Henry Matteson (1646-1690)
Henry Matteson, the individual from whom The Matteson Historical Congress of America established its identity, was the first of that name to come to America. In 1666/7 he arrived at Portsmouth, RI, located at the north end of an island in Narragansett Bay. Portsmouth had been founded in 1638 by a small group headed by Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, an outcast from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They renamed the island the “Isle of Rhodes” or “Rhode Island”.
Little is known of the background of Henry Matteson. He was believed to have been of Danish ancestry, and that his ancestors first migrated to Scotland and then to England where Henry was born. He then moved to Tyrone County, Northern Ireland, from whence he came to America. It is not known why he came, or where or when he first landed. Nor is it known why he chose to settle in the Narragansett Bay area.
Henry Matteson was married in 1670 to Hannah Parsons, daughter of Hugh and Elizabeth Parsons from England. Henry and Hannah lived at Portsmouth until shortly before the outbreak of hostilities known as the King Philip’s War. He then moved, with his young family, to another small island called Prudence Island, for security reasons. After the war he acquired a parcel of land on the west shore of the bay, called East Greenwich where he thereafter made his home. Henry died at the age of forty-four, in 1690, leaving a widow and his seven children, Henry, Thomas, Joseph, Francis, Hannah, Hezekiah and Josiah. A commemorative headstone for Henry Matteson has been placed in East Greenwich historic cemetery #7, near land once owned by Henry and Hannah (photo above).
The First General Assembly
The prime mover in the founding of the Matteson Historical Congress of America was the Reverend John Clarke Matteson. He had long been interested in his Matteson ancestry and envisioned writing a book about it. Early in 1940 he learned about Porter Matteson, a genealogist who had spent twenty-five years researching Matteson history. Burt R. Matteson, a printer and publisher, became the third member of the team of promoters, and was destined to become the leader of the organization. Plans for a huge assembly were laid and on September 1, 1940, 233 Mattesons gathered for the first mass meeting on the grounds at Chautauqua, New York.
With the success of the first assembly it was decided that it should become an annual affair and the Congress has been meeting every year since, with the exception of several years during World War II. These annual reunions are required in our bylaws to take place every year between June 15th and September 30th, although they normally take place during August of each year. For a full listing of past and future meetings, see our Reunions page.
If you are a descendant of Henry Matteson, you can join the Congress by filling out this form and mailing it in. The spelling of your last name could have been changed over the years, to Mattison, Mathewson, Madison, etc.