The Tracy Family History
Yazoo Land Fraud
George Mathews was born in Augusta County, Virginia, in 1739. It is recorded that in 1762, he and his brother were in Staunton working as merchants.
The city of Staunton comes up as often as does Lexington in our family history. Remember, Staunton was just a few miles north of Lexington. Whereas Lexington was the center of the Borden Land Grant, Staunton was the center of the Beverly Grant. Apparently, we had a lot of people in both places.
Mathews would follow the usual path of our people living on the colonial Virginia frontier. He fought the Indians in the capacity of an officer, later as an officer in the Revolutionary War.
At the famous Indian battle of Point Pleasant, 1774, he is the Captain of an Augusta Company. Point Pleasant would be a major battle for control of the frontier. I have not gone into this battle before because the details of our peoples' involvement are not known. However, it is safe to assume that our kin were in the thick of it.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Mathews is made Lieutenant Colonel of the 9th Virginia Regiment and serves in the Continental Line under George Washington.
At the battle of Germantown his entire regiment is captured. (It is interesting to note that George Washington won the war, but won very few battles in winning the war.)
George Mathews now spends a long internment aboard a British prison ship in New York City. Apparently he is one of the lucky survivors. Later in the war he is exchanged. (It was the customs of war at the time to exchange prisoners, especially those of rank, for a captive enemy officer of equal rank. It is safe to assume that Colonel George Mathews was exchanged for a British officer held by the Americans.)
He then re-enters the war in the South as commander of the 3rd Virginia Regiment. While fighting campaigns in the South he buys land in Georgia, and that is our story.
Colonel Mathews moves to Georgia after the war in 1784, and rises in politics.
In 1786, he becomes governor and was re-elected in 1794. Between terms as governor, he does a stint in Congress.
We have seen the immense wealth created in these times (by many of our people) through land speculation. In his second term as governor he enters into a land speculation venture, which has gone down in history as the Yazoo Land Fraud. It was one of those ventures that did not work out too well and became a national scandal.
In Georgia, every head of a family was entitled to 200 acres of public land, plus an additional 50 acres for each member of the family, up to, but no more than 1000 acres per family. This was a pretty fair deal as any family could support themselves on a good farm of just 40 acres. The rest you sold off at a profit.
Land companies were formed with the soul purpose to hustle money. The land speculation companies induced Governor Mathews to assign and grant public land, at a rate higher than 1000 acres per family-- a much higher rate! One man was granted a million and a half acres. (Mathematically, at 50 acres per child, that man would have to have 30,000 children!)
Three men would receive grants of more than two and a half million acres. Such was the greed, that by the end of Governor Mathews' second term as governor he had issued grants for land that totaled three times more than the entire land available in the State of Georgia.
When the scandal broke, Mathews escaped and found refuge in Florida.
He was “...a short, thick man, standing very erect, and carrying his head thrown back. His features were bluff, his hair light red and his complexion florid.”
His downfall? “He admitted no superior but Washington.”
On a trip to Washington ( to scream at President Madison) he died in Augusta, Georgia, on 30 September, 1812. (He previously made a trip to Washington to scream at President John Adams.) He is buried at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Churchyard “...of that city.” ("Where he died en route, Augusta.")
His second marriage would end in divorce, quite unusual for the times. Her name was Margaret Reed, of Staunton. After the divorce she went back to using her former name.
“His first wife, according to one account, was a Miss Paul, sister of Audley (Audrey?) Paul; according to another, a Miss Woods, of Albemarle.”
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