Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/570

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




AMERICA will never cease to benefit from the influence of its Puritan stock. Although the former preponderance in national affairs of New England as a section has disappeared with the widening of our territory, the vigor, the intellect, and the conscience of the settlers at Plymouth and at Boston have been diffused by their restless descendants through every State in the Union.

William Williams Mather came from one of the most celebrated of the Puritan families in America. He was descended from Rev. Richard Mather, who fled to Massachusetts in 1635 to escape persecution for nonconformity. Richard Mather brought four sons to America, from the second of whom, Timothy, was descended the subject of this article. Two other sons, Eleazer and Increase, were born to Richard in this country, and the latter of these was the President of Harvard College from 1688-1701. Cotton Mather, the eminent divine and author, whose misguided zeal was such a strong support to the “witchcraft delusion,” was a son of Increase. The paternal grandfather of William, Eleazer Mather, and his grand-uncle, Elisha, were officers of the Connecticut troops in the Revolutionary War. The eldest son of this Eleazer, who bore the same name, was the father of William. He learned the hatter's trade in Norwich and set up a business for himself at Brooklyn, in Windham County, Conn., which he carried on successfully for a number of years. He then traveled for a time in Canada, and returning to Brooklyn married Miss Fanny Williams, whose father, Nathan Williams, was also a soldier of the Revolution. After his marriage he ceased to follow his trade, and kept a temperance hotel, also giving considerable attention to the improvement of worn-out lands. His son William Williams was born in Brooklyn on May 24, 1801.

The Hon. Ivers J. Austin, who wrote the memorial sketch of him for the New England Historic Genealogical Society,[1] was unable to find any information concerning William's childhood, and very little in regard to his early youth. While still in his teens William formed the purpose of becoming a physician, and went to Providence, R. I., to take up medical studies. There he became much interested in chemistry, and on the occasion of a visit home he brought with him an elaborate piece of chemical apparatus, the cost of which rather astonished and displeased his father. But he so amused and instructed his family by his chemical experiments and explanations that his father became entirely reconciled to this outlay. In 1822 the young man

  1. It is from this memorial that most of the facts in the present article are derived.