Shared Photo: Matthew and JS Underwood

+11 votes


I wanted to share this family photo of Matthew Underwood with the community. Location: Paw Creek, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Date: 1914.

Uncle Math was born mentally challenged in 1887, but in those it was an embarrassment to the family. Uncle Math is standing by his father, Jacob Sidney Underwood. He never married and remained at the home in Paw Creek, Mecklenburg County, NC. until his mother died in 1936. He lived with my grandfather, Ralph Sidney Underwood, until the last couple of years of his life.

BTW: The two mules in full harness in the phote were named Jack and Madge.
Click here for the image details page or here for the full-sized version (858 x 521).

WikiTree profile: Matthew Underwood
in Photos by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.8m points)

2 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer
Wow, what an awesome photograph!  Both Matthew and Jacob look to be in relaxed good spirits here, with expressions showing confidence adn general satisfaction with life--so beautiful to see.

While your uncle Math may have been mentally challenged, it's clear that his father Jacob considered him to have enough wits about him to be of at least some use around the working animals, such as the mule he's holding the harness for. And I'm impressed and a bit surprised to see that Matthew's mule looks to me to be the younger, stronger, more spirited of the two mules; Jacob's mule has eyes half closed, and somehow looks to be older and more ready to return to the barn than head out to plow the fields.  If you didn't mention that Matthew had some kind of mental deficit, such would not be in great evidence from this photograph.

I'm glad that your uncle Math stayed with his family, apparently, rather than being sent away to a "lunatic" institution or asylum at that time.

Thanks so much for sharing this truly wonderful photo!
by Cynthia Larson G2G6 Pilot (182k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard

Thank you, Cynthia. Uncle Math died just before I would remember him. My favorite pic of him (which I need to dig out) is Uncle Math holding my 3 yr. old brother in his lap. If I can find it, I’ll share it.

My mother, a teacher, said Uncle Math would have been what educators called in the in the 70s TMR, Trainable Mentally Retarded, though that would very un-PC today. In any case, he did work he farm, both his father’s and Grandpa’s. 

In the 50s or 60s, Uncle Math would sneak away on Sundays to a little African-American church in our neighborhood. They called him, “Mr. Underwood,” which pleased him to no end. They allowed him to sit up in the chancel area during services. He didn’t do this often, as it was “the times,” you know, and Grandpa discouraged him from doing that. He got more respect from the African-American community than he did amongst his own. How sad. 

My mother wanted to name me Matthew as I was born on Uncle Math’s birthday, but my dad nixed that. I think he felt the same about Uncle Math as some other folk. I would been rather proud to have carried his name.

BTW: My grandfather named his last mule “Jack.” I wonder if he was thinking back.

Wow, what a great family history you have--and so much to be proud of for everyone, seeing as how Uncle Math worked three farms and won the respect of the African American community, too.  There are many neuro-typical folks who wouldn't be up to doing all that, so Uncle Math is deserving of a great deal of respect, in my humble opinion.  And I can see why you'd have been proud to have been named after him--even though those who remembered him might have had qualms about that.

Thanks so much for taking time to share so much fascinating and wonderfully inspiring family history to go with this photo!
+8 votes
I really love this old photo with Matthew and  JS and the gorgeous horses.

What a great story you put on the story about uncle Mat never married and he was a embarrassed for the family must have been very difficult in those day.

Thank you Pip for sharing this story
by Susan Laursen G2G Astronaut (3.1m points)

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