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Mathews Family in Otsego, Wisconsin

Idella Mathews with her mother Josephine Pease Mathews on photo post card

In a studio portrait taken about 1897, Katie Idella (Della) Mathews -
b: 11-21-1879 - d: 11-25-1973 (left) stands with her mother Josephine Catherine Pease Mathews
b: 07-10-1836 - d: 01-08-1918.
Children's day in Hampden M. E. church - Wisconsin

Around 1900, sisters Carrie and Della Mathews sang "We're Drifting O'er the Water" at the Hampden Methodist Episcopal Church's "Children's Day" in Hampden Township, Wisconsin. Della also has a Recitation titled "Enter In."
1880s cabinet card Hampden M.E. Church

Among Della's photos was an old 1880's cabinet photo of the Hampden Methodist Episcopal Church that once stood in the northeast corner of Hall Road and County Highway A in Hampden Township - just a mile southwest of the Mathews home. The Mathews must have attended the church for decades as the journal of Charlotte Mathews Copeland reports all through 1903 and 1904, the family regularly attended the 2 pm sermon. The early article above reports the Mathew's girls sang at "Children's Day." Likewise, Charlotte reports on June 20, 1903 "Adella went to church to practise for Childrens day" and then on the 21st, "all of the family attend church children day - church looked nice & the children done well."

The Gothic Revival structure was constructed of clapboards with a stone foundation. The structure appears on an 1890 map of Hampden township (maps courtesy of Univ. of Wis.) as the M.E. Church. Years later, the church fell into disuse and disrepair becoming overgrown with shrubs in the 1970's and eventually was demolished by 1995.
1890s night time painting by Della

Della Mathews painted this moody night time scene with a full moon lighting a ship on a river flowing past a church with soft light in the windows. The oil painting is done on board with an old swan logo from Thayer and Chandler Artists Materials on the back. Judging from the logo and frame, the artwork was done in the late 1890s when Della was about 18 years old.

1897 letter to Della Mathews

Della receives a letter from her high school friend, Marion Stebbins in 1897.
1896 letter to Della Mathews

Marion Stebbins 1897 letter. She writes about having to stand on a crowded train to school in Columbus. She lists her classes, professors and school life with friends and family.
Marion Stebbins in High School graduation cap and gown

Marion in high school graduation cap and gown.

1907 Post Card from Rio Wisconsin

Postdated July 3, 1907, a friend sends Miss Della Mathews a post card poking fun about her current romance with Elmer Hurelle.

1907 family photo from along the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad near Doylestown.

In about 1907, Elmer courts (chaperoned dating) Della with the Mathews family women in tow. They visit the railroad tracks along the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad near Doylestown.

Postdated November 3, 1916, Jeanette Colwell's envelope.

Postdated November 3, 1916, Jeanette Colwell's envelope is addressed to Della after she was married.
1916 letter to Della Mathews

Jeanette reminisces about past times and signs off with the urge to tell a joke and wanting to have Della's family visit to"Old Lady Colwell."
Miss Jeanette Colwell Rio Wisconsin

Miss Jeanette Colwell from Rio sends Della a letter and photo. She writes about family life in her letter including Marion getting married. She remembers Marion's husband Frank, before they were married and "The way he acted when he built Dad's silo... Marion and her Ma would make a cat laugh - we nearly died just to hear and see him!"

Mathews' house and family with the Hurelle's on photo post card

Around 1910, the Joseph Mathews family house stands in the background as Charlotte Mathews Hanson Copeland (on the left) sits with an infant Walter Hurelle and Josephine Catherine Pease Mathews as Elmer Hurelle and his wife Della Mathews Hurelle look on.

After nearly 60 years of occupation in 1910, tall maple trees mentioned by Charlotte in December 27, 1904 stood in front of their large, two story Victorian style house with clapboard siding and ornamental woodwork in the front gable. The covered front porch had turned spindle corner supports with decorative bracketing along the top and a line of squared off rails supporting the balustrade railing across the floor and down the front stairs. Numerous windows with details in the lintels provided good indoor light. Over the years, additions were made, enlarging the original home structure. Rooms held intricately designed wallpaper, lace curtains and large patterned rugs covered the wood floors with art and family portraits on the walls.

