Matthews, Mansell Walter (1806–1891)

By: Cecil Harper, Jr.

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 1, 1995

Mansell (Mansel, Mansil) W. Matthews, preacher, doctor, legislator, and soldier, was born in Kentucky on December 24, 1806, the son of Joseph and Penninah Matthews. He was raised and educated in Kentucky and Tennessee, then preached and taught in Tennessee and Alabama until 1835. He married Sarah Ann Gehagan in Kentucky and began a career as a physician and Disciples of Christ minister; the couple had ten children. In late 1835 Matthews and his family left Tennessee for Texas with a number of other families. According to one source, they were accompanied through the early part of their journey by David Crockett and his men. Matthews was a large man who weighed about 275 pounds. He arrived in Red River County on January 17, 1836. After settling his family and winning the March 17 election as representative from Red River County to the First Texas Congress, he joined the Texas army and served as a surgeon until July 1836. He was at the battle of San Jacinto and attended the wounded Gen. Sam Houston when Houston's soldiers brought Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna to Houston as a captive. Matthews attended the first session of the Congress, which met from October 3 to December 22, 1836, but then resigned his seat, having been elected president of the Board of Land Commissioners of Red River County. He also represented Red River County in the House of the Seventh Congress (1842–43) and at the Convention of 1845. In addition to other military activities, he served with Company F of the Texas Rifles during the Mexican War.

Matthews was an influential preacher in Hopkins County from about 1844 to 1855. He bought and sold thousands of acres, witnessed the marriage of numerous couples, and was postmaster at White Oak from 1847 to 1850. By 1855 he had apparently moved to the Rockwall area, where he was invited to address the people on "the evils of intemperance" on November 13. By 1859 he was a resident of Cooke County, where he chaired a county Democratic convention on May 7. Before and after the Civil War he was the leader of a large family that followed the grass with a large herd of cattle to North Texas in the summer and Central Texas in the winter. Matthews preached all along the frontier from Cooke County to Burnet County. In 1864 he was arrested as a Union sympathizer by a vigilante committee, charged with treason against the Confederacy, and imprisoned and sentenced to hang in Gainesville, where many had been hanged by a vigilante court on the same charge (see GREAT HANGING AT GAINESVILLE). Capt. Ephraim M. Daggett, a fellow Mason of Fort Worth, received word from Matthews and hurried to Gainesville, where he convinced the judge that no act of treason had been committed.

Matthews's first wife died at Thornton, Texas, in 1870, and in 1872 he married Margaret Spencer, with whom he had four children. During the last twenty years of his life he lived in Wise County, where he bought and sold land, preached, practiced medicine, and operated a drugstore in Paradise with his son. He lived in Paradise for ten years and died there on April 13, 1891. Through his grandfather, Walter Matthews, Mansell was a descendent of Oliver Cromwell. His cousins, Joseph W. and James E. Matthews, were governor and auditor of Mississippi, respectively. His son, J. J. Matthews, was judge of Somervell County. His family also married into the family of Collin McKinney, when Elizabeth S. Matthews married John W. McKinney, Collin's son, and Margaret Helen Matthews married Collin M. Milan, Collin's grandson.

Carter E. Boren, Religion on the Texas Frontier (San Antonio: Naylor, 1968). Thomas T. Ewell, History of Hood County (Granbury, Texas: Gaston, 1895; rpt., Granbury Junior Woman's Club, 1956). Original Documents of the Matthews Papers, Special Collections, Texas Christian University. Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Texas Writers Project, Fort Worth Public Library.
  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners
  • Religion
  • Christian Church
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Cecil Harper, Jr., “Matthews, Mansell Walter,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

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