William O. Mathes

WILLIAM O. MATHES. There is no more enthusiastic Kansan than William O. Mathes of McPherson. He knows the state not merely as a great and prosperous modern commonwealth, but by intimate experience with this country when it was in its pioneer stages. He won his competence on a Kansas homestead and he and his people were among the earliest settlers in McPherson County.

Mr. Mathes was born in a log house on a farm in Clark County, Indiana, September 7, 1854. His parents were Charles and Mary Ellen (Clark) Mathes. The Mathes family in all earlier generation became pioneers in Indiana Territory, living there when Indiana was on the western frontier and when the settlers had to dispute with the Indians their right to possession. Charles Mathes was born September 10, 1812, about the time the War of 1812 began, in a stockade fort in Clark County, Indiana. That fort had been put up for the protection of settlers against the Indians, and at that time all Indiana was aroused and in a state of fearfulness following the Indian uprising which had culminated in the battle of Tippecanoe only a few months previously. Charles Mathes was a farmer, lived in Indiana for many years, but in 1867 brought his family out to Kansas. He traveled overland by wagon and arriving in what is now McPherson County located his homestead of Government land on the Smoky Hill River, one mile east of the present Town of Lindsborg. McPherson County had not yet been organized. Charles Mathes had as his early homes a dugout and later a log house, and buffalo meat was one of the most staple articles of diet. For several years he lived almost without neighbors and the country occasionally had an Indian scare. He was beyond middle life when he came to Kansas, but he succeeded in developing a farm out of his homestead and continued to live there until his death on January 5, 1002, when upwards of ninety years of age. During his youth he had enlisted as a private in an Indiana regiment to participate in the Black Hawk Indian war of 1832. In 1834 Charles Mathes married Mary Ellen Clark, who was born in Clark County, Indiana, May 20, 1818, a daughter of Colby Clark. She died in Clark County, Indiana, in 1857, the mother of seven children, five sons and two daughters: Mary Ellen, Thomas Jefferson, Rebecca M., Andrew Jackson, Benjamin, Charlotte and William O. William O. and his brother Andrew J. are the only survivors.

William O. Mathes was about thirteen years of age when he came with his father to Kansas. He arrived in McPherson County June 15, 1867. As a boy in his native state he had attended a private school, but after coming to Kansas his educational opportunities were limited to one short term. But he lived in a time and in conditions when a knowledge of books was less essential than a certain physical hardihood and a courage and enterprise sufficient to overcome the obstacles that confronted the pioneers. In 1872 Mr. Mathes left home and went to Texas, where he became a typical cowboy of the old time range. He accompanied several herds of cattle up over the noted trail to Kansas, bringing them to the railroads, whence they were carried to market. At that time Brookville, Kansas, was the nearest railroad point. He later drove cattle to the grazing ranges of Wyoming. He had three years of experience as a cowboy on the range, and after that he worked as a farm hand until reaching his majority.

When he came to legal age and was properly qualified Mr. Mathes in 1875 filed on a homestead in McPherson County three miles north of the county seat. That hometead proved his opportunity in life. He developed it, farmed and raised stock, gradually prospered, and from it derived ample provision for the rearing of a family of five children. Mr. Mathes lived on the old farm for thirty-two years, and in 1908 he retired and moved to McPherson. Since coming to McPherson he has filled a place in the city council four years and has held several other minor offices. In 1916 he was democratic candidate for representative from McPherson County. He has done his part to advance the public welfare of the town and county. Mr. Mathes is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Methodist Episcopal Church.

On January 16, 1876, soon after taking possession of his homestead, he married Miss Ida C. Lamer. Mrs. Mathes was born on a farm in Jackson County, Illinois, May 14, 1856, a daughter of August C. and Ellen (Corgan) Lamer. Her parents were also natives of Illinois. Mr. and Mrs. Mathes are the parents of five children, two sons and three daughters: Carrie, born December 19, 1877; Mary Ann, born November 16, 1879; Dora May, born January 13, 1881; William, born February 15, 1883; and Thomas Hendricks, born March 25, 1885, and named for the then vice president of the United States. All these children were born on the old homestead in McPherson County.

Many years of quiet and steady industry brought their rewards to Mr. Mathes in the form of material prosperity as well as in the honor and respect of his community. He is now owner of a large amount of Kansas farm lands, and since 1895 has been active in the Alliance Exchange Company, a large mercantile concern at McPherson.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Jennifer Haase, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, September 7, 1999.

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