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Sullivan, Parks, Wheeler, & Hawkins

HISTORY of the MATHIOT FAMILY

by CAMILLE MATHIOT FRAZIER
Portland, Oregon
1939

September 15, 1939: Forty two years ago today, my father Peter Emile Mathiot left this world of ours. To me, his daughter, this was my first great tragedy. No one regrets more that I that he was not permitted to finish his story.

In his introduction, he hopes that the name of Mathiot may not degenerate. He carried out his part to the fullest extent. He reminded me of Ernest in Hawthorne’s Great Stone Face. His character was much, very much, like Ernest. I think his most striking characteristics were good humor, patience, desire to improve himself regardless of obstacles and his decided honesty. I recall only once when he was genuinely mad and that was when a neighbor’s dog bit me as I ran along the sidewalk. He took an old musket we had and started on his way. These neighbors had been warned the dog was vicious so he could see no excuse for keeping it.

I regret my father was not spared to finish this story as he could have done it so much better than I, but God willing, I will try to record what I can remember, hoping that my family and those to come may be interested and glad to hear the story.

1864: It was during this year that Peter made up his mind to marry. He had been writing to a distant cousin in Ohio, they had exchanged tin types, and having money enough, he decided to go to Ohio, to his old home and meet the relatives. It was indeed an adventure to travel anywhere in those days. It was not greatly changed or improved since he had come West as a boy. He went to San Francisco. Here he had to wait for a boat to continue on his way. He had some gold which at this time of Civil War days was somewhat rare on the West Coast while on the East Coast it just wasn’t to be found. He left some in his room, not wanting to carry it on his person, I believe under his pillow. One day when he returned, he found one hundred and fifty dollars missing. He suspected the chambermaid and his suspicions were verified later as the chambermaid sent that exact amount to Ireland to her Mother for fare to the New World. He never received any back, but though a dear lesson, taught him to be more cautious. Thought it was rather of her not to take it all.

Trip to Ohio: It was a long journey, took months, but at last he arrived in Ohio to visit the other Mathiots and to meet Cécile Marianne Mathiot his future wife. Seems a strange courtship to have been carried on without really knowing one another, but in all my life I have never known any marriage in which any two people were happier in one another’s company than were these two. My Mother was quick, very observing, a quick mind but not a great reader. My father, if ever there was one, a bookworm and in those days a book was a book, not easy access and not so many, never in a hurry, placid, kindly. Perhaps it was this very difference which was good for both and which made for a happy home for us children.

Marriage: Peter was at the bride’s home for some few months and they found they were very happy together, both spoke French. Their families were from France, though somewhat different parts. The parents gave their consent and in August 1864 they were married. They remained at home a month or so, then the bridesmaid and best man accompanied them as far as New York. After a visit with well-to-do relatives of both parents, they went alone to Philadelphia. The picture we have of my Mother and Father I think was taken in Philadelphia. Visited all the sites of interest. Went to Girard College where my Mother had to wait outside as no woman was allowed to cross its threshold according to the will of Girard.

Honeymoon: The ocean trip remained in my Mother’s mind always as she was seasick a great part of the time. They were twenty-seven days on the water, went by way of Panama to San Francisco, then to Portland. The last day out when they crossed the bar at the mouth of the Columbia was the worst day of all. My mother vowed she would never go on the ocean again. She kept her promise and waited twenty-five years to return to Ohio to visit and I went too. I was six. Will relate some of this trip later. Honeymoon: The ocean trip remained in my Mother’s mind always as she was seasick a great part of the time. They were twenty-seven days on the water, went by way of Panama to San Francisco, then to Portland. The last day out when they crossed the bar at the mouth of the Columbia was the worst day of all. My mother vowed she would never go on the ocean again. She kept her promise and waited twenty-five years to return to Ohio to visit and I went too. I was six. Will relate some of this trip later.

