1830-1915 — Alexander County, NC
Joseph Pinckney MATHESON, oldest son of William and Jane MATHESON was born November 24, 1830. As a youngster J.P. worked on his father’s farm in the part of Iredell County, North Carolina that later became Taylorsville, Alexander County. He attended common school during the winter session and worked the crops during the rest of the year. In March 1849, an 18-year-old J.P. left home to work in Taylorsville as a clerk in the store of Carson & Smith. This was one of the first stores to open in the recently established town. J.P. lived in the home of A. Carson and his wife Mira. (Mira Beckham Carson is the daughter of Lemuel BECKHAM). J.P. left his job at Carson & Smith in 1852 to begin the study of medicine though he never went into practice.
In 1853, J.P. moved to Sugar Grove near Boone in Watauga County where he served as Post Master from September 6, 1853 to March 11, 1857. On August 6, 1857 he was elected Clerk of the County Court. He held this office until 1859. During his time in Watauga County, J.P. married and he and his wife had two daughters: Martha, born in 1856 and Lilly born in 1858. J.P.’s wife, perhaps also named Lilly, died early in their marriage quite possibly during childbirth with their second daughter. Two years later, when the census was taken in 1860, J.P., then a 29-year-old widower, was still living in Watauga County with his two small daughters and working as a merchant clerk. J.P. continued this work until the pressures of the Civil War forced him out of the business.
When the war came to North Carolina, J.P. was elected Major of the 95th regiment of the Watauga County militia. He also served as Lieutenant of Captain Cook’s company in the Home Guard. “At its reorganization after the outbreak of the war, the Militia was intended to provide for the military and public safety of North Carolina. Militia officers were exempt from regular military service. They were to organize companies within their counties; they were to recruit for the NC Troops, and to arrest deserters…. In October 1864, the state replaced the militia with the Home Guard even while retaining the militia…. They still had the duty to arrest deserters, but if force was needed, it came from the Home Guard commander in the county. To the militia duty was added the role of seeing to it that slave owners provided the slaves impressed to work on military fortifications. When threats of invasion did come in 1864, it was the Home Guard that was called out. They were given the role of military defender and providing for public safety. A militia officer was also a member of the Home Guard, but could not command in both the Militia and the Home Guard. It was the Home Guard which held the enlisted ranks, and these enlisted men were overage, underage, or unfit for duty in the NC Troops”.
In 1861, J.P., a 31-year-old widower father married 16-year-old Theresa McGINNIS. Theresa, was born August 9, 1845 (possibly in Washington County, Tennessee or Wilkes County, North Carolina). Her parents, John and Priscilla McGINNIS were poor farmers with ten children. Two years after their marriage, J.P. and Theresa had their first of eight more children; Joseph B. (1863), Mary E. (1865), William S. (1868), Addie Elizabeth (1871) (wife of Huron LACKEY), Arthur R. (1875), Espey V. (1878), Annie F. (1880), and Ronald Mc. (1886). Their daughter Annie died in 1887 at the age of seven. In 1870, Martha, Lilly, Joseph and Mary were listed in the census as attending school. The name of the school is not known. Both Theresa and J.P. only attended common school.
In March of 1865 J.P. moved his family back to Taylorsville, Alexander County and raised a crop that year. In April, General Lee surrendered at Appomattox ending the Civil War and Union forces militarily occupied the South. In the fall, J.P. was appointed Provisional Sheriff of Alexander County under this new Reconstruction government. He was again elected Sheriff for 1866, 1867 and 1868. He did not complete his 1868 term as Sheriff because he was banded by the Howard Amendment and was disqualified as Sheriff. He did however serve as Deputy Sheriff until 1872. From 1872 to 1875, J.P. ran a store in Taylorsville.
After Reconstruction had ended in the South, J.P., a Democrat, was elected without opposition to the 1879 session of the North Carolina General Assembly as a State Senator from the 34th district in Alexander County. J.P. was described in his Senate biography as “a very quite but a firm member”. He served on three committees: Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute, Salaries and Fees, and Enrolled Bills. The General Assembly met in Raleigh for 57 days from January to March of 1879. J.P. received payment from the Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s Office for 10 days of attendance at $4 per day and was reimbursed for 360 miles of travel at 10 cents per mile.
J.P. did not have an occupation listed on the 1880 census. Theresa was listed as keeping house. In 1884 J.P. was appointed by the Justice of the Peace as a County Commissioner. He resigned in 1885 and was replaced by E.M. Stevenson. In 1900 J.P.'s occupation was listed as landlord and he and Theresa were living with their daughter Espey and son Ronald in a home that they owned in Taylorsville.
J.P. died on Christmas day 1909 at the age of 79 and is buried at Taylorsville Cemetery in Taylorsville, NC. He and Theresa had been married for 48 years. In his will J.P. bequeathed to “my beloved wife Theresa Matheson all my property of every description both real and personal during her natural life and at her death to be sold and the proceeds equally divided among all my children share and share alike”. J.P. appointed his son-in-law R. Lee Davis executor of his will. Theresa died August 19, 1915 at the age of 70 and was buried with her husband in Taylorsville Cemetery.