Anderson, Matthew Dawson (1807–1884)

By: Corin Michelle Sowers

Type: Biography

Published: September 8, 2020

Updated: September 8, 2020

Matthew Dawson Anderson, farmer and state legislator, was born to Matthew Anderson and Sarah (Farrar) Anderson in Louisa County, Virginia, on November 16, 1807. His father served as a private during the Revolutionary War in Capt. John Winston’s Company in the Fourteenth Virginia Regiment.

D. Anderson married Sarah Thompson Goodwin in his home county on April 11, 1827. They had possibly seven children. By 1830 the Andersons owned eleven slaves. The couple migrated to Haywood County, Tennessee, with their children in the fall of 1835. Anderson continued his career as a planter, and by1840 his household had grown to include sixteen slaves. His wife died during the 1840s, and in March 1849 Anderson returned to Virginia to marry his cousin, Harriet Anne Anderson. The number of children the couple had is unclear, but it may have been as many as five.

In the fall of 1855 Anderson, who was apparently involved in a freighting business, moved his family from Haywood, Tennessee, to Guadalupe County, Texas. Upon moving to Guadalupe County, Anderson purchased the Forest Hill plantation of more than a thousand acres. By 1860 his personal net worth neared $25,000, because he acquired 35 slaves, 100 horses, and 180 head of cattle. His real estate was valued at $5,000. Although his plantation produced fifty-six bales of cotton in 1860, stock raising was also a major agricultural occupation. Anderson owned 55 dairy cows, 10 working oxen, and more than 100 beef cattle.

In 1857 Anderson served as the chairman of the Democratic meetings in Guadalupe. His duties included appointing delegates to the Waco Democratic convention. He served as the chair of the Houston senatorial convention held on May 28, 1859. The following month Anderson was elected to the House of the Eighth Texas Legislature. He served District 63 (representing Guadalupe County) for almost one full term, as he resigned one day prior to the close of the 1861 called session. During Anderson’s time as a representative, he was appointed to four committees: Agricultural Affairs, Education, Land Office, and Probate Laws. While sitting, Anderson offered three minor resolutions and one lone bill, which proposed to prevent stock herders from trespassing on the lands of others. None of these went to a vote.

Anderson’s final act as a legislator was to vote in favor of calling the state’s secession convention. Four days later, on February 8, 1861, he resigned from the legislature. Anderson’s age—he was fifty-three—along with the ownership of more than twenty slaves, disqualified him from mandatory service in the Confederate army.

Despite the disruptions caused by the war and Reconstruction, Anderson managed to hold his plantation together. The 1870 census listed his real estate as valued at $6,000 and his personal estate at $3,000. He still engaged in both farming and stock raising. He owned eighty horses, and produced 400 bushels of oats. Although he never ran for office again, Anderson remained active in Guadalupe County Democratic politics for the rest of his life. He represented Guadalupe County as a delegate to the 1875 state convention in San Marcos. He later served as a Democratic delegate to the Congressional Convention at San Antonio. In 1880 Anderson served as a delegate to the Democratic convention in Dallas.

On May 7, 1889, at the age of eighty-one, Matthew Dawson Anderson died in Guadalupe County. He was buried in the family cemetery.

Matthew Dawson Anderson Papers, Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: M. D. Anderson (, accessed February 10, 2020. “Maj Matthew Dawson Anderson,” Find A Grave Memorial (, accessed February 10, 2020.

  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • House
  • State Legislators
  • Eighth Legislature (1859-1861)
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Corin Michelle Sowers, “Anderson, Matthew Dawson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

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September 8, 2020
September 8, 2020