Richard Mather

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Richard Mather
Houghton AC6.Ad198.Zz683t no.5 - Richard Mather.jpg
Illustration of Richard Mather by John Foster, circa 1675.
Lowton, Winwick, Lancashire, England
DiedApril 22, 1669 (aged 72–73)
Spouse(s)Katherine Hoult
Sarah Hankredge

The Reverend Richard Mather (1596 – 22 April 1669) was a Puritan minister in colonial Boston, Massachusetts. He was father to Increase Mather and grandfather to Cotton Mather, both celebrated Boston theologians.


Mather was born in Lowton in the parish of Winwick, Lancashire, England, of a family which was in reduced circumstances but entitled to bear a coat of arms.[1]

He studied at Winwick grammar school, of which he was appointed a master in his fifteenth year, and left it in 1612 to become master of a newly established school at Toxteth Park, Liverpool. After a few months at Brasenose College, Oxford, he began in November 1618 to preach at Toxteth, and was ordained there, possibly only as deacon, early in 1619.[1]

Richard Mather.png

Between August and November 1633 he was suspended for nonconformity in matters of ceremony; and in 1634 was again suspended by the visitors of Richard Neile, archbishop of York, who, hearing that he had never worn a surplice during the fifteen years of his ministry, refused to reinstate him and said that "it had been better for him that he had begotten seven bastards".[1]

He had a great reputation as a preacher in and about Liverpool; but, advised by letters of John Cotton and Thomas Hooker, he was persuaded to join the company of pilgrims in May 1635 and embarked at Bristol for New England.[2]

On 4 June 1635, Richard, wife Katherine, and children Samuel, Timothy, Nathaniel, and Joseph, all set sail for the New World aboard the ship James.[3][4] As they approached New England, a hurricane struck and they were forced to ride it out just off the coast of modern-day Hampton, New Hampshire. According to the ship's log and the Journal of Richard Mather. 1635: His life and death. 1670 by Increase Mather, the following was recorded;

At this moment,... their lives were given up for lost; but then, in an instant of time, God turned the wind about, which carried them from the rocks of death before their eyes. ...her sails rent in sunder, and split in pieces, as if they had been rotten ragges... (ibid, p.29.)

They tried to stand down during the storm just outside the Isles of Shoals, but lost all three anchors, as no canvas or rope would hold, but on 17 August 1635, torn to pieces, and with not one death, all one hundred plus passengers of the James managed to make it to Boston Harbor. (ibid, p.34.)

He arrived at Boston on 17 August 1635, after weathering the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635.

As a famous preacher "he was desired at Plimouth, Dorchester, and Roxbury".[5] He went to Dorchester, where the Church had been greatly depleted by migrations to Windsor, Connecticut; and where, after a delay of several months, in August 1636 there was constituted by the consent of magistrates and clergy a church of which he was "teacher" until his death in Dorchester on 22 April 1669.[5] As pastor, he oversaw the baptism of Dorcas ye blackmore, one of the first African American Christians in New England, and Mather worked to help free her.[6] Mather was buried in the Dorchester North Burying Ground.[7]


He was a leader of New England Congregationalism, whose policy he defended and described in the tract Church Government and Church Covenant Discussed, in an Answer of the Elders of the Severall Churches of New England to Two and Thirty Questions (written 1639; printed 1643),[5] an answer for the ministers of the colony to 32 questions relating to church government that were propounded by the general court in 1639.[8] He drew up the Cambridge Platform of Discipline,[8] an ecclesiastical constitution in seventeen chapters, adopted (with the omission of Mather's paragraph favouring the "Half-Way Covenant", of which he strongly approved) by the general synod in August 1646.[5] His Reply to Mr Rutherford (1647) is a polemic against the Presbyterianism to which the English Congregationalists were then tending.[5]

With Thomas Welde, Thomas Mayhew and John Eliot he wrote the "Bay Psalm Book", or, more accurately, The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre (1640), probably the first book printed in the English colonies.[5] He was the author of Treatise on Justification (1652).


