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The Mather Family of early Massachusetts



Richard Mather   /  Increase Mather /  Cotton Mather


Written and compiled by George Knowles


After the settlement of the Plymouth Bay Colony by the Forefathers in 1620, Puritanism remained the dominant religion in force throughout New England.  Three of the most influential and prominent Puritan clergymen in those early days came from the same family.  Richard Mather arrived in the colony in 1635, and a year later became pastor of the Dorchester parish.  His son Increase Mather become minister of the North Church in Boston in 1661, while his son in turn, Cotton Mather, initially an assistant pastor to his father, after his fathers death in 1723 assumed full responsibility as minister for the same church.


Richard Mather



Richard Mather was born in Lowton, a village in the parish of Winwick near Liverpool, England in 1596.  His grandfather was John Mather (1550), his father Thomas Mather (1575-1633) and his mother Margaret Abrams.  The Mather family was descended from a line of yeoman land farmers (a class of wealthy Englishmen freeholders, below that of titled gentry, who cultivate their own land) who had strong puritan beliefs and connections.  The family ‘Coat-of-Arms’ is thought to have originated through one of his uncles and is attributed to a William Mather of Salop, of around 1602 (Salop is the former name of Shropshire, a county in England).  The arms indicate that William was at sometime Knighted, and may have held high office such as that of a Judge.



Mather Coat of Arms


“Heraldic Art is the science of arms or coats of arms. It was born the Middle Ages during the age of chivalry in order to permit persons to recognize their friends or enemies under their armors. The first armorials were painted on shields. Nobility marked their possessions with their arms as a method of identification. They would also have seals made in order to be affixed to their opinions, judgments, decisions, and their charters. Their arms would often be engraved on their chairs, their church pews, painted on the walls of their castles, worked in stain glass, and sculpted on their tombs, etc.


This coat of arms is found in "Promptuarium Armorum," and is there recorded as the arms of William Mather of Salop, 1602. Motto, "Sunt Fortia Pectora Nobis (Are Perhaps To comb Us). This motto is also used, "Virtus Vera Nobilitas Est” (Valor Vera Celebrity Is). The following is the description of the arms that was in the family of the early Mathers of Boston as described by Horace Mather: "Ermine on a fesse wavy Azure, three lions rampant Or Crest, a lion sedant Or." Ermine (the black figures like those seen on ermine robes of Judges in England) indicates that the head of the family at some time held the office of a Judge. The Lion is used in arms to denote courage, strength, and magnanimity. The Fesse indicates the belt of a Knight. In heraldic language, Or means gold and is an emblem of great worth. Azure means blue."


In the early days of the 17th century, during the reign of James I, a band of Puritans cleared away the heavy forests to the south of the City of Liverpool, and settled what is known as Toxteth Park.  They looked upon the burning of Robert Barnes and John Bradford (1540) in Smithfield, Cumbria, as martyrs to there cause and erected a stone chapel in their honor so they might hear the doctrines of the Reformation.  The chapel, which still exists, is a plain square building with no steeple or belfry.  Among the tablets on the interior walls is one bearing the inscription:  Near this walk rest the remains of several generations of an ancient family of yeomanry named Mather, who were settled in Toxteth Park as early as the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  They were distinguished by many virtues and by strong religious feeling, and were among the fairest specimens of those who, in former times, were called Puritans”.


Richard Mather started his education at Winwick grammar school, were at the age of just 15 he was made a schoolmaster.  From 1611-15, he taught at a newly established school in Toxteth Park, Liverpool, while studying for the ministry.  In 1615 he entered Brasenose College Oxford for three years, before returning to Toxteth Park in November 1618 to preach.  In early 1619, he was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England by Bishop Morton of Chester, and remained in Toxteth Park for the next 15 years.


On the 29th of September 1624, Richard married Katharine Hoult (1596-1655), a daughter of Edmund Hoult of Bury.  Together they had seven children, six sons and a daughter:  Elizabeth Mather (1625), Samuel Mather (13th of May 1626), Timothy Mather (1628), Nathaniel Mather (20th March 1630), Eleazer Mather (13th May 1637), Joseph Mather (1634) and Increase Mather (21 June, 1639).  Of his six sons, four would became clergymen in New England, Increase being the most prominent, while Samuel and Nathaniel Mather returned to England and lived out their lives in Great Britain and Ireland.


