Matson Cemetery USGenWeb Archives

   Matson Family Cemetery

        This cemetery is located on the Harold Shaw farm on Ed Mosley Road about a mile west of Matson Switch in Fulton Co., Kentucky.

    There are only one headstone in this cemetery. It is new headstone obtained from the Veterans Administration. It is setting in front of the base for his original headstone, which was damaged and is now kept indoors for protection.

    The original headstone is inscribed; "General Robert Matson born in Bourbon Co., Ky. January 1796, died January 26, 1859 aged about 64 years old as a soldier he was brave and as a legislator incorruptible. An affectionate husband, an indulgent parent, and a good citizen, he died contented and by all respected as an honest man".

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    He was the son of James Matson and Mary "Mollie" Peyton, natives of Virginia. He married Mary Ann Corbin on 23 Nov. 1848 in Gallatin, Illinois. She was born in Virginia on 4 May 1821. They were the parents of six children. According to the family on whose property the cemetery is located, Robert was a Lieutenant during the War of 1812. He served in Pogue's 4th Regiment of Kentucky Militia, and it is surmised that he received his commission as General, after the war as a member of the Kentucky State Militia.
    He served two terms in the Kentucky State Legislature during the 1832 and 1834 sessions.

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    The following account is an interesting story of an incident in Robert Matson's life.

"Ashmore v. Matson"
One of the top 5 Legal Cases in Coles Co., Illinois History.

    Matson v. Ashmore et. al. for the use of Bryant, took place in October 1847. This case came about when a slave family led by Anthony and Jane Bryant fled from General Robert Matson's farm, which was affectionately known as Black Grove. General Matson was a landowner in both Kentucky and Illinois. When he came to Illinois to harvest his crops for the year he usually brought a few slaves with him to accomplish the task. Upon this occasion, five slaves fled Robert Matson's farm. These slaves were taken in by Gideon Ashmore and Dr. Hiram Rutherford two well known, and respected citizens of Coles County. Sources dealing with this case have charged that Rutherford and Ashmore were adamant abolitionists, who were seeking to press the issue of slavery. Slavery, in their eyes, had been banned by the Illinois State Constitution, and had been outlawed by the Land Ordinance of 1785. Illinois, to these two men, had been, by law, a free state. These two were simply seeking to ensure that the state remained free of bondsmen.
    This set the stage for the case to be brought to court. Each side believed their interpretation of Illinois and Federal slave laws were the accurate portrayal. This case was more than a fight over slavery. Slaves in the United States had been considered property, and not human beings. Matson charged that he was allowed to move his property anywhere he wanted. The implications about the extent slavery extended made this case an interesting one in the first place. What makes this case even more fascinating is that Abraham Lincoln was retained by Mr. Matson to be his defense attorney.
    Many historians have used this case to imply that Lincoln took the case because he believed in the slave owner's cause. Other historians have charged that Lincoln simply took the case because he had obligations to his client to do so. Either way, this page will not attempt to define Abraham Lincoln's reasons for getting involved. Instead, our institution has sought to present the facts of the case for educational purposes.
    In a very real way, this case represents more than just slavery or the involvement of Abraham Lincoln. This case brings to light the real discussions about property ownership and the limits American society had adopted to protect those interests. Since slaves were considered to be chattel, they were not entitled to the same rights as other citizens. This is why Dr. Rutherford and Mr. Ashmore decided to harbor the slaves. They knew that Matson would have to sue them to regain the slaves he had lost. In suing Mr. Matson hoped to establish that farmers who owned property in different states were allowed to retain their right without state intervention. He wanted the state to recognize federal protection offered to those whom transported property across state lines. Matson was only intent on keeping his slaves in Illinois for a short time. Ashmore and Rutherford charged that the laws of Illinois stipulated that slaves were freed upon entrance into a free territory. In the end, the argument of Ashmore and Rutherford ended up winning the case.
    The law was forced to interpret the rights and practices slave owners enjoyed within Illinois. This case challenged the pre-existing interpretations of property ownership by calling into question the reliability of those laws. The plaintiff asserted that slavery was to be allowed as long as they only remained in free territory for a short time. In this argument Lincoln, invoked the right of transit, allowing slave holders to take their slaves temporarily into free territory. The defendants cited that slavery could not be shown preferential treatment. Ashmore and Rutherford wanted to establish the banishment of slavery from the state was not subject to debates about property. Instead, all slaves entering the state lost their distinction of being property.
    By examining this case it is easy to see why the system of slavery presented real challenges to American society. This case is the most interesting case of Coles County history because the substance and the characters made for a stellar trial. In the end, this case represents debates about property, slavery, and character as no other has in the history of the County.

Copyright © 2000-03 by Localités/Localities, all rights reserved.
This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to
Localités/Localities and/or Coles County Legal History Project.

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    Sometime after the above occasion, Robert Matson moved his family and by 1850 they lived in Fulton County.

1850 Fulton County, Kentucky Census
Matson, Robert, 54, Farmer, Ky.
    Mary, 32, Ky.
    Mary, 14, Ky.
    Robert, 12, Ky.
    Mildred, 4, Ill.
    Henrietta, 3/12, Tn.

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