Biography of Benton A. Mathews
Marion County, IA Biographies





BENTON A. MATHEWS.
Business enterprise in Marion county finds a worthy representative in Benton A. Mathews, who is today conducting one of the oldest nursery businesses of the state, established sixty years ago. He has the largest pear orchard in Iowa and the products of his nurseries are shipped over a wide territory, finding ready sale because of well known excellence and also by reason of the thorough reliability of the proprietor. The nursery is pleasantly and conveniently located a half mile from Knoxville and Mr. Mathews still occupies the old home that was erected by his father about 1855, much walnut lumber being used in the construction, while the shingles were brought from Burlington. At the time of its erection this residence was one of the best in Knoxville. It is surrounded by pine trees and is yet an attractive, comfortable home in which the spirit of hospitality reigns supreme.

Benton A. Mathews was born in Coshocton, Ohio, on the 4th of January, 1840, and is a son of James and Mary A. (Conley) Mathews, the former a native of Trumbull county, Ohio, and the latter of Goshen, New York. They were married, however, in the Buckeye state. The paternal grandfather, Alexander Mathews, was a native of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, and was a son of James Mathews, a native of Ireland, who became the founder of this family in the new world. He crossed the Atlantic to the United States with his two brothers, William and Thomas, and all three rendered valiant service to the colonies in the Revolutionary war, while the grandfather, Alexander Mathews, was an equally loyal soldier of the War of 1812. The same spirit of patriotic devotion to country was manifest by James Mathews during his service in the Ohio legislature and during the two terms in which he represented his Ohio district in congress. He arrived in Marion county in 1854 as one of its pioneer settlers and purchased land where Knoxville now stands. He laid out the Mathews addition to the town and also the Mathews new addition and was in various ways prominently connected with the upbuilding and progress of city and county. He was a lawyer by profession and, opening an office in Knoxville, successfully engaged in practice here until his death, which occurred in 1887 when he was eighty three years of age. His wife passed away in 1899, at the age of eighty five years. They were everywhere recognized as people of sterling worth and became leaders in the community in which they made their home.

Mr. Mathews was the oldest Mason in the county at the time of his demise and was ever a loyal representative of the craft which has as its basic element a recognition of the brotherhood of mankind. When serving in congress from Ohio, Mr. Mathews voted to admit Iowa into the Union, and it was not long afterward before he became identified with the new state, remaining an active factor in its development and substantial improvement for more than three decades. To him and his wife were born twelve children, as follows: Morton, who died in infancy; Mary, James, Louisa and Hannah, all of whom are deceased; Caroline, who has likewise passed away and who was the wife of Governor William M. Stone, of Iowa, also deceased; Benton A., of this review; Augusta, deceased, who was the wife of Dr. Foote, of Philadelphia; Matilda, who now resides in Washington, D. C., and is the widow of F. C. Barber, for many years editor of the Knoxville Journal; Addie, who has passed away; Helene, deceased; and one child unnamed who died in infancy.

Benton A. Mathews acquired a public school education in Ohio and Iowa, accompanying his parents to this state when a lad of fourteen years. The year which witnessed the outbreak of the Civil war was the year in which he attained his majority, and on the 22d day of May, 1861, only about six weeks after the first guns had been fired at Fort Sumter, he enlisted as a member of Company B, Third Iowa Infantry, becoming second lieutenant. He went to the front and was on active duty for a year and a half and was wounded at Shiloh, his injuries being of such a nature that he was discharged on the 15th of October, 1862. He then returned to Knoxville and embarked in the nursery business, in which he has since been continuously engaged. His father had established this business in 1854, so that it has now been in continuous existence for six decades and is one of the oldest in the state. He engages in the production of nursery stock of all kinds suitable to the soil and climatic conditions of the temperate zone, and he has the largest pear orchard in Iowa. He has studied the business from every angle, acquainting himself with the scientific principles and with all the practical phases until his opinions are largely accepted as authority upon questions concerning the production and care of nursery stock and the further propagation of the trees. His business has reached large and gratifying proportions, bringing to him a substantial annual income. It was Mr. Mathews and his father who introduced evergreens into this county and, as previously stated, his home is surrounded by a beautiful grove of murmuring pines.

In 1878 Mr. Mathews was united in marriage to Miss Cynthia J. Lindley, a daughter of Judge Lindley, of Newton, Iowa, who came from southern Ohio to this state in the early '50s. A lawyer by profession, he successfully engaged in practice and his ability led to his selection for judge of the circuit court, in which position he remained for many years. He afterward removed to Nebraska, where he was again elected to the bench and later he returned to Ohio, where he passed away in January, 1896. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Sarah McCracken, was also a native of Ohio and is now deceased. Our subject and his wife have two children, namely: Alice, the wife of John M. Weaver, who follows the profession of teaching and makes his home in Lawrence, Kansas; and Mary, at home.

In his political views Mr. Mathews is a democrat but has never been ambitious for office. He belongs to John C. Ferguson Post, G. A. R., and thus maintains pleasant relations with his old army comrades. His life has been preeminently that of a business man, careful, reliable and energetic in the conduct of his interests, yet at all times his influence has been on the side of progress and improvement in affairs relating to the county in which he has now made his home for almost two thirds of a century.

From:
History of Marion County, Iowa
And its People
John W. Wright, Supervising Editor
W. A. Young, Associate
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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