(6th great grandfather)



CLICK for an in depth discussion of Rev. John Cotton Jr. and his correspondence.

Rev. John Cotton Jr.1,2,3,1,2,3, son of Rev. John Cotton & Sarah Hawkredd. Born on 15 Jan 1639 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.4,4 John died in Charlestown, South Carolina, on 18 Sep 1699; he was 60.1,2,5,1,2,5 Buried in Sep 1699 in Charlestown, South Carolina.6,6


  • 1657 graduated from Harvard College
  • 1660 married Joanna Rossiter
  • 1664 to 1667 preached to a congregation of Indians and white people on Martha’s Vineyard
  • 1669 ordained at Plymouth where he remained until 1698
  • 1680 son, Josiah born in Plymouth
  • 1698 moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he founded a Congregational Church
  • 1699 died Yellow Fever

John Cotton  (Harvard class of 1657) was born 1639, died 1698, aged 59.** Rev. John Cotton*, M. A., of Plymouth in Massachusetts and Charleston in South Carolina, born 15 and baptized 22 March, 1639-40, was son of the famous divine, John Cotton, of Boston, by his second wife, Sarah, daughter of Richard Hankredge (actually Anthony Hawkred), of Boston, England, widow of William Story, and, after Cotton’s death, wife of the Reverend Richard Mather, of Dorchester. The son’s first college bill is dated 10-4-53, a few months after his father’s death; but it appears from his being charged with detriments and half-tuition between 8-10-54 and 6-4-56, and from there being no charges after the latter date, that he was absent during part of the college course. He is also credited “by the returne of his study” 18-5-55; and 6-1-56 there is “Alowed vnto John Cotton for the abuse he suffered 6s. 8d.” Subsequently to graduating, he “lived with the Reverend Mr. [Samuel] Stone at Hartford [Connecticut], where he prosecuted his studies.

After the removal of the Reverend John Russell, H. U. 1645, to Hadley, he preached at Weathersfield, where his brother, Seaborn Cotton, H. U. 1651, had officiated several years before.*** In 1660, at the age of about twenty, he was married, and was executor of the will of Governor Thomas Welles. March 14, 1660-1, he was made freeman of Connecticut. After being at Wethersfield from 1659 to 1663, receiving in the mean time calls to preach at Haddam, Killingworth, and perhaps other places, he returned to Boston, without being settled. May 3, 1664, he was excommunicated, for immoral conduct, from the church of which his father had been minister, but upon penitential acknowledgment was restored the next month, and, Savage says, though I know not upon what authority, “went soon and preached at Guilford.”

Memorial on Burial Hill in Plymouth that Josiah Cotton erected in memory of of father, John Cotton Jr.

About this time, 1664, he went to Martha’s “Vineyard, and preached to the English at [Edgartown on] the East End of the Island.” His nephew, Cotton Mather, writes: “He hired an Indian, after the rate of Twelvepence per Day for Fifty Days, to teach him the Indian Tongue; but his Knavish Tutor having received his whole Pay too soon, ran away before Twenty Days were out; however, in this time he had profited so far, that he could quickly Preach unto the Natives“; which he did for about two years, assisting Mayhew. But in September, 1667, according to the Records, he “appeered before the Commissioners [of the United Colonies] and was seriously spoken too To Compose those allianations between him and Mr Mahew; otherwise it was signifyed to him that the Commissioners could not expect good by theire labours wheras by theire mutual Contensions and Invictiues one against another they vndid what they taught the Natiues and sundry calles (as hee said) being made him by the English to other places; which in conjunction with the prsent fayleing of a certaine Revenew; hee was left to his libertie to dispose of himselfe as the Lord should Guid him.

An invitation having been given him by the church of Plymouth in September, 1666, and renewed the following year, he removed thither “with his Family November 30. 1667,” the town defraying all the expenses of transportation, and allowing him “£50 for the present year. “October 29th, 1668,” writes Thacher, “it was agreed to allow to Mr. Cotton the sum of £80 for the following year, one third part in wheat, or butter, one third part in rye, barley or peas, and the other third in Indian corn at stipulated prices. In 1677, the same sum was allowed him, and to continue till God in his providence shall so impoverish the town that they shall be necessitated to abridge that sum.”

In November, 1680, it was voted to convey to Mr. Cotton the minister’s house and homestead, and to his heirs forever, except the lot given to the church by Bridget Fuller and Samuel Fuller, which reserve is the parsonage at the present time. The homestead given to Mr. Cotton was adjoining the present  parsonage on the east side. August 4th, 1687, it was proposed in town-meeting to allow Mr. Cotton £90 for that year, but it was opposed by a large majority, as exceeding their ability, and it was then agreed that the minister’s salary should be paid by voluntary subscription.” In 1696, “the town agreed to pay . . . £75 in silver money for his salary the present year, with which he was well satisfied.

