Matthews Family History

   Bessie Viola Matthews, wife of Adelbert Cornell, was one of eleven children of Charles Lopez Matthews and Hannah Melvina Armagost. This file if the story of the Charles Matthews' parents, Mary Mallen and George Matthews. It was compiled in 1988 by Gay Darwin and published in pamphlet form for family members.

From a Few Records and Recalled Statements of         


By Elsie Lorena Matthews

Born April 8, 1831 County Longford, "parish of Edge erth town" (Edgeworthtown) Ireland. Also mentioned "Wis Maythe". Her parents James Mallen and Betty O'Brien Mallen came to America when she was very young and little Mary was to remain with her (maternal, I think) grandmother Rose Kane O'Brien, as long as the grandmother lived.

Mary's parents went to Boston. Am not sure whether Mary remembered seeing them, but she had some impression concerning her mother, who was artistic and clever at drawing birds and flowers. Of her father, "They said he was part English, but I never believed it." She had an aversion to the English but later married an Englishman.

She must have had little schooling, but was raised in the Catholic faith. She remembered the shamrouge (not shamrock) so green and the yellow gorse along the hedges.

I thought for a time that the parish in which she lived was Edgertown, which was the name of some Nebraska acquaintances of our folks, until I heard her say, "It was named for the "famous Maria Edgeworth", the great writer.

For many years, I scanned every available catalogue or list of books, hoping to find something that she had written, and not until I visited the public library in Seattle was I successful.

Two volumes, am sorry to say that I am not able to recall the titles, but one had a preface written by Maria's father, apologetic for his daughter's boldness in presuming to write, but also with evident pride in her ability. I remember each short story in one volume (the other volume was a novel) had a moral so marked as to be amusing but without doubt her products were a source or never-failing pride to neighbors and their descendants.

When Mary was twelve, a red-cheeked, roly-poly girl, "as broad as I was long", she was sent by an uncle, by sailing vessel, to join her parents in Boston. They sailed from "Lifferpool" and were nine weeks and four days on the voyage.

Whether by accident or by design of the captain (whom all seemed to agree was a villain of deepest dye) they landed at New York. Storms and sickness added to the passengers' trials. Measles broke out and many died. One woman saw three of her children given to the waves for burial.

Mary helped as much as she could and said that she was never sea sick or ill in any way, and during the entire trip. A particularly bad storm had them headed the wrong way, and the hated captain "fastened them in the hatches and told them to pray from their souls, they hadn't long to live." But they came through it all.

When they landed in New York, a woman whose parents or grandparents lived in Jefferson County New York, met the passengers to see that their friends, if any, had met them, especially young unattended girls. As Mary's parents, whom she expected to meet, were in Boston, this lady took her to live with the parents or grandparents, Captain and Mrs. Josiah Pratt, at Belleville, N.Y.

Josiah Pratt was a sea captain and Mrs. Pratt was an austere sort of person, a devout Presbyterian. The Sabbath was strictly observed, all possible work being done before sundown, Saturday. Coffee was ground and cooking done and everybody went to church.

Captain Pratt, who seemed to be a jovial sort, had a brother, Orson Pratt, who became a Mormon, one of Brigham Young's twelve apostles.

I have an impression that Mary was sent to school for a short time, but took little interest in it. She could read, but her writing was limited to being able to sign her name. When in later years she sent a letter to a friend, it was printed.

The Pratt family evidently entertained somewhat, and Mary proudly recalled "waiting table" at a dinner where Henry Ward Beecher was guest of honor. She was well instructed in the housekeeping arts of those times.

A granddaughter of the Pratts, "Emily Pratt, (later married to Capt. Lorenzo Cook) whom Mary referred to as "my foster sister", tried to remodel the little chubby country girl, by lacing her into an extremely tight corset, with the result that she fainted in church one day. Mary said she never grew in height after coming to the states.

I do not know how or where she met George Matthews, who was a British soldier, stationed in Canada; but they were married Nov. 30, 1850. She said, "I was married on a Saturday night in green delaine, and the folks went with me and saw that I was married all right." It would seem that they had some misgivings about her choice of man.

Charles Lopez Matthews was born September 10, 1851. His father insisted on naming him Charles, for his only brother, who had died many years ago, and his foster grandfather, Captain Pratt, held out for the name Lopez, for a Spanish naval officer friend of his own.

It is not clear how long Mary and George lived together. Mary said that he was of a quarrelsome disposition and did not get along with the neighbors, citing an instance in which he shot a trespassing chicken and wanted her to carry it back to the neighbor; which she promptly refused to do.

Mary doted on garden stuff to eat, especially, "wild greens" in the spring and George declared that "that woman would eat grass, if it "twere possible."

But George finally deserted his little family and Mary took her little boy and went back to Grandpa and Grandma Pratt. As I recall, Grandma Pratt died first. She had been an opium addict, though Mary did not know that.

Mary was a great believer in signs and omens. She had a vivid dream one night of the Grandfather being in a bed of flames. It disturbed her so that she got up and went to his room, where he had suffered a stroke. He was never able to speak afterward. She cared for him until the end.

