The woman I believe to have most likely been the wife of James Mathews Sr. was Jane Jordan. The names of the wives of most Mathews from the earliest generations are next to impossible to determine aside from their given name. To date no source has been found that explicitly tells us the family names of the wives of either James Sr. or any of his sons. The only alternative left open is trying to read between the lines of what information is available to us and establish reasonable speculations whenever possible. Even that alternative is not always viable due to the dearth of information available on most of these women and in fact speculation of this sort is really only possible with James Sr. and one of his middle sons, Isaac Mathews Sr.

The process of arriving at Jane Jordan as the most likely candidate to have been the wife of James Mathews Sr. starts with only one known fact: her first name was Jane (or Jean, either are equivalent). The first step was to search the abstracts of Surry County, VA wills found in Wills and Administrations of Surry County, Virginia 1671-1750 by Eliza Timberlake Davis looking for any Jane or Jean in the index for whom there was no known record of marriage. That may seem like a rather simplistic approach, but given how few records mention females of any sort it seems like one of the best options possible to find all the women named Jane. The possibilities were narrowed down to arrive at a Jane Jordan who was mentioned in the will of her grandfather, William Browne.12 Research was carried out to try to determine if this Jane Jordan was ever known to have married. Nothing has been found to date to confirm or deny that she was ever married. In fact, she apparently disappears from the records after being mentioned in her grandfather's will. For a time no conclusions could be drawn about the possibility that Jane was the wife of James Sr. The only point in her favor was that there was no record of her ever marrying therefore there was apparently nothing to preclude her possible marriage to James Sr.

Eventually James Mathews, the man believed to have possibly been the father of James Mathews Sr., was discovered in the Surry County tithables. The observations made about the earlier James were interesting in the context of Jane Jordan, especially who she was known to have been related to: William Browne. Only by understanding the speculation behind the father of James Sr. can one appreciate the implications suggesting that Jane Jordan may have been the wife of James Sr so the section on James's father should be read to fully grasp the theories on both the father of James Sr and his wife. Admittedly, there is a bit of circular reasoning involved, but the caveat should be noted that this researcher does not claim that the theories on either the father of James Sr. or the family of James's wife are conclusive, merely that they seem plausible

Jane Jordan's parents were Thomas Jordan (ca. 1655 - 1685) and Jane Spencer nee Browne (ca. ?? - 1682). Jane's father, Thomas, was part of a relatively large Jordan family that had settled in Virginia quite early and who were prominent members of Surry County. Thomas's father was Arthur Jordan (born in Herefordshire, England ca. 1629, died 1698); an uncle, George Jordan, is known from George's will.13 Jane Jordan's mother, Jane Browne Spencer, was the widow of Robert Spencer who had died by 1679.14 As was the norm for the time, Jane Browne Spencer quickly remarried to Thomas Jordan after the death of her first husband. She bore two children during her short marriage to Thomas Jordan, daughters Jane and Mary. Due to Jane's death in 1682 dates of ca. 1680 and ca. 1682 are assigned to her two daughters (it is uncertain as to which daughter was the eldest).

Jane Browne Spencer's parents were Col. William Browne (ca. ?? - 1705) and Mary Browne, daughter of Col. Henry Browne -- relationship to Col. William Browne unknown. Col. William Browne was an influential man in Surry County. He was Justice of the County Court of Surry from 1668 to 1705; presiding Justice of the court on at least one occasion, Sheriff of Surry County in 1674 and 1687; member of the House of Burgesses of Virginia various years between 1676 to 1682; and Lt. Col. of Militia 1679 - 168715.

Keep in mind that we are trying to build a case for Jane Jordan based solely on circumstantial evidence so it's important to have information on any records that mention a Mathews and a Jordan in a manner that indicates any sort of familiarity. Unfortunately for the time period of the late 1600s to early 1700s we only have a few such records:

  • After the death of Thomas Jordan in 1685 his estate administrators, William Browne and James Jordan, informed the court of a whopping 330 people who owed debts to his estate. Among those owing debts were James Mathews, Thomas Mathew [sic] and John Mathews (John was listed twice and it is unclear if there were two Johns or if that was an error) 16.
  • The 1691 estate inventory of John Dues(?) was signed off by Richard Jordan (a relative of Thomas Jordan) and Thomas Mathews17. This record doesn't necessarily imply anything since the court would have assigned these two men to the task of making the inventory, but at the very least it implies they probably lived in the same vicinity.
  • A 1718 Surry County deed shows that Daniel Regan of Isle of Wight County, VA sold 50 acres to William Pully Jr. The land was noted as adjoining the orphans of Francis Sowerby (husband of Jane Jordan's sister Mary) and Capt. William Gray among others. Capt. William Gray married Elizabeth Browne who was Jane Jordan's first cousin (Elizabeth's parents were William Browne, son of Col. William Browne, and Jane Meriwether). One of the witnesses to this deed was Thomas Mathews (identity not established at this time, but possibly Thomas Charles Mathews)18.

