MATILDA SMITH WILLIAMS 1873-1940
Matilda Iridel Smith was born 4th. December 1873 at ‘Astor House’ Union Street Hamilton Bermuda the daughter of Dr. Charles William Smith a Physician and Frances Almira Smith (Nee Jackson). She was baptized into the parish church of St. John’s Pembroke. She was the eldest of her siblings and the only girl. Her brothers were George and Thaddeus. She received her early schooling under the tutelage of Ms. Dulcie Eve who ranked as the first Black Teacher to be trained in England. Matilda (Mattie) as she was known by family and close friends then studied under Mr. Jarius C. Swan and then she went on to the Berkeley Institute under Mr. George A DaCosta and were Mattie’s father Dr. C.W. T Smith was one of the founders of the Berkeley Educational Society, and signed the original Constitution.
Matilda enjoyed music which she continued to study and played for the greater part of her life. Her mother gave close attention to her daughter being tutored in the art of sewing, cooking and housekeeping. She designed and made her own clothes. In 1895 Ms. Matilda Smith returned to New York for a visit and made it an extended stay. While there she met her husband Joseph Benjamin Williams and enjoyed a happy life. She later became a student in hairdressing under Madam C. J. Walker once returning home she was not able to operate in that type of business because of an eye injury.
Matilda returned home on three occasions, in 1919 to visit her parents and in 1926 prior to her father’s death and in January 1928 when she brought her mother’s body home for burial. When she finally settled in she lived in ‘Smith Hall’ a two story building to the North of ‘Astor House’ on Union Street next door to where she was born. They resided on the second floor and Mr. Williams operated his place of business on the first floor. She made several trips overseas to have her eye examined she was diagnosed with a clot and eventually diabetes which resulted in blindness as her condition got worse she eventually required a caregiver. The Nurse Lucille Jackson Scott rendered her service in that area and later Nurse Roslyn Swan Musson. Matilda peacefully passed away on 2nd. July 1940 and she will be remembered for the assistance she rendered to the Senior Citizens of Bermuda during her time.
HOME AT LAST
FOUNDERS AND WORKERS
The Matilda Smith Williams Seniors home became a reality through the kindness of Mrs. William’s upon her death in her ‘WILL’ the desire was to obtain a larger home for senior women as her present property had become to small and it looked as if a home for the elderly was about to come to fruition. The Trustees of St. Paul A.M.E. church and Dr. George A Williams were made custodians of the property at the time by the “WILL’ of Matilda’s late husband Joseph Benjamin Williams and it was turned over to the Bermuda Conference Branch Women’s Missionary Society. A meeting was held on 10th February 1957 attending was Ida J. Smith, Mrs. Isabelle Ratteray and Mrs. Gladys Darrell Stowe, the subject was to find larger accommodations for an elderly home for ladies.
The following Trustees chosen were : Brother’s Cyril D. Simmons, Dr. Thomas Stowe, Mr. Joseph Bowen and Mr. Gilbert E. Trott. In 1963 after much renovations the Matilda Smith Williams Home opened on Union Street. Mrs. Ethel Thomas was the first Matron and the home was financed by fees from residents and fundraising activities by the Missionary Society. The ‘HOME’ remained opened for nine years but it was time to move on to larger premises.
They were blest to hear good news from Mrs. Gertrude Stovell Williams of land known as ‘ASHFORD ‘ in Devonshire. They took possession on 20th. October 1971 and it was officially opened on 3rd. February 1972. Mrs. Edith Lowe was Conference Branch President, a women’s Auxiliary was organized by Mrs. Iris Mae DeShields along with several others and progress was made. They soon purchased a roadside property adjoining the present location on Kent Avenue Devonshire. On March 15th, 1977 the home of Cecily Tucker who was Chairperson turned over Deeds of the Kent Avenue property to the custodians. This addition was for Senior gentlemen. An Auxiliary Choir was organized and formed by Mrs. Frances G. Burch with Mrs. Doris C. Corbin accompanist. This group contributed to the cultural as well as financial aspects of the Auxiliary and the home presented a musical extravaganza each year. The work of the home and its operation has seen many ups and downs and changing hands of many administrators but it remains in the hands of the African Episcopal Church. Matilda may not have survived to see her dream become a reality but in the grand lodge above it is certain she knows her wishes came true and many seniors have been blest because of her kindness.