She supported her little boy by "working out" until he was nine years old, when she married a German John B. Sorg (the name was later spelled Sork).

When John died later of a disease induced by injuries received in horse training, at which he was adept, Charles "came west", followed later by his mother.


By Gay Darwin

Charles L. Matthews born at Belleville, Jefferson County, New York in 1851, left the East at 22 years of age, for the fast settling Great Plains country, where homesteads were to be had.

In 1874 he reached Lincoln Nebraska by rail, then he walked to Crete. When he reached the Blue River, he was footsore from his new boots and decided to remove the boots and soak his aching pedal extremities. The result was swollen feet, too large for the boots.

Charles worked in Crete that summer, then journeyed west working in Nuckolls and Webster counties. Later in 1875, he homesteaded in Jewell County, Kansas.

Excerpts from letter sent to Charles by his widowed mother in New York, who joined him in October 1875:

Aug. 19, 1875 Adams, New York
"You said you wanted to know if I was coming this fall, or not. I think I shall if you intend to stay there. I think I can rough it, if can, but I would like to know how near the Indians are to where we shall have to live; for my part, I don't want them too near me.

Now what was that thing you sent in your last letter? Was it a rattle snake rattle? That is what I made it out to be, but you did not mention it in the letter."

Oct. 18, 1875
"How large a house have you? Can I set up a quilting frame for I have some quilting to do?

You said you would meet me in Hastings. I want you to be there even if you have to be there a day before hand for I had rather you would wait for me than me for you.

My ticket cost $37.88."

Oct. 25, 1875 Adams, New York
"Well I intend to start this evening and thought best to write a few lines and enclose this life insurance ticket, in case anything would happen to me, but hope the Lord will guide and protect me through all right."

The above letter was addressed to Charles at Guide Rock, Nebraska.

Barbara tells me (according to Aunt Elsie) that Charles did not meet his mother at Hastings, but sent a man named Bush. Mr. Bush was not too clean and rather unsightly in dress and Mary was dubious about accompanying him; however, she was anxious to see her son and they made the trip safely.

Mary did have a homestead, but I don't believe that she lived there long, if at all. After Charles and Hannah Armagost were married in 1878 and the grandchildren began arriving in 1879, she was a member of their household and rocked all of the little ones and helped with all of the household tasks.

Mary Mallen Matthews Sork died May 13, 1916 at Burr Oak, Kansas at the age of 81 years 1 month, 5 days.

Memorial services were held at Fairview Evangelical Church May 15, 1916. The officiating clergyman was Rev. G. Van Croft. Music was furnished by Mr. & Mrs. Frank Davis, Miss Willet & Mr. Willet. The musical selections were "Rock of Ages", O, Bear Me Away" and "There Is Rest."

The pall bearers were: Mark, Verner, Stanley and Thomas Matthews, George Darwin and Robert Korb.

Interment was in the rural Shaffer Cemetery, where her son Charles L. Matthews and his wife Hannah Armagost Matthews are also buried.

All the above information was listed from a little 4-page booklet provided by H. B. Walker, Funeral Director of Burr Oak, Kansas.

A trip to Ireland in 1971 and letters to the "Hiberian Research Co. Ltd." in 1988, which told me that County Longford records were burned in 1922 led me to the decision that I should put together what information that we had and make it available to the family.

Mary was a brave little soul who would have brightened our days and George could have told us about all of his adventures, and they gave us a wonderful grandfather and such dear relatives. Be proud of our heritage!.


George Matthews, the son of John and Mary Matthews, was born on Berkshire County, England at Holyport Green near Maidenhead about 1828 or 1829.

George's father was a farmer, but George did not take to farming, so he was put to learn the grocery business. But he was always of an unsettled turn according to his sister Eliza. He left home in 1846 and enlisted as a soldier and served in a Canadian regiment.

He met and married Mary Mallen during or following this enlistment. By 1853, he had apparently left Mary and little Charles.

After his father's death in 1855, George returned to England. He had been through the Russian War, as a First Class Quarter Master in a Naval Brigade. His uniform in the picture is the quartermaster dress. He probably had the picture taken on this visit.

Before his naval hitch ended, he had taken part in the Sepoy Mutiny. Then he was home again for two or three months before entering the Merchant Service. He wrote after going up the Baltic, then the letters ceased. Inquiries by some family friends led to the answer that George Matthews has left the Merchant Service and his whereabouts were not known. That message was in a letter to Charles from his Aunt Eliza Matthews dated July 10, 1876, London.

The above service information was received by Charles and his mother after they had written his family in England.

It is interesting that George had given Mary his home address and that they were able to contact the family and receive letters from an aunt and cousins of Charles. One letter was also received from George's brother-in-law checking if Charles was older than his first child, Annie, born August 16, 1851. A later letter from Eliza stated that little Annie had died in 1856.

Apparently, if the Matthews family resources hadn't dried up, Charles would have been the oldest living grandchild in line for inheritance.

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