Idella Mathews with her mother Josephine Pease Mathews  on NOKO photo post card

Young Walter Hurelle pushes his infant brother Claude in a stroller while visiting the Mathews home. Lace curtains, a wicker chair and a framed portrait of their mother Katie Idella (Della) Mathews stand in the background.

 The Joseph Mathews farm sits in between Otsego and Columbus with barns, silo and out buildings on a photo postcard

The Joseph Mathews farm with barns, silo and out buildings sits in between Otsego and Columbus where neighbors were separated by acres of land. The home sits out of the picture. The three story barn had a six foot tall stone foundation with vertically slatted siding most likely painted red standing adjacent to a round, three story silo made of large square bricks and topped with a wooden cap and window dormer. Numerous out buildings dotted the property which were planted on top of massive agricultural fields.

Additionally, in June 13-16 1903, Joseph Ward Mathews constructed a wagon house or carriage house and in August of 1904 built a tobacco shed. Notice the small, 1 or 1-1/2 horse power gas engine in front of the barn door with a long belt running off the flywheel perhaps pumping water or powering a flour grinder.

 The Joseph Mathews farm sits in between Otsego and Columbus with barns, silo and out buildings on a photo postcard

In 1907, Della Mathews received a post card from a friend a few miles to the northwest in Rio, Wisconsin showing the tobacco harvest, drying shed and seed plants on the right. Photo post card

In 1907, Della Mathews received a post card from a friend a few miles to the northwest in Rio, Wisconsin showing the tobacco harvest, drying shed and seed plants on the right.

According to Charlotte Mathews Copeland, the Mathews family also raised tobacco, likewise recording on June 20th "Andrew (Johnson) came about eleven am & said Denver Heath would be here in time to set Tobacco plants - had them all set by five pm." Likewise, after planting the tobacco throughout June, 1904 Joseph Mathews purchased lumber and throughout August, 1904 three carpenters built a tobacco shed and "had it raised by nine o'clock am" August 17th. Joseph took a day and painted the structure on August 23rd. By September 7, hired farmer, Allen King was hanging the tobacco in the shed for drying and 22 days later on September 29, "Joseph sold his tobacco." On December, 27 the tobacco was picked up by Allen King and on December 30 "stripped," removing the leaves from the stalks.

The author of the tobacco postcard is anonymous, however, a postcard found below may identify the mystery author.

In 1907, George Johnson sends Rio public school post card to freind

With the same distinctive pen and ink writing of letters 'b, P and Rio Wis' on the front of the postcard, was the author the Tobacco postcard an 18 year old George Johnson from Rio, writing to Della on October 9th, 1907 as well writing to Laura Klatt the same day? Perhaps George is the young man holding up the tobacco and waving. The school postcard was found and purchased on Ebay.

According to the 1905 Rio Census, George was 16 years old living with his parents Ole J. Johnson, a 49 year old painter from Norway and his wife Esther, 43, and his four siblings in Rio, Wisconsin. Andrew Johnson, working the Mathews' tobacco plants in 1903-4 was not listed in the 1905 Rio census, but may be a relative of George, however there are many Johnson families in the area at the time.

1910 Postcard from sisters Carrie Mathews to Della Mathews Hurelle on photo post card

In 1910 Carrie Mathews writes her sister Della from Fall River while listening to the band play.

1910 cabinet card of Belle Wright - daughter of Mary E. Mathews Wright

Another sister of Della, Mary E. Mathews had a daughter born in 1892, Belle Wright, here photographed in the E.G. Fleming Studio in Columbus, Wisconsin. Mary's husband was Crowley Cornelius Wright. Belle and her mother would visit the Mathews family often in 1903 and 1904 (Charlotte journal entries). Belle also went to the same church as the Mathews Family.
Photo of Estella King about 1910

Estella (Stella) King (Minick)often visited the Mathews family and in 1904 and borrowed Charlotte Mathews Copeland's 'Northwestern Christian Advocate newspaper ' (see Charlotte's Dec. 3 and 31 1904 entries). Her brother Allen King (Feb. 12, 1903 entry), worked for Joseph Mathews (Charlotte's brother) as a farm hand in 1903 and 1904 for $10 a month. Her father, Fred King (and later Stella) owned 60 acres (according to 1890 and 1916 maps) a mile west of the Mathews family and a few miles south of Otsego. Allen and Stella also went to the same church.

