Increase Mather, Great Pre-Independence American

This is the day that … Increase Mather was born in 1639, in Massachusetts.

He was to become a leading light in colonial America – a Puritan of the Puritans, author of 130 books and pamphlets, and president of Harvard University (1681-1701). He is arguably one of just a handful of men who stand out as the greatest of Americans in the Pre-Independence era.

He first wife was Maria Cotton, daughter of another famous Puritan divine, John Cotton, who had fled England, having disobeyed the archbishop’s command to kneel before the sacrament. And the son of Increase and Maria was named Cotton Mather, who published 469 volumes – a brilliant scholar on a wide variety of subjects.

Increase travelled to and from England, standing before Kings, to argue for the values he held dear and promoted in colonial America. This required great personal fortitude and resolve. He was an assiduous student, spending up to 16 hours a day in his books, yet his preaching did not seem affected by the learning, as he maintained a natural and cogent style that connected well with his hearers.

Cotton Mather is usually remembered for his part in the infamous Salem witch trials – especially as he defended the use of spectral (unseen) evidence! This was in opposition to his father’s rejecting such evidence in finding as guilty those accused of witchcraft. But he also wrote the monumental account of the early years of Christianity in America, The Great Works of Christ in America.

Maria died in 1714 and in 1715 Increase married Ann Lake, widow of Maria’s nephew.

Increase Mather died on 23 August, 1723, in the arms of his son.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at

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