hey, folks. I’m a newbie to this research, so any help will be appreciated. My grandmother’s maiden name was “Mathis” and she was raised next door in Aiken, SC. As some others observed, her surname is also written (on her birth certificate) as “Mathews”. I’m happy to compare GED files, DNA results, and such.

    • Hello Scott. Good to hear from you.

      There are a few spelling variations: Matthews, Mathews, Mathis and Mathes. It’s an added research challenge.

      My Matthews/Mathis relations started in VA and then went to Edgefield. Some also went to Aiken and Abbeville.

      You can find me on Gedmatch and Ancestry. You can find my extended family tree by searching on Effert Matthews. My membership ID is my name, so my tree is easy to find.

  8. Sonja Matthews

    Hi folks…glad I stumbled onto this site. I often google my last name looking for ancestory roots. My paternal last name is Matthews, but my great grandma use to say our last name use to be Mathis. So when I stumbled onto this site, I thought BINGO…I hit the jack-pot. I have very little history. We live in Ontario, Canada, and all I know is we are from down south in the United States somewhere. I would be open to any DNA testing, and would be eager to learn anything about were I came and my family history.

  9. Tim Mathis

    I was wondering about the photo myself, if he was born in 1824 he could of had one taken in the 1860′ 70’s, but he would be a old man by then. The man in the photo is younger looking. I wonder if this could be a pic of Lewis’s son? Just a thought. The grave yard I mentioned had graves with stones all marked with the same date that is in the book, DB (date bought). I love genealogy and unlocking things about those people of long ago. If you don’t try to find out stuff about them then all you have is a bunch of names and dates, which to me is no fun at all………..

  10. Corbett Toussaint

    Hi! I realize that this is an old post, but I have an administrator’s sale advertisement likely pertaining to Lewis Mathis. I am unable to upload it in the comment. If you would like a JPG or PDF, please feel free to email me at corbettneal@yahoo.com. I enjoy reading your blog.

  11. F.Winston

    Hello, I came across your blog while searching for information about Drury (pre 2nd wife Morning Pope). I believe Drury Matthews is my 2x great-grandfather! he fathered a child with his slave, Rhoda. Their son, My Great grandfather, Luke Matthews was born in D.C. in 1826. I’d love to hear from you & learn more about the book you used in your research!

    • Wow. This would make Luke Matthews and my 3x great grandfather, Lewis Matthews, either full brothers or half brothers (I haven’t found the name of his mother yet). If you’ve done a DNA test, we should compare results.

      I’d love to hear more about your ancestor. My email is briansheffey (at) gmail (dot) com

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