Mathews sisters - Cora, Carrie and Della in 1923  on photo post card

Sitting on and standing around the family car in 1923 (year on the license plate), a bundled up Mathews sisters, Cora (Henton - standing on left, Carrie (Heath) and Della Hurelle (standing on right) enjoy a chilly social event with the kids and parents in the agricultural fields near Columbus, Wisconsin. The Hurelles and Mathews attended many church events and community socials.

Cora Mathew Henton about 1915 on Elmer Hurelle farm

Walking down the driveway on the Elmer Hurelle farm about 1915, Cora Mathews Henton (1862-1949) on the left, Della's older sister, carries wild grapes with perhaps her daughter, Clara Mae Henton (1894 - 1969). Cora would be about 53 years old and Clara would be 21.

Mathews' house

Joseph Ward Mathews was born March 17, 1833 in Ithica, Tompkins County, New York and died May 10, 1906 in Otsego, Wisconsin. His gravestone still stands in Otsego. On March 1, 1848 Joseph acquired land in Wisconsin Territory, just before statehood with James K. Polk as President. His 80 acres was in Township T10N R12E - Section 6 - just south of the town of Otesgo, then Portage County (today Columbia County - Columbus township). The area is an agricultural field today.

Joseph was the Director of the Board of Directors on the Joint School District No.1 of the towns of Otsego & Hamden from July 1, 1889 to July, 1892. He also help vote in the construction of the new Otsego and Hamden School District No.1, voting on 8-4-1890. The new school was just south of the old. Today, a metal barn stands where the school once stood.
Joseph Mathews 80 acres Otsego Township T10N R12E

Yellow highlights the W.H. MATHEWS (Joseph Mathews son William H Mathews 1818 - 1897) 80 acres west of the town of Columbus. The 1873 map shows the Columbus Township T10N R12E - Section 6 - West half of north east quarter. (Courtesy University of Wisconsin Digital Collection).

1861 map Mathews 80 acres Columbia County

The Mathews property is also shown in this portion of a 1861 map of Columbia County with family and friends names highlighted as well. The W. C. PEASE property was William Calvin Pease (1809-1891) the father of Josephine Catherine PEASE Mathews (1836 - 1918). The Pease land stands just a mile south of the M. MATHEWS property (M. MATHEWS for Mary Ward Mathews 1793 - 1879)

With the Mathews and Pease living so close together, it's easy to see how Joseph Ward Mathews met his future wife, Josephine Catherine Pease. Both land claims were early and both the Mathews and Pease homesteads were constructed along the Crawfish River where they most likely used the water for irrigating crops and for drinking water. Today, the homestead areas are agricultural fields.

The KING's were friends of the Mathews and worked together on the local school board. Cora Mathews married into the Jay Thomas HENTON family and Mary Elizabeth Mathews married into the Crowley WRIGHT family. Thomas SWARTHOUT's son, Jacob Swarthout married Caroline Ann Mathews. (Map Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society).
Garrison School Desk

School records were located in a desk in the Garrsion School at the Fort Winnebago Historic Site on July of 2001. Documents were in a tall, 'Records of Proceedings' book outlining school board meetings, hiring of teachers, and the building a new school for Otsego and Hamden School District No.1. Joseph W. Mathews, was school board director and Charles Elmer Mathews and other locals were on the board.
Garrison School Desk

Residents and School Board members of Otsego and Hamden School District No.1 vote on a the construction of a new school. Joseph W. Mathews, Director, Charles Elmer Mathews, Mrs. Mathews (Josephine Pease Mathews) and other locals vote in agreement to take up the issue of a new school.
Register of school officers

School Board officers of Otsego and Hamden School District No.1 shows Joseph W. Mathews, Director from 1889 to 1892.

