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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of Milton W. Mathews

SOURCE: "History of Champaign County, Illinois," by J. O. Cunningham, 1905


MILTON W. MATHEWS. The subject of this sketch, widely known as a prominent member of the bar of Central Illinois, was born in Marshall, Clark county, Ill., March 1st, 1846. He is the second child of John R. and Mary J. MATHEWS, who were natives of Coschocton county, Ohio. They emigrated to Clark county, Ill., shortly after their marriage. One of their sons enlisted with his father at the call of his country in company F. of the 36th regiment, Indiana Volunteers, in August of 1861. He followed the colors into the battle of Stone river, and proved his bravery on that bloody field. The hard marches and privations endured sapped the foundations of his constitution, and on the 9th of July, 1863, the gallant and youthful soldier died in the General Field Hospital, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Before this sad event, in the latter part of 1862, the health of the father gave way, and he received his discharge. But his country needed men, and in 1863 he re-enlisted, this time in the artillery arm, becoming a member of 17th Indiana Battery. In 1864 he received his final discharge from service, and returning, engaged in his former pursuits. In 1852 the father, J. R. Mathews, lured by reports of fortune to be gained, made an overland trip to California. During his absence, on Aug. 12th, 1854, Mrs. Mathews died and young Milton was forced to rely upon his own resources. His father returned home in the fall of that year and subsequently married.

The subject of our sketch, after his mother's death, found a home with his grandfather, Alexander MATHEWS, and attended the common schools of the neighborhood. He studied with commendable assiduity, and formed that love for learning which is characteristic of him to-day. Determined to secure for himself the advantages of an education, he went to Dublin, Wayne county, Indiana, and worked upon a farm, attending school in the winter. The school was of an advanced grade, under the direction and control of Quakers---a people noted for their simplicity of life and integrity of character. For two years he remained there paying his way by work on the farm in summer, and applying himself earnestly, under able tuition, to the acquirement of knowledge in the winter. So marked was his progress in his studies, and so correct were his habits, that he was tendered the situation of assistant instructor in the school, which offer he accepted. He remained here, becoming not the less a student because he was a teacher, until 1865, at which time he had completed thoroughly their course of study and gained a liberal English education.

Immediately upon quitting the academy at Dublin, he came to Champaign county, and pursued his calling us a teacher with success near Philo. This was in the Spring of 1865, and he continued teaching during the remainder of that year. The time had now arrived when he should finally decide upon his choice of a profession, and he, after careful consideration, chose the great profession of the law, and the honors he has already won show that his choice was wise.

He began the study of law with Geo. W. Gere, the well known lawyer of Champaign, and studied so diligently that he was admitted to practice in the latter part of 1866. Immediately he was offered a partnership by Mr. Gere, which was accepted, and which continued for two years. Since that period Mr. Mathews has practiced alone.

He was married on the 21st of October, 1869, to Miss Julia FOOTE, the accomplished daughter of William J. FOOTE, an old resident of Urbana. The union has proved a happy one, and has been blessed by one daughter.

It has been observed that Mr. Mathews' choice of a profession was guided by wisdom, and has been justified by his career thus far.

His abilities and legal attainments could not fail to soon attract attention, and, in August, 1873, he was appointed by the circuit judge Master in Chancery of Champaign county. In November, 1876, he was the nominee of his party for the responsible office of State Attorney. These offices he now holds, and discharges their duties with distinguished success.

Such is a brief statement of the career of Milton W. Mathews, of Urbana, Illinois. It now remains to speak more fully of the characteristics of the subject of our sketch, as a citizen and politician, as an orator and advocate, as a jurist and a man. As a citizen he takes, and has always taken, a deep interest in the welfare of his native land, nor is that interest one assumed through a selfish ambition, but originates in his belief that our institutions are the best adapted to secure the "liberty of man, woman and child." In politics he has ever been a member of the Republican party, and believing in its principles, he has always zealously advocated them. He has done good service for his party, and his eloquent and persuasive words, as delivered from the hustings, have inspired courage and hope in the hearts of its friends.

Deeply read in the history of his country, and thoroughly informed upon the issues of the day, logical in thought and eloquent in utterance, his opponents have found him a foeman "worthy of their steel."

As an orator he, though yet young, has attained high rank. The "glorious gifts of the gods" have been liberally bestowed upon him, and as said the ancient, "these are not to be despised." He has a fine presence, energetic and graceful action, a voice pure, strong and melodious, and under perfect control. But he has in addition to these gifts a still greater, and one without which the others would be vain, viz.: a capacity for hard work. He has studied faithfully the principles of law, and his judgment on questions of law is excellent.

As a man it may truthfully be said of him that his record is without a stain. His integrity is unquestioned. He is affable and gentlemanly in manners, and has hosts of friends.

His party will doubtless call him to higher positions, and his voice, so powerful and persuasive before a jury, when urging the vindication of the majesty of violated law, or expounding the principles of his party from the stump, will yet be heard in the councils of the nation.

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