Elizabeth Mather (1618-1690) was part of perhaps the most important Puritan family in America. She and her brother, the Rev. Richard Mather, arrived from Lancashire in 1635 on the James, which was caught in a terrible hurricane off the coast of Maine. Its companion ship, the Angel Gabriel, went down off Pemaquid Point. The James tried to ride out the storm among the Isles of Shoals on the New Hampshire border but lost all three anchors and was about to be dashed on the rocks. From the journals of Mather’s son, Increase:
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…
The ship limped into Boston two days later with everyone alive.
Richard Mather became minister of the North Church in Dorchester, but his influence was much wider. He was a leading figure in all the disagreements that shook the churches of early Massachusetts and was a principal translator and editor of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in this country. He is the father of Increase Mather and the grandfather of Cotton Mather. Increase was minister of the Old North Church in Boston, played an important role in colony politics, and was president of Harvard for 16 years. He played a role in ending the Salem witch trials, but his son Cotton – also minister of the Old North Church and the author of over 450 books and pamphlets – was of a more fanatical streak and encouraged them.
Our direct ancestor Elizabeth Mather married Henry Woodward, also of Lancashire, in 1639. They settled first in Dorchester and eventually in Northampton, where in 1663 Woodward was appointed quartermaster of the “Troop,” the first unit of cavalry in the valley, and is also said to have practiced medicine. He kept an inn near where the Smith College Hall of Music now stands. He was killed by a lightning strike at the upper corn mill in 1685.
The Woodwards named their children Freedom, Freeman, Experience (our 7G grandmother), Thankful, and then unaccountably lost their nerve and named the last two plain old John and Elizabeth.
Experience married into another crazy-name family, the Pomeroys of Northampton. Eltweed, Medad, and Thankful, oh my! Thankful married into the Lyman family, which thankfully believed in normal names; her son Daniel is the father of Sarah Catherine Lyman, who married Benjamin Colt.
The families named in this post are ancestors of Lyman Colt Josephs.