Garrison School records - Mathews

Mathews family members work on school house and grounds and build school fires in 1880s.
Garrison School records - Mathews

Joseph W. Mathews, Director of Otsego School District No.1, signs his approval of a new teacher, Alice McKay. Other locals sign their approval.
1897 letter to Della Mathews

School Board members of Otsego and Hamden School District No.1 vote on a the construction of a new school. Joseph W. Mathews, Director, Charles Elmer Mathews and other locals vote in agreement to take up the issue of a new school.
Joseph Ward Mathews

Joseph Ward Mathews
b: 03-17-1833 - d: 05-10-1906
Josephine Catherine Pease Mathews
b: 07-10-1836 - d: 01-08-1918.
Otsego Cemetary
Joseph Ward Mathews' Civil War, Grand Army of the Republic memorial star in the Otsego Cemetery photographed in 2001

Joseph Ward Mathews' Civil War, Grand Army of the Republic memorial star in the Otsego Cemetery photographed in 2001

Joseph Ward Mathews 1861 Union Army Muster-In Co.G 9th NY Cavalry

October 11, 1861, Joseph Mathews musters into the Union Army serving in Company G, 9th New York Cavalry. (courtesy New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center)
Joseph Mathews Union Civil War Service in the 9th New York Cavalry in 1863

Joseph Mathews, a farmer, age 30, served in the 9th New York Cavalry in the Union Army during 1863 in the Civil War. Records show he mustered out in 1865. During the time Joseph served, the 9th Cavalry fought throughout the state of Virginia including Appomattox. A monument stands at Gettysburg memorializing the 9th - (New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center).

Mathews Family Life

Joseph Ward’s sister, Charlotte Mathews also raised in New York, was born in Ithaca on December 17, 1814. She documented much of the Mathews family life on the Otsego farm while living with her brother after outliving her two husbands. At the time in 1904, the Mathews household was four people, Joseph, 71 years old, Josephine 67, Della 23, and Charlotte, at a whopping 90 years old. Just a few years earlier, two other children had moved out after their weddings, both in 1902. Both stayed close to home, Charles Elmer went to nearby Rio and Carrie (Heath) to Fall River. The other kids, Cora (Henton), Mary Elizabeth (Wright) and Joseph (Jr.) Adelbert flew the coop earlier in 1880s and 90s. Likewise, with so many kids and their families living nearby and visiting, the house was always a flurry of activity.

Tough as nails, Charlotte, at 89 years old, in her 1903 writings, records her daily duties through out the week; endless mending, ironing, quilting, washing and stitching clothes, sweeping and dusting rooms and filling her fire wood box. She helped plant and load potatoes into the cellar, read the papers and her books, Bible and Christian newspaper the 'Advocate' and even did some some teaching in town.

Hard Work

She recorded the family attending church, always at 2 pm. She writes of her brother, Joseph, through the days and weeks turning the washing machine for his wife, dropping off chickens at Rio, delivering potatoes to Doylestown, cleaning the chimney and stove pipe endlessly, slaughtering the hogs, storing the tobacco, returning the cows from pasture to the barn and taking the horses to be shod in Otsego and picking up the mail in town.


Helping out with the harvest and farm work, Charlotte reports her brother hired a farm hand that lived nearby, Allen King for $10.00 a month. (His father, Fred King owned the property of the Joint School District No.1 and was the Clerk for the School Board of Directors. Stella King would visit Charlotte in 1904 and borrow her Advocates). Andrew Johnson was another local hired hand working for Joseph throughout 1903 and 1904.

The family harvested strawberries, planted potatoes and onions in April, plowed and planted rows of sweet corn in May, stacked and harvested clover hay and potatoes and canned cherries in July.  

