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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three Lonely Graves

A few weeks ago, on June 9th, I discussed an adventure I had with my friends, Murray Harris and John Yates, to Clark's Landing. Click on the link below to see that Blog entry.

On our way back to New Gretna, we stopped at Chestnut Neck to see the Revolutionary War monument and the Mathis graves in the woods diagonally across Rt. 9 from the monument. Today's Blog entry deals with those three lonely Mathis graves.

I had been to see the Mathis graves about 10 years ago with Howard Ware as my guide. I wasn't sure I could find them again, as they are in a thick wooded area entangled with sharp briers. Murray had also been there many years before but he, too, was unsure of their exact location.

We parked our cars on the grassy Rt. 9 shoulder and ventured into the woods, hoping not to catch ticks or chiggers. We hadn't thought about bringing any bug spray to fight them off.

The three Mathis graves are diagonally across Rt. 9 from the Chestnut Neck Revolutionary War monument. (Modified Google Maps photo.)

We walked into the dense woods and soon saw the three graves through the thick underbrush. It was surprising that we found them without incident. That's unusual with Murray along.

We spotted the faint outline of a head and foot stone through the thick underbrush. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

We, gingerly, stepped around the thorny briers and soon emerged in the small clearing where the three graves stand in a pad of concrete cast to stop vandals from stealing the stones.

The head and foot stones of John Mathis and his wife, Martha, are set in concrete to discourage vandals from stealing the stones. The head and foot stones of Louiza Mathis sit off to the right, also cast in the concrete slab. The clearing was too small to allow for a photo of all the stones. (June 9, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

John and Martha, husband and wife, are buried next to each other. (June 9, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

In Memory of Our Father John Mathis. Born Dec 23rd 1753. Died Oct 20th 1824. Aged 70 Years 9 mo 21 d. Gone but not forgotten. (June 9, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

In Memory of Our Mother a Wife of John Mathis. Born June 29th 1762. Died April 12th 1842. Aged 79 years 3 mo 12 d. (June 9, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Louiza is buried off to John's left, while facing John's head stone. Her head stone reads - In Memory of My Wife Louiza Mathis. Wife of John Mathis. Born Oct 3rd 1804. Died Oct 27th 1850. Aged 46 years & 24 da. (June 9, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The John Mathis buried here, was the grandson of the Great John Mathis, the first permanent settler in Bass River, through Great John's first son, Micajah. Great John was called "Great" because he was the richest person and biggest land owner in the area. The location of these three graves in Port Republic attest to Great John's large land holdings which stretched along both sides of the Mullica River. John and Martha's homestead was a small part of Great John's land inherited through Macajah.

A Paul C. Burgess sketch of the 1777 village of Chestnut Neck in Franklin W. Kemp's classic book, "A Nest of Rebel Pirates", shows the location of John Mathis' house, house # 3 above.

It is likely that the present Mathis graves are located close to the John Mathis house located on Burgess' sketch of the village of Chestnut Neck.

A look at Jean and Murray Harris' book, "The Mathis Family of Little Egg Harbor", gives us an overview of John and Martha's large family and helps us to understand the relationship of the three graves.

John Mathis, son of Micajah and Mercy (Shreve) Mathis, born December 23, 1753, died October 20, 1824, married August 16, 1781 Martha Cramer, the daughter of Caleb S. and --- Baker Cramer, born June 29, 1762, died April 12. 1842. John and Martha are buried at Chestnut Neck where they made their home. Their children:

i Caleb,

ii Reuben, born April 5, 1790, died June 14, 1864, buried at Port Republic. He married Phoebe Mathis, born 1795.

iii Beriah, married Sophia Risley

iv Elizabeth, married Solomon Worner on June 10, 1810

v Jennings, married Jane Corson

vi John Shreve, married (a) Louisa Mathis and (b) Sarah Ann Giberson.

vii Chalkley married Eliza ---. In 1833 they lived in Middle Township, Cape May County

viii Charlotte

ix Mary

x Sarah

The information pertaining to John and Martha's son, John Shreve Mathis, is particularly pertenant to our three lonely graves. The Mathis family was notorious for naming male children John, after the progenitor of the family. This often makes is confusing for the historian and genealogist, as is the case when viewing the three Mathis Chestnut Neck graves.

