I've always loved books and I've always loved local history.
Recently, I came across a book that fit both categories. We're remodeling and I'm trying to clear space so I can move things around. As I picked up another box of books, I pulled them out one by one to decide what to do with each one. One book was in pretty sad shape with the cover falling off. I opened it and remembered when it was given to me by my Grandma Joan (Peters) Loy. It wasn't her book but she saved it because it belonged to her mother-in-law, Linda Jane (Wiley) Loy, my great-grandma. It was a scrapbook kept by Linda (Wiley) Loy. The clippings she pasted in this book inspired me to write this column.
I will now tell the story of two women from Effingham County, similar in age, and who both came to Effingham County from other states. This will be the story of Louella (Brown) Matthews and Linda (Wiley) Loy. Louella's story will be told in the words of her husband, Dr. James Newton Matthews, via the memoriam he wrote that I found in my great-grandma's homemade scrapbook. I also got in touch with Jerry Eident and he was gracious enough to send me a picture of Louella (Brown) Matthews. If you have not read any of Jerry's books he's authored, I urge you to do so. He is an excellent researcher and author.
Louella (Brown) Matthews
"IN MEMORIAM" (article found in my great-grandma Loy's scrapbook)
"The following sketch was read by Rev. Baker at the funeral services of Mrs. J.N. Matthews, at Mason. It was contributed by her bereaved husband:
The maiden name of Mrs. Matthews was Louella Brown, daughter of Samuel and Lear Ann Brown. She was the youngest of eight children, all but one of whom are dead. She was born in Madison, Indiana July 14, 1857. While visiting her uncle, I. L. Leith, at Mason, exactly twenty years ago, she met her future husband, and we were married on Sunday, June 2nd, 1878. She leaves two children, William V. aged 14, and James Riley, aged 10. She was a devoted mother and her home life was fragrant with love and tenderness. She beautified and made better everything on this earth that she touched. Her gentle spirit was delicately attuned to the music and beauty of the universe. She loved flowers as tenderly as if they possessed a rational existence. She talked to them as to a child, and caressed them with a strange, unearthly fondness, and I believe she understood their responses. She loved everything in nature. She worshipped God in all his works, and prayed with her family every night. In all her long suffering, she never complained once, and went smiling and singing to her death with saint-like serenity and unfaltering faith. In her sickness, she experienced the physical agony of a martyr, and bore it with a martyr's fortitude, putting every impatient soul to shame. She has been my guide and counselor in all my work, and my heroic sustainer in all sickness and distress. Three years ago, God in his infinite mercy, spared my life to be a father now to these motherless boys. Being the wife of a physician, Mrs. Matthews has been a good friend and comforter to the poor in all their afflictions, and there is not a laboring man nor a poor child who has ever known her, but loved her for her gracious sympathy and kindly ministrations.
Her last moments were inspiring and touching. A little while before the end she asked the waiting women to sing. They gathered at her side and crooned softly that sweetest of songs, "The Home of the Soul," in which the poor trembling voice of the sufferer joined. About three minutes before she died she asked me if she were not a great deal better. I told her yes, that she was almost home. She said, "Don't get excited." I asked her if she could still see my face? she answered, "Yes, but I am drifting away." I then asked her if all was well with her. She replied faintly, "yes, yes." I then told her I would go with her down to death's gate, and asked her to speak my name once more. She whispered, "Jamie, God bless you," and was gone.
"Thank Heaven! the crisis,
The danger is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last,
The fever called Living,
Is conquered at last."
James Newton Matthews
Louella Matthews suffered from what was called consumption back then. We now know it as tuberculosis. Louella (Brown) Matthews died on February 11, 1894 and is buried at Mason Union Cemetery in Mason, Illinois. I am sure that her death was mourned by many because her kindness was shown to many. I hope that her story lives on for generations.
Linda Jane (Wiley) Loy
Melinda Jane Wiley was born January 30, 1858 near Vienna, Alabama, a small town near Huntsville. She was the daughter of James and Sarah (Fulks) Wiley. Although her given name was Melinda she was always called Linda or Lindy. I was given her middle name as my first name. The Wileys were small farmers in the hill country of northern Alabama, and her father James also worked as a carpenter. Her love of learning came from her father, James, who kept up with the news of the day. He was very well respected in the community.
The Civil War played heavily in Linda's early years. Her father was well known as a southerner who remained loyal to the Union. In fact, one of James Wiley's greatest regrets was that he could not vote for Abraham Lincoln for President because Alabama refused to put Lincoln on the ballot. When the Civil War started, James helped hide men and send them to safety before they were forced into the Confederate Army. Nearby Winston County was the only county in Alabama to raise Union troops, the First Alabama Cavalry, USA, and James most likely helped smuggle men to Winston County. Because of his work helping those loyal to the Union, James was watched closely by the southern sympathizers. Finally, he was forced into the Confederate Army to show that the locals would not tolerate loyalty to the Union. James was in his mid-forties when the Confederates came to get him and he had six small children at home. That left his wife, Sarah, to fend for her family until the day when James would return.
