In the previous section we detailed the land acquisitions of James Mathews Sr. All were obtained via patent from the British Crown with no land holdings coming from private transactions (with the possible exception of land acquired in Prince George County, but those records are mostly lost to us). His name appeared sparsely in other deeds. He witnessed a few transactions for neighbors; his name was mentioned in passing as being the owner of adjacent property to others; and, finally, as was pointed out, he eventually sold off all his property to others. From 1708 these deeds, impersonal as they may be, are the only extant records in which we can know James Mathews Sr. We never learn what his profession was. Was he simply a planter, or was he a carpenter? Was he a member of the Anglican church (at least some of his children were) or did he follow another? Was he a respected man in the community? Unfortunately we will probably never know. All we have available to inform us about the man after 1708 are a series of patents and deeds that record a pedestrian timeline of land acquisitions, divestitures and neighbors.

Something must have happened in the time frame of roughly 1739-1741 to cause James to decide to move nearly 100 miles away to North Carolina. By this time he was almost certainly 60 years old at the very least. Why, at that late stage of life, well past the average life expectancy of around 45 years, would he decide to pack up and move south to North Carolina? His wife, Jane, was still alive at the time he sold his last piece of property in Virginia as she released her dower rights to the land. That rules out the loss of his spouse as the motivating factor to just "get away". The area that he moved to was a part of Edgecombe County, NC that would in 1758 become Halifax County, NC. Many others from Surry County and Brunswick County in Virginia moved to this area so perhaps he was following undocumented family members there. Perhaps his family had depleted the soil on his Virginia lands and he was looking for better farmland or grazing pastures. Perhaps there were sociopolitical forces at work in Virginia that made North Carolina a more attractive alternative. I doubt we will ever know with any certainty the reasons for the move. If it had occurred much earlier in his life I doubt I would contemplate the issue as much, but the fact that it happened so late in James' life has always been puzzling.

The modern day location of the area where James would settle is on the southern side of Medoc Mountain State Park in Halifax County, NC. The below Google map shows three selected pieces of property owned by James Mathews Sr. and his sons James Jr. and Charles to illustrate the area where the extended family lived.

Select Mathews land holdings in Halifax County, North Carolina near Medoc Mountain State Park

The total Mathews land holdings, counting the land owned by James Mathews Sr., his sons and their families, encompassed several square miles, however not all of this land was held simultaneously. Using the Google map as a guide, the Mathews properties covered both sides of Little Fishing Creek stretching from the southern interior portions of Medoc Mountain State Park to nearly a mile southwards and from west to east they ranged roughly from NC Highway 561/43 eastwards to NC Highway 48/4. Again, this entire area was never owned simultaneously, but acquired and sold over time from the 1740s to the 1800s.

From the records it appears that James Mathews Sr. moved to NC before his sons and first acquired 400 acres in 1742 from the British Crown.54 This land was almost certainly somewhere along Little Fishing Creek, but to date I have not been able to locate it precisely. British Crown records do not describe the property at all. Most land sales would mention the date that a piece of property was acquired, especially if by grant, and I can't even find any later deed (at least through the 1820s) that references the 400 acres by the date.

James was living in North Carolina by 20 Jan 1741 at the latest. On that date he gave his sons Isaac and Charles part of his 935 acre patent in Brunswick County, VA and the deeds describe James as "James Matthis of Edgecombe County, North Carolina";55, 56 furthermore he left his mark (an "I") indicating that he was indeed James Mathews Sr. as opposed to the "M" mark that his son James Mathews Jr. occasionally used. As a side note both men were known to have signed their names as well as leaving a mark in some cases. I suppose that using a mark was simply quicker since either method of signing was legally valid.

