Increase Mather (1639-1723) was a Puritan minister at the original Old North Church in Boston, as well as a president of Harvard College. His son Cotton (1663-1728) followed in his father’s footsteps at the same church.
Meanwhile, these two colonial-era men wrote highly influential works on the spectral world based on their experiences and research.
In 1684, Increase published Remarkable Providences, An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences, with Providence meaning a supernatural event. In that work, Increase listed various New England occurrences that apparently involved witchcraft, demonic activity, and other strange phenomena.
Cotton Mather’s works garnered as much, if not more, attention than the writings of his father, and Cotton authored multiple works on the supernatural, including the 1689 Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions. In it, Mather recounted his firsthand experience with demonic activity with a family in Boston. Other of his writings involved the Salem witch trials of 1692, including his famous Wonders of the Invisible World, published a year after the trials, which defended the trials and was an exposition on witches in general.
Increase and Cotton died five years apart and were both interred in their family tomb in Copp’s Hill Burying Ground on Hull Street, right on the Freedom Trail. The Mather tomb is marked by a low, brick, table-like structure in the corner of the cemetery close to the Charter Street entrance.
Adapted with Permission from The New England Grimpendium by J.W. Ocker