James Evans Matthews
Gospel Preacher, Politician In
Fanning, the great evangelist and founder of The Gospel Advocate. His
brother, Mansell W. Matthews was one of the
first preachers of the old time gospel in the state of Texas.
While living in Lauderdale
County, Alabama in the mid 1820s, he preached at the old Republican
church. (now Stoney Point Church of Christ). He came under the influence
of B.F. Hall who was teaching an aspect of the
gospel not previously taught by Matthews. Hall came into North Alabama
teaching that baptism was essential to the remission of sins. His
influence of Matthews ultimately led to articles written by Matthews on
baptism that were sent to the Christian Messenger for publication. In the
1830s he moved to the state of Mississippi, preaching and planting
congregations of the New Testament Church in the northwestern part of that
state. He worked with many of Mississippi's great preachers such as
T.W. Caskey, General William Clark, and B.F.
Matthews was involved in
politics in that state spending much time in Jackson, the state capitol.
He preached the old time gospel until his death June 30, 1867. See more
in-depth sketch below.
Sketch On The Life Of James E. Matthews
Some of the pioneers are entirely forgotten and the
young generation know nothing about the labors which they did and the
sacrifices which they made. Again, some of the pioneers did noble service
in comparative obscurity. Few Tennesseans know the second governor of
Tennessee; and those who do know anything of him know him, not from the
work that he did as governor, but his work as a teacher. Archibald Roane,
the second governor of Tennessee, is known as the teacher of the great
statesman, Hugh L. White. Andrew, one among the first of our Lord's
disciples, is known more generally because of the fact that he brought his
brother, Peter, to the Savior. So James E. Matthews is known as the
preacher who baptized Tolbert Fanning.
James E. Matthews was born in Kentucky in the year
1799, and lived there until he reached his majority. In early life he
became acquainted with the religious views of Barton W.
Stone, and about
the age of twenty-five he was baptized by one of the associates of that
distinguished servant of God. Soon after his profession of Christianity he
began proclaiming the gospel of Christ, and from the year 1827 until the
day of his death he ceased not to proclaim the unsearchable riches of
Christ as the Redeemer of man. His labors were confined to the States of
Mississippi and Alabama. He had made the former his home from early
Tolbert Fanning, who was a good judge of men, pays
the following tribute to him: "Perhaps, for no man, since the
departure of our own father, did we feel a more tender regard than for our
deceased brother. He was the teacher of our early youth, our instructor in
the Christian religion in riper years, and, upon an understanding
of the faith, with his own hand he baptized us into the name of the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, October, 1827. Brother Matthews was but
little known out of the States of Alabama and Mississippi; but where
known, his distinguished ability was felt and acknowledged, both as a
preacher and a statesman. As an intellectual man, we doubt whether we ever knew his
superior, and had he been in circumstances to call forth his great powers
of faith, he would, evidently, have been regarded as one of the tall
giants of earth." (Gospel Advocate, 1867, page 618).
James E. Matthews took an active part in the
politics of his adopted State. He was elected as a member of the
Legislature of Mississippi, and held the office of Auditor of Public
Accounts and other State offices. Tolbert Fanning says in regard to his
holding office, that "his influence was somewhat marred by the
deceitful net of political preferment." It may be said truly of him
that he sought no political honor, but that the honors sought him because
of his ability and integrity as a true Christian gentleman. He was
acknowledged by his fellow citizens to be a truly great man. He was
conscious of their respect for the estimate of him, but he ever remained
humble as a little child.
He was clear and pointed in his preaching and public
speaking. His command of the best words to express his ideas was
wonderful. He was very eloquent, and those who heard him speak have said
that they lost sight sometimes of his theme in thinking only of his
beautiful sentences and appropriate words and phrases. He made frequent
visits on preaching tours in Mississippi and Alabama. It was on one of
his preaching tours in Northern Alabama, near Florence, that the young
man, Tolbert Fanning, heard him and by him was baptized into Christ.
President W. J. Barbee, who knew him well, said: "He was beyond doubt
one of the most gifted men in defense of the gospel of Christ I ever
heard. He was bold, intelligent, logical. His positions were well taken,
his points arranged in fine order, his arguments constructed and
elaborated with precision, and his conclusions rendered inevitable. He was
preeminently a Bible man, and advocated unison upon the word of God,
upon Christ, having regard to difference of opinion."
As pioneer preacher, he endured hardships and
labored incessantly. He addressed great multitudes of people in groves,
barns, storehouses, as well as in courthouses and town halls; wherever he
could get a hearing he preached the gospel. He established many
congregations throughout Mississippi and Alabama, baptizing thousands of
people into Christ. He preached the gospel with power and eloquence, not
fearing the opinions of men nor seeking to be a pleaser of men. His
boldness, together with his ability in preaching the gospel, made him a
great power among the people. Denominations feared him, yet respected him
for his humility and thorough knowledge of the word of God. He had no
debates with his religious enemies, because they were not willing to
meet him and oppose his preaching the truth of God. He moved among the
denominations as a lion moves among the beasts of the forest; none
opposed, but all got out of his way. He traveled horseback and often went
on foot, always carrying with him his saddlebag, which contained a few
undergarments for a change.
