m. 6 Mar 1661/62
Facts and Events
The Life of Rev. Samuel Mather
"In Increase Mather's hand on the fly-leaf of the family Bible is the following entry: 'My son Samuel was born August 28 Friday about 3 quarters of an hour after 4 … in the morning, Baptized by me the 30 day of the same moneth 1674.' This was Samuel Mather 'of Witney,' so called to distinguish him from the four other Samuel Mathers who graduated from Harvard within eighty years. He was a sickly child, and probably for that reason studied under his elder brothers, Cotton and Nathaniel. At the time of the latter's death in 1688, Samuel wrote: '… I must acknowledge that the little understanding which God has given me in the Hebrew or Greek tongues was by that brother as the instrument. …' With this preparation he entered the College, of which his father was then Rector. … He left Cambridge in the last quarter of his sophomore year to accompany his father on his mission to England. They landed at Weymouth on May 6, 1688. 'Ingenuous Sam,' as Joshua Moodey called him, thus finished his college education at the age of 13, and a year later broke into print with the preface to Cotton's account of the early piety and death of their brother Nathaniel.
… By the beginning of September, 1689, Increase Mather's mission was completed, and with Samuel he embarked for home. While they were delayed by contrary winds, Samuel came down with small pox, and was taken ashore to the nearest port by his father, who missed the voyage to nurse his son. After a month Samuel was well enough to travel and returned with his father to London, where they probably stayed with Uncle Nathaniel Mather, who was pastor of a Congregational church. In his absence Samuel was granted his first degree at Commencement, 1690, doubtless on the theory that his private studies with the Rector had kept him up to the standard of his Class.
With the new Governor, Sir William Phips, the Mathers finally returned to Boston, landing after candle lighting on May 14, 1692, greeted by eight companies of militia which accompanied them home but 'Made no volleys because 'twas Satterday night.'
Sir Mather arrived in time to he a not entirely sympathetic witness of the Salem witchcraft prosecution. He presented himself for his second degree in 1693, arguing the affirmative of the question, 'An Detur Lapis Aurificus?' According to his father's autobiography he was in Boston in 1695. Two years later he was referred to as a 'publick preacher,' and in 1698 he was again in England.
Apparently Mr. Mather returned to England to study, carrying a considerable number of books. About this time this Uncle Nathaniel died. It is probable that Samuel remained with his widowed aunt in London for a time, for he was richly remembered in her will. In 1703 he declined the pressing invitation of his father and of the Second Church to return and occupy that pulpit. On October 10, 1709, Sir Henry Ashurst wrote Increase Mather: 'Your son in my country is not so kind as to come to mee, though I have very often invited him. But I heare he is marryed to a rich widow, and I heartily wish him and you joy.' Later he added more information: 'Your son hath a handsome good woman, and a considerable fortune. I went to see them on purpose, to Waterstock.' According to the local historian, she was a member of the old Oxfordshire family of Townsend. She must have had a pleasant personality, for she entranced scapegrace "Cressy," the son of Cotton Mather.
Mather settled as the first Congregational minister of Witney, a village eleven miles west of Oxford and not far from Waterstock. There about 1712 he built the first Congregational church. He seems to have labored contentedly at Witney despite the advice of his brother Cotton at the time of the rebellion of 1715, that he return to New England 'if storms should arise in the old country.' The honor of representing the New England ministers at the accession of George I was thrust upon him, and not relished; nevertheless he seems to have been a man of some prominence and an effective writer, impressing even the critical Cotton: 'My Brother has a pretty Fancy in his Discourse of Temptations; that Ministers, who meet with Abuses from sorry and scoundrel People, have cause to look on themselves as humbled, on the Account of their having the Egyptian Plague of Lice upon them. I am very lowsy, it seems. …' His position among English Dissenters may be gaged by the fact that Dr. Calamy was 'the chief Encourager of his Studies.' After a study of his writings, his biographer decided that 'He had a somewhat blunt, forthright manner, tempered, it may be, with humor a trifle hard. …— an opinion which does not accord ill with the portrait which we have reproduced.
On March 14, 1733, Mather was buried at Witney. Some time later Henry Newman sent an account of him to Samuel Mather of the Class of 1723: 'Mr. Mather marry'd a Lady of fortune who had a considerable Jointure settled on her by a former Husband; … his Benifice could not be above £40 per Annum and consequently … the dependance of his family was chiefly on the Lady's Joynture, who surviving him, 'tis very likely that Mr. Mather left all he had to her in Gratitude for the share he had of her Joynture when living. The Doctor [the Rector of Witney] believes there were no Children between them, and says that Mr. Mather was respected as a learned man, Iiv'd in great harmony with the Episcopal Clergy and all his Neighbours. … The family genealogist, who made search in England, says that they had seven daughters, all but one of whom married."