James was taken to Memphis, Tennessee, and held as a conscript in Volunteer Co. D of the 2nd Regiment Confederate Infantry. He would next be at Fort Pillow, then Columbus, Kentucky, and then to Camp Beauregard, Kentucky. Later, he would be at the Battle of Shiloh, where he refused to fire his gun. After Shiloh, they marched to Corinth, Mississippi, where he was released and allowed to head back to the hills of northern Alabama.
The Wiley family eventually headed north with a wagon filled with their household goods. They followed the Union troop lines and sold baked goods to the soldiers. Later they were able to take a train to Nashville, Tennessee, where James decided to stay for a while. He volunteered for the Union Army but was told he had too many children and was too old. The Wiley family would stay in the Nashville area for 14 months. It was here that Linda first went to school and learned to read.
In the spring of 1864, the Wiley family arrived at their final destination, Watson Township in Effingham County, Illinois and reunited with others who had traveled north from Alabama during the Civil War. The James Wiley family settled in a log cabin atop a hill overlooking Little Salt Creek. James started a sawmill and the younger children started school. In September of 1865, the oldest son, William Rufus Wiley was killed in a sawmill accident. Linda's mother, Sarah, took his death very hard.
I never knew my great-grandma, Linda (Wiley) Loy, because she died in 1940. I have, however, heard many stories about her and have read the book she wrote "Memories of the Sunny South," as well as many of her poems.
She taught at Watson School, Franklin School, and Loy School. She married James Edward "Ed" Loy November 11, 1877. There was a teacher shortage and Linda even taught after she was married. Ed and Linda had three children: Grace (born in 1880), Sibyl (born in 1882), and James Edwin "Ted" (born in 1893). She was a poet and a writer. She wrote for local papers and even sent her articles to newspapers out of state. Many of her handwritten articles or poems have the number of words listed at the end because they were often paid by the length of the article or poem. She wrote a column for the Effingham Republican newspaper using the name "Uncle Theophilus Thistle". Using a pseudonym was a common practice back then. Linda also had a series published in the Effingham Democrat newspaper. Linda wrote the poem for the 1953-1903 50th Anniversary of Effingham. She was a Superintendent in Watson Township for Ada Kepley's Band of Hope.
To get back to the book, Linda was active in Loy Chapel Church for years and years. She taught Sunday School and made sure her three children, Grace, Sibyl and Ted attended there regularly. The book that I found was an old Sunday School attendance record book that was used from 1886 to 1892 at Loy Chapel. After it was full, Linda repurposed this book and used it for a scrapbook. She glued in poems, memorials, and pictures of people she admired, including Nellie Bly, Frances Willard, Louisa May Alcott and Ada Kepley.
Grandma Linda also loved the poetry of Dr. James Newton Matthews of Mason, Illinois. In fact, the first entry in this book was in memoriam of Dr. Matthews' wife, Louella Brown Matthews. I even found an article where she wrote a scathing rebuttal to a former classmate who made a travesty by changing one of James Newton Matthews' poems regarding the 1896 presidential campaign between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. Even though women did not have the right to vote, Linda definitely expressed her opinion.
After her husband Ed died in 1926, Linda lived alone for a while and visited her two daughters for extended stays. She lived out her last years with her son, Ted, and his wife, Joan. My dad, Richard Wiley Loy, loved spending time with her and listening to her stories of the Civil War and her years in Alabama, as well as her early years in Loy Prairie. He was in high school when she died on January 16, 1940 and was buried next to her husband at Loy Cemetery. Dad always said she had a brilliant mind and he loved her dearly. I am happy that she lived to see women get the right to vote in 1920, and I am positive that she exercised her right to vote. Even though I never knew her, I'm sure her love of learning and writing carried down through the generations to me and many others in the family.
Louella (Brown) Matthews and Linda (Wiley) Loy were of the same era and both lived through the Civil War and came to Illinois from other states. but their lives definitely took different paths due to the untimely death of Louella. I've often wondered if they knew each other. Given Linda's admiration for the poems of James Newton Matthews, I like to think that they did.
If this story taught me anything, it has taught me to make sure that you share your family stories and pass the family history along to the generations below you. It may seem like it falls on deaf ears now but you will at least be sowing the seeds of family history. Yes, this article came about because of an old book that I cared enough to keep. This shabby little book made me dig into the history of Louella (Brown) Matthews and dig deeper into the history of my own great-grandmother Linda (Wiley) Loy. I treasure that book.
We have an event coming up on June 6 at the Effingham County Museum. June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We are partnering with the library to commemorate D-Day. This event will be held at the museum in the second floor courtroom. We will have a 2 p.m. program and a 7 p.m. program entitled "D-Day –- Effingham County, Illinois Was There". Mark your calendars for this event. We hope to see you there!
If you wish to contact me, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 217-821-2427. As usual, I'm always looking for more pictures of veterans, old schools, and anything to do with the history of Effingham County.