MATHENY, CHARLES W., was born in St. Clair County, Ill., on September 27, 1820. He was educated in the village schools of Springfield and at an early age entered mercantile life as Clerk in the store of B. C. Webster and Company. His rise was rapid, and after being a member of several partnerships, in 1861 he established the firm of C. W. Matheny & Company, dealers in dry goods and general merchandise, purchasing and occupying the well known Matheny Building, at the southwest corner of Sixth and Adams Streets, Springfield. His partners in this venture were his brothers-in-law, B. C. McQuesten and John Bressmer.
The conditions of business differed widely from those existing at the present time. The stores were smaller and much interior in appearance, but the volume of trade was very large and profits were large. Springfield was then small and not particularly pleasing in appearance, but it drew its retail trade from a wide range of rapidly developing country. The early settlers required long credits, generally closing accounts at the end of the year. The goods were bought in the East, largely upon semi-annual journeys made by the local merchants for that purpose. Capital was scarce and banking accommodations were very limited. Accordingly, the merchant of the 'fifties and 'sixties was of necessity a man of character and foresight. In 1866 the firm was dissolved, Mr. McQuesten removing to Kansas, Mr. Matheny retiring from mercantile lines, and Mr. Bressmer continued the business.
Mr. Matheny then engaged successfully in the buying and selling of lands and in large contract work, chiefly in railway construction. With various associates he built large parts of several of the more important railroads in central and eastern Illinois.
He was a keen judge of men and this is illustrated in the choice of his associates. They included Mr. Bressmer, whose career as a merchant has been most distinguished; R. D. Lawrence, afterwards President of the State National Bank, of Springfield; and Isaac Keys, founder of the Farmers National Bank, of Springfield, and for many years its Vice President.
Charles W. Matheny was for many years a Director of the First National Bank of Springfield, and upon the death of his brother, Noah W. Matheny, he became President and devoted himself to the banking business, when his health would permit, until his death, which occurred April 16, 1879.
He was one of the commissioners who established and put in operation the Springfield Water Works System, but otherwise held no public office.
He was married to Margaret Condell, who survived him and died September 25, 1889. His two sons, Charles O. Matheny, of Springfield, Ill., and George H. Matheny, of Sarasota, Fla., are still living.
Mr. Matheny was a man of large business interests and accumulated a handsome fortune for those times. He was a man of liberal and charitable spirit and broad business views. He was prominently identified with the First Methodist Church of Springfield.