From the above the common name to all three records is a Thomas Mathews. I have no idea who this man was, but it's possible he was Thomas Charles Mathews, probable brother of James Mathews Sr. Surry County tithable lists do show one other Mathews in the county in the late 1600s: Thomas Mathews (alternatively "Mathers", "Madders" and "Mathas" and variations thereof in some years). He shows up several times in the Surry County deed books with the "Mathews" spelling, however he is frequently called "Mathers" in the tithable lists. It is difficult to say for certain if the intent was that he was a "Mathews" or a "Mathers" as the number of variations on either spelling are about equal when taking into account all the places the name is seen. Even though he is frequently called "Mathers" (and similar phonetic spellings) he is undoubtedly the same man who is also called "Mathews" as he appears in all but one tithable list in Surry County for the years 1677 to 1704. He is always seen in Lawnes Creek Parish (a narrow strip of land in modern day Surry County running south from the James River and lying between Lower Chippokes Creek and Lawnes Creek, both of which are tributaries of the James River) and always found near Nicholas Sessums, various Savage households and Richard Jordan among others.

Whether or not Thomas Mathews was related to James Mathews is moot as there isn't enough evidence at hand to debate the issue one way or the other. That said, it is curious that he was mentioned in the above three records. In the case of the first he's mentioned in the same record as a James Mathews who may or may not have been the father of James Mathews Sr. In the case of the second record he's mentioned alongside a relative of Jane Jordan. And, in the third case he is again mentioned among several close family members of Jane Jordan.

It's at this point that we bring together all the applicable points on the Jordan family and combine this with what we know about the elder James Mathews and try to make a case for both Jane Jordan being the wife of James Mathews Sr. and for the elder James Mathews being the father of James Mathews Sr.

  • There is no record of Jane Jordan ever marrying thus nothing to prevent the possibility that she married James Mathews Sr.
  • As of 4 Dec 1704, at the time her grandfather Col. William Browne wrote his will, she was still unmarried (her maiden name is given in the will).
  • The elder James Mathews was living either with Col. William Browne or on his property per the 1680 Surry County tithable list. James would have almost certainly known both Thomas Jordan and his wife Jane Browne Spencer (daughter of William Browne) as they would have most likely been married by the date the list was taken. James Mathews Sr. was most likely born right around this time, however, women were not taxed in this period so we have no way of knowing if the family of the elder James also lived on the William Browne property at any point. In any event it would seem plausible that if the elder James was the father of James Sr. that James Sr. was well familiar with the Browne family.
  • James Mathews Jr., son of James Mathews Sr. and likely his eldest son, received his first patent for land in 1728. If we assume at least a year for the paperwork to go through (a standard waiting period although it could have taken a longer period of time) and assume that he was the minimum age of 21 to receive a patent this puts his year of birth at roughly 1706 (certainly no later than this date). Jordan researchers state that Jane Jordan was cared for by her grandfather William Browne after the death of her father in 1685 so if her grandfather died between the end of 1704 when his will was written and July 1705 when it was recorded she would have known she needed to marry: her grandfather and guardian was dead as well as both of her parents. This time frame leaves a perfect window open for James Mathews Jr. to have been born about 1706 if she was his mother.
  • One thing that is puzzling is the fact that if the elder James Mathews was the father of James Mathews Sr. how did James Sr. go from being the son of a former indentured servant to being a man who eventually would own 2,000 acres of land in Virginia (more on that here) spread out over four patents? Owning that much land, and more importantly, retaining that much land, would have required currency and financial stability. Ignoring the initial cost of the land annual taxes had to be paid and the land had to be improved. Improving the land meant you had to clear it for farmland and work the farmland which would have required a labor force. Sure, James had at least 4 sons, but that doesn't seem to have been enough people to work 2,000 acres and in fact Brunswick County court records show that James Mathews Sr. was a slave holder (no indication of how many slaves he owned although later records show his sons had quite a few). Where did the money come from? One possible way is that he married into money and Jane Jordan, a legatee of her grandfather's most likely sizeable estate, would have certainly had money.

Obviously all of this is extremely speculative and the one idea of James Mathews Sr. marrying Jane Jordan depends somewhat on the supposition that the elder James Mathews was his father. Nevertheless, given the lack of substantive direct evidence the above theory engages in a bit of "what if". To date there has been no evidence --direct, indirect, or circumstantial-- to contradict Jane Jordan being the wife of James Sr. or the elder James Mathews being his father. Nothing found thus far makes it implausible that the elder James Mathews was the father of James Mathews Sr. or Jane Jordan being the wife of James Sr. Yet, as we know, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.