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Sylvester G. Matson, M.D.
Born 5 March 1808

Dr. Matson, whose portrait we present in this connection, and of whom the following is a brief personal sketch, is not only a highly esteemed professional gentleman, but is one of the most honored pioneers of Linn County, having located here when the country was in its primitive condition and when the settlements were widely separated. He is the son of Elijah and Sarah (Grinnell) Matson, who were married and settled in Middletown, Rutland Co., Vt., where the father followed the vocation of a farmer, and where he passed his entire life. They had a family of children who bore the following names: Abigail, Amanda, Alvin, Eliza, John, Sylvester G., Lucinda, Lydia, Ruel, Almina. Ann, and one who died in infancy. The elder Matson was a second time married, the lady being a Miss Huntington, who bore him two children, Elijah M. and Christopher H. The former is deceased, and the latter is living on a farm in Jones County, IA.
Sylvester G. Matson was born in Middletown, Rutland Co., Vt, March 5, 1808. It will thus be seen that he was not only born in New England, but comes from that stock in which conscience seems to have been as hereditary as intelligence, and in which the fine accumulative results of the moral struggles and triumphs of generations appear to have been transmitted. The personal traits of the original New Englanders were in many ways remarkable. They were men who not only dared to have ideas, but dared to put them together and face the logical results of them. His parents died when he was about twenty years of age, and until that time he lived with them, and by his labor on the farm assisted in the maintenance of the family. His primary education was received in the common schools of the day and locality of his minority. He is a self-made man, working his way up the ladder of fame and fortune step by step, from a poor farmer's boy to the head of one of the foremost professions, and acquiring a competency. About 1827 he entered the medical college of the University of Vermont at Burlington, and graduated there-from with honors in 1832. He studied a short time in the office of Drs. Paul and Grinnell, of Rutland County, prior to entering the University, and thoroughly prepared himself so to do. He was, prior to this time, a farm laborer, and while holding the handles of his plow was constantly studying with the determination of becoming one of the foremost practitioners in the profession which he chose to follow during his future life.
After receiving his diploma Dr. Matson entered upon the practice of his profession in his native town. Remaining there until 1833, he went to Onondaga County, N.Y., and formed a partnership with Adonijah White, and together they continued practice for about two years at Van Buren. From Van Buren, he went to Sylvan Springs, Chenango Co., N.Y., and was there actively engaged in the practice for about eight years. We next hear of him at Auburn, Cayuga Co., N.Y., where he is practicing dentistry with two cousins, also named Matson. Remaining there for two years, he settled up his business, and disposing of what property he had accumulated in Chenango County, he came to Iowa, arriving here in 1845. Settling in Linn County, he remained but a short time, then moved to Fairview, Jones County. There, in Cass Township, he bought property and erected a gristmill, and operated it in connection with a sawmill. He likewise was engaged in merchandising while a resident of that county, being connected in the latter business with his son, Benjamin L., and Prof. S. N. Fellows. During all this time, however, the doctor continued to practice medicine, and by carefully diagnosing his cases and treating them with that skill which study and practice enabled him to bring to bear, he built up a flourishing business. He changed his residence from Fairview to Cass Township, near the mill, and there laid out a little town which he called Fremont, but which never amounted to much. On leaving Fremont the doctor moved to Anamosa, and there continued his practice for many years, when he moved to Brown Township, this county, where he settled on section 1. He operated for a time the Mt. Hope stone quarry, which he afterward leased. Although the doctor has attained the age of seventy-eight years, he is yet often called upon to visit patients, but practices very little, if any, living retired from the active labors of life.
Dr. Matson was first united in marriage, at Middletown, Vt., to Mary A. Hotchkiss, a daughter of Dr. Hotchkiss, of Vermont. She was born in that state, and bore our subject three children—Benjamin, Sarah, and Sylvester. Mrs. Matson died in Fairview, Jones County, this state, and the doctor formed a second matrimonial alliance at Sabula, Iowa, with Mrs. Eliza J. Hubble, a native of New York. By this union two children were born—Catherine L. and Ida. He was the third time married, at Anamosa, Mrs. Caroline (Lowry) Hart, widow of George Hart, being the other contracting party. She was born in Virginia.
Of the children of our subject, Benjamin is living at Anamosa, Sarah is the wife of Prof. Fellows, a resident of Iowa City; Prof. Fellows is widely known in this state, having been connected with the University of Iowa for twenty years, and prior to that was a professor in Cornell College; Sylvester, Jr. is deceased; Catherine L. became the wife of Prof. Goodhue, and they are living in Cedar Rapids; Ida is deceased.
Dr. Matson was the member of the convention that formed the first Constitution for the State of Iowa, in 1846, and was a representative from Jones and Jackson Counties. He was a leading member of that body, and in the election of Speaker, controlled seventeen out of the thirty-nine votes that were cast. He was on the Committee of Ways and Means, and also on Claims, and was Chairman of the Committee on Schools. He framed the bill that located the State University at Iowa City, and was one of the members of the first Board of Trustees. Dr. Matson has worked for the public good ever since he has been a resident of Iowa, and has taken an active interest in all matters of educational reform. He has lived a long and useful life, occupied honorable positions, and is one of the much respected and highly esteemed citizens of Linn County. During the First General Assembly of the State of Iowa, Dr. Matson was the means of preventing an assassination. A member of the Lower House had an altercation with the editor of the Capitol Reporter, when the former caught the latter and threw him to the floor, and drawing his revolver was about to fire, when the doctor suddenly seized the weapon and wrested it from him, thus averting what would likely have been a dreadful calamity. In politics Dr. Matson is a Prohibitionist, and he has taken an active part in the great temperance movement, and is passing the sunset of life surrounded by numerous friends and relatives who respect and honor him for his many excellent qualities.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Linn County, Iowa
Submitted by: Gail Seeley
Note: "Sylvester G. Matson, M.D. was prominent in Iowa history, and lived sometimes in Linn County, and sometimes in Jones County, as early as 1845. On the old plat maps, we can see that large areas of western Jones County were owned by him. His third wife was my maternal g-g-g grandmother, Caroline Lowry Hart Matson. He was the attending physician at the birth of my grandmother, Leola Hayden Finn in 1892, who was a descendant of Caroline. But he was much more than that, as I have discovered."—Gail Seeley

