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Perry Family of Kershaw and Lancaster Counties South Carolina

Alexander Wilmot Matheson

Perry 1690 - 1841
Benjamin and James Perry of Virginia
Rich Hill Plantation
John Madison Perry
Liberty Hill Day 1
Liberty Hill houses Day 1
Lancaster Day 2
Henry (Hal) Brown Perry and Amelia Ragsdale Perry
Henry (Hal B) Brown Perry,Jr
Jane Curry Perry Carlisle
Anna Mae Perry Wood
Margaret (Margie) Elizabeth Perry Boren
Bessie (Betty) Amelia Perry Kirk
William Ragsdale (Bill) Perry
Texas Perrys
The Ragsdale line
Florida Perrys
Bessie Perry Hines and Cornelia Perry Scott
Alexander Wilmot Matheson
A Play


Alexander W. Matheson was the son of Mary (Mae) Harriett Perry (sister of John Madison Perry)  and Alexander  Matheson, an early Camden merchant. He is our link with cousin Sylvia, our Liberty Hill  tour guide
from email 10 May 05:
"At long last I have taken the time to bring the picture to work of my great grandfather Alexander Wilmot Matheson. He was a magistrate in Longtown, SC, for many years before moving to Kershaw, SC, where he was cared for by his eldest daughter, my grandmother, Mae Ophelia Matheson Croxton. For those in the tour group that have the book History and Homes of Liberty Hill, A W Matheson is the little boy who was afraid of
Sherman's troops as written about in the Matheson House (presently my home) article. He later returned to the Matheson House when his wife died giving birth to the 5th child. His unmarried sister, Laura Matheson, who was living in the Matheson House, helped him raise my grandmother and the other siblings. My grandmother, "Mae Mae" as I called her, wrote on the back of the attached picture that he was
either 86 or 87at the time of the photo. Although I mentioned to you in an earlier e-mail that my mother said this was the only picture she had seen of him, I believe that is incorrect. I know I have seen a picture of him wearing a straw hat while sitting down, holding an infant. I was told many years ago that the baby was me....his first great grandchild."
Sylvia H. 
Liberty Hill, SC

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project,

Item 2 of 40
[Alexander W. Matheson]

