On October 17, 1778, Matthew Nelson was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia. He was the son of John and Jane (Robinson) Nelson. During his early years, he attended school three months and then was taught by a maiden aunt. On August 20, 1803, Treasurer Nelson wed Martha Cannon. The couple eventually had seven children. Their names were Lawrence, Caroline, Sidney C., Eliza, Matthew, Jr., John D., and William Cannon Nelson.
During the early nineteenth century, Treasurer Nelson was involved in a variety of activities in Roane County. He worked as a carpenter by trade and in 1808 he opened a tavern in the community of Kingston in Roane County. He became one of the commissioners to superintend the building of the courthouse at Kingston in 1809. In addition to his prominent roles in the community, Treasurer Nelson was elected as a member of the state House of Representatives in 1813. He was part of the 10th General Assembly and represented Roane County from 1813 to 1814.
In 1815, Treasurer Nelson was appointed as the Treasurer of East Tennessee and served in that position from 1815 to 1827. During his tenure as East Tennessee Treasurer, he lived in Knoxville in Knox County. After his service as East Tennessee treasurer ended, he returned to his farm in Philadelphia in Roane County.
In 1843, Treasurer Nelson was appointed as the State Treasurer of Tennessee. He served as State Treasurer from 1843 to 1845. After serving as the State Treasurer, Treasurer Nelson returned to his home farm in Philadelphia, Tennessee in Roane County. On December 1, 1852, Treasurer Nelson died and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Roane County.
Reference: “Death of Matthew Nelson,” Republican Banner 24 December 1852; Robert M. McBride and Dan M. Robison, Biographical Directory of the Tennessee General Assembly, Vol. I (Nashville: Tennessee Historical Commission, 1975); Roane County History of Tennessee (Chicago and Nashville: The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1887); Tennessee Blue Book, 1967-1968, p.283; “Election of Treasurer,” Republican Banner 22 November 1843.