John Matthews was born in Campbell County, Virginia, in 1796, moved to Texas around the time of the Texas Revolution, and settled in Jackson County. In 1837 he moved to the east side of the Colorado River in southern Colorado County, where he bought lands granted to James Nelson in 1824. His first home was built in the riverbottom, but frequent flooding drove him to a higher site that became known as Matthews Prairie. His new home was built by slave labor with cypress lumber brought by ship from Florida to Columbia on the Brazos River and then hauled overland by ox-drawn wagons. The 1840 tax records credit Matthews with 2,222 acres and seventeen slaves. The 1850 census valued his property at $10,000 and showed ownership of fifteen slaves. As his holdings increased, a community named Matthews developed in the area around the plantation, and by 1860 his total property, including 140 slaves, was valued at $225,000. That year he produced 10,000 bushels of corn and 589 bales of cotton on 800 acres of improved land. Matthews never married. In January 1861, when he became ill, his brother Nathaniel took him back to Virginia for care. Before leaving Texas John deeded the entire plantation to his brother who, in turn, passed it to his children. John Matthews died in Virginia in 1861.