Mather married in 1624 Katherine Hoult or Holt (died 1655), and secondly in 1656 Sarah Hankredge (died 1676), the widow of the Rev. John Cotton (minister). Of six sons, all by his first wife, four were ministers:[5]

  • Samuel (1626–1671), the first fellow of Harvard College who was a graduate, chaplain of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1650–1653, and pastor (1656–1671, excepting suspension in 1660–1662) of Church of St. Nicholas Within Dublin;[5] [9]
  • Timothy Mather 1628-1684. Also known as "The Farmer Mather" as he was the only son who was not a minister. He was made Selectmen of Dorchester, Massachusetts during the years 1667-69 and 1675 and 1676. He died in 1684 after a fall in his barn. Timothy married Elizabeth Atherton, the daughter of Humphrey Atherton, and had a son also named Richard Mather (after his grandfather) Dec 22, 1653. Richard Mather then went on to marry Cathrine Wise and gave birth to a son named Timothy Mather (after his grandfather) on Mar 20, 1681. Timothy Mather then went on to marry Sarah Noyes and had a son named Tomothy Mather, Jr (after his father) on Oct 09, 1711. Timothy Mather Jr. then married Sarah Lay and had a son named Timothy Mather (after his grandfather) on Apr 13, 1737. Timothy Mather then married Elizabeth Matson and had a son named Timothy Mather (after his father) on Jan 04, 1765. Timothy Mather then married Sarah Clark and had a son named Gurdon Clark Mather on May 5, 1797. Gurdon Clark Mather then married Eunice Miner and had a son named Horatio Nelson Mather on Jul 19, 1827. Horatio Nelson Mather's first three wives died, his fourth wife was Helen Marie Hayward, wed Oct 14, 1883. Together Horatio and Helen Marie gave birth to Gurdon Clark Mather (after his grandfather) the 11th of Horatio's 13 children on Mar 13, 1887. In 1896, at the age of 69, Horatio Nelson Mather became the father of his 13th child - Charles Mather. Gurdon Clark Mather then married Clara Emily Wilson and became the parents of Joy Esther Mather, the 3rd of 5 children; Amy, Ruth, Joy, David and Doris, on Dec 31, 1917. Joy Esther Mather married and divorced Audley Blain Fox but had one child, Norman James Fox (later adopted and name changed to Norman James Widdis) born Jun 12, 1938. Joy Esther Mather then went on to marry Donald G. Widdis and the couple had a son named Kirk A. Widdis born Jan 09, 1955. Norman James Widdis married RuthAnn McKinney on Nov 8, 1959 and had two children; Daniel Barry Widdis born Oct 06, 1960, and Walter Even Widdis born Sep 22, 1962 - RuthAnn also had a daughter, Susan Kay Duran, from a previous marriage, born Aug 08, 1956. Daniel Barry Widdis then married Sandra Louise Pallas on Nov 04, 1978. The couple had 8 children; Daniel Barry Widdis II, Brant Cedric Widdis, Lydia Beth Widdis, Micah Elisabeth Widdis, Elise Louanne Widdis, Jonathan David Widdis, Abram James Widdis and Nocolas Evan Widdis.
  • Nathaniel (1630–1697), who graduated at Harvard in 1647, was vicar of Barnstaple, Devon, in 1656–1662, pastor of the English Church in Rotterdam, his brother's successor in Dublin in 1671–1688, and then until his death pastor of a church in London;
  • Eleazar (1637–1669), who graduated at Harvard in 1656 and after preaching in Northampton, Massachusetts, for three years, became in 1661 pastor of the church there; father-in-law to the Rev. John Williams (minister) 1664-1729 {Harvard Class of 1683} of Deerfield Massachusetts
  • Increase who graduated at Harvard Class of 1656 (1639–1723) was a Puritan minister and a major figure in the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay (now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts). Son-in-law to the Rev. John Cotton (minister); Father of the Rev. Cotton Mather {1663-1728} Harvard Class of 1678.

Horace E. Mather, in his "Lineage of Richard Mather", (Hartford, Connecticut, 1890), gives a list of 80 clergymen descended from Richard Mather, of whom 29 bore the name Mather and 51 other names, the most common being Storrs and Schauffler.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Webster 1911, p. 885.
  2. ^ Webster 1911, pp. 885–886.
  3. ^ Banks, Charles Edward (1930). The Planters of the Commonwealth (1930 ed.). Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 135.
  4. ^ Mather, Richard (1635). Journal (1850 ed.). Boston, D. Clapp. p. 25.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Webster 1911, p. 886.
  6. ^ Deborah Colleen McNally, "To Secure her Freedom: “Dorcas ye blackmore,” Race, Redemption, and the Dorchester First Church" The New England Quarterly, Volume 89 | Issue 4 | December 2016 , p.533-555
  7. ^ Collections of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society. 3. Boston, David Clapp, 1850. 1850. p. 106.
  8. ^ a b Wilson & Fiske 1900.
  9. ^ Greaves 1998, p. 4.


  • Greaves, Richard L (1998), Dublin's Merchant-Quaker: Anthony Sharp and the Community of Friends, 1643 – 1707, Stanford University Press, p. 4, ISBN 9780804734523


Further reading[edit]