Sometimes he preached for two hours; in fact, this
was the usual length of his sermons; however, he was never tiresome, but
held the attention of his audience to the close. The people heard him
gladly; he spoke eloquently so that they understood him. These were the
days of long sermons and basket dinners. The people had but little social
advantages then, except in such gatherings. It seems that they were more
susceptible to the teachings of the Bible than people are today. They were
a simple folk, with but few disturbances in their community and but little
to occupy their minds, save the simple routine of daily affairs and the
profound truths revealed in God's word. The people lived a simple life and
were happier than the people of this fast age. His converts were counted
by the hundred wherever he went.
The latter part of his life was given more to the
service of his State, and while he was largely engrossed in political
affairs, yet he never deserted his King; and whether in the counsels of
his country or in the pulpit preaching the gospel, he was a model man. His
friends in the church would have been better pleased had he given his
entire time unto the end of his earth life to the preaching of the gospel.
He died at the age of sixty-eight, in Desoto County, Miss., June 30, 1867.
Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo
Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1932, pages 100-102
Gospel Advocate Obituary
Died, at his residence in DeSoto county, Miss., on Lord's day, June the 30th, 1867, James E. Matthews, in the 68th year of his age. He died in the triumphs of faith and hope. Perhaps, for no man, since the departure of our own father, did we feel a more tender regard than for our deceased brother. He was the teacher of our early youth, our instructor in the Christian religion in riper years, and, upon an understanding confession of the faith, with his own hands, he baptized us into the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, October, 1827. Brother Matthews was but little known out of the States of Alabama and Mississippi, but where known, his distinguished ability was felt and acknowledged, both as a preacher and statesman. As an intellectual man, we doubt whether we ever knew his superior, and had he been in circumstances to call forth his great powers of faith, he would, evidently, have been regarded as one of the tall giants of earth. His influence was somewhat marred by deceitful net of political preferment; but in his long life, he never deserted, or slighted the banner of our King, and whether in the counsels of his country, or laboring as a minister of peace, he was a model man, always doing good.
Tolbert Fanning - Gospel Advocate August 1, 1867, page 618.
Location Of Grave
J.E. Matthews is buried in
the Bucey-Matthews Cemetery, near the small town of Crockett, Tate County,
From Memphis, Tennessee: Go about 32 miles south from Memphis on
Interstate Hwy. 55. Take Exit No. 265 (Senatobia). Go west on Hwy. 4 (Main
Street) for 1 mile into Senatobia. From downtown Senatobia, continue west
on Hwy. 4 for about 7 miles. This is the Crockett community.
The Crockett Church of Christ building is located nearby. (Note: The
Strayhorn community is 3 miles further west on Hwy. 4. If you reach
Strayhorn, you have gone too far.) The Matthews cemetery is located south
of Hwy. 4 on the J. P. Boling farm (as of 1990). The address is J.
P. Boling, 7978 Hwy. 4 West, Senatobia, MS 38668. The Boling
farmhouse is a white house located close to the highway, seemingly on a
slight elevation about the road. Pull into driveway and notify
landowners that you would like to visit cemetery. There is a gate,
south of the house, going into the pasture behind. The cemetery is
located in a grove of cedar trees, maybe 500 to 600 feet southeast of the
farmhouse. In 1990, the site was in the middle of a well-maintained
coastal field, making it an easy walk or drive from the farmhouse.
Only a few stones survive. In 1990, James E. Matthews' was broken,
laying flat on the ground.
Webmaster Note: Special
thanks to Terry Cowan, descendent and Matthews family member who has
helped to find the grave, and whose provided information made this page
Finding The Grave Of James Matthews . . .
In March, 2006, I had the opportunity to travel with
Wayne Kilpatrick and Gary Roeder over to Tate County, Mississippi to
find the grave of J.E. Matthews. Until that point we had only known of
its location through correspondence with Terry Cowan. When we arrived at
the location, we soon felt a deep feeling of discouragement at the fact
that there were no graves in the cemetery to be found. The small
cemetery was part of a pasture that had a number of horses in it. The
graveyard had no markers exposed, as if there was no cemetery there at
all. As we were not certain where the graves were, we began looking for
a logical area of where the graves may have been. We walked all over the
pasture looking, but finally settled on an area around some trees. After
looking closely a corner of a stone was found. Cleaning around it we
found it was a grave marker, but not the one of James E. Matthews. Over
the next hour we took shovels from a local barn, and we began slicing
into the ground as deeply as we could to see if we might stumble upon
the grave marker for which we searched.
As we were about to give up, never to locate the
marker at all, we proceeded to look in one more location. We pressed
into the ground a couple of times and hit a hard substance about six to
eight inches below the ground. We began digging around the object. After
carefully removing the dirt, our goal was realized much to our deep
The preservation of this location is in deep peril, as
the location is still very much forgotten. As this man was greatly
beloved among the church during his day, and served as a statesman in
the state of Mississippi, something needs to be done to preserve this
location. Efforts are being made presently, so that it will be preserved
for generations to come.
Sacred to the Memory Of
Jas E. Matthews
Nov. 16, 1799,
June 30, 1867
The Christian, Statesman
Distinguished in the
Church and the State,
and beloved by all for
Gary Roeder Behind Matthews Monument
Scott Harp Behind Matthews Monument
Wayne Kilpatrick (L) and Scott Harp (R)