The Mattson Family was poor and they certainly weren’t famous. But I love them…they left the most interesting records I have been able to find for any of the branches of my family. I have told you about the Orphan Records, but there are other records like the Board of Relief, Insolvent Debtor’s Petitions and the Poor School Children Records. I also found Quarter Sessions and Prison Dockets that list the indictments, charges and witnesses of criminal cases. And who should I find there but Anthony, David and Jesse Mattson.
The archivist in Chester County told me that Phoenixville, Pennsylvania was a rough town. The newspapers are full of nightly drunken brawls and iron mill workers on strike. So, I shouldn’t be surprised that the Mattson brothers had not one, but two criminal convictions in the records. Unfortunately, you can’t tell much about their motives from the court accounts and the microfilmed newspapers only go back to the 1870’s.
But this is what they say -
On the 15th day in June of 1851, David, Jesse and Anthony Mattson with their friends, David Gordon and Jonathan Moore (together with “divers”* ) were charged with “force and arms, to wit, with sticks, stones and clubs, as rioters, routers and disturbers of the peace of the said Commonwealth, riotously, routously, tumultuously and unlawfully did assemble and meet together at the public house of Barnard Hoy.” They are accused of “terrifying his family and did maliciously break and tear down his fence and broke his sign.”
It looks like the charges are dropped for Anthony Mattson and Jonathan Moore. David Gordon must have been the main instigator, because he is required to pay a $15 fine and David Mattson is only required to pay $1 (He is just 16 years old at the time). There is no mention of Jesse Mattson who was 14 or 15 years old, so I assume that he was released without having to pay a fine.
Eight years later on June 18th,1859, David and Jesse Mattson have a run in with the law again. They are with their buddies Edward McCrakin, Benjamin Fudge, Hiram Fudge who “together with divers* other evil disposed persons to the number of ten or more” assaulted William McGowan and William Conway. There are no explanations as to why this happened. There are a number of other witnesses to the crime and it makes me wonder why these two men were attacked. David was fined $30 and Jesse $10. Since they were in their early 20’s and didn’t get off so easy this time.
The Civil War started two years later and the Mattson brothers served, including David and Jesse, the brawlers. David served from 1861-1865 and was a 2nd Lt. by the time was discharged from the army. And of course Jesse Mattson, the youngest son paid the ultimate price by loosing his life in a lesser known battle in Virginia in 1864. They didn’t do too bad for mischievous miscreants.
It is a reminder to look at the whole life of a person and don’t judge by one or two events, but it does make you wonder what they were doing out those nights carousing with their friends. Were they just drunk or was there something more personal about the beatings? I wish I knew.
* Divers - is a collective term used to group a number of unspecified people, objects, or acts. (per on line dictionary)