Finding Aids

Matthews, Henry Diaries

Manuscript Collection Number:
Henry Matthews (1799-18??)
Henry Matthews Diaries
Data Span:
1806, 1815-1844
5 Volumes

Processed by: Brown, Mandy
Date Processed: 05/2002

  • Henry Matthews (1799-18?) was a Methodist circuit rider, schoolteacher, and practicing physician from Ohio, who made his way from Ohio, through the Illinois Territory, to Texas. Primarily a circuit-riding preacher and schoolteacher in his early days in Ohio, Matthews practiced medicine more formally in the 1830s and 1840s in San Felipe, Texas, where Matthews and his wife Miranda eventually settled. Evident from his later writings, Matthews was well acquainted with some of the founders of Rutersville College, near La Grange, Texas, in 1840, and may have been an active participant in the initial Methodist camp meetings at Rutersville in the late 1830s.

    Henry Matthews was the father of Zenas Wells Matthews. Special Collections holds Zenas’ war diary and service papers from the 1846 U.S.-Mexico War.

  • The five-volume set of diaries includes transcriptions of letters written by Matthews to various family members and friends in Ohio; student rosters and progress reports; descriptions of medical services rendered and patients’ progress and conditions; and sermon notes and copies of scriptural passages. The earliest of the diaries traces Matthews’s life on the Fairfield Circuit in Ohio and as a schoolteacher in rural Ohio. In later diary entries, Matthews’s commentary focuses on daily life in Texas, ranging from weather reports to crop and garden progress to community events and news to Texans’ relations with the nearby Native American Indian tribes like the Coshatta Indians.

  • Box and Folder

    Volume I: Small Blue Book (1806, 3 May 1815-Saturday, 17 May 1844)

    Contents Description: Primarily a medical diary, this volume includes records of medical visits and attendance by Matthews; death notices that feature the names of the deceased and the diseases from which they died; and an account of pregnancies and births attended by Mathews. Of the illnesses that Matthews recorded, venereal diseases dominate the list with syphilis being a primary affliction. The diary begins with “1806-The Territory west of the Ohio River is now made into [a] new state called ‘OHIO’ after the Indian name of this majestic and handsome river,” and contains only four entries from 1806.  Diary entries resumed starting from the back of the diary on May 3, 1815. 

    Volume II: Small Pink Book (Thursday, 23 April 1818-18/13? February 1820)

    Contents Description: This volume consists mainly of transcriptions of letters sent by Matthews to various family members and friends describing Matthews’s life on the circuit and as a school teacher in Ohio. Accompanying these letters are poetry and prose passages recorded by Matthews; examples of such are listed below. In 1818, Matthews writes of his recommendation to the Annual Conference to ride as an itinerant pastor; he was just 19 years old. Following are samples of various letters and miscellaneous writings found in this volume.

    • Letter to brother, Hiram Matthews (Worthington, Ohio), in which Henry tells of one of his dreams where Hiram dies; Henry presses Hiram, “warning you to flee from the wrath to come, and inviting to come to Jesus for redemption and wash by faith in the fountain…”
    • Henry M. traveling with Father Finley writes from Chillicothe of the circuit life:
      1. “sinners trembled, saints rejoiced”
      2. Father Finley and numerous Methodists will probably settle at Mt. Carmel
    • Letter to Adonijah Burrell, a cousin, describing his conversion to Christianity: 
      “We shall be partakers of that perennial glory prepared for Jesus’ soldiers….”
    • 8 May 1818: Henry acting as a schoolteacher in Southern Ohio
      1. “Natural health is a small thing in comparison to health of the soul.”
      2. Plans to go to “the Illinois Territory” in three months’ time.
      3. Matthews makes numerous references to Scripture, quoting verses and passages in the context of his letters.
      4. Continues to plan to go down to Mt. Carmel in Illinois Territory to join the conference and travel.
    • Letter to his mother Sarah Matthews, Henry lists the books he has been reading:
      1. Rollins’ ancient history-10 volumes, about 3000 pages
      2. Holy Bible
      3. Wesley’s comment on New Testament
      4. Peggy Daw’s/Dow’s life
      5. Stone’s letters
      6. Discipline, and dialogue of Devils
    • The following unattributed poem was found in Matthew’s diary:

    A dying Saint can true believers mourn,
    Joyful they see their friend to heaven return,
    Her animating words their souls inspire,
    And bear them upwards on her car(?) of fire.
    Her looks when language fails now life imparts,
    Heaven in her looks, and Jesus in her heart,
    She feels the happenings that cannot fade, 
    With everlasting joy upon her head. 
    Starts from the flesh and going to her native skies,
    Glory to God on high the Christian dies,
    Dies from the word and quits her earthly ??,
    Dies and receives the crown by Christ bestowed, 
    Dies into all the life and plentitude of God.”

    • September 1818: Now on the circuit, sent from Cincinnati, Matthews is frequently weak from so much travel and the strain of having to preach 2 times a day on some days.
    • 1. It takes five weeks to cover the entire circuit


    2. “The camp of Israel moves forward in this circuit.”


