Mather Family

Cotton Mather (1663 –1728), 2nd cousin 10x removed

Cotton Mather, Puritan minister (about 1700)

 Cotton Mather was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer.  He is often remembered for his role in the Salem witch trials.  He was the son of Increase Mather, and grandson of both John Cotton[1] and Richard Mather, all also prominent Puritan ministers.  He attended Boston Latin School, where his name was posthumously added to its Hall of Fame, he and graduated from Harvard in 1678 at age 15.  After completing his post-graduate work, he joined his father as assistant pastor of Boston’s original North Church.  In 1685 Mather assumed full responsibilities as pastor at the Church.  Cotton Mather wrote more than 450 books and pamphlets, and his ubiquitous literary works made him one of the most influential religious leaders in America.  He set the moral tone in the colonies and sounded the call for second- and third-generation Puritans, whose parents had left England for the New England colonies of North America, to return to the theological roots of Puritanism.


A digital version of the following book can also be downloaded from my family history library: Mather, Cotton.  Magnalia Christi Americana: or The Ecclesiastical History of New-England, from its First Planting, in the Year 1620, unto the Year of Our Lord 1698 (London: printed for Thomas Parkhurst, at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside) 1702.


Increase Mather (1639-1723), 1st cousin 11x removed

Increase Mather, Puritan minister (oil portrait by John van der Spriett, 1688)

Increase Mather (1639–1723) was a major figure in the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay (now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts).  “Increase” is a literal translation of the Hebrew name “Yosef” (Joseph).  He was a Puritan minister who was involved with the government of the colony and the administration of Harvard College.  Also, as an influential member of the community, Increase was involved in the notorious witch hysteria of Salem, Massachusetts.  As the court of oyer and terminer was beginning to hear cases of suspected witchcraft, Increase published The Return of Several Ministers Consulted, which urged moderation in the use and credence of “spectral evidence”.  In June and July 1692 as the trials and executions grew, Mather made a number of sermons interpreted as a plea to cool the heated atmosphere.  In September 1692 he published Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits, which defended the judges and trials, but strongly denounced the spectral evidence used by them.  It said, “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape, than that one innocent person should be condemned.”  (A slightly altered version of this phrase would later become known as “Blackstone’s formulation”.)  Afterwards, his reputation was not improved by his involvement and association with the trials, nor by his subsequent refusal to denounce them.  Throughout his life Mather was a staunch Puritan, opposing anything openly contradictory to, mutually exclusive with, or potentially “distracting” from his religious beliefs.  He supported suppression of intoxication, unnecessary effort on Sundays and ostentatious clothing.  He firmly believed in the direct appearance of God’s disfavor in everyday life, e.g. the weather, political situations, attacks by “Indians”, fires and floods, etc.  He was strenuous in attempting to keep people to his idea of morality, making strong use of jeremiads to try to prevent indifference and especially to try to get government officials to enforce public morality.

A digital version of the following book can also be downloaded from my family history library: Mather, Increase.  A Brief History of the Warr with the Indians in New-England (Boston: Massachusetts) 1676.

Rev. Richard Mather (1596-1669), father to Increase Mather and grandfather to Cotton Mather. He is my 10th g-grand uncle.

Cotton Mather (1663 – 1728), 2nd cousin 10x removed – Increase Mather (1639 – 1723), 1st cousin 11 x removed – Richard Mather (1596 – 1669) – Thomas Mather (1575 – 1633) – Elizabeth Mather (1618 – 1690) – Experience Woodward (1643 – 1686) – Mindwell Pomeroy (1677 – 1732) – Phineas King (1707 – 1768) – Douglas King (1729 – 1816) – Phineas King (1761 – 1810) – Henry King (1787 – 1871) – Laura Ann King (1811 – 1883) – Harriet Allen Clarke (1839 – 1898) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom


[1] Rev. John Cotton (1585 – 1652) is my 11th g-grand uncle and the father-in-law of 1st cousin 11x removed, Increase Mather (1639 – 1723), discussed under his own heading.  John Cotton was an English clergyman and colonist.  He was a principal figure among the New England Puritan ministers, who also included Thomas Hooker, Increase Mather (who became his son-in-law), John Davenport, Thomas Shepard and John Norton, who wrote his first biography.  Cotton was the grandfather of Cotton Mather, who was named after him.


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