he was distinctively well-born. Through his father, Richard Maury, he was descended from a very distinguished Huguenot family which came to Virginia in 1718. His mother, Diana Minor, was of Dutch ancestry, being descended from Dudas Minor, who received in 1665 a grant of land in Virginia from King Charles II. The Minors intermarried with the colonial aristocracy of the Old Dominion, and there was accordingly added to the mixed Huguenot and Dutch ancestry of Matthew Fontaine Maury some of the best English blood in the colonies. Thus it was that he inherited pride of family, an inclination to scholarly pursuits, a deeply religious nature, and the character and bearing of a gentleman.
Matthew Fontaine Maury was born, the fourth son in a large family of five sons and four daughters, on January 14, 1806, on his father's farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia, and named after his paternal great-grandfathers. There had been many migrations from Spottsylvania and Albemarle counties to the free lands of the Old Southwest; and when Matthew was but five years old, his father determined to attempt to better his fortunes by following his uncle, Abram Maury, who had already established himself on the Tennessee frontier. Practically no details as to the incidents that occurred on this long and toilsome trek have been preserved; but there is a tradition in the family that all the goods and chattels were transported in wagons, and that, when little Matthew grew tired of walking or cramped from riding in the rough, jolting wagons, he was frequently carried on the back of one of his sisters. Their experiences were, no doubt, similar to those of thousands of other early pioneers who went to the Old Southwest to lay the foundations of new commonwealths.