“His Wife, His Horse…and His Ever Faithful Dog”

William Mattingly, founder of Mattingly Settlement, Ohio

It was 200 years ago that William Mattingly, his wife Sarah (“Sally”), and his faithful dog Schneider left their home in western Maryland and headed out into what was then the wild west: modern day Ohio.

Only thirty years before, the Declaration of Independence had made history. Ten short years before William’s departure, Lewis and Clark had made their famed expedition across the new nation.

William Mattingly was born in 1778, just after the birth of the United States of America. When he settled in Ohio in 1812, he was thirty-four years old.  According to Traditions and Genealogy of the Mattingly Family, 1633-1918 written by Rev. Julius Mattingly in 1918:

…[William] started out into the wild west to make his fortune. The entire make-up of his caravan consisted of himself, his wife, his horse, his trusty rifle and his ever faithful dog, Schneider. He set out on the old trail leading to Pittsburgh, thence westerly to the Ohio River. Here, with the assistance of some friendly Indians he was ferried across at what is now called Bridgeport, Ohio.

William eventually settled in Muskingum County, Ohio, giving his name to what would become known as Mattingly Settlement. He was joined by other family members from Maryland who hoped to find the same success in farming there that William had found.

From England to America: A Legacy of Catholic Faith

The Mattingly family had a strong Catholic identity that had its roots in many generations of faithful ancestors before them. Thomas Mattingly and his family were the first of their clan to arrive in America (around 1664). They had left their home in Mattingley, England in search of freedom to practice their Catholic faith.

Mattingley Church and its churchyard in Mattingley, England – the family’s original surname had the -ley ending (Photo thanks to James Sills)

Although the first generation of settlers found religious freedom elusive in 17th century Maryland, they managed to continue to practice their Catholic faith. This was partly thanks to their move to western Maryland, which was out of reach of the enforcers of anti-Catholic laws.

Ohio: Missionary Territory to Church Community

The faith of their forebears was important to the descendants of those early Mattinglys. They had moved their families across the Atlantic and then across the colonies in search of religious freedom. William Mattingly was no exception. Yet after his move to Ohio, it would be four decades before he and his family had the convenience of living close to a Catholic church. For the first seven of those forty years, the family had no opportunity to receive the sacraments. It was only when missionary priests began to visit the area that their three eldest children were able to be baptized.

By 1820, the Catholic families in the area were able to gather regularly for Mass, although getting there was quite a journey. According to Rev. Julius Mattingly, William “was a devout Catholic, never missing Mass on Sundays, making the trip to Zanesville (10 miles distant) every Sunday”. When in the 1840s the church in Zanesville needed expansion and the project ran low on funds, it was William Mattingly who put up $3,000 to furnish the interior of the church. (This amount is equivalent to at least $70,000 in today’s dollars.)  William also donated $1,500 for a church bell a few years later.

In 1855 the Catholics of Mattingly Settlement in Muskingum township received the go-ahead from the Bishop to begin work on their own local church: St. Mary’s (Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The church was placed on William Mattingly’s plot of land (though officially donated by John Mattingly, who had purchased it the same day from William).

According to The History of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary 1856-2006, One Hundred Fifty Years by Benjamin Factor and Patrick Smeltzer:

When not occupied on their farms, members of the congregation worked vigorously to build their church. Clay was removed from the field with which bricks were made. These bricks were fired just north of the church and the lime for the cement was made in the adjoining field.

When the exterior of their new church was finished in April 1857, the parishioners of St. Mary’s laid to rest their first member in the cemetery within its grounds. It was only fitting that this man was William Mattingly. He died at age 78, having lived to see the Catholic church of Mattingly Settlement almost to its completion.

Mattingly Settlement’s St. Mary’s Church and Cemetery are located in present-day Nashport, Ohio

St. Mary’s would serve William and Sally’s descendants and numerous other families who followed their lead, settling in Muskingum township and practicing the Catholic faith that so many generations of Mattinglys have so deeply treasured.



Congratulations to the Mattingly family descendants, who will celebrate the 200th anniversary of William’s settlement in Ohio at the 2012 Mattingly Family Reunion at St. Mary’s Church this weekend.

Mattingly Reunion at St. Mary’s Church, 1940

For more information about the history of Mattingly Settlement, St. Mary’s Church, or Mattingly family history, you might be interested in the following resources*:

    • Traditions and Genealogy of the Mattingly Family, 1633-1918 by Rev. Julius Mattingly (1918)
    • The Descendants of Henry Mattingly by Mgsr. Herman Mattingly (1969)
    • The Mattingly Family in Early America by Mgsr. Herman Mattingly (1975)
    • Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary 1856-1981, One Hundred Twenty-Five Years by Rev. H.E. Mattingly (1981)
    • The History of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary 1856-2006, One Hundred Fifty Years by Benjamin E. Factor and Patrick V. Smeltzer (2006)
    • Mattingly Settlement website – which aims “to preserve the historical, cultural and religious heritage of Mattingly Settlement”

*Several of the books listed above will soon be available on this Mattingly Settlement webpage free of cost in PDF form.

Ohio has a strong history of Catholic faith tradition. In fact, just this summer one of its churches (c. 1823) was elevated by the Vatican to the level of Minor Basilica, one of just seventy-four in the United States. For more information about the newly renamed Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Canton, Ohio visit this article.