The Mississippi native came to Tyler with her widowed mother and siblings in 1894 at the age of 32, after receiving a degree during a time when college degrees were not required for teachers.
Jones Elementary, which was built in 1956 in the Tyler Independent School District, was named for Miss Mattie.
After her retirement from education in 1936, she was the lone woman member of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce for a long period, according to information received from the Smith County Historical Society.
Lucille Mardock, one of her students from that time, wrote an article for “The Chronicles of Smith County, Texas,” in which she said Miss Mattie's class was a “lively place where her pupils were exposed to many subjects not in the curriculum, and there were spirited discussions.”
She was often quoted as saying “only three out of thirty get the teaching,” but the article stated that very few ever failed her classes. After lunch, when students were often lethargic, Miss Mattie had them do calisthenics in front of open classroom windows, to “get the blood circulating.”
Miss Mattie was stern, but fair and was described as tall, often dressed in a high-necked collared blouse with a long, black skirt that went to her ankles, black hosiery and black shoes, Sue Kidd, of the Historical Society, said.
According the article from Ms. Murdock, the teacher realized that the formal education of many of her students would end after high school graduation.
“To emphasize this point, she told about an unfortunate young lady who went to the World's Fair in St. Louis. She stepped off the boat and into a waiting carriage and 'that was the last that was ever heard of her,'” the article from The Chronicles stated.
Miss Mattie required her students to memorize the 10 Commandments, memorizing one each week, reporting on a Monday, and “upon completion, there was a written test,” according to the article in The Chronicles.
Another pupil, Frank Kitchens Jr., remembered a bold-faced Big Ben-style clock that sat on a shelf behind Miss Mattie in her classroom. Students liked to turn the clock around to face the wall as a prank and the “football boys would turn the hands ahead 15 or 20 minutes, and then when the clock showed nearly time for class to be over, the boys would start shuffling their feet. Everyone would file out and the boys would head for the drugstore across the street.”
One day, Miss Mattie glanced at the clock and found it at least two hours behind, Kitchens said in the article from the The Chronicles. “I hope when you pupils go out into the world, you get along faster than my clock.”
Miss Mattie also was a member of the Carnegie Library Board, and helped organize the Tuesday Reading Club in 1923, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph archives.
Miss Mattie, who never married, died in 1944 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
The city of Tyler's Historical Preservation Board recommended last week to install a half-mile of history marker in her honor.