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Elder Chichester Matthews
By James A. Kirtley, 1872

The subject of this sketch was a native of Fauquier county, Virginia, and was born on the seventh of June 1756. Of his parentage and early youth we have no means of information. We have definite knowledge of the fact, however, that in 1780, at the age of twenty-four, he was married to Agnes Walters, a young lady brought up, most probably, in the same county and neighborhood. Remaining in Virginia some three years and upwards after his marriage, he emigrated, 1784, to South Carolina, influenced in this removal, no doubt, by the previous emigration of friends and acquaintances.

About ten years previous to this, Joseph Redding, a Baptist minister, and native of Fauquier county,who had preached much in his own county, and, "in company with John Taylor, had proclaimed a Savior's love over a great part of North-western Virginia," had moved to South Carolin, and though he emigrated to Kentucky in 1779, after a years of successful labor in that State, yet upon a return visit Chichester Matthews was baptized by him in June, 1786, and became a member of the "Turkey Creek Baptist Church," in the State of South Carolina. After the lapse of a few years he followed Redding and other friends to Kentucky, and settled first in Scott county, near "the Great Crossings," and at once attached himself to the "Crossings Church." In this vicinity, however, he remained but a short time. His next removal was to the Ohio river, in what was then called Campbell but now Boone county, settling with others in "the North Bend" of the river. Here, in June, 1794, in company with six others, he united in the organization of Bullittsburg Church. Joseph Redding, whom he had followed to South Carolina and then to Kentucky, who was settled in the interior of the State, now in turn followed Matthews and the little group of Baptists with whom he was associated to the new settlement on the margin of the Ohio river, and, in connection with John Taylor and William Cave, from Clear Creek Church, in Woodford county, publicly recognized them as a church of Jesus Christ.

He was chosen and ordained the first deacon of this church in June, 1795; and it may truly be said of him that, until he engaged actively in the work of the ministry, he "used the office of a deacon well." His genuine, unpretending piety, exemplary deportment, sound practical knowledge, and faithfulness, peculiarly fitted him for the duties of his station. The prevailing religious bent of his mind and fervency of spirit, together with his peculiar aptness in imparting religious instruction privately and in occasional public exhortations, soon drew the attention of the church to his gift, and also that of Elder John Taylor, who at this time ministered to the church, and in June, 1800, he was licensed to preach. It does not, however, appear that he engaged very actively in preaching for several years. The church was blessed for many years with the labors of two or more ordained mnisters; and this fact, together with his peculiar native diffidence and humble opinion of his own capacity for public speaking, was, no doubt, the occasion of his engaging less activity in the work.

The church on several occasions encouraged him to engage more fully in preaching; and yet it is questionable whether, during the few years in which he seemed measurably to shrink from public ministrations, he did not follow the leadings of the Spirit, and really fulfill his calling for the time being. His labors as a religious instructor around the fireside, and from house to house throughout the new settlement, his wise and judicious counsels in the church, his promptness and faithfulness in the maintenance of discipline, his fervent spirit and holy example, were, perhaps, at that time more advantageous to the common cause than would have been his efforts at public preaching. Few men at that time exerted a more salutary influence, or made a greater impress for good, upon those with whom they were associated than did Chichester Matthews.

Duirng the great revival of 1811, which began in the closing month of the previous year, and continued till about the 1st of November following, in which time one hundred and seventy members were added to the church by baptism, there was a greatly increased demand for preaching throughout the bounds of the church, and in all the neighboring churches, and the subject of our sketch was drawn out more fully and actively in the work of the ministry. It ws not, however, until October, 1812, that he consented to be ordained, though the church had considered the subject, and on two or three occasions had unanimously decided in favor of it.

The several years past, during which he had measurably declined the more prominent and public labors of the ministry, were not lost. Through all these years the Bible had been his daily companion and text-book. He read and studied it with such diligence and faith that his heart was well filled with its spirit, and his mind well stored with its gracious truths. He also read and studied with care a number of valuable books, and, like many of the noble men of the time, with discriminating good sense he studied men and things. The discipline of mind acquired in these several processes of study and thought compensated in a good degree for the lack of early training; and the knowledge acquired was at once made practical and turned to a good account.

From the time of his ordaination until the year 1819, he was associated with Elder Absalom Graves in pastoral labors in this church, and at the same time labored quite extensively as an evangelist in the surrounding country. His ministry appears to have been characterized by an accurate and familiar acquaintance with the great facts and truths of the Gospel, by a firm belief in and experience of their preciousness, and by great earnestness and simplicity of manner. An intelligence stranger once remarked, after listening to one of his characteristic discourses, that he never had witnessed so much simplicity of style in any public speaker. The sovereignity of divine grace in the salvation of men, and an exhortation to all "to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness," characterized his doctrine. His uniform purity of life and benevolence of spirit and action gave great weight and influence to his ministry. Though not especially gifted as a public speaker, his spirituality of mind, simplicity of manner, and excellent good sense, rendered his preaching both edifying and instructive.

He was eminently a peacemaker. His intercourse with his brethren was characterized by impartially, candor, kindness and faithfulness. He possessed rare skill in the management of cases of discipline, and seldom failed in his efforts to reconcile alienated parties. His labors as a minister were greatly blessed during the extraordinary revival season which began in the closing months of 1817, and continued throughthe greater portion of the following year.

In March, 1819, he united, with a large number of the members of Bullittsburg, in the organization of Sand Run Church, whose house of worship was located near his residence. In this church he continued an exemplary and faithful member, and a laborious, beloved and honored minister till death.

In July, 1803, as a messenger from Bullittsburg, he was one of the constituent members of the North Bend Association. Annually afterwards he attended the meeting of this body, until prevented by disease and the informities of old age, and contributed not a little to the wisdom and judiciousness of her consels.

For about nine years the church at Sand Run shared the benefit of his useful ministry and prudent counsels, and was blessed wiht the presence of his holy life and example.

Near the close of his life, he was so much debilitated by a lingering consumption and the effects of palsy that "he seldom attempted to speak in public; yet, at times, his great solicitude for the welfare of Zion and the salvation of sinners induced him to rise, and with faltering voice and trembling limbs, all shaking under the influence of a palsy, would he entreat them to be reconciled to God."* He was a generous, kind and obliging neighbor, and he was cheerful, affectionate and faithful in his family. He and his amiable companion, who was a beloved and devoted mother in Israel, reared up no children of their own, but several orphans, whom they adopted, educated and cared for with alll the affection and faithfulness of parents.

He closed his earthly pilgrimage on the evening of the 7th of September, 1828, in his seventy-third year. "He was a good man, full of faith" and spiritually, and left behind in the minds of all who knew him the conviction of the truth and applicableness of the words used as a text in preaching on the occasion of his death, that "A good name is better than precious ointment," "more than to be desired than riches."


* This quotation, with several other interesting facts, is taken from a short sketch of his life, prepared by the late Lewis Webb at the time of his decease, approved by the church at Sand Run, and spread upon their records.
N. B. - Other interesting facts were learned from the late Elder Robert Kirtley.


[From James A. Kirtley, History of Bullittsburg Church with Biographies, 1872, pp. 46-49. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]

Gravestone of Chichester Matthews
Sand Run Cemetery

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