THROWBACK THURSDAY: Mather’s fearless reputation included confrontation with bear during expedition
By JAMES WEAR
Perhaps one of the most colorful individuals the Liberty Hill community ever produced was Andrew Mather, son of Gabriel Mills pioneer Samuel Mather.
Samuel Mather came to the area in 1849 and established a water powered grist mill. Other settlers soon followed and over the next few years the community thrived, despite the threat of Indian attacks.
Andrew Mather was born June 11, 1851, with many historians claiming that he was the first white baby born in the area. He grew up to be a tall man, reaching 6 feet, 4 inches (some say he was even taller) and he is said to have wore a wide-brimmed hat, tucked his trousers into his boots and wore shoulder-length hair. It is said he never took his hat off, even while indoors.
As a teenager, Mather helped his father with the mill and later worked cattle drives. He eventually joined the Texas Rangers in 1874, where at the age of 23 he served under Captain Jeff Maltby. Although Andy Mather only officially served two six-month stints with the Rangers, he gained fame as a fearless warrior.
One tale, described by Maltby in a book he wrote some years later describing his years as a Texas Ranger, detailed the time that Mather killed a bear while on a scouting expedition.
According to Malty’s description of the incident, “…Mather was ordered to take 20 men and go out on a scout in which the discipline of this company is further demonstrated.
“It was standing orders while on a scout that the men were not allowed to shoot at any anything but an Indian, and when it was necessary to get meat the commander of the scout should detail one or two men to get the meat while all the others remained on duty. In this instance, the scout was marching regularly along, when one of the largest (if not the largest) bears that was ever seen in Texas, came marching slowly along, as if to banter them to shoot and break their orders.
“He came nearer and nearer, and when he had got within sixty or seventy yards of the scout, Mather said, ‘Halt, boys, remain in your postions’ and quickly taking down his small, nice rawhide lariat, he dashed after the bear and before he ran one hundred yards he threw his rope and it tightened around the bear’s neck. The bear grabbed the rope in his mouth to bite it in two. Mather sprang off his horse; the horse was trained to hold anything that the lasso was thrown over. Mather drew his Bowie knife, ran to the bear, and drove it through his heart before he could bite lariat in two. The other men remained as they were ordered, all except one — Bill Dumnam, who ran to Mather for fear the bear would get him tangled up in the rope.
“The bear’s hide was brought into camp, was stretched and hung up with but one hole in it. The rope was hung by the hide with the marks of the bear’s teeth on it as proof of bravery and discipline.”
According to information found on findagrave.com, while Mather may have been a fearless fighter, he had a soft spot in his heart for children, and is said to have treated youngsters he encountered while traveling with sticks of sugar candy that he carried in his saddlebags.
Among those Mather befriended during his lifetime were Buffalo Bill Cody and J. Frank Dobie, who is said to have come to Liberty Hill to visit with Mather from time to time.
Mather and his wife, Mary Ellen, had three sons. He died July 23, 1929. He and Mary Ellen are buried within 100 yards of where Andrew was born.