THROWBACK THURSDAY: Sam Mather played big role in shaping local history
By JAMES WEAR
In our last column we shared information with readers regarding Andy Mather, a Gabriel Mills native who during his lifetime would gain acclaim for his association with the Texas Rangers.
This week we’ll devote some space to his father, Samuel Mather, an early settler of the area who, while perhaps not as colorful as his son, earned his place in Williamson County history.
According to information found on the Williamson County Historical Association website written by the late Clara Scarbrough (wife of longtime Williamson County Sun publisher Don Scarbrough), Mather came to the United States from Scotland. Mather, who was born in 1812, first located in Louisiana in the mid- 1840s. In 1847, he married Sarah Parker Smith. Two years later the couple moved to the area that would eventually become known as Gabriel Mills.
Mrs. Scarbrough wrote that between 1850 and 1872, the couple would have 11 children. In 1852, Mather built a water-powered grist mill along the banks of the North San Gabriel River that was “patronized by people as much as 50 miles away.” He also is said to have established a blacksmith shop.
Among those to visit the blacksmith shop was Comanche Chief Yellow Wolf, who is said to have brought silver ore to Mather to make into ornaments. Mrs. Scarbrough wrote that Yellow Wolf offered to show Mather the location of the ore, but Mather, not wanting to leave his family, turned down his offer.
Mather and six other settlers established a Masonic Lodge at Gabriel Mills. He remained active in the lodge, and is said to have held several offices in the Texas State Grand Lodge, including Most Worshipful Grand Master in 1863, the highest office in the state organization.
In her article, Mrs. Scarbrough noted that many of the rock fences built in the Gabriel Mills community were built by slaves that came with Mather from Louisiana.
Mather also played a role in establishing a school in Gabriel Mills, as it is said that he and B. K. Stewart each deeded 25 acres of land in 1856 for the purpose of such.
Mather and other settlers prospered, and Gabriel Mills eventually had as many as 80 residents. A post office was established, and Mather served as postmaster for five years until he left Gabriel Mills in 1863. He ended up in the New Braunfels area, where he and others established a paper mill.
He died in 1878 at his daughter’s home in Hays County and was buried in the Kyle Cemetery.
While little remains to indicate there was a community at Gabriel Mills, one structure closely associated with Sam Mather remains intact. A cabin, reconstructed in 1976, now is located at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
According to Mrs. Scarbrough’s article, “The cabin restored in 1975-76 was 14 x 16 feet in size, built of hand hewn squared logs of an extremely hard wood. Tradition says it is walnut, but experts have not been able to corroborate this. The limestone fireplace and chimney was also hand hewn; it stood at the north end of the room. The square notch typical of all southern states was used on the ends of the logs, and the notches were so perfectly fitted that nothing was used to fasten the logs together other than the notches. The four walls of the original cabin, as well as the fireplace and chimney, had remained intact from the 1850s until 1975. The log room and another chimney, which were built considerably later, had fallen by 1975, as had the roof of the entire house. The original floor was probably dirt, but later round cedar logs were added as floor sills, and these logs were also in fine condition in 1975. All materials were available on the premises. Logs were shaped by the hand adz, a tool blacksmith Mather could have made. Round holes across the outer wall on the south side indicate places where poles could be fastened to form a support for temporary lean-to. No nails could be found which were used in the original structure, but square nails appeared to have been used when other rooms were added.”