Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
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 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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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
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A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor 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 Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean 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 Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘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 Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir 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 Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna 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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