A visitor to the site sees John and Martha's two head and foot stones to the right. They were obviously husband and wife as evidenced by the inscription "Our mother, wife of John Mathis" on Martha's head stone and their side by side locations. One; however, could become confused by the third headstone a short distant to the left of John's stone. It also reads "Wife of John Mathis", so one could incorrectly conclude, if the dates were not read closely, that Louiza was also the wife of John Mathis who is buried here. After all, tombstones don't lie.

Louiza was, in fact, the wife of John's son, John Shrive Mathis. At the time of her burial space was left for the burial of her husband; however, he was not to be buried there. John Shrive married his second wife, Sarah Ann Giberson, and moved to Camden where he died and was buried. The Harris' book documents John Shreve's two large families with a total of 17 children. And I thought his father had a large family!

John Shreve Mathis, son of John and Martha (Cramer) Mathis, born October 17,1804, died December 18,1881 at Camden and is buried in Camden. He married (a) on April 10, 1825 Louisa (Eliza) Mathis (7011), daughter of Maja and Mabel (Bartlett) Mathis, born October 3, 1804, died October 27, 1850. Louisa is buried at Chestnut Neck. On June 11, 1851 John married (b) Sarah Ann Giberson, daughter of Jesse and Sarah Giberson, born 1825. In 1866 John sold the farm in Galloway Township and moved to Camden where he opened a grocery store. John and Louisa had 11 children and John and Sarah had 6. Children of John and Louisa:

i John, married Hannah ---

ii James R., married Sarah ---

iii Elizabeth Warner, married John Inman Lippincott

iv Martha, born 1832

v Mary, born 1835

vi Maja F., married Elizabeth Giberson

vii Isaac R., born 1840 , died October 8, 1862 at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was in G Company of the 4 th New Jersey Volunteers.

viii Shreve B., married Elizabeth A. King

ix Reuben, born 1843, died March 31, 1861. He was in K Company of the 4th New Jersey Infantry.

x William P., born 1847 at Chestnut Neck, died October 19, 1865 at Cooper's Point Camden

xi Louisa J.(Eliza), born February 20, 1849 in Galloway Township

Children of John and Sarah Ann:

xii Sarah Eleanor, born 1852

xiii Jesse Elmer, born March 1855 at Chestnut Neck

xiv Elmira, born December 23, 1857 at Unionville, married Jacob Grant, son of William and Hannah Amanda (Platt) Grant

xv Isabel, born 1861

xvi Isaac,married Louisa ---

xvii Matilda, born 1868

So ends our little journey into the woods at Chestnut Neck. I would not be surprised that some of our Blog readers are descendants of John and Martha who are buried here.

Pete S

PS- I'm happy to report that neither I, Murray, or John caught chiggers or were invested with ticks, and John was able to add another GPS reading to his expanding collection of historic sites. It was indeed a good day!


  1. I'm the John that was along for the adventure. The GPS coordinates are 39.54539 -74.46319 . In fact I do descend from the Great John Mathis (6G Grandfather), Micajah (5G Grandfather), and the John buried at Chestnut Neck is my 4G Granduncle, and John Shreve Mathis is my 1C4R (first cousin, four times removed).

    One comment on the "Great" title. Having land and money did not necessarily earn one the title. On p. 308 of Leah Blackman's (who was herself a Mathis; and my GG Grandaunt) "History of Little Egg Harbor Township" she points out that "distinguished men" of that era acquired the title "Great", and spends a paragraph describing many aspects of character of a "distinguished" man.

  2. Just curious: What is the idea behind the "foot stones?" Was it a local custom? I don't remember ever seeing foot stones elsewhere but then I don't visit many cemeteries.
    Beverly Mathis Robinson

  3. Beverly,

    Good question. I don't really have a definitive answer, except to suggest that foot stones were an older custom probably used to delineate the exact location of a grave. I tried Googling foot stones and couldn't come up with any information. Perhaps, someone out in the Blog-O-Sphere can come up with an answer.

    Pete S

  4. Pete:

    I Googled Gravestones which gave me an article on Headstones. In this article was some information on Footstones which would answer Beverly's question. Suggest you bring the article up and come to your own conclusions.

    I forgot to sign my comment on the White Oak Inn/Bass River telephones blog which I will now with Ax6-5907.

  5. AX6-5907 is our good buddy, Clif Brown. Good to hear from you Clif! Do you remember the days of the party line and who may have been on yours.

    Pete S

  6. Wondered where they were - thanks for an upcoming adventure. Have been to the Chestnut Neck memorial many times - didn't know to walk across Rt. 9!