HENRY MASON MATHEWS was born in Frankford, Virginia (now West Virginia). He received an A.B. degree from the University of Virginia in 1855 and an A.M. degree one year later. He went on to graduate from law school with honors in 1857. He opened a law office in Lewisburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) and then accepted a professorship of language and literature at Allegheny College in Blue Sulphur Springs. He enlisted in the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the Civil War, achieving the rank of Major of Artillery. He returned to his law practice in Lewisburg after the war. Elected to the West Virginia Senate in 1865, he was denied his seat because of his service with the Confederacy and his inability to take the required oath test. However, he was elected a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1872 and then Attorney General of West Virginia, a position that he held from 1873 until 1877. Elected governor in 1876, he faced railroad strikes and riots during his tenure. When his term of office ended, he became president of the White Sulphur Springs Company.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.