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
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.
"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."
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 killRuben 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.
you", and consequently the man did not carry out his threat." - Miles L. Jones
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.