    3. “We had a powerful time; sinners trembled, saints rejoiced.”
    • December 1818:
    • “I thirst for thirstiness, I weep for tears.


    Well pleased I am to be displeased thus;


    Suspecting I am not suspicious.


    I cannot choose but live because I die,


    And when I am not dead how glad am I.”
    • 8 April 1819: letter to his mother
    • Has heard two good sermons recently, one by a Baptist preacher.


    “…I was taken quite unwell…I was very feeble.”


    Gives himself esculapean aic (?) and recovers well [asclepean?].


    • 2 June 1819: “I have not been as well as formerly, but thanks to an indulging God, I am sill in the land of the living.”
    • 16 June 1819: Preached on Numbers 10:29 and drew parallel between “the journeys of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan and the Christian’s journey from spiritual Egypt to the Rest that remains for the people of God.”
    • 26 Sept. 1819: Letter to brother Harvey Matthews, inquiring about him; desires that Harvey “possessed the same purpose” as he himself possesses, that is, that he know Christ and partake in the glories of Christian life.

    Volume III: Thin Notebook with Short Spine (8 April 1830-6 February 1841)
                Note: pages numbered by hand

    Contents Description: This volume contains a variety of lists and rosters, including a financial ledger that lists bills to be paid and monies owed of Matthews, mostly for medical services rendered. Among these lists, this notebook also features poetry, the Lord’s Prayer, and sermon notes. Following are some of the examples of the contents of this volume.

    • P.247- a poem entitled, “Heroes’ Orphan Girls,” (author?)
    • P. 20-  Presbyterians, Baptists stand in prayer like the Pharisees but Methodists,Episcopalians, New Lights, etc. kneel in prayer as St. Paul did (Mathews is justifying his demand for his students to kneel in prayer at school.)
    • P.263- Lists of grammar rules, including Syntax of Participles,” student rosters, assignments, lists of disorderly students including nature of infractions (p.19-20 infractions include “looked off,” “quarreled on their way to school,” “whispered”)
    • P.192- tooth extraction, patient “killed by Indians” (unable to pay)


    • Medicines Mentioned: Morphine, Peppermint, Arrowroot, Magnesia, Cook(s?) pills

    Volume IV: Thick Notebook with Long Spine (10 October 1819-Friday, 24 May 1833)
    Contents description: This volume is almost exclusively a diary that includes personal and religious notes. One of the first entries indicates that Henry Matthews was born on Friday, 12 April 1799, and further recounts his conversion experience and calling into the ministry. The scriptural reflections in this volume treat both the Old and New Testaments.  

    Volume V: Large Blue Book (25 May 1833 – 12 April 1844)
    Contents Description: This final volume also appears to be primarily a private diary, but many of the entries are made over printed finance notes, for which the book was originally printed. Entries range from weather reports to crop and garden reports to mentions of Matthews’ medical practice in San Felipe. There are some loose papers in this volume, including one signed, “Miranda Matthews,” regarding a girl named Mary. Following are some specifics in regards to Matthews’ writings in and about Texas.

    • Letter from City of Houston, Republick of Texas, August 1, 1837.
    • Cost of Groceries: Dried apples and peaches, flour, lard = .25 cents/lb.
    • 1838-1840, entries include Matthews’ connections to Rutersville and the men instrumental in founding Rutersville College (1840), including Alexander and Rabb.
    • Thursday, December 20, 1838: “Mr. Rabb one of the proprietors of Rutersville this brother, a member of Congress from Lagrange Co., stayed here, the latter in the last stages of a (??) on account of which he resigned his seat in Congress. They appear pious members of the M.E. Church.”
    • Mid-August-October/November 1838: Matthews confined with an illness.
    • 15 August 1838: “I have been confined 3 (?) days with a swelled face, I think it originates from an imperfect tooth and is two severe attacks of suffering that I have experienced from the same source….”
    • Saturday, 8 December 1938: “Dr. Merriman from the City of Hartford, Con. visited us. He is establishing his shop at Bastrop;” Dr. Merriman, Matthews notes, is a graduate of Yale College (at the age of about 20 years).
    • Wednesday, 12 December 1838: “The Coshatta Indians are furnishing us plenty of venison and Bear meat, also some honey…”
  • Important Places, Names and People

    Places in Ohio:

    1. West Union           
    2. Chillicothe
    3. Darby
    4. Venus
    5. Cincinnati
    6. Columbus
    7. Springfield
    8. Hamilton
    9. Montgomery
    10. West Fall
    11. Somerset/Sommerset
    12. Lancaster
    13. Worthington
    14. Miami Country
    15. Fairfield Circuit
    16. Pigua/Piqua
    17. Butler County
    18. Mill Creek, 12 Miles North of Cincinnati

    Places in Texas:

    1. Houston
    2. San Felipe
    3. La Grange
    4. Austin
    5. Rutersville
    6. Austin County
    7. Washington
    8. Galveston


    1. Henry Matthews-author
    2. Sarah Matthews-mother of Henry Matthews
    3. Miranda Matthews-wife of Henry Matthews
    4. Hiram Matthews-brother of Henry Matthews (?)
    5. Reverend Alexander (Rutersville)
    6. Mr. Rabb (Rutersville)