{Begin handwritten}[??]{End handwritten}
Project [#?]3613
[W. W.?] Dixon
[A. W.?] Matheson is an aged gentleman, living alone in the Longtown section of
Fairfield County, ten miles east of Ridgeway, South Carolina, on the left side
of State highway [#?]34. He is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 153 pounds and is
almost deaf. He is intelligent, and, having been a magistrate for thirty years
and an executive committeeman of the Longtown democratic clubs for the past
fifty-two years, he is well informed of much of the State's political history.
"My father, Alexander Matheson, was a merchant at Camden, South Carolina, prior
to the War Between the States. He married Mary Perry. She was a grand-daughter
of John Perry, better known in his day and generation as 'Old Jack Perry.'
"Grandfather Perry was a large landholder near Liberty Hill in Kershaw County
and owned a great number of slaves at the time of his death. He also possessed
some lands in Fairfield County that bordered on the ateree River, a natural
boundary between Kershaw and Fairfield Counties. The Mathesons are Scotch people
in descent, and the Perrys are Irish. My grandfather, William Matheson, moved to
Camden from Gainesville, Florida, and engaged in merchandising about [1835?]. I
was born in Liberty Hill, not far from [Camden?], at the home of my Grandfather
I spent a great deal of my boyhood in Liberty Hill. any of the people there, the
[?], Cunninghams, [B]rowns, Dixons, Curetons and Perrys are my relatives by blood
or by marriage. I attended school in Camden but usually spent the week ends in
Liberty Hill, riding out every Friday on my pony. While there, I attended church
on Sunday at the Presbyterian Church. Ex-Governor John G. Richards father was
the officiating minister. The difference between Governor
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Richards then and now is, then he was a knee breeches boy and a great rabbit
hunter; now he is a well known fox hunter.
"My father didn't have many slaves, only house slaves - a coachman, a butler,
who also acted as footman, a Negro man who acted as one of general utility about
the store in town and the house on the hill, the cook and her assistant, the
laundry woman, two girl nurses and a dairy woman. Of course there were some
slave children, but just how many I can't remember.
"I commenced school in Camden when I was six years old. It was the first year of
the Civil war. I continued in school until January, 1865. We used the old
blue-back speller. I think Noah Webster was the author. I never went to school
after the war. My father died during that period, and mother moved with the
children to Liberty Hill. I assisted about the farms, up and down both sides of
the Wateree River, for a number of years.
"I married Lyda Elizabeth Lewis in 1875 and settled down as a farmer near
Longtown, Fairfield County. We have reared the following children: Dorothy,
(Mrs. W. S. Mamiter) Winnsboro, South Carolina; Benjamin, who practiced law in
Atlanta and died there in 1931; Mrs. (Mrs. John Croxton) Heath Springs, South
Carolina; Nicholas [Peaty?] a practitioner of medicine, Waco, Texas; William A.,
a farmer, Longtown, South Carolina; Annie Laurie, a teacher at Winnsboro, South
Carolina; and the baby, Kathleen, (Mrs. H. G. Smith) Trenton, South Carolina.
"I was old enough to remember when we had a military government in South
Carolina. President Andrew Johnson {Begin deleted text}[Johnson?]{End deleted
text} had before him the names of ex-Congressman W. W. Boyce of Winnsboro,
Captain Samuel McAlilley of Chester, John L. Manning of Clarendon, Governor
William Aiken of Charleston, and Colonel B. F. Perry of Greenville. The last
named was appointed, by Presidential proclamation, provisional governor of South
Carolina. President Johnson outlined in his proclamation certain steps to be
pursued by the citizens in order for the State to be
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readmitted and accorded the same rights and privileges as other States in the
Union. Among these were the holding of a constitutional convention. All those
who had participated, aided or abetted the Confederate States in the late war
had to secure a pardon signed by the President before he could vote for
delegates to this convention. This pardoning business was a sore spot to many of
our wealthy and best people. Hot discussion of the subject was engaged in. Some
never made the application for pardon; many did. General John Bratton, Colonel
James H. Rion, and Judge W. R. Robertson were recipients of pardons and were
elected delegates to this state Constitutional Convention of 1865. All I
remember about this convention was that Judge David Wardlaw was president and
John T. Sloan of Columbia was secretary. Slavery was abolished and a peculiar
court was established. It was called "The District Court." When a Negro was a
party, these courts had exclusive jurisdiction.
"Another good provision was that ministers of the Gospel of any religious faith
were declared inelligible to the office of governor or lieutenant governor or to
a seat in the General Assembly - declaring that minsters of the Gospel should
dedicate all their services to the Lord and ought not to be diverted from the
task of saving souls. The Ordinance of Secession was repealed.
"The convention adjourned in September, and an election was held under its
provisions in October. There were only about 15,000 votes cast for governor.
James L. Orr beat General Wade Hampton about five hundred votes.
"When the first legislature met under the Constitution of 1865, the senate
assembled in the library of the South Carolina College, and the house assembled
in the chapel on the campus. Governor Orr was inaugurated, and W. D. Porter was
installed as lieutenant governor.
"General John Bratton was our senator, and James R. Aiken, W. J. Alston, and B.
E. Elkins were our representatives from Fairfield in the legislature. The
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question arose as to who was a Negro and what constituted a person of color?
This was necessary to determine the jurisdiction of the district courts
established. It was declared and made a law that all Negroes, mulattoes,
mestizos, and all descendants through them were to be known as persons of color,
except that every such descendant who might have of caucasion blood 7/8, or more
should be deemed a white person. The relation of husband and wife amongst
persons of color was established. In case of one man having two or more women,
the man was required, before the first day of April, 1866, to select one of his
women and have a marriage ceremony performed. In case a woman had a number of
men, she had to select one of her men and be married to him by the first of
April, 1866. The ceremony required was to be performed by a district judge, a
magistrate, or any judicial officer.
"Every colored child born and to be born before April 1, 1866, was declared to
be legitimate. Marriage between a white person and a person of color was
declared to be illegal and void. All persons of color who should make contracts
