Matthew F. Giddens ~ Teacher, Businessman, Public Administrator

A  biographical sketch recently encountered in Memoirs of Florida tells the story of Matthew F. Giddens, who grew up in Berrien County, GA.

To set the  context, Matthew F. Giddens was a son of William Giddens, born in 1845 in that part of Lowndes county which was later cut into Berrien County.  Mathew’s grandfather, Isben Giddens was among the earliest settlers of the area.  Isben Giddens and William Giddens both served in the Lowndes County Militia during the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, under the command of  Captain Levi J. Knight.  The Giddens were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Matthew F. Giddens attended the Valdosta Institute, founded by Samuel McWhir Varnedoe in 1866 in Valdosta, GA.  Giddens may have been a classmate of John Henry “Doc” Holiday, who attended the Valdosta Institute during the same time period.

Valdosta Institute, 1866. Valdosta, GA

Valdosta Institute, 1866. Valdosta, GA. Was Mathew F. Giddens a classmate of “Doc” Holliday at the Valdosta Institute? They both attended the institute some time between 1866 and 1870.

Rerick, Rowland H. (1902) Memoirs of Florida: Embracing a general history of the province, territory, and state; and special chapters devoted to finances and banking, the bench and bar, medical profession, railways and navigation, and industrial interests.The Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, GA. Vol II, Pgs 526-527.

Matthew F. Giddens, of Charlotte Harbor [Florida], superintendent of public instruction of De Soto county, was born in Lowndes county, Ga., December 18, 1845.  His father, William Giddens, a native of Georgia, was a planter and during the war served in the Confederate States army until he was elected judge of his county court [Berrien County]. The  wife of judge Giddens, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Edmondson, was also a Georgian by birth.  M.F. Giddens was reared and educated in Berrien and Lowndes counties, Ga., and attended the Valdosta institute.  After he had completed his education he taught school for some time. During the last two years of the war he served as a private in Company G, Twenty-ninth Georgia artillery, which, later became an infantry command, and although slightly wounded once received no severe injury and did not miss a day of service.  He was captured in the battle of July 22, 1864 near Atlanta, and was held until the close of the war.  In 1870 he came to Hillsboro county, Fla., and engaged as clerk in a store for some time, later conducting a mercantile business in Manatee county for two years. He next embarked in the cattle business an remained in it for ten years. He was county commissioner for two years before his removal to De Soto county, and in the latter county was school commissioner until he was elected to his present office of superintendent of public instruction in 1897.  In November, 1890, he was re-elected to the office without opposition.  Mr. Giddens has sixty schools under his supervision, which he inspects each year. He has the educational interests of the county at heart and has done much to advance the condition and efficiency of this important part of the public administration. He is also active in fraternal and church organization, as a trustee of the Methodist church, and is a master Mason.  By his marriage in 1872, to Mary Knight, of Hillsboro county, he has five sons and two daughters, Sumner, La Rue, Marcus, Paul, Grady, Virginia and Eva.