Sangamon County ILGenWeb © 2000
In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, data and images may be used by non-commercial entities, as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or for other presentation without express permission by the contributor(s).

By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

NOAH W. MATHENY - who was spoken of by many of his friends as the "best known and best liked man in Sangamon county," occupied for many years a prominent position in the public regard, both by reason of his sterling traits of character and the important service which he did for his community in connection with affairs bearing upon the public stability and progress. He was for years honored with public office and was also a leading factor in financial circles and throughout his entire life maintained a high standard of conduct that was actuated by honorable, manly and upright principles, making him a citizen in every way worthy the esteem and good will which was so universally tendered him. He was a representative of one of the distinguished pioneer families of central Illinois, his people having settled in Springfield in 1819, when this was a wild country, few improvements having been made in this section of the state.

Mr. Matheny was born in St. Clair county, Illinois, July 31, 1815, a son of Charles Reynolds and Jemima (Ogle) Matheny. The mother was a daughter of Captain Ogle, one of the earliest residents of Illinois and a representative of a distinguished family. Charles R. Matheny was a native of Virginia and about 1798, when a young man, he removed to St. Clair county. Illinois, where he settled upon a farm, and there married Jemima Ogle. Although he devoted much attention to agricultural pursuits he was also a local minister of the Methodist Episcopal church and on Sundays usually engaged in preaching. He continued in that dual calling in St. Clair county until 1819, when he came with his family to Sangamon county and was instrumental in it organization. He was afterward made county clerk and held the position continuously until his death, which occurred in 1837. All of the incidents of pioneer life became familiar to him. This district was then far removed from the thickly settled portions of the state and the work of progress and up building seemed scarcely begun. The wolves were so numerous that Mr. Matheny was, almost afraid to venture to mill fearing attack from these wild animals. Deer roamed over the prairie and small game was to be had in abundance. The homes of the settlers, were largely log cabins, but Mr. Matheny and others aided in planting here the seeds of civilization, which have borne splendid fruit as the years have advanced. In connection with others he laid broad and deep the foundation for the present prosperity and advancement of Sangamon county and his name should be enduringly inscribed upon the pages of its history. His wife afterward made her home with her son Noah until her death, which occurred in 1856. In the family were twelve children, but only three are now living, as follows: E. Cook, who is living retired in Chicago; Maria J., the wife of Stephen Whitehurst of Decatur, Illinois; and Emily P. the wife of Benjamin McQuisten of Ottawa, Kansas.

Amid the wild scenes of frontier life Noah W. Matheny was reared and his education was acquired in the old time subscription schools in which the advantages were somewhat limited, but reading and experience in later life broadened his knowledge making him a well informed man, who looked upon life from a comprehensive standpoint, judging with the keenness of his naturally strong intellect the questions which concern the community and the nation, as well as those which bore upon his business career. As soon as he learned to write his father took him into the clerk's office and he became his assistant in the work of that position and aided his father until the latter's death in 1837. The practical training which he had received well qualified him to continue the duties of the office and that this opinion was held by his fellow townsmen is shown by the fact that in November, 1839, be was elected county clerk. For a long period he filled that position, his incumbency covering thirty-four years. His course was above criticism, characterized by the utmost fidelity to duty and by systematic and methodical work. At length he resigned and was made president of the First National Bank of Springfield, continuing in that position up to the time of his demise. Honored and respected by all, no man of the city occupied a more enviable position in the public regard in Illinois, not alone on account of the success be achieved, but by reason of the honorable, straightforward methods he ever followed. He made judicious investments of his earnings and became well to do. Whatever he undertook he carried forward to successful completion and his business methods were ever such as would bear the closest investigation and scrutiny.

On the 22nd of August, 1843, Mr. Matheny was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth J. Stamper, who was born in Bourbon county, Kentucky, April 18, 1825. a daughter of the Rev. Dr. Jonathan and Alethia (Tucker) Stamper, both of whom were natives of Kentuckv, where the father was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal church. He traveled for forty years throughout that state preaching the gospel, and his influence was a potent element in the moral development of his community. On the expiration of that period he came to Illinois, settling in Decatur where he continued in ministerial work for several years and then lived a retired life for a brief period, enjoying a well earned rest until he, was called to the home beyond, dying in his seventv-first year. His wife passed away at the home, of her daughter Mrs. Matheny. All of the other children are now deceased with the exception of Mrs. Matilda S. Andrus, who resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. Nine children were born unto Mr. and Mrs. Matheny but with one exception all have passed away. Fannie M. is the wife of J. N. Dixon, a practicing physician in Springfield and they reside with Mrs. Matheny. The other children of the family died in infancy with the exception of three sons who grew to manhood--William, Samuel and Edward.

Mr. Matheny was well fitted for leadership because, of the native strength of his character, his unquestioned fidelity to the interests of the community and his recognition of the public needs and possibilities. In addition to the office of the county clerk he filled several other local positions in the city and was a member of the board of supervisors. For a considerable period he also served on the school board and the cause of education found in him a warm friend who put forth effective effort in behalf of the schools. His political allegiance was given to the Whig party. In early life and when the Republican party was formed he joined its ranks and continued one of its stanch advocates. Fraternally he was connected with the Odd Fellows lodge of Springfield and at one time was a member of the Masonic fraternity, but ceased to attend the latter. He and his wife were members of the First Methodist Episcopal church, Mr. Matheny joining the organization in the early days of its existence. He continuously held some office in the church and took a most active and helpful part in its work, directing his energies into its various lines of activity and usefulness. He passed away on the 30th of April 1877. His widow and her daughter now reside at her beautiful residence at No. 825 South Sixth street, a place well known throughout the city as the Matheny home, having been the family residence for fifty-tbree years. The life record of Mr. Matheny forms an integral part of the history of Sangamon county and in his death the state lost one of its distinguished citizens. His career was a long, busy and useful one, marked by the utmost fidelity to the duties of public and private life and crowned with honors conferred upon him in recognition of superior merit. His name is inseparably interwoven with the annals of central Illinois, with its development and its stable progress and his memory is cherished as one who made the world better for his having lived.

Return to 1904 Biographies Index
Return to Sangamon County ILGenWeb