Annie Virginia Alcorn Matthews began her life's journey on Sunday, September 26, 1909, in Brookeville, Montgomery County, Maryland. Annie was born to Tobias and Hester Alcorn. Annie was one of nine children.
Annie began her spiritual journey at Brighton Methodist Episcopal Church. Brighton was on a charge with Sharp Street United Methodist Church in Sandy Spring. The first pastor she remembers was Rev. John Carroll. She laughs when she remembers that both he and his wife were very large, because of his size, the children called him Santa Claus. Annie attended Sunday School, and as a teenager, attended one-hour evening services. When there was an all-day meeting at church, her mother-Gramma Hester, would pack a lunch. The church at Brighton was eventually closed, and she and her family joined Sharp Street United Methodist Church; later she joined the Wesleyan fellowship. After moving with her daughter and granddaughter to Laurel, Annie became a member of Queen's Chapel United Methodist Church. There she became a member of the United Methodist Women and attended Vacation Bible School. During her years at Sharp Street, Annie was an Usher, Communion Steward, and a Sunday School teacher.
This industrious lady was also a dedicated community worker. She was a Girl Scout Agent and her troop was known for selling the most cookies. The Girl Scouts planted a garden in her honor on the Queen's Chapel's property. Annie also led a Brownie troop, which made dolls and aprons, and she led a group of girls in the 4-H Club. Annie was a diligent worker in the local American Legion Auxiliary, Civic Association, a member of the Homemakers' Club, Naomi Household of Ruth and a charter member of the Mutual Memorial Cemetery Committee working tirelessly to assure its preservation.
When Annie was seventeen, their house in Brookeville burned down. Annie and her family moved to Sandy Spring, Maryland into a two-room log cabin house on land be longing to her grandfather. The log cabin originally had one large room and a loft. Later her father added two more rooms. Annie lived in this log cabin house until 1974.
Annie loved to share memories of her childhood antics. Because they lived so far from other farms, she only had her siblings for playmates. She was the only girl at home with her brothers, so it's not surprising that she was a bit of a tomboy. She and her brothers were fond of fishing. On one occasion when they were fishing, Annie was sitting close to the edge of the water when she got a bite on her line. It was a large fish, and because of Annie's small size, she got pulled along by the fish and slid into the water. Annie couldn't swim, so her brothers had to jump in and get her and the fish! She held on and never let go of her prize. Annie says it was the biggest fish they'd ever caught. Another favorite pastime that she and her brothers enjoyed was racing the horse and buggy through the woods to the road; sometimes the horse would get away from them, and they would take a fall and one of the brothers even broke an arm. They also liked to climb trees, jumping from tree to tree like Tarzan.
Passing the all-white school, she and her brothers walked miles to the all-black two-room school in Brighton. Annie was only able to complete grade six. Living in a farming community, Annie often couldn't attend school for the full school year; she would get pulled out when they were needed to help with the farm.
When she was twelve, Annie started only attending school half days, in order to help her mother cook for the men who worked with her father on the farm.
Annie was married to the late Alvin Matthews. Four children were born to this union - Basil, Alice, Grace, and Cora.
When the oldest daughter Grace began to have children, with three mothers in the same home, they had to devise a way to distinguish between Grandma Hester, Annie, and Grace. Grace's children were told to call her "Mama Annie". Since that time, she has been "Mama Annie", not just to those in her family, but to everyone else. She was also known as "Dipper" because she was always watching out the window to see what was going on outside. She was the first original neighborhood watch. Annie was known for "selective" listening, and family thought Mama Annie was not listening until she told their business to someone else.
Always a busy and hardworking individual with a strong work ethic, she was rarely idle, so much so that her father once commented, "Annie if you were to die before me, I'd still hear the pots and pans rattling' in the kitchen". Once she began to have children, she became even more industrious, so that her children could have all that they needed in life. It was truly a struggle, but Annie was never one to easily accept defeat. In order to provide for her family, it was necessary for her to be out of the home much of the time, leaving the children with her mother or another family member. For a time, Annie lived and worked in Baltimore with her uncle, coming home every other week.
