William G. Mathias was born in Maryland and came to Kansas Territory from Baltimore in late 1854 as a 29-year-old law clerk to the Honorable S. D. LeCompte, Chief Justice of Kansas Territory. LeCompte, also from Maryland, held the first session of the United States District Court on March 19, 1855 in Leavenworth with Mathias by his side as clerk. Mathias quickly established himself as a leader in the pro-slavery cause. After adjournment of the first court session, the pro-slavery group held a quick meeting to pick candidates for the Legislature and Mathias was chosen for the House. [Cutler, History, Leavenworth County]
Six weeks later and after his election to the Bogus Legislature, Mathias was appointed to a committee to notify free-state lawyer William Phillips of Leavenworth that Phillips should leave the Territory at once. Phillips was accused of handing a pistol to the free-state killer of Malcolm Clark, a pro- slavery settler. The warning from the vigilance committee was clear:
"LEAVENWORTH, APRIL 30, 1855.WILLIAM PHILLIPS:
Sir: At a meeting of the citizens of Leavenworth and vicinity, we, the undersigned, were appointed a committee to inform you that they have unanimously determined that you must leave the Territory by 2 o'clock Thursday next. Take due notice thereof and act accordingly." Phillips did not leave on time and was abducted to Missouri, tarred and feathered and "auctioned" in a mock slave sale. [Connelly, History, Ch.24]
Constitution Hall, Lecompton
The 2nd session of the Legislature met here January, 1857.
Mathias was evidently well respected for his legal and legislative abilities. He was selected as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the first session of the Bogus Legislature and Speaker of the House in the 1857 session. [KHC C4: 675] In those positions he piloted most legislation through the House. His pro-slavery convictions were clear. In a Fourth of July address in 1855, he said his fellow legislators would assert their independence from the authority usurped by Governor Reeder. "As long as we live," he said, "this never shall be a Free State." [Dolbee, 4th of July, 58]
An organizational meeting of the "Law and Order" Party was called in October 1855 urging pro-slavery men to come together to counter free-state opposition to the laws passed the Bogus Legislature. Mathias was joined by fellow legislators Rees and Grover in calling the meeting. [Connelly, History, Chapter 27] Two years later, Mathias was President of the Kansas Democratic Convention that nominated F. J. Marshall for Governor as the Democratic candidate, " to bear up the banner of our Party... against the Black Republicans".
Despite his strong feelings, Mathias was respected by many free-state acquaintances and had a long career as an attorney and legislator. A fellow member of the 1860 free-state Territorial Legislature wrote:
"My recollections of this winter (1860), spent as a Legislator, are very pleasant. Our body of only thirteen members (in the Council) seemed like an orderly debating club; some of the members were quite able in debate. Four were Democrats and nine Republicans. The minority had a decided advantage in debate. W. G. Mathias of Leavenworth was a Democrat and a lawyer; he had been a member of the first Territorial Legislature of 1855, commonly known as the "bogus Legislature." [Stewart, Watson Stewart, 402]
H. Miles Moore, free-state lawyer from Leavenworth, said William Mathias was a prominent member of the county bar. He handled many criminal cases and was an excellent prosecutor:
"He was a kind, courteous, affable southern gentleman who had generous impulses and was highly respected. (He) died several years ago (before 1906), leaving highly cultured widow and two estimable and accomplished daughters." [Moore, Leavenworth, 251]