Rev. Jason Matlock Has No Marker
By Marian Bailey Presswood, County Historian
I don’t get it done nearly often enough, but several times each mowing season I try to cut the knee high grass in the old Matlock Cemetery on Hwy 314, as I did today. I’ll bet many of you pass by every day and don’t even notice that it’s there - right? For many years the only inscribed marker was that of Elijah Newton Cronan, whose inscription says he was a Union Soldier with the 1st AL-TN Vidette Cav. In recent years, with the help of other family members, we’ve placed markers for his wife, Matilda Lou Frady Cronan and her mother, Martha Dockery Frady, who is buried beside her.
Elijah and Matilda had a daughter, Sarah, who married John Presswood, James’ great grandfather through their son, Rev. Robert Andrew Presswood. Sarah and John are also buried in Matlock, and we’ve placed a marker for them, too. There’s also one more generation resting there, and that’s John Presswood’s parents, Leander and Jane, whose markers have been ordered.
The old WPA list of 1940 says the following are also know to be buried there but have no markers now: Louise Matlock; and May Matlock Miller, wife of Craven Miller; infant of Bell Burns; Joe Cain; Margaret Serena Cronan; Mark Cain; John Couch; three Cronan infants, one of Babe Cronan, one of Coot Cronan, and a daughter of Florence Cronan; Lafayette ‘Shug’ Cronan; infant daughter of John Presswood; May Presswood, a daughter of Austin and Tennessee; and Halston Seto, son of Frank and Bertha Cronan Seto.
And, one of the most prominent, highly respected, and revered gentleman in the early days of Polk County, the Rev. Jason Matlock, is interred there. Ocoee Baptist Church was formed the 13th of August 1836, and Elder Jason Matlock was selected to serve as the first pastor. He had previously been active in the Sweetwater Association, having served three years as moderator and delivered the sermon on several occasions. There was a doctrinal dispute over missionary work which split Ocoee church, with Jason being anti missions and Zachriah Rose being a strong advocate of missions. The rift was healed in 1855.
Jason was one of the signers of the petition to form Polk County from Bradley and McMinn. The will of Jason, Jr. was written March 1875 and probated in the April 1880 term of court. It only names two children, Abraham, to whom practically everything, land and goods, was given. The only exception was that a ‘bedstead and bedclothes’ went to his daughter, Elizabeth Coleman. Jason says that his son ‘has remained with me in my old age and has taken care of me and his mother with great kindness.” (The 1880 mortality schedule says he died March of 1880.)
And sad to say, the exact plot where Rev. Jason Matlock is interred is not known, and he does not have his own marker. Well, he does, sort of, but few people know the story behind it. Down near the old road bed next to the mobile home in the edge of the cemetery is a monument that has some crude inscription of his birth/death, his wife’s name, a few words about pastoring Ocoee Church, had 20 children, and that the family came from North Carolina.
And here’s the story we always heard, and that has been told in past articles published by local media. Knowing the prominence of Rev. Matlock, and probably bothered, as I am, that he had no marker, Uncle Billy Harrison went over to the old Benton Town Cemetery and somehow managed to load into his wagon the top that had fallen off of Mary H. Dodson Clemmer’s marker, and recycled it to record the legend of Rev. Jason Matlock. Mary Clemmer was born 10 April 1850 and died 10 November 1905, and is not interred in Matlock, she is in Benton beside her husband, William M. Clemmer. I have no clue as to whether he asked permission from anyone, or just simply loaded it up and hauled it to Matlock.
Jason Jr., born 1795, the son of Jason Sr. and Mary Miller Matlock, and was married the 30th September 1815 in Roane County, to Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Hicks, daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Hicks. They were said to be parents of at least twenty children, but no one seems to have an accurate list of all of them. There were ten shown in the 1840 Polk census.
Uncle Billy Harrison in his oral history records says some of their children are Melinda, who married Jesse Coleman; Mary, Candace, Alex married Annie Rogers; Elizabeth ‘Betty married Calvin Coleman; Moses married Rachel; Isaac; Absolom married Nancy Ann Duggan; James married Catharine Campbell; Walter; Moses H. married Nancy; Manerva married David Young and went to Parker County, Texas; Minnie; Abraham Haun married Rebecca Fields (great grandfather of Margaret Evelyn Biggs.) Solomon died 1861 at Vicksburg, Mississippi in the Civil War. In the files of the Polk County Historical & Genealogical Society are letters from different Matlock descendants in Texas, and a granddaughter of Minerva Matlock Young states that she knew Manerva well and she said she had four brothers also living in Texas, Moore, James, Walter and John.
Want to hear my personal dream for the old Matlock Cemetery? I can clearly envision right in the center of the cemetery, a marker on the order of the Confederate Monument on the Courthouse square, with the clear inscription “Rev. Jason Matlock, and wife, Elizabeth Hicks ...” and some appropriate words about his being the first pastor of Old Ocoee, etc. It would take some research to verify his twenty children, but I’d like to see all their names inscribed around the base, five to a side. And then I would like for those of us who had a part in making the dream come true to assemble for a small dedication ceremony to honor our Polk County Patriarch, Rev. Jason Matlock. Perhaps 136 years after his passing is a bit late, but you all know the old saying, “Better late than never.” And isn’t the 175 Anniversary of our historic county an appropriate year to do it. For it was the faithful, godly servants like Rev. Matlock who have helped make our county what it is today. The Matlock name will long be remembered in Polk County, and a little one room log schoolhouse and cemetery that bore his name.
If you’re interested in helping, drop a SASE to Matlock Memorial, P.O. Box 636, Benton, TN 37307 and I will send you a letter with more details.
Polk County News | P.O.
Box 129 | 3 Main Street | Benton TN 37307
phone: 423-338-2818 | fax: 423-338-4574 | email
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