When the annals of this section shall have been written for permanent record the name of "Wils" Mathews, as he is known to his friends, will be mentioned as the first postmaster, and one of the earliest to engage in merchandising in the city of Miltonvale. With the courage and perseverance that marked the early settlers of Kansas he struggled with the fickle goddess of fortune, through the quicksands and vicissitudes of various enterprises, and relates his experience in a way that bears with them the conviction that he made history.
He became a citizen of Cloud county in 1873 and took up a homestead two and three-quarters miles northeast of the present town of Miltonvale; his two brothers, James and George, following a few weeks later. They are also residents of Miltonvale and have extensive business interests there. They gave up the ghost at one time and wandered back to their old Missouri home, but finding no satisfactory opening there they "screwed up" their courage and returned to Kansas.
In 1881 Mr. Mathews opened a country store. The following year the railroad was built and he brought his stock of goods to the town site of Miltonvale and has since been a prominent factor of the town. He has met with many reverses but there are few enterprises that do not have their dark days.
In 1883 his store along with the whole block was burned to the ground with a loss to him of over $3,000; in the autumn of the same year he became associated with his father and bought the grocery business of James McCloud which they sold in 1885. Mr. Mathews then became interested along with his brother George and Mr. Bond and erected an elevator under the firm name of Mathews & Bond, Mr. Mathews owning one-half interest. In 1893 it was set on fire by a spark from a Santa Fe engine. They were awarded a small amount of insurance, but before judgment was passed the railroad went into the hands of a receiver. They pressed their claim carrying it to the Supreme court, where they were awarded damages and insurance, but lost $3,600 in the deal.
As if to make the old maxim good, "Misfortunes never come singly," he then went into the cattle feeding business and when he shipped them upon the market the following April, came out $1,500 in debt and a mortgage on his home.
Although unfortunate in his investments he continued to buy, feed and ship cattle and made some shipments that netted him $2,000 and more. In the meantime he operated an extensive implement business which has endured until the present writing and he is recognized as one of the most successful salesman in the county. In 1901 one of his implement houses was demolished by a wind storm.
Mr. Mathews also has a war record. In 1864 a flaxen haired youth of fifteen years, he ran away from home and enlisted in the army, but his ambitions were curtailed by the ending of hostilities.
In his earlier life he learned the blacksmith trade which served him well in the early days of Kansas, for money was not so current then as in late years and the transfer of goods was as often based on the primitive mode of exchange as on cash value.
We will briefly state a deal he made with a Frenchman which reveals something of his ingenuity in that direction and how after driving cattle a few months the early settlers would sacrifice much for a team of horses. The Frenchman had two yoke of faithful plodding oxen that had turned the sod of his homestead and were for sale or trade. Mr. Mathews had a span of old "plug" horses which he dressed up in brand new harness gorgeous with red trimmings. He sallied out to meet the Frenchman and after the dickering customary to such trades the bargain was closed, Mr. Mathews getting the two yoke of cattle along with a barrel of molasses, two dozen chickens (equivalent to legal tender in those days), a cow and two calves, with corn enough to feed all winter, in fact the Frenchman had but little left save his wife.
Mr. Mathews is a native of Logansport, Indiana, where he was born in 1848. When three years of age his parents moved to Iowa and six years subsequently to Adair county, Missouri, where he was reared on a farm.
His father is Elias Mathews who was a North Carolinian by birth but came to Indiana in his early childhood. In 1850 he crossed the plains to California where he mined successfully for three years, but most of his life has been spent farming. He is spending his declining years alternately with his children, his wife having died in 1898. She was Sarah E. Covey, a native of Indiana. To their union eight children were born, six of whom are living. Besides James and George, already mentioned, there is a brother in Birmingham, Alabama, and one a resident physician of New York City, and two sisters in Kirksville, Missouri.
W.T. Mathews was married in 1872 to Anna Raredon and the following year came to Kansas, where all their children except the eldest were born. The first son, Victor T., is a graduate of the Miltonvale high school. He is an electrician and engineer who deserves great credit, as he acquired the profession by practical application, the outgrowth of which secured him a lucrative position with the Electric Light and Water Works Company of Marengo, Iowa. He has been with them four years. Arthur W., the second son, is married and lives in Washington, Kansas. They have two children, a son and daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Mathews have four daughters, viz: Ida, wife of Fred Kuhnle, who have one child, a son; Clara, wife of I.J. Bumgardner, a farmer, six miles from Miltonvale; Laura, who keeps books in her father's store, and Blanche, a little school girl.
Mr. Mathews served three terms as mayor of Miltonvale, is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias and of the Order of the Select Knights. He has one of the best homes in the city, is a man of genial and cordial manner and one who in the earlier settlement of the county must have contributed much good cheer, regardless of hardships and misfortunes. Time has not dealt harshly with him and he is still a hale-fellow - well-met-western-man.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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