Friday, February 27, 2009

Ruben Mathis

[This is a continuation of my series on the vigilantes at the Cane Creek massacre. The photo is probably from 1934 and is courtesy of Sammye Jo Lawson.]

Ruben Mathis, or Rube as his friends and family, was a farmer on the east fork of Cane Creek. According to Ernest S Pollock, in 1881, when Hohenwald was founded Rube brought the first U.S. mail in from the town of Gordon by mule. He served under J. H. Vandiver as Postmaster (Republican Banner, Jan 15, 1938).

Rube revealed his identity as one of the vigilantes on multiple occations. Some of these were recorded. Once was during the visit of Miles L. Jones in 1934. Jones described Mathis as

"a tall slender man, whose figure is erect. He has a long white beard, and although he is eighty two years of age, he is able to get around very briskly. He is a typical rural Tennessean."
Miles L. Jones goes on to explain Mathis' role in the massacre as though it was already a well know fact, although I have no written evidence earlier than Jones' manuscript.

Mathis was included in the vigilante meetings prior to the massacre, and felt pressured to participate. This was probably because of a kinship he had with David Hinson. There have been claims that they were first cousins or brothers-in-law, though I have not been able to document either one.

Knowing what was going to happen, Mathis went to the Conder home on the Friday the 8th of August, to warn them about the impending trouble. According to Miles L. Jones, Mathis

"told them that threats had been made by some that they were going to whip the Elders, but he said that the Conder boys told him that it was just some young fellows that were trying to run a bluff. He said no, that it was older men and that they had better be careful and not do anything that would give an excuse for something serious to happen."

In 1974, Leslie Talley would attribute the following statement to Court Talley, who claimed to be Mathis' grandson:

"Mathis had gone along, at least partially, to keep things quiet because many of the men had been drinking. He begged them to leave their guns behind but they refused."
Mathis was with the vigilantes when they stopped Elder William H. Jones on the far side of the creek. And when they left Elder Jones to deal with the other missionaries, Mathis was left in as a guard against his escape. When the shooting started, however, it was Mathis who let Elder Jones escape. Even giving him directions of where to go so he could escape to Shady Grove undetected.

"After the shooting and commotion at the home, two men came running down the road and asked where Elder Jones was, and when informed that he had made his escape, one of them raised his gun to shoot Mr Mathis, but the other man, who by the way was Mr. Mathis' brother, said to him, "If you shoot Rube, I'll kill
you", and consequently the man did not carry out his threat." - Miles L. Jones
Ruben Mathis had two brothers we know of, John Jackson Mathis (aka Jack), and William Henry Mathis. There is no indication, however, which brother this was.

William Walter Pollock wrote in 1943 that Elder William H. Jones

"learned many years ago who his liberator was and that each year nice presents were sent to the old gentleman who has now passed to his reward"

Rube was born September 12, 1851. He is the son of John Mathis and Martha Henrietta Hinson. (I have yet to find a connection between Rube's mother and David Hinson). He was married September 27, 1868, in Lewis County to Elizabeth Williams who was born January 4, 1850. The two of them had five children.
1) Virginia Elizer Mathis (Nov. 3, 1869-Nov. 4, 1869),
2) Thomas Hunter Mathis (March 5, 1873 - Feb. 16, 1891),
3) Robert T. Mathis (1876-April 1, 1943) married Lizzie Thompson (1883-Jan.15, 1965) on March 1901 in Lewis County, Tennessee.
4) Jane Mathis (Sept. 22, 1880 - Feb. 1, 1885)
5) Mary Etter Mathis (May 7,1878 - February 1, 1912) married Lewis "Scott" Talley (July 29, 1876 - March 2 1963).

Among the children of Robet T. Mathis are Willis and Claude Mathis, Ophelia Mathis Hinson, Viola Mathis Talley, Louisa Mathis Talley, and Rosenia Mathis Dabbs.

Mary Etter Mathis had at least six children: Thomas Talley, Oliver Talley, Lou Talley, Alfred Talley, E. Claude Talley and Elizabeth Ellen Talley.

Rube's wife, Elizabeth died Nov. 11, 1932. A few short years later, Rube died in 1935 or 1936. They, and all their children, are buried in the Betty Bastin Cemetery.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic! Branching out from the central figures this way will add so much to your project and our understanding of the history.

BruceAllen said...

Thanks, the story is much more than just from a Mormon point of view.

Sandi said...

The Cane Creek Massacre is very interesting and I only ran across it doing research on my family which involves Mathis,Hinson, and Hudson (Hutson). Rube's brother Jesse Manuel Mathis is my 3rd Great Grandfather and is buried in Perry County. From you readings, it makes me wonder if he was also involved. Through my research it seems that Martha Henrietta Hinson's brother is George "Grey George" Hinson, who is David's dad. If this is correct, this would make Rube Mathis & David Hinson first cousins. Even stranger (my ancestors involement)is that, according to my research, John Riley Hudson is my GGG Grandmother's (Rosannah "Rosie" Hudson)nephew. What strange things you can find doing family research!

Anonymous said...

I came across the Cane Creek massacre while reading William Gay's The Long Home. The mention of the massacre and a place called Mormon Springs caused me to do some searching for anything which might verify the facts from the book. Thanks to your page I have found the history I needed and thank you very much. Just another amateur historian.

BruceAllen said...

Glad you fond something you could use. I'll admit I've not heard of Mormon Springs before. But I'd like to know more.

JuneR said...

I been researching my family tree on my mom's side.(Mathis/Hinson).I loved reading this article.Ruben Mathis is my great great grandfather and my decesaed moms great grandfather.Rube's dad John Mathis is my 3x great grandfather

BruceAllen said...

That is so cool. Had you heard much about is life before?

JuneR said...

Sorry took me a while to reply computerissues.I knew Ruben was my gr grandp but I didn't know bout the cane creek massacre until I came across this site.I'm grateful u posted this article,Gives me more info on my family that I didn't have thanx. June

Ron Mathis said...

I have heard this story my whole life.
This is Awesome.


Unknown said...

Rube is my great uncle. His brother Jessie Manuel ( Whig ) Mathis is my great-grandfather. Jessie's daughter Ida Mae Mathis (Arnold ) is my grandmother. Ida and several family members lived in Mt. Pleasant in Maury county. This story is common knowledge among the descendants of Jessie Mathis. We were not sure which brothers participated, besides Rubin, that part wasn't talked about. I recently bought a book titled "A Land of Strangers: Cane Creek Tennessee's Mormon Massacre" by Bruce Crow. Page 239 has a photo and article about Rubin.

Dennis Allen