Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 10, No. 2
June, 1932

By Cora Miley

Page 287

Janie Gwin Matson

Janie Gwin, daughter of David Scott and Melissa Grizzell Gwin, was born April 5, 1882, near Lampasas, Texas, and passed away March 9, 1932, at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Janie Gwin was united in marriage with Smith C. Matson, June 7, 1911, at the home of her sister Mrs. F. J. Yingling, Dallas, Texas. Her husband Judge Smith C. Matson is an attorney. He served as a member of the Criminal Court of Appeals for two terms, and for the past eight years as an Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma. Mrs. Matson was a member of the Garden Flower Club, the Hospitality Club, the Confederate Memorial Association, the Swastika Club, and other societies. She devoted much of her time to art and nature studies and wrote extensively for newspapers and magazines on these subjects. Mrs. Matson is survived by her husband, Judge Smith C. Matson, and three sisters, Mrs. L. P. Lively, Houston, Texas; Mrs. W. M. Byrne, Orr, Oklahoma, and Mrs. F. J. Yingling, Dallas, Texas; and one brother, James W. Gwin, Kilgore, Texas.

The following appreciation is written by her friend Cora Miley.

Janie Gwin Matson was the most courageous and inspirational person I ever knew.

Unfortunately for those who knew and loved her she passed from this life in the Spring time of this year. As the flowers she loved began their re-creation, she began hers in a new and beautiful sphere. Mrs. Matson was neither young nor old. She was a spirit, breathlessly eager to do for others, and the facts of life were either opportunities for service or problems to be solved that life might be strengthened for service. Thus it is that when one writes of her it is of the spirit that one must speak.

Now the word 'service' has been so carelessly used that it has been battered out of all meaning, tossed about by foolish tongues and idle minds it has become useless. But if one can visualize a person as being sincerely enthusiastic over the opportunity of doing for others and giving to others one can know Janie Matson. And she did what she did, not from a solemn sense of duty, but because she enjoyed doing it. She followed the spirit as well as the letter of the law, she gave herself with her gifts. No task was ever too hard for her to undertake, no person too poor for her to give them respect and revenence.

Speaking one day of the three years of her life when she was almost blind and enrolled in a blind school she said: "Oh, I found plenty to do there besides my school work. I opened the doors for the other children and ran errands for the teachers." Even in those early days it was characteristic of her that she sought the helpful thing to do for others when she was incapacitated herself. She did it all her life.

She came to the Indian Territory when it was new. She never thought of living there as being a hardship nor of it as a primitive country in which she was making her living. She felt that it was an opportunity for observation and enjoyment of the picturesque. No matter how lawless the conduct she always had a word of extenuation for the culprit provided he was not what the world calls "onery". She hated laziness like poison. But if a person only made mistakes, there was no limit she would not go to help him. She was literally a 'house-by-the-side-of-the-road' friend.

Page 288

When I first knew her, my husband and hers were employed in the same office. I liked her from the very beginning. She was so slim, so blythe, so bright, so friendly, so capable. She could paint beautiful pictures when she had never had a lesson, she could make a beautiful dress from a remnant, she could cover an old chair with what another would through away, and make it look like a rare antique. These talents of hers intrigued me.

But it was in the years of her long illness that her heroism and courage amazed and inspired me. It was not many years after my first acquaintance with her that she was compelled to take a rest cure. The physcians said she had been ill a long time. Yet she became no forlorn, complaining invalid. Even flat of her back she was a growing personality. As busy as ever! She read philosophy, the history of religions, took a course in short story writing and versification. In addition she read funny stories to tell her husband at night when he awakened and could not go back to sleep for worrying about her. She was always resorting to devices to keep up her morale, buying dresses and hanging them in the closet to wear when 'I am better' she would say, and writing poetry when she was at her worst, 'to give me something to laugh at' she said. She never turned away from hope and interest in life. No one ever went to see her without being enlivened. During the time she was compelled to remain in bed she had her husband purchase a number of canary birds and hang their cages around her sleeping porch wall and there through the long days she lay and watched these little birds in order to keep her mind from her own condition. Many years afterward she wrote an article for a magazine on these birds, their disposition and temperaments, which amazed eminent psychologists all over the country.

Hoping to find a cure, someway, somehow, she at length went to a sanatarium in New Mexico. There are people who live in health through life and never make any impressions on anyone or anything. And there are those who make an impress in every situation. Through her vivid personality Mrs. Matson taught many patients in the sanatarium how to live and how to die without fear. There are examples in plenty to prove the statement, too long for this article. And yet her religion was not a solemn lugubrious kind, but a gay, bouyant one, the will to enjoy every scrap of earthly life and the courage to go out of it when the time should come as the poem of Riley says—"Thanks-so fine a time-goodnight".

After a few months there and the most painful and difficult of operations she returned an "arrested case", the most marvelous cure the sanatarium had ever effected. She had faced her dragon, fought and slain it. Of those years between that time and her death from pneumonia many years later, one could write a book.

She wrote articles and sold them to some of the better newspapers and magazines. She went into church and club work and carried a sincere honesty that was most effective there. In addition she did her own housework, learned to drive a car, took her husband back and forth to his office, advised hundreds of people every year on the planting of shrubbery, took into her home three yound girls and reared them to useful womanhood, looked after dozens of poor families, read erudite books, painted pictures, made her own clothes, worked among her flowers and did considerable landscape work for others. One of the last pieces of work she did was the landscaping of the grounds for the Oklahoma Historical Building.

When I think of her, I think of helpfulness, of cheerfulness, of joy, of courage, of faith, of love, and of genuine religion. I cannot believe that she is dead; anyone so vividly alive could not die. Only the house she lived in had become uninhabitable and she has moved away. It is with her as it was with that grand old patriot John Quincy Adams.

Page 289

When he was nearing eighty some one asked him one morning how he was.

"John Quincy Adams is very well," he replied; "his body of a house is growing old beyond repair so John Quincy Adams will be moving out soon but he himself, is very well."

So it was with my sympathetic, faithful friend, Janie Matson. Her house had become uninhabitable and she moved away. Just as the butterfly emerges into a form of radiance and beauty, so has she emerged, and somewhere else is continuing, I am sure, what she had so well begun here on earth.

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site