Historically Speaking: The storyline of a household – Foster’s Daily Democrat

14February 2021


Anthony McManus

In the “new”area of Pine Hill Cemetery, to the right of the 3 family mausoleums, (Clark, Sharpe, and Furber), there is a large stone surrounded by a variety of in-ground markers. This is the last resting place of a number of generations of the Mathes family, a lot of whom made a mark on Dover.

The initial household was in Durham (and the name originally might have been Matthews), where an early forefather farmed and over the years collected a substantial quantity of land. In adjacent land was a household named Langley. There is today a Langley Roadway and a Mathes Cove Roadway in the area in question (and a Valentine Hill Roadway), and a Mathes household cemetery is still out there. The very first New Hampshire Valentine Mathes was born in 1720, another in 1746; another in 1769, one in 1779, and one in 1807, nephews and cousins. The Valentine of this short article was born in 1846, paradoxically one day short of “The Day”on Feb. 13. The family still had a big farm, and his dad also owned a brickyard and a lumber service. This boy, nevertheless, wished to set out on his own. He ran a basic shop in Durham, was postmaster there for ten years, and served a term in the legislature. He and a brother were involved in developing the Piscataqua Navigation Co., owner of two steamships and 12 barges (among the latter named the Hamilton A. Mathes), licensed for the transport of bricks and lumber along the Maine and New Hampshire coast from Portland to Boston.

By 1882 he had actually transferred to Dover and opened a grocery on Folsolm Street, which he slowly broadened to include coal, hay, grain, and fertilizer, and where he might have materials and stock delivered by rail, considering that it was the first stop of the Portsmouth & & Dover Railroad south of the main line at Third Street. (The next stops were at Sawyers, Cushing Road, and Dover Point near today’s Hilton Park.) Ultimately there were a number of large storage structures on site and a continuing retail operation. (In later years, when Mathes had actually quit business, it was the place of the Diamond Match wood, lumber, and grain store up until 1958.)

Mathes sold his interest in that organization in 1906 and focused afterwards on property and lumber. At his death in 1915, Foster’s commented he was one of the”biggest lumber operators in this section of the nation besides being the biggest personal taxpayer in this city”, describing “streets lined with his houses.” It was stated he set up more than sixty company blocks and tenement homes; Everett Street, for example, was called after his second-born kid. Eventually early on he had purchased arrive at Cushing Street, near to business, and built No. 11 as the household house. At his death, his widow developed 15-17 Cushing as financial investment home.

In the middle of all of his business activity, Mathes discovered time to function as a city councilor in 1887-88, a member of the New Hampshire Home in 1889, and was chosen to the state Senate. He was active in numerous Masonic Lodges, the Red Guys, the Elks, and a member of the unique males’s enclave on the top floor of the Strafford Bank building, the Bellamy Club. In 1893, he and his partner and child, Fannie, were listed as members of the First Parish Church, and in 1900 all three were “confessed and advised in the degree of Flora” of the New Hampshire Grange.

The first-born kid, John Ralph, lived from 1877 to 1960. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1900, married Lona Day Dewitt, and lived for several years at 70 Silver St. Explained by one local historian: “his life was allowed through its whole course by labor and effectiveness.”

John and Lona produced yet another Valentine, born in 1906, who continued the family custom as a lumber dealership, lived on the Littleworth Roadway, and was active in local government, serving on the Common Council in 1939 and 1945, and on the City Council from 1948-52. John passed away in 1960. Another child, Thomas DeWitt Mathes, served in the Navy in World War II, and lived in Rollinsford.

Next in line was M. (for Maurice) Everett Mathes, born in 1881, also a graduate of Dartmouth. He lived on the Littleworth Road later on in life and was associated with the realty and insurance coverage service, situated initially at 22 Walnut St., then in what was called the Mathes Block at 1-5 Locust St., a different brick building, later the first floor home of the Dover Cooperative Bank, now the space inhabited by the Sassy Biscuit.

James Munroe Mathes was born in 1888, a Dartmouth graduate, Class of 1911. He made his method from Dover and into the world of marketing, initially in Philadelphia, and then to New York as head of J.M. Mathes, Inc., one of the early major companies to promote radio and TV advertising (one example, Ludden’s Cough Drops for Captain Kangaroo). He and an associate purchased the Canada Dry Ginger Ale Co., and he acted as a Director there and for several other corporations, such as Emery Air Cargo. He passed away in CT in 1956, and is not part of the household plot, but buried in York.

Margaret Happiness Mathes was born in 1890, but other than being secretary of her high school class, and attending Smith College for numerous years, there is not much record of any later career.

However the extremely first kid was Fannie, born in 1874. She was a graduate of Bridgewater State Normal School in 1894. (Educators colleges at that time were called “normal schools.”) There is recommendation to her being an instructor in New York City, but ultimately she went back to Dover. She tried to run a summer season camp for ladies, the Convenience Mathes Camp, on 40 acres of the Mathes family residential or commercial property at Durham Point, from 1911-1914, advertising “sparkling water, houses, tents, boating, and seawater.” (Comfort was the spouse of an early forefather). In later years, the Dover Directory site listed this as Fannie’s “summer house.” As Fannie grew older, she had given up teaching and became what many in the community would call “eccentric.” She was accountable for much of the family-owned properties (in reality, the directory now noted her profession as “realty”), and she was known as being a rather challenging property manager and figured out lease collector. She lived to be 90 years of age, still at 11 Cushing, and at the time of her death a regional paper commented that she had “a fascinating book collection of thousands of volumes,” a respectful way of showing that she had been a major hoarder.

One more Mathes referral, not found at Pine Hill, however at the Woodman Museum. That would be the polar bear, donated by Richard E. Mathes, born in 1922, a boy of M. Everett, grandson of Valentine, … but if you will bear with me, possibly this is a tale for later …

Tony McManus is a Dover native. He is a former trustee of the Woodman Institute and an amateur trainee of Dover’s past. He can be reached at mcaidan73@gmail.com.Source: fosters.com

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