In August-November of 1633, Richard was suspended by the Church of England authorities for nonconformity in matters of ceremony, but was re-instated after the intercession of friends.  In the following year 1634, after a visit by Richard Neile the Archbishop of York, who hearing that he had never worn a surplice during the fifteen years of his ministry, refused his re-instatement on the grounds of non-conformity due to his Puritan and Separatist views.


This was not so unusual during those times for many sought a middle ground between Protestantism and Catholicism, but while he had a great reputation as a preacher in and about Liverpool, it was to no avail.  Later, through letters from John Cotton and Thomas Hooker, who like him had been excommunicated for their beliefs and fled to America to avoid persecution, he was persuaded to join them in that new land of hope and opportunity.  Joining a new company of pilgrims on the 16th April 1635, he embarked on a ship called the ‘James’ from Bristol, and arrived in Boston four months later on the 17th August 1635.


In his own manuscript journal recording the period for 1635, Richard gives a description of his voyage across the Atlantic.  In it he describes how the ship set sail loaded with 100 passengers, 23 seamen, 23 cows, 3 sucking calves and 8 mares.  He claims none of the animals died during the voyage, (though we suspect some may have been slaughtered to provide food).  One woman apparently suffered from scurvy, which he attributed to a lack of exercise “for the want of walking and stirring of her body upon ye deck”.  He also describes a storm on the Atlantic in which they lost anchors, sails and many other things.  His manuscript journal for 1635 is one among more than 1500 printed books that once belonged to Richard, Increase, Cotton, and Samuel, their families, colleagues and correspondents, which constitutes the American Antiquarian Society’s ‘Mather Family Library’.


After his arrival in Boston, Richard found that a parish Church in Dorchester, had been left vacant, deserted by its minister who had left to form a new church in Windsor, Connecticut, taking part of the congregation with him.  In the following year Richard moved to Dorchester and was elected pastor of the vacant parish, a position he held until his death.  During that time religious discussion was centered not so much on Church doctrine and forms of worship, but more upon the status of Church government.  Richard played an active part such discussions and was chosen to answer on behalf of the colonies ministers, thirty-two questions relating to Church government that were propounded by the general court in 1639.


In 1640, Richard helped to prepare and publish the “Bay Psalm Book”, a common hymnal for the Massachusetts Bay colony.  Written by Richard Mather, John Eliot, and Thomas Weld, it was published in Cambridge as “The Whole Book of Psalms Faithfully Translated into English”.  This was the first book to be published in the New Colonies.  Richard followed this in 1643 with “Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discussed” and “Apologie of the Churches in New-England for Church Covenant”, this second publication is the earliest comprehensive presentation of New England Puritan Church doctrine, and at the time served as the standard justification for Church policy and action.


As a member of the synod of 1648, Richard wrote what was to become known as the “Cambridge Platform” adopted by the synod.  This was a series of responses to critics of the New England Church who favored a Presbyterian Church structure, it was published as “A Platform of Church-Discipline Gathered Out of the Word of God, Mather, John Cotton, and others” and served as the basic tenets of New England Congregationalism until the adoption of the “Saybrook Platform” in 1708.  During his time in New England, Richard severed as a member of every synod convened and was moderator of a synod at the time of his death.


Richard’s next book in 1652 was “The Summe of Certain Sermons Upon Genes”, his only published collection of sermons.  His style has been described as simple and practical, and his views show moderation concerning the various religious disputes of those times.  Richard’s first wife Katherine died in 1655, and a year later he married Sarah Hawkridge the widow of John Cotton, one of the first and leading Puritan ministers to settle in the colonies.


His last book “A Farewell Exhortation to the Church and People of Dorchester in New England” (1652) was a personal sermon on the loss of piety and a call for a renewed commitment to God.  Richard Mather died in Dorchester, Massachusetts on the 22nd of April 1669.  His tomb contains a Latin inscription and lies in the old burying ground at Dorchester.


In his ‘Last Will and Testament’, Richard leaves us an interesting view of life in those times.  To his son Timothy he left “his house, barn and lands in Dorchester, and all moveable goods including servants”, he was also made one of the executors of his Will.  To Sarah, his wife for the past thirteen years, Richard gave her free liberty to live for just 3 or 4 months in his house after his death, plus 100 pounds, after which she would have to re-marry or become an out-cast widow.




Yet to be added


First published on the 04 March 2007, 18:22:06 © George Knowles



Best wishes and Blessed Be


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Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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