SYLVESTER A. MATSON, physician, Anamosa; was born March 6, 1808, at Middletown, Rutland Co., Vermont, and was one of a family of eleven children; his mother died February 1, 1825, after which his father was again married to a Miss Huntington, by whom he had two children, and died December 30,1827, and left no property.
Young Sylvester early became attached to his books, and, not being able to attend school but little, would have his lessons copied and carry them with him to commit as he labored in the field; he thus fitted himself for teaching, by which he secured means to prosecute his professional studies. When in his 21st year, he read a short time with Dr. Eliakim Paul, of Middletown, and then went to the Medical College of the University of Vermont, at Burlington, where he found a valuable friend in Prof. Benjamin Lincoln, with whom he studied, assisting him in the Anatomical and Surgical Department until he graduated, in 1832.
He then returned to Middletown, and in February, 1833, was married to Mary Ann Hotchkiss, daughter of Dr. Hotchkiss, of Wells; thence he moved to Van Buren, near Syracuse, Onondaga Co., N.Y., and practiced in company with Dr. A. White. He was frequently called upon to speak on public occasions, and his addresses were always received with favor, securing from the general public and the press the highest encomiums. Removing to Jones Co., Iowa Territory, he was a member of the Convention that framed the first State Constitution, and was also elected a member of the First and Second General Assemblies of the State, and came within one vote of being elected Speaker of the House; he took an active part in school matters, was Chairman of the Committee on Schools, and assisted in passing the bill that located the State University at Iowa City.
His wife died in 1819; by her he had four children, two of whom are living. He married again, and had two children by his second wife, one of whom survives. His family is as follows : Benjamin Lincoln, a merchant in Anamosa, Iowa, and a soldier in the Union army during the rebellion; Sarah Leffingwell, who married Rev. S. N. Bellows, A.M., D.D., now at the head of the Normal Department in the State University, at Iowa City; Catharine L. is a graduate of Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, Class of 1875; she married Prof. Goodyear, of the Danville Hygienic Institution, at Danville, Livingston Co., N.Y.; she was invited to deliver the Master's oration at the Commencement exercises at Cornell College, Mount Vernon, and acquitted herself with rare ability.
During the rebellion, Dr. Matson was active, and aided with his money and voice in raising troops. The Doctor has been in the active practice of medicine, surgery and dentistry for about forty-three years; is temperate in all his habits, using neither tea, coffee, tobacco nor intoxicating drinks, and, although now being over 71 years of age, is almost as spry and active as when in his prime. For a few years past, he has been engaged in opening a stone quarry, which he selected about thirty years since, on the Wapsipinicon, near Anamosa; the stone has been tested for more than twenty-five years, and grows harder by exposure; specimens have been worked which so nearly resemble the finest marble that the best judges cannot tell the difference; one of the finest water-powers on the river he is utilizing for preparing stone and for milling purposes.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1879, page 566.


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