If Wishes Were… Remembering Joseph W. Mather

August 5th, 2019

     In the Homestead attic, there is a large, curved-top, hide-covered trunk. Inside, a small blue book with the simple title: “Autographs.” Written on the flyleaf: “Joseph Mather December 25, 1878.”


     The book belonged to Stephen Mather’s younger brother, Joseph, who was born 8 January 1869 to Joseph Wakeman Mather and Bertha Jemima Walker Mather.


     The book has entries from 1879 and 1880. It contains autographs, sentiments, and illustrations from classmates in San Francisco.


     Today we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone under sixty with such refined cursive handwriting, much less children of ten or eleven!


     The book has a true San Francisco flavor with sketches of boats—and cable cars. Some wishes are simple, no doubt typical of “yearbook” inscriptions of the era. Some are more personal. 


     Joseph Mather died 4 February 1888, less than eight years after the last entry. The San Francisco Examiner reported: “MATHER-In this city, February 4, Joseph W. Mather, Jr., a native of San Fran-cisco, aged 19 years and 17 days.” According to a biography of Stephen Mather, the cause was spinal meningitis.


      Robert Grier’s entry of April 2nd1880 speaks of the hopes we all share: “It only takes a little spot, To write the words forget me not.”

Photos and Text by Donn Smith

© 2017 by The Mather Homestead Foundation. 

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19 Stephen Mather Road, Darien, CT  06820

Mailing address:  PO Box 1054, Darien, CT  06820

info@matherhomestead.org, 203-202-7602

"He laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be

developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done."            

-Louis C. Cramton, referring to Stephen T. Mather (1867-1930)