Oxen and horses would be used to plough the soil for planting, potatoes, sweet corn, onions, and the vegetable garden. They would pull heavy loads like, cut hay, fire wood from 'the grove,' gravel spread on the road, and lumber for the tobacco shed. Deliveries of tobacco, potatoes (45 cents per bushel), eggs (25 cents per dozen), onions, strawberries, hogs, chickens, calves would be made at the nearby towns of Doylestown, Otsego, Fall River, Rio and Columbus.


Quiet town of Fall River about 1910

Shady sidewalks line the dusty Main Street in Fall River Wisconsin. (photo from Ebay listing)

Busy Social Life

But it was not all work all the time as the family has many 'callers' or visitors arriving at the house almost daily as Della’s brothers and sisters and their families would 'stay a day' or enjoy tea, a meal or a dinner. In turn, Della, Josephine and Joseph visited their many family and friends via horse and buggy - "Joseph & wife went to Mr Denver Heaths & took diner; Brother Joseph & Wife went to the funeral of Mrs. Holverson & Mr Henry Peters and Della came home half past eleven am," and "Della & her mother called on Mrs. Matie Wright also on Mrs. Carrie Heath."

Throughout the year there were Socials - Ice Cream Socials in July, Chicken Pie Social in August and Harvest Social in October. She records on June 18th 1903, "Saturday morning - clear rise five am - Miss Adella attend the Sunday school Pie Nick at Mrs C Wrights - Joseph bunched his hay up afternoon - thermometer up 80 at noon."

'Nite Society' was held on Thursdays throughout the year and was hosted at their home and at various neighbor homes as well. Charlotte records on June 9th "Nite Society at Mr Halls - a pleasant afternoon about thirty were there," and on Thursday June 30th "the Nite Society met at Mr Crowley Wrights - we all attended - forty took tea - returned home six pm." On October 6th she writes "the ladies came eleven am to the Nite Society and had dinner (dinner was lunch and 'supper' was supper) - left four pm."

Charlotte writes on some days Della would sing and play the organ and practice with the church choir for events like the Hampden Methodist Episcopal Church's "Children's Day" where Della and her sister Carrie would sing together "We're Drifting O'er the Water" and have a recitation titled "Enter In" (see newspaper clipping at the top) On August 23rd 1903 the family "all staid home from church - we had a call evening Mr and Mrs Fadness - Adella played (the organ) and they sung." 

Della and the choir would practice and sing at the many funerals throughout the year. On October 13th 1903 "Mr Riter came with some ladies and Adella and practiced for the funeral of Mr Sonards at Hampden Church 10am" and on December 5th 1903 "Adella went to Otsego to sing at the funeral of Miss Sickels at one pm." Just a few weeks later on December 29, "singers met here to practice for the funeral of Mrs Will Bush at the Hampden Church at ten am."

Luxury transportation was a doorless, horse driven, four person carriage known as a 'Surry.' Charlotte notes "Mr J A Mathews came and got his Fathers Surrey and took his family to Columbus - Della went with them - a cold day."

1911 Columbus Wisconsin

Rolling past the department store, a trolley stretches down Ludington Street in Columbus, Wisconsin. (photo from Ebay listing)

Cash Crop

Charlotte also documents tobacco production in 1903-4 and the construction of a new tobacco shed in 1904, likewise recording on June 15th "Joseph to Doylestown for a load of lumber" and the next day on June 16th, 1904 "Allen King setting tobacco today." A few day later on June 20th, "Allen King helped Brother Joseph lay foundation for his shed." Throughout June, Joseph would purchase lumber from nearby Doylestown as Charlotte records "Joseph draw a load of lumber - Mr Ludwig drawing the heavy lumber" on June the 21st.  Planting was complete on June 29th.

Throughout July, days of haying took priority as the barn was slowly filled with clover hay.  In mid August, 1904, three carpenters constructed the tobacco shed, and with the help of neighbors, "had it raised by nine o'clock am" August 17th. Joseph took a day and painted the structure on August 23rd. By September 7, hired farmer, Allen King was hanging the tobacco in the shed for drying and 22 days later on September 29, "Joseph sold his tobacco." Charlotte notes the from previous crop they sold, "they got a good price for it.” After it was dried, the tobacco was "stripped," removing the leaves from the stalks. Charlotte reported on January 23rd 1903 the "tobacco men here want it delivered tomorrow" to Rio. From planting in mid June to delivering it in January, an almost seven month turn around for a truly 'cash crop.'

