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History and education in those Highland County hills of yore, Part 16  

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Steve Roush

By Steve Roush
HCP columnist   

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been discussing the family of the Rev. Joseph McDowell Mathews, a pioneer of Highland County education, for quite a while now (yes, we’ve reached Part 16), but we might as well finish the tale of James Trimble Mathews before we move on.

After all, James T. was not only the Good Reverend’s son-in-law, but he was also his nephew, too, as Jame T.’s dad was William Harvey Mathews (1806-1891), the Rev. Mathews’ younger brother. Like his wife, Sarah E. “Sallie” Mathews (1856-1907), James Trimble Mathews died in his 50s. He and Sallie had no children and lived in Nicholasville, Ky.

When he died in the fall of 1916, it was written in his obituary, “‘God's finger touched him and he slept.’ This sentiment describes the passing out into eternity of James T. Mathews at his home last Saturday morning, Oct. 21, 1916, on the Wilmore and Hanly turnpike.

“Mr. Mathews retired last Friday night in his usual health and was found dead in bed the following morning by friends. He had been in failing health for some time, but relatives and friends did not suspect that death was so near, as he was in Nicholasville Thursday, Oct. 19 attending to business, and his sudden passing away was a great shock to his relatives and friends. In his death, the county loses an upright citizen and one who tried to regulate his life by the plumb-line of Justice, and who endeavored to conform his life by the square of virtue.

“His wife, who was, before her marriage, Miss Sallie Mathews, of Hillsboro, preceded him to the grave by eight years, and he has since traveled the pathway of life alone. The funeral services were held at his late home, Sunday, Oct 22, conducted by Rev. F. B. Jones, of the Methodist church, Wilmore, and the large crowd present attested the manly rectitude of the departed one.

“James T. Mathews was born in this county, Sept. 26, 1858, and was the son of William H. and Sarah Mathews. He is survived by three sisters, Mrs. Buckner Bryant of this county; Mrs. Celia Mathews Keen, St. Louis; Mrs. Margaret Land, Lexington; four brothers, Dr. William H. Mathews II and John Mathews of Nicholasville, and Rev. Joseph Mathews of Mt. Carmel M. E. Church, South and Caleb M. Mathews, Lexington. Mr. Mathews was a member of the Jessamine County fiscal court, and attended the meetings of that body regularly.”

After passing away at the age of 58, James Trimble Mathews was buried beside his wife in the Maple Grove Cemetery, also known as the Nicholasville Cemetery.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is president of the Highland County Historical Society and served as chairman and vice chairman on the HCHS Board of Trustees for two terms, a board member of the Highland District Hospital Foundation, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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