The Matheson Museum Family Tree

Discover the impact of the Matheson family on Gainesville

Join the Matheson this fall in commemorating the twenty year anniversary of the Matheson Museum, and the over 140 years of family history that helped to shape it. From the building of their now historic home by James Douglas Matheson in 1867 to the donation of that same home to the Museum complex in 1996 by Sarah Hamilton Matheson, the Matheson family has served tirelessly to forward the growth of the Gainesville community and preserve its rich cultural heritage. Now the board, staff, and volunteers of the Matheson Museum carry on in their place, preserving the name and the mission of the Matheson family for future generations. The Matheson Museum is open Monday through Thursday 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. The Matheson Family:Like many of Gainesville’s founding families, the Matheson’s purchased property in Florida after spending significant time in the state during the Seminole Indian Wars in the 1850s. In 1864, James Douglas (J.D.) Matheson was with General Robert E. Lee’s troops at Appomattox Courthouse during the time of surrender. When J.D. returned home to South Carolina, he found that much of his hometown, including his family’s Matheson and Company dry goods store, was destroyed during Sherman’s March to the Sea. With few opportunities left for him in South Carolina, J.D. moved to Gainesville in 1865 to the current site of the Matheson Museum complex. While working for the Haile family’s general store entitled Savage and Haile, J.D. Matheson met Augusta Steele who was the daughter of Augustus Steele, the founder of Cedar Key. Two years later J.D. Matheson opened his own dry goods store on the downtown square. The Mathesons’ only child to survive into adulthood was Christopher, a man who would grow up to significantly shape Gainesville’s early development in the twentieth century. Born on 1874, Christopher Matheson attended East Florida Seminary and later graduated valedictorian from the Citadel. He ran a successful law practice and worked closely with Gainesville Mayor William Reuben Thomas to bring the University of Florida to Gainesville. From 1910-1917 Christopher Matheson was mayor of Gainesville. As mayor, Christopher pushed for a public sewer system to improve sanitary conditions. He proposed ordinances for motorized vehicles to drive on the right side of the road and paved roads on major downtown thoroughfares. He brought electricity and telephone lines to the downtown area. His political career extended into state politics, as well, where he served three years in the Florida Legislature from 1917 through 1919. In 1919, Christopher changed the course of his life by following his faith and deciding to become a Presbyterian minister. He served for 26 years as the minister at Shawnee Central Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma where he met his soon-to-be wife, Sarah Hamilton. Sarah Hamilton Matheson was born in 1901 and educated at North Carolina College for Women where she received her Master’s degree in bible studies and Christian education. Sarah Matheson lived a life dedicated to historic preservation, faith and education. She taught in Korea in the early 1960s, and became the first female elder of First Presbyterian Church in 1969. Apart from her church work, she was also extremely active in other community civic organizations, such as the Friends of the Library, the Friends of Music, and Habitat for Humanity. She helped found the Alachua County Historic Society and became one of its first presidents. She served on the society’s board for twenty-five years, and was given an honorary lifetime membership. In 1996, donated the Matheson house to the museum complex for use as an historic home.

Date and Time:

9:30am - 3:30pm September 16, 2014 - December 22, 2014


Matheson Museum
513 East University Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32601

Event Repeat Summary:

Contact Information:

Stephanie Pastore


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