Cecile Dodez Mathiot
at age 80
(wife of George)

Mother’s Family: Just a few lines here in regard to my Mother’s ancestry. Her father was George Mathiot. He was born in France. Came to New York where he met my grandmother. She was born in Berne, Switzerland. She spoke both French and German and later English. She was a governess in a wealthy New York family. They were very fond of her (so was I as a little girl, she was grand), and offered her their home as long as she lived, but she decided to marry and go to Ohio. This family from New York came out to Ohio and visited her almost every summer. They supplied her family with lovely up-to-date clothes from their family. My grand father was a fine cabinet maker. They took this place in Ohio which was then Virgin Country and made it, by hard work, a lovely profitable home. The grandfather later had a cabinet shop on the place which employed six or eight men besides himself.

This grandfather was similar to my other grandfather. “Je suis Maître dans Ma Maison!” (“I am master in my house!”) was his motto too. He forbade the women folks ever to scrub the oak floor in the kitchen. Said it would rot the wood. Twenty-five years later when we visited the same identical floor didn’t look any the worse for wear. When he was to be away for the day, a hurried job of scrubbing was stealthily indulged in. If he did suddenly appear, the buckets were thrown out of the door and his temper and blood pressure arose to great heights. My Mother said she always prayed she would get a husband who would let her scrub when she wanted to. She certainly did.

George Mathiot was also the only undertaker in the town of Mt. Eaton. When any one died, the coffin had to be made to fit each one. There was no stock kept on hand, but later they did have some ready. My Mother said the children had to hold the candles to light the workers and as they grew drowsy, the candles tipped and they were reprimanded.

There were three girls and one son in my Mother’s family. My Mother was the youngest girl but the boy was the baby of the family. They were Lena, Julia, Cécile, and August.

French was the language of the home. The parents could speak English too, but Mother often said how embarrassed the children were when the parents spoke English incorrectly and also they felt somewhat disgraced when other children heard them speak French. Later their views were greatly modified after they found how much time and money were spent by others in trying to learn to speak French. My father and mother spoke French in our home at least half the time. I have heard my father say he wondered in which language he thought. Whenever he was working a problem aloud, he always spoke French.

Mother’s brother August was in the Civil War. Had a finger shot off. So many of her young friends did not return from the War.

Mother was married at nineteen. My father was twenty-five. When mother was fifteen, a very serious epidemic of Diphtheria swept the town of Mt. Eaton. Julia Mathiot died and Mother was given up but after six weeks in bed, she slowly recovered. Friends and neighbors went in and out all the time which perhaps accounts for the epidemic.

Arrive: My father wondered if my mother would be homesick and if she would like our Western Country especially our evergreen forests. From the very beginning mother loved the climate, the forests, the great wide West. They went to Butteville to Peter’s home where Cécile was welcomed and became on of the family circle.

Peter and Adolphe decided to buy farms much against the protest of their father. Said he couldn’t see why ambitious young men wanted to bury themselves on a farm. They located on French Prairie not very far from Sam Brown’s and from Woodburn or rather where Woodburn later was located. They were among the first who located there.

They arrived here in the West in April and on June 14, 1865 their first child Nelvil August Mathiot was born. That kept my mother from being lonely.

Adolphe married Anna Florence and the two brothers and families lived together or near together for many years.

Farm Life: There was plenty to do as is usual on a farm. They were successful. At times they did some carpentering and in time the farms were free of debt. Mother said there were so many wild strawberries it was easy to gather them by the gallon. The soil was good. Vegetables were plentiful but there was no near market for the surplus. The wild ducks were so plentiful when they were flying past seemed like a cloud.

Even in those early days there were serious forest fires, the smoke being so dense lamps were needed in the daytime.

Sunday was the usual visiting time and the main source of entertainment. Often the neighbors from near and far met at Brown’s or at the Mathiot home at Butteville or the neighbors visited at Peter’s. So it was the news was discussed and friends were real friends almost like relatives.

