Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 285] one of Ellwood City's oldest citizens, and in fact one of Lawrence County's oldest native-born residents, now living in retirement on his farm in the city, was born near the county line in Wayne township on the Weller farm, March 31, 1821.

His grandfather, Joseph Matheny, was born in Germany of a High Dutch family. When a young man, he came to this country with his brother, and settled in Shenandoah, West Virginia, where he carried on farming, and served as judge of the court. When past middle age, he removed to Wayne Co., Ohio, near Wooster, and bought a large farm, where his death took place in 1837. His wife also lived to a good old age, their hardy ancestry telling in their survival of the frosts of many winters. Their children were: John, Absalom, George, Moses, Israel, who was drowned on the Monongahela; Isaac, Aaron, Rachel, and Mahala.

Moses Matheny, our subject's father, was born while the family had its residence in Shenandoah, and while a youth learned the cabinet-maker's trade. In 1806, he married Hannah Nye, daughter of Andrew and Rachel Nye of Wayne township, Lawrence County, and removed to a farm, which he bought near the old Nye homestead. In 18l7, he sold this property, and bought a farm near Wooster, Ohio, where he lived a few years, and then came back to Pennsylvania, where he bought a farm in Wayne township, where the subject of this notice was born. This farm had been but slightly improved, so for a number of years his labors were directed toward the removing of the forest growth and preparing the soil for cultivation; in this he was assisted by his sons; his trade of cabinet-making also proved very useful to him in this work, for he would exchange the furniture he made with his neighbors for work in the clearing. In company with judge Hemphill in 1820, Mr. Matheny bought three hundred acres of land on the present site of the village of Wurtemberg. There was a great scarcity of salt in this section of the country, and what there was had to be carted for hundreds of miles and thus was very expensive, so these two gentlemen bored a salt well 586 feet in depth, and found a small amount of salt water to reward their efforts—the water only furnishing enough saline matter to make one barrel of salt in twelve hours; very large profits were not realized from this venture, for salt was worth about $4 a barrel, and the work of drilling was done at great expense and hard work with a spring pole. This was the only salt found in many miles, and consequently cattle strayed thither from far and near to lick the ground, and wild game abounded in the vicinity. Mr. Matheny was interested in this business for fifteen years, and then built a mill in Slippery Rock township, near Wurtemberg, which he finally traded for the farm our subject owns. Mrs. Matheny was past sixty-five when she passed over to the far country, and Mr. Matheny was sixty years of age, when his death occurred in 1845. They reared the following children: Joseph, Nancy, Aaron, Rachel, Elizabeth, George, Mahala, Elijah Gad, Amanda, James Parker, Hannah, Moses, and John Deemer. They all grew to be strong and vigorous men and women, although at the present time but four survive—Elizabeth, Elijah Gad, James Parker, and John Deemer. The father of our subject was a Whig in his political allegiance, and in religious matters favored the M. E. Church. He was the first man in the United States that struck oil in a well in 1828, there being another man in Kentucky who struck oil in 1829.

Elijah Gad Matheny had few educational advantages, as the great system of public schools was then still in embryo and did not materialize until he was a man grown. When he was seventeen years old, his father died and left a burden on our subject's young shoulders to help carry on the farm, and care for the others of the household. He stayed with his mother until her death, and he owns the homestead, which is managed by his son, Jerdon Nye Matheny.

Mr. Matheny became the husband of Sarah Ann Nye on Feb, 12, 1846. She was born June 24, 1824, and was a daughter of Col. Jerdon M. and Hannah (Plantz) Nye. Col. Nye was born on Peter Creek, twelve miles from Pittsburg; he settled in Wayne township, where he carried on farming and stock-raising, inheriting the 130 acres from his father's estate, which later passed into the possession of our subject through his wife. Col. Nye was a colonel in the State militia, and served as justice of the peace twenty-four years.

Elijah Gad Matheny, whose history is given herein, lived on his own farm until 1874, when he removed to the farm referred to above, that belongs to Mrs. Matheny, and ran the old Matheny mill on the creek. He built a comfortable farm-house in 1883, and was engaged in the various industries of farm life until he sold his land to the Pittsburg Manufacturing Co., retaining ten acres as a homestead, and retired to enjoy the sunset years of his life. Mr. Matheny has always been a Republican until the last few years, when he transferred his allegiance to the Prohibitionists. He is overseer of the poor in Ellwood City, and has served as justice of the peace. Mr. and Mrs. Matheny are Presbyterians in their religious faith. Their children are: Calista Isaphenia, born Nov. 12, 1846, who lives at home; Lizzie Jane, who died at the age of eighteen months; Albert T., who also passed away when twenty-one years old; Alice Arzina, born Nov. 5, 1852, who married Francis M. Davis, a prominent farmer and fruitdealer, and has these children—Alice A., Nellie E., Charles S., Nancy, Elijah G., and Alma; Alma Diadema, born Dec. 25, 1854, lives at home; Jerdon Nye, born June 18, 1857, married Anna M. Gillespie, and they have been blessed with two children—Alice A., and Joseph G.; Sherman Marshall, a flourishing dentist of New Castle, born July 22, 1862, married Nettie Grove. Mr. and Mrs. Matheny show forth in their daily lives the beauty of the teachings of the Gospel. They have, as they deserve, the good will and cordial friendship of the entire community in which they live, and their record through life is one of which their children may well be proud.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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