WILLIAM MARION MORGAN MATTHEWS
BORN MAY 19 1862 - DEATH UNKNOWN
Written by Irma Matthews Plott
William Marion Morgan Matthews, born in Lexington, AL was the first son and third child of William Marion Matthews and Isabella James. Locally he was known as Morgan. His was born a few weeks after his father left home to join the John Hunt Morgan's Confederate Army in TN.
He was given the name "Morgan" because his father was away as a member of Morgan's Raiders. William Marion was captured in Illinois and sent to the famous Alton, IL "Yankee" prison where he eventually passed away. He was buried at the Alton Penitentiary.
Morgan Matthews attended private subscription schools, taught by his maternal grand parents and his Aunt Sallie James for five years. At their insistence he took the Florence Normal College entrance examination, passed and entered the school in the fall of 1878. A year later his grandfather, Joshua James, became paralyzed and he was forced to return home for three years. During the years of 1882 through 1889 he attended short terms at the college and also taught several short-term schools in Lauderdale and Limestone Counties, AL. In the winter of 1888 and 1889 he remained in the classes at the college, graduating in 1889 with a diploma and a 'life certificate' to teach in the state of AL. The last time he taught was in the summer of 1899.
During these years of teaching, Morgan and his first cousin William K. Rogers (who was also orphaned by the Civil War) had established a store in the Greenhill community, about 1894-95 era. In 1899 he sold his half interest in the store and came to East Florence near the Cherry Cotton Mills, built a two-story building. The upper story was three large rooms arranged for housekeeping, the lower half being readied for a store. When asked why he left teaching, Morgan stated he could not earn enough income for him to marry and provide for a family.
In 1899, Morgan needed funds to stock the store so he went to his closest friend in Florence, Fr. Wilson who was President of the Florence Normal (Hospital?). They made an arrangement for him to own and operate the store for his half of the income. The store Prospered greatly due to the many industrial enterprises opened nearby and the Cherry Cotton Mill.
In 1905, after more than five years of courtship, he married his long time sweetheart, Laura Ann Robinett. She was a great asset to the business financial and for her business ability. She soon purchased the interest that John Johnson had gained in the business due to an expansion in 1903-04.
The business was operated as Matthews Grocery in the 1899-1900 until 1918 when they started building a new building just east of the Sweetwater Creek on the north side of the Huntsville Road.
This new building was not completed until the First World War was over in November 1918. On June 12, 1919 the new store was opened. One half of the store was fabrics and Ready-to-wear and the other half for groceries. There was also a 'modern day' meat selection in the back of the store.
The old building was used for storage of seed and feed until about 2 or 3 years later when Mr. Leonard Lindsey opened a small general store in the location and also prospered very well. A vacant lot was on the west side of the old store building and then a small eating place which was open at odd hours during the week days.
Next door to the eating place was a building which my father inherited from his Aunt Sara Janes (Sallie) and James Hill at her death in March, 1906. My father ran a meat market in this building which was operated by a Mr. Fulton. Mr. Fulton was ill and Lester Satges operated the meat market, which burned several years after Mr. Fulton's death.
Morgan Matthews was blessed with two children, a daughter, Irma Vareen Matthews born in 1906 and a son Aubrey Marion Matthews, born in 1907.
The Matthews Grocery was always a 'growing business'. When Morgan went to Nashville to get his initial stock for the store, he was shown a fountain. He wanted the fountain but was undecided about buying it before talking to his partner, Dr. Wilson. Dr. Wilson agreed and they purchased the fountain in the spring of 1900. It was the first fountain for Florence, AL.
There is an acrylic painting of the store showing, whom we believe to be William Marion Morgan Matthews, Aubrey Marion Matthews, Irma Vareen Matthews and Laura Ann Robinett standing on the porch and a sign in the window in the 1909 picture saying "Wm M Matthews Groceries, Shoes, Queensware and Notions". There was also a sign that said "Take a drink at our Little Mint Fountain".
L.D. Holiday, State Manager of the Woodmen of the World purchased the fountain and took it to his summer home on Brush Creek, just west of U.S. Hwy 43 on the road from Killen to the Brush Creek Community.
This picture is in the possession of Bill Matthews who lives in Killen, AL. He is the son of the late Floyd Huston Matthews.
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