for service or labor should be known as servants and those for whom they worked
should be known as masters.
"The hours of labor were declared to be, except on Sunday, from sunrise to
sunset; with a reasonable intermission for breakfast and dinner. Servants, it
was stipulated, should rise at dawn in the morning, feed, water, and care for
the animals on the farm, do the needful work about the premises, prepare their
meals for the day, and be ready to go to work at sunrise.
"Just after the war it was lawful to sentence a convicted person to be whipped.
In 1866, General Dan Sickles was assigned in charge of this military district,
No. 2. Judge A. P. Aldrich sentenced a thief to be whipped. General Sickles
interfered and prevented the sentence being carried out.
"Congress took up the question of a whipping post and corporal punishment and
passed an act in 1868 prohibiting seceded states from inflicting such punishment
for crime.
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"Conflicts were the order of the day in South Carolina, The military authorities
and the Freedmen's Bureau on one side and Governor Orr and the State courts an
the other. In Washington, there was conflict between President Johnson and
Congress, lead on by old Thad Stevens and his Negro wife. Finally, Congress
passed an act by which registration was required of all male citizens in South
Carolina and an election of delegates by them to a State convention, such
election to be held under the protection of the military commandant of the
district, General Dan Sickles.
"This brought forth the South Carolina Constitution of 1868. When this
constitution was made, it was submitted to those registered voters, mostly
Negroes, and ratified by them. It was then submitted to Congress for approval.
"When the Negroes came up for registration, - it may be remarked, by the way,
that they had but one name such as John, Jocky, Catoe, Solomon, Pompey, Wade,
Tom and the like - some took the surnames of their former slave owners; others
wanted such surnames as Pinckney, Manigault, Fernandez, Bonaparte, Washington,
Guerard, Prince, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Sherman, and Grant.
"When the registration was completed, it showed a Negro majority. Then it looked
like every sharp cunning rascal who could get a carpetbag and transportation
from above the Mason and Dixon line put out to the State in quest of political
"These carpetbaggers and a few South Carolina white scalawags organized the
Federal Union Republican Party and laid plans to control the Constitutional
Convention of 1868. The accomplished their purpose.
"When this convention assembled, there were 48 white men and 76 Negroes sworn in
as members. Of the whites, there were only 23 native South Carolinians; the
other 25 were natives of Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New
York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, England, Ireland, Prussia, Denmark, Georgia, North
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and places nobody has ever found out.
"The convention met in Charleston in 1868, composed as I said of twenty-three
scalawags, twenty-five carpetbaggers, and seventy-six Negroes. One of the
Negroes came all the way from Dutch Guiana. As they knew nothing about society
and constitutional law, it is a wonder that they gave us a constitution as good
as they did. It was modeled on the State Constitution of Ohio. We lived under
its provisions till 1895. On the whole, it was an improvement over the
"Constitutions of 1791 and 1865, in that it prohibited imprisonment for debt;
apportioned representation in the House of Representatives according to the
numbers of inhabitants in a county; provided for the public free school system;
provided compulsory attendance of children in the schools between the ages of
six and sixteen years; and prohibited lotteries of every kind.
"The objectionable features of the document in my opinion were: 1. Disqualifying
a person who should fight a duel from holding an office under the constitution
in the State. 2. Opening all the colleges and schools supported in whole or in
part by the public funds of the State to children without regard to race or
color. 3. Allowing divorces from the bonds of matrimony, by the judgment of the
courts, for other causes than adultery, and a conviction of a felony by one of
the parties.
"Am I in favor of a dueling law? Well, before 1862, it was the best way to
settle disputes among gentlemen. A gentlemen dosen't relish the idea of
resorting to the courts to settle his personal injuries. Suppose some strapping
halfback on a football team would call me a liar or twist my nose or make some
reflection upon me or my family! Am I to run to a trial justice and swear out a
warrant against him for the indignity? Suppose in a political campaign for
Governor or U. S. Senator on the hustings, one candidate, in his mud slinging,
accuses his opponent of dishonorable conduct or yellow dog motives. Is he just
to hunt up nastier mud and throw back? Gentlemen don't like to wash dirty linen
of their
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family in a courthouse trial. I remember the C. B. Cash and W. M. Shannon duel
in 1880. It was a deplorable affair. But knowing Colonel Shannon, personally,
and Colonel Cash, by reputation, as the father-in-law of Judge R. C. Watts, I
can't see how the fued could have been settled in a session's court without the
loss of that prestige so dear to men of their stamp and lineage.
"The next year the legislature passed a bill amending the oath of office so as
to require all state officials, upon taking the oath, to swear that they have
not fought a duel nor acted as a second in a duel nor aided and abetted in a
duel since the year 1861. I have taken this oath of office sixteen times. Our
newly elected governor, Burnet R. Maybank, though not born in 1881, will have to
take this old bewhiskered oath, word for word, before he can be duly qualified
and inaugurated as Governor of South Carolina.
"The Code duelo will ever remain the highest test of physical, mental, and moral
courage known to men, as it puts a bantam weight man of 120 pounds on an
equality with a heavy weight slugger of 200 pounds of bone, sinew, and muscles.
"It would stop much of the bribery in popular elections and in lobbyings around
our legislature and Congressional halls, and prevent many divorce suits and
marital troubles in our land.
"I still have my old red shirt, first worn by me in the Red Shirt movement of
1876, when I was twenty-five years old.
"Some day I may loosen up and tell you something about the Hampton campaign, the
Greenback days when Hendrix McLean ran for governor, the Tillman movement, the
Farmer's Alliance, the old barroom days, and South Carolina under prohibition,
but my bus leaves for Ridgeway pretty soon, and, as old Esquire Gilbert used to
say, ' I want to wet my whistle ' before I leave town. Won't you join me? I
don't drink beer. I can never think of a Southern gentleman guzzling beer! It is
not a refined way of getting a high-toned exhilaration!"