Cold Winters

Days of rain and thunder storms in the summer would water the crops and heavy frosts would arrive in the fall during September and October and mix with snow and sleet eventually leading to the ground blanketed in white with strings of sub zero days with high winds.

In the winter, fires would be started first thing in the morning and pails snow would be melted for the wash basin and pitcher. A required weekly ritual was the cleaning of the stove, pipe and chimneys throughout the house. If not maintained properly, chimneys would smoke and fires could easily start as they did on January 30 1903 when Charlotte wrote "have a great fire in Rio." With no central heating, wood was the go-to fuel, and on August 11, 1903 "Joseph purchased eleven cords of wood today for three dollars per cord." In the winter the price per cord went up 50 cents to $3.50 a cord. The family also supplied their own wood, hitching the oxen to cut wood and trees in the grove (Feb. 10, 1903). It was necessary to feed the constant fires as temperatures dropped in the cold months to twenty degrees below zero. Charlotte records the temperature at -30 on February 15th 1903 and -20 the next day. On February 18, 1903 with a -18 degree temperature, the family resorted to carrying hot coals "down the cellar to keep it from freezing home." On January 25th, she writes "water froze in my bed room last night - this morning thirty six below zero - below zero all day - oh how cold."

Charlotte, rising at five or half past five am would write down her weather report, wash windows, dust and clean her room, melt pails of snow for water, crochet doilies, mend dresses, stitch Christmas stockings, construct comforters and quilts for friends and family, read the papers and her Bible, visit with 'callers,' take an occasional walk, attend 'Nite Society' meetings and church, occasionally travel with her brother to a close-by town for 'trading' and ironing, always ironing, almost daily. During any lag in the daily stream of activity or visiting family and friends, Charlotte would feel alone or lonely, always preferring a constant hum of activity.


Occasionally, Charlotte would suffer an unavoidable hardship. On October 28, 1903 "I fell and hurt my face - cut a gash between my eyes" and on August 27th 1904, "Saturday worse - send for the Doctor - he came two pm and said I had Erysipalas (skin infection) pretty bad - how my head did ache." Despite such events she would recover and continue to document the life of the hard working Mathews family, also recording happier events. On Sunday, March the 15th, 1903, she notes the entire family stayed home from church with the visit of Joseph Jr. and his wife Ada May Henton and their 'pretty little girl,' Lula, born just a few months earlier on December 11, 1902. She also reports of the school picnics, the 'Great Picnic' at Fall River as well as various parties, a surprise party, a 'ghost party' on Halloween and a Valentine’s Day party.

The Mathews voted in presidential elections, paid their taxes, sleighed in winter snow, purchased chickens, took pictures, attended funerals and society meetings, shoveled snow, cut down trees for fire wood, purchased books, wrote, read and sent letters, fought off 'neuralgia,' (nerve pain) colds, the 'gripp' (influenza) and chicken pox, bled on the way to the doctor, (ricocheted axe into face) took the horses to the vet and weathered the snow storms, high winds, heavy rains, hot and cold temperatures. And, there were numerous trips to the dentist to have teeth filled and pulled. On May 17th 1904, "Joseph and wife to Rio - Mrs Mathews had 5 teeth out home one pm."


Busy town of Rio, Wisconsin in 1908

The busy town of Rio, Wisconsin in 1908 was a regular stop for the Mathews family. (photo from Ebay listing)

Charlotte also reports on other odds and ends such as "Joseph heard the Prairie Chickens for the first time this spring" on April 27, 1903 and during oat harvest August 14, a community "Engine and Threshing Machine came morning and threshed the oats through a little after eleven and then went to Mr Kings at six pm." In July while harvesting hay, a hired hand "Mr D James fell from a load of hay broke collar bone." On July 29th "Joseph and Adella went and picked Whortel berries forenoon" (Whortleberries look like blue berries, also known as bilberries).

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