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A Clue in Samuel Downing’s Bible

A Clue in Samuel Downing’s Bible

Samuel Downing was born in Maryland. The family soon moved west. At the age of 18 he served with the Ohio Militia in the War of 1812. In 1818 he married Margaret Matthews in Pike County, Ohio. After her death he married her widowed sister Mary Matthews Day.

Margaret and Mary were daughters of John Matthews, said to be a surveyor. The name of their mother is unknown. The only surviving Matthews child in 1880, William, said on the census that year his father was born in Ireland and his mother was born Pennsylvania.

Samuel Downing keep a record of the family in his Bible. The Bible, definitely a Protestant Bible, was printed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1781. Samuel kept his family records, except his own birth and death, and the Matthews family records in the Bible. The writing appears to be the same hand until Samuel’s death.

In the Bible is this mysterious listing: “Thomas Matthews Deceased January the 17th in the yeare of our lord 1833” and “And Sarah Matthews his Wife Died May the 15th in the yeare of our Lord 1840.”

There is no missing Thomas Matthews. Thomas, brother of Margaret and Mary, died in 1875, and he left a will. The probate documents state he died February 11, 1875, leaving “no widow, nor children, father or mother, but heirs John Mathews, heirs Margaret Downing, heirs Mary Downing, heirs Jane Lawrence and William Mathews.” Those are the Matthews children. The will indicates he was mute. (Matthews is spelled different ways in different places. Samuel Downing was consistent with Matthews.)

There is no hard information as to the name of the the Matthews father. It has always been said his name was John but I find no proof. It is possible it was assumed from the naming pattern of the children.

Samuel and Margaret named their children: George (Samuel’s father), Sarah, Elizabeth (Samuel’s mother), Thomas, Mary Jane (Jane was the name of one of George’s sisters and one of Margaret’s sisters; Margaret also had a sister Mary) and Samuel.

Maybe the name of the parents of the Matthews children was never a mystery. Maybe Samuel told us their names: Thomas and Sarah.