The only other confirmed piece of property acquired by James was a 437 acre plat received via Granville Grant 25 Mar 1749.57 So, with this second acquisition James owned over 800 acres in North Carolina. Beyond the various land records referencing these two pieces of property James left no other evidence of his life in North Carolina. That said, there was one deed from Halifax County that firmly establishes the different generations of men, father to son to grandson, who carried the name James Mathews. There are numerous family trees on and that confuse James Mathews Sr. with his son James Mathews Jr. The creators of these trees mix and match records for the father and son attributing records that mention the father, James Mathews Sr., to his son James Mathews Jr. The keen observer, however, can easily distinguish between these records by noting those that mention a wife, Ann (wife of James Mathews Jr.) or Jane (wife of James Mathews Sr.) releasing dower; paying attention to which mark was used by which James-- James Sr. marked with an "I" and James Jr. marked with an "M"; and keeping track of when a piece of property was acquired and when the same piece was sold. An example of the latter would be the 1722 grant that James Mathews Sr. received for 350 acres in VA. When he first acquired the patent there is no indication as to which James received the property as he is not given the suffix "Sr." However, in 1735 when the land is sold, to John Brown, James Mathews leaves his "I" mark so we know that the James in question was James Sr. And, if the mark is not sufficient proof then it should be noted that Jane, wife of James Mathews Sr., was still alive as of 1742 since she released dower on the 140 acre homestead when her husband sold it. Hence, James Sr. was still alive in 1742 and there is no way that any other James would have made the I mark on the 1735 sale.

The Halifax County, North Carolina deed that further establishes the three generations of men named James Mathews was a 1754 deed in which James Matthis Sr. sold 147 acres, part of the 437 acres that James Sr. received via Granville Grant in 1749, to his grandson James Matthis III (son of James Mathews Jr.).58 We know that the grantee was his grandson since the deed references him as James Matthis, miner [sic] and also by the fact that one of the witnesses was James Matthis Jr.

After the 1754 land sale to his grandson James Sr. was relatively quiet in the record books. By 1759 he was approximately 80 years old and an ancient man by that day's standards of life expectancy. He wrote out his will that year and in the spring court session of March 1762 his will was recorded in Halifax County so we presume he died sometime between the beginning of 1762 and the quarter session held in March (note that this will is incorrectly filed under Thomas Matthis Sr).59 On the surface his will is agonizingly short on any details of his children and yet it gives us two important indirect clues about them: that his son Thomas was likely not the eldest and that he had daughters (note the plural).

The will only names two family members: his son Thomas and a grandson Charles. Charles was probably the son of Thomas since there was no other known grandson named Charles aside from Thomas's son. The will grants 100 acres to Charles, bequeaths two slaves named Cook and Peter to Thomas, gives Thomas his father's share in the family water mill and then appoints him as the administrator of the estate. Further, the will mentions the "brothers and sisters" of Thomas to equally share in their father's "moveable goods and chattels". This is a very important statement as heretofore there has never been any direct evidence of James having any daughters (as we will see in the sections covering James' children there is indirect evidence of at least two daughters found elsewhere). Unfortunately we do not get the names of these daughters or how many there were. All we can do is infer the names of two of them from other records. The will makes no dispensation for the majority of property owned by James Sr. and we later find James Jr. holding much more land than his siblings. Since primogeniture, the right of the firstborn son to inherit his father's estate, was still in effect when James Sr died we can therefore infer that James Jr. was in fact the eldest son of James Sr.

Aside from the will the NC State Archives has the inventory of James' estate in their holdings of Halifax County records. While no buyers (or any names for that matter) are mentioned we do get a list of the items James had at his death. In the list are the expected mundane items that would be found on virtually any farm at this time, farming tools, barrels, wheels, miscellaneous household items and furniture, livestock, and non-perishable food stores such as bacon and corn. All in all though I personally find the list to be a little underwhelming. While the list of items stretches over 2 or 3 pages I wasn't left with the feeling that the inventory represented the man I had come to know from the records. There seemed to be very little furniture and a sparsity of kitchen items such as plates and pewter and cups. James lived in the same area as several other prominent Halifax County residents, he and his family were fairly large land holders, his sons and grandsons were militia officers, judges, attorneys and in some cases college educated. The list of items in his inventory did not seem like those belonging to a man who was a patriarch of this large successful family.

A likely explanation for the lack of worldy goods was that James Sr. in his later years was a widower, he was possibly infirm to some degree and maybe had already given away most of his belongings to his family. Possibly he was even living with one of his children and no longer kept a home for himself.

James Mathews Sr. lived in interesting times. He and his sons watched the sun rise at the dawn of the American experience. His grandchildren and their children would push westward at every opportunity taking full advantage of open land and the right of Manifest Destiny.