Edward C. "Ned" Matthews III and his book "Matthews: The Historic Adventures of a Pioneer Family" will be honored this fall by Gov. Matt Blunt. Matthews will receive the 2006 Governor's Humanities Book Award conferred by the Missouri Humanities Council.
The award recognizes an individual whose book or publication has increased the understanding and appreciation of Missouri's history and culture.
Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, called the humanities council award a significant honor for Matthews. "That Ned received an award is commendable in that historically the awards have gone to persons directly involved with education and the humanities," he explained.
The presentation of the Governor's Humanities Awards will be made Oct. 25 in a ceremony at the Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City.
Matthews said he was pleased to be selected for the honor. "When I was writing the book I had no idea that it would be looked at in this light and acknowledged the way it has been," he said about the book, which received the Pioneer America Society's Fred Kniffen Book Award in 2005.
Matthews' book tells the story of the Matthews family, spanning more than 200 years. It takes the reader from the family's beginnings in Virginia to their move to southeast Missouri, settling in and around Sikeston.
The self-described family historian, Matthews said he initially had planned only a small family project which would preserve the family history for his sons.
Hours of research through county records, family documents and letters eventually led to a rough draft of a manuscript, then to his book, which was published in 2004 by Southeast Missouri University Press.
The book has garnered quite a bit of attention from historians.
Michael J. Carson of the The Midwest Book Review described the book as informative and fascinating.
"A superbly written family history, this is the story of generations of men and women whose ambitions and perseverance were to shape and influence the entire region. Beginning with the settlement of the then newly acquired Louisiana Territory, and continuing with the subsequent growth and development of Southeast Missouri, these are very human stories of Matthews family members complete with the private tragedies, public accomplishments, and diverse personalities," Carson wrote.
Described as more than a family history but a history for all of the region by Dr. Frank Nickell, director of the Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University, he goes on to note, "The material inside the book, not available before publicly, now provide an additional dimension of this region's history."
At the heart of the story is C.D. Matthews, known locally as the founder of the Bank of Sikeston and co-founder of the Scott County Milling Co. Born a poor farm boy in the 1840s, he risked his life supplying corn and wheat to the South during the Civil War and went on to amass a fortune in banking, lumber, railroads and land. As his holdings and his family grew, so did the region and nation around him, all part of the same expanding story -- the good times and bad, the wild days, the tame and the unforeseen.
Matthews' book was nominated for the Governor's Humanities Award by Dr. Susan Swartwout, Dr. Carol Scates and Miranda Henley.
Other recipients of the Governor's Humanities Awards are Barbara Gill of St. Louis, Bred Belk of Joplin and John Paul Skaggs of Fredericktown, Community Heritage; Kathleen Younger of Bowling Green, Excellence in Secondary Education; and Joseph Kinyoun Houts Jr. of St. Joseph, who was also named a Book Award recipient.
"Matthews: The Historic Adventures of Pioneer Family," is available at the Standard Democrat, the Sikeston Depot, the Southeast Missouri State University Book Store and other Cape Girardeau book outlets as well as through amazon.com.