One of her earliest jobs was at the local hospital built by Dr. Bird. Like many women of her generation, for many years, she was employed as a domestic in the homes of numerous people. As there was no bus transportation to some of the places she worked, she caught a ride, but if no ride was going her way she walked. Annie also worked in a nursing home, was a childcare provider, as well as a practical nurse for older adults. For a time, Annie and her daughters, Grace Bishop and Alice Gibson, worked together at the Olney Inn. Annie was also employed by the Montgomery County School Board as a cafeteria worker and worked nights at Leisure World. In the fall of her years, Annie was employed as Assistant Manager at the Ross Boddy Community Recreation Center in Sandy Spring for fifteen years; during some of those years, she worked with her granddaughter Maxine Bishop.
While her only trip outside of the country was to Canada, Annie took several bus trips with community organizations, including -g trips to the Dutch Country and Atlantic City. Her only airplane flight was to San Antonio, Texas to attend the funeral of one of her brothers. Annie enjoyed POKENO, BINGO, Dominoes, word search, outings with QC's "Seasoned Saints", the Annual Alcorn Family Reunions held in Sandy Spring, and ALWAYS EATING.
Annie was known for making fruit cakes, homemade rolls, canned goods, and root beer. She ran a store out of her house in Sandy Spring, selling candy, cookies, popcorn and soda.
In her one century plus years of living, there were times when the words of Langston Hughes' poem: "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair," symbolized her life and her struggle. But through it all, this loving and caring woman persevered. Dedicated and generous to family and friends alike, Annie touched countless lives. Throughout the years, Annie's Sandy Spring home was always open to her family, as well as others who needed a place to stay. After returning from the service, her grandson Paul Alcorn lived with her for a time. Others with whom she shared her home included granddaughters Paulette Wills, Maxine Bishop and family and granddaughter Valerie Gibson, granddaughter Eunice Bishop, as well as her daughter Cora and Gretchen Canty.
Annie cared for her beloved mother--Gramma Hester - until her death at the age of 108; she also cared for her sisters, brothers, and daughters when they became ill. At the age of 98, Mama Annie used to read a book every day to her great-great granddaughter Kaliah Hughes. Annie was always saying "don't buy me any clothes” but was like a little kid when presented with new outfits. Her granddaughter Gretchen loved to dress her.
Mama Annie was quiet, but when she spoke it was well worth listening and waiting to hear. As she shared the winter of her life with her daughter Cora, and the generations of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, and great-great great-grandchildren, her face glowed with joy when her family gathered around her, particularly the youngest members. In Psalm 90, the prophet Moses refers to living three score and ten years and if one is strong living fourscore years. God blessed Mama Annie to live five score and ten years, which is a testament to God's strength within her. A woman of strong faith, her favorite scripture-the 23rd. Psalm-truly served her well through all the years of her journey, and her cup did indeed overflow. One of her favorite hymns was, "Jesus Paid It All". Like her parents, once Annie was old enough to vote, she registered as a Republican. Like man y of her generation, she faithfully supported her party through the years and faithfully voted well past the age of 100. She rarely missed the chance to vote. During the 2008 election, for the very first time, Annie cast her vote for a Democrat. Yes, time does indeed bring change, and the changes Annie saw in her hundred and ten-year journey are too countless to name. On her 110th birthday some family and friends stopped by while sitting on the porch talking, Mama Annie blurted out " Are you all going to sing Happy Birthday or not?" and everyone fell out laughing. After her 110th newsworthy birthday, her health took a turn, and though she fought with everything in her, GOD needed her.
On December 12, 2019, Mama Annie quietly and peacefully slipped away at her home. She leaves to cherish her memory: a daughter, Cora Canty, 17 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren, 44 great-great-grandchildren, 2 great-great-great-grandchildren, along with a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
As we come together to celebrate the life of Annie Virginia Alcorn Matthews, we reflect and look back to that place and time from whence she came; we give thanks to Almighty God for His grace and mercy, and for the faith that He instilled in her that enabled her to make the journey.
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