Biography - John P. Mathis

HON. JOHN PRESTON MATHIS. Trained faculties and an enlightened understanding, in these modern days, contribute materially to individual success, and more and more is the world at large asking for educated men, not only for the accepted professions, but also for those along agricultural lines and in the field of politics. The trained thinker is demanded for the deciding of public questions which, while they may be perplexing problems to the general public, must be clear to the law maker. In Hon. John Preston Mathis Johnson county, Illinois, has a man of scholarly attainments, one who for more than a decade was an educator himself, and one who has made his knowledge a stepping-stone to positions of great public responsibility. Mr. Mathis was born on a farm in Bloomfield township, Johnson county, July 26, 1867, and is a son of Robert D. and Lucinda (Fairless) Mathis, grandson of William Mathis, a native of Kentucky, great-grandson of John Mathis, of Virginia, and great-great-grandson of John Mathis.

The great-grandfather of John P. Mathis was one of the pioneer settlers of Trigg county, Kentucky, and was married to Margaret Brown, settling in Randolph county in 1846. William Mathis, one of his sons, migrated to Southern Illinois in 1849, coming with his wife and four children in an ox-eart. and bought land from the Government in Bloomfield township, on which he erected a log cabin. The remainder of his life was spent in agricultural pursuits, and his death occurred November 22, 1860. His wife was Cynthia Scott, of Kentucky, a daughter of William and Marv (Moore) Scott, and they had a family of five children, namely: Robert D., Elizabeth E., John B., Margaret A. and James P.

Robert D. Mathis was born in Trigg county, Kentucky, January 18, 1836. and was thirteen years of age when he accompanied his parents to Johnson county. After his marriage he lived on rented land for six years, but eventually purchased forty acres in Bloomfield township, and added thereto until he was the owner of a fine farm of one hundred and forty acres. A stanch Republican and a leader in his party's counsels in his section, he served as justice of the peace for seventeen years, collector of taxes two years and township treasurer ten years, and was honored and respected as a self-made man, a useful citizen and an honest and capable public official. He and his family were connected with the Methodist church. Robert D. Mathis married Lucinda Fairless, a daughter of Robert and Mahala (Buchanan) Fairless, of Gallatin county, Illinois, and they had a family of children as follows: Ellen, who is deceased; William and James, who died in boyhood; John Preston; George W.; Alonzo S.; and Mrs. Lillie Elkins, who is deceased. Robert D. Mathis died in October, 1900.

John Preston Mathis was educated in the common schools of Bloomfield township, in a select school and in the Southern Illinois Normal University, at Carbondale, and during the fall of 1888 began teaching school. During the eleven years that followed he became well known as an educator in Bloomfield and Vienna townships, and during one term he had charge of a school in Missouri. Always an industrious and progressive citizen in all things, Mr. Mathis carried on farming operations while teaching, in addition to attending select schools during the spring terms. It was not until 1900, after the death of his parents and his retirement from the homestead to Vienna, that Mr. Mathis accepted his first public office. At that time he became deputy county clerk, a position which he held until the fall of 1902, and he then served as deputy sheriff until 1906, when he was elected sheriff of Johnson county on the Republican ticket, and capably discharged the duties of that office for one term. He was chosen his party's candidate in the fall of 1910 for the office of state representative, was elected by a comfortable majority, and the work he has done as a member of the Legislature has shown that his fellow citizens made no mistake when they chose him to look after their interests. Although he makes his residence in Vienna, Mr. Mathis still carries on farming, and owns two fine tracts, of ninety-five and eighty-one acres, respectively. Fraternally he is connected with the Masons, the Odd Fellows and the Modern Woodmen of America, in all of which his popularity is great.

Mr. Mathis was married in 1902 to Miss Sarah Elizabeth Whiteaker, daughter of Captain Mark Whiteaker, and they have one child, Evelyn Gertrude, who is now three years old.

Extracted 14 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 743-744.

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