Mather Home – Boston, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

Mather Home

This ambitious father and son team reigned supreme over the North End, and witches, for many years. 


Increase Mather had a way with words. At the age of 25, he took the position of pastor at the Second Church in the North End, immediately growing—well, increasing—church membership and boosting the prominence of the North End. The man lived in an age of firsts. Increase was awarded the first honorary degree in America, a doctoral degree in theology by Harvard College. He wrote the first book ever to be printed in Boston. And in 1688 he was so influential that he sailed to England to singlehandedly negotiate the colony’s new charter.

Increase’s son Cotton followed closely in his father’s footsteps and was an imposing public figure in the Salem witch trials. After South End resident Ann Glover was convicted of witchcraft and hanged in Boston, he spoke out in support of the trial, labeling her “an ignorant and scandalous woman.” Glover also happened to be a Roman Catholic, who Protestants despised. Cotton went on to publish two books on the matter of witchcraft that no doubt fanned the fires of Salem’s witch trials, during which nineteen residents were executed.

In his favor, Mather Jr. played a more positive role in history through his encouragement of inoculation against disease. Mostly ostracized for his belief in this new medical procedure, he was able to convince one Dr. Zabdiel Boylston who researched the theory and performed the first inoculations in America during a smallpox outbreak of 1721. 

Boston history is often layered on top of itself: The Mather family originally lived at the site of the historic Paul Revere home. In 1677 Increase Mather built another home on Hanover St., where the family lived for many years. The property has been incorporated into a neighboring building, but an original remnant remains at 342 Hanover.

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August 23, 2011

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