It was some months after Lincoln was assassinated that the news came to them. The feeling of personal loss was unanimous.

1870 Census: East Salem Pct, Marion Co., Oregon
(would become Woodburn)

Four years after Nelvil was born, a brother came on May 30, 1869 who was named Charles Edward.

Adolphe’s family had two new members too, Blanche and Dana. I think the two families were on the farms about ten years of possibly longer when Peter Adolphe decided to sell and move to town.

Tri-weekly Astorian, 11 Oct 1873, page 1
Mathiot Brothers at Woodburn, have bought 58,000 bushels of wheat, which is still held by them, and it is understood they will charter a vessel and send it to Europe on their account.

Life in Woodburn: If not the first, at least among the first to start a new town which was named Woodburn, Peter and Adolphe proceeded to erect new homes. They were the most modern in the little settlement, and were still standing when last noticed. They invested, having built a new store, in merchandise which was the forerunner of our Department Store, called in those days a General Merchandise Store. They took in produce from the farmers in exchange for dry goods and were successful in building a profitable business. They were probably there about ten years. While still living in Woodburn, I, Camille Mercedes Mathiot was born, Dec 26, 1878. When I was eleven months old, our family having sold the business and home in Woodburn, moved to East Portland.

East Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon, 3 Jun 1880
Federal Census, Series: T9 Roll: 1083 Page: 370

Moved to Portland: At this time Adolphe and family moved to Walla Walla. They, my father and uncle, decided to deal in grain. Walla Walla, being a grain center, was taken as a home by Adolphe and for many years he was a buyer. My father was the seller here in Portland and the bookkeeper of the company. They had many and pleasant contacts with Sibson and Kerr and other grain dealers here. It was also profitable. The City of Portland was beginning to show signs of becoming prominent, so the surplus money that my father had was invested in real estate. He bought, I believe, fifteen acres where Sunnyside now stands. It was a plum orchard and was bounded on the North by Laurelhurst. Not a single house in sight from this orchard. He also bought west side property. Most of it was not all paid for, so when the hard times came, he had to assign it all to his creditors. We still had our home, but not much else.

My father later put up some five-room cottages which he had for rent and greatly added to our comfort and pleasure by assuring us an income.

When we first came to East Portland, we moved to the same block in which the William Fraziers lived. We had never known them before but remained friends all our lives and I married the son of Wm. Frazier and became Mrs. Chas. Frazier, twenty-five years later.

The loss of my father’s lifetime savings was a great blow to my father and mother alike. Later my father was a buyer for Sibson and Kerr and went to Chicago to the Grain Pit, but was not very successful.

Adolphe was still in Walla Walla buying grain and my father went to Walla Walla too. Mother and I went for a year when I was sixteen and I attended high school there. I received the highest grades in that school. I felt like my efforts were rewarded. I was very homesick but I was eager to learn and studying took up my time. I was Editor of the School paper. The next year when I graduated from the Portland High School (there was only one high school in Portland at that time) I had the highest average in the class.

My father was a fine scholar and it was all due to his own efforts. He mastered Algebra entirely by himself and became a fine pianist without any instructor. He was always passionately fond of music, and said before he died that he would like to hear more music and visit the sea shore before the passing away. Just think what the last twenty-five years have done to make music available in every home! He bought a music box called a polyphone which had discs with raised places which came in contact with a roller and really played quite sweetly. I am so glad he had it. The first time I heard it play the Träumerei, I had tears in my eyes too.

My father was a wonderful student in History. Had read many books and was really quite a philosopher. Was a fine storyteller. Often in the evening he would take me on his lap and tell me French Fairy Tales, sometimes in French and sometimes in English. Memory is wonderful, isn’t it?

Both my mother and father were splendid gardeners. They loved flowers and we were never without them. I can see the bunches of lovely tea roses he would bring in all sparkling with dew. No painting could quite equal their beauty!

[ Also see Pierre's obituary, the rest of his family, and Camille's auto-biography ]