Cotton was ordained 30 June, 1669, “having transferred his church membership from Boston.” “Elder Thomas Cushman gave the charge, and the aged Mr. John Howland was appointed by the church to join in imposition of hands. The Rev. Mr. Walley made a solemn prayer, and the Rev. Mr. Torrey gave the right hand of fellowship.” From John Cotton’s Appendix to Robbins’s Ordination Sermon, it appears that “The Pastor with the Ruling Elder made it their first special Work together to pass through the whole Town from Family to Family to enquire into the State of Souls, and according as they found the Frames either of the Children of the Church or others, so they applied Counsels, Admonitions, Exhortations and Encouragements; which Service was attended with a Blessing.” “In November began Catechising of the Children by the Pastor (constantly attended by the Ruling Elder) once a Fortnight, the Males at one time and the Females at the other,” Perkins’s Catechism being used at first, and the Assembly’s some years afterward. “In January following, the Church agreed to begin monthly Church-meetings for religious Conference, which were constantly attended for many Years, and much Good attended that Exercise.”

In the first year of Cotton’s ministry, the number of church-members was increased from twenty-seven to seventy-four; fourteen were admitted in 1670, seventeen in 1671, six in 1672; one hundred and seventy-eight being admitted during the thirty years of his ministry. Candidates for admission were examined in private by the Elders, commonly stood propounded in public for two or three weeks, and made orally a “Confession of Faith, and a Declaration of their Experiences of a Work of Grace in the Presence of the Congregation. . . .  The Relations of the Women being written in private from their Mouths, were read in publick by the Pastor, and the Elders gave Testimony of the Competency of their knowledge. . . . If any Members came from other Places, and had Letters of Dismission, they were accepted upon that Testimonial, and nothing further required of them.” In 1688, however, a modification of the rule was made in favor of men “not able to speak in Publick to the Edification of the Congregation, nor to the hearing of the whole Church.” “In July 1676, the Church (and all the Churches in the Colony [of Plymouth] at the Motion of the General Court) solemnly renewed Covenant with God and one another on a Day of Humiliation appointed for the Purpose,” and “enter’d into strict Engagements (thro’ the Assistance of divine Grace) for personal and Family Reformation,”—a similar renewal being again made in April, 1692.

January 19, 1678-9, at the request of their Pastor, “the Church Seed who were Heads of Families” went to his house, and he gave each man “sundry Questions . . . to return Answers to out of the Scripture ” two months afterward. This practice was continued “for divers Years, not without a Blessing and some good Success: For Men of 30, 40, 50 Years of Age did attend, and give their Answers . . . in Writing:—Then the Pastor having read all their Answers, gave his own to each Question and preach’d thereupon, the Elder always present, and making the concluding Prayer.” From a Report made in 1685 by Governor Thomas Hinckley to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, it appears that, besides officiating in Plymouth, Cotton  was occasionally on week-days instructing the Indians at Saltwater-Pond and at Namasket and Titicut, now Middleborough, and at Namatakeeset, now Pembroke. “December 11. 1691, the good Elder Mr. Thomas Cushman died, . . . who had officiated in that Office near 43 Years” and “been a rich Blessing to this Church,” constantly co-operating with the Pastor.”

“June 19. 1692, the Pastor propounded to the Church, that seeing many of the Psalms in Mr. Ainsworth’s Translation, which had hitherto been sung in the Congregation, had such difficult Tunes that none in the Church could set, they would consider of some Expedient that they might sing all the Psalms.”. . . August 7, “the Church voted, that when the Tunes were difficult in the translation then used, they would make use of the New-England Psalm Book. . . . Finding it inconvenient to use two Psalm Books, they at length in June 1696, agreed wholly to lay aside Ainsworth, and with general Consent introduced the other.

“It was their Practice from the beginning till October, 1681, to sing the Psalms without reading the Line; but then at the Motion of a Brother, who otherwise could not join in the Ordinance,” probably because he could not read, “they altered the Custom, and reading was introduced; the Elder performing that Service, after the Pastor had first expounded the Psalm, which were usually sung in Course—So that the People had the Benefit of hearing the whole Book of Psalms explained.

In the Spring of the Year 1694, the Pastor introduced a new Method of Catechising (in which he used the Assemblies shorter Catechism) attending it on Sabbath Day Noons at the Meeting House, the Males one Sabbath and the Females another successively; and then preach’d on each Head of Divinity, as they lie in order in that Catechism:—this Course was constantly attended for more than 3 Years from Sabbath to Sabbath, till the Pastor’s Dismission, only on Sacrament Days, and in the short Winter Days and very unseasonable Weather, there was a necessary Omission thereof.—Many of the Congregation usually heard the Sermons preach’d at the Catechising, and God strengthen’d and encouraged in the work.

In 1695, Isaac Cushman, a church-member, received an “earnest call to teach the word of God” in that part of Plymouth which is now Plympton.” This laid the foundation for a division between the church and Cotton, the latter strenuously contending that Cushman ought not to be settled before being designated to the office of ruling elder by the church. The controversy continued about three years, with considerable warmth, and occasioned the withdrawal of some from the communion. The dissatisfied were ready to listen to ill reports against the pastor, “supported,” writes his son, “by two or three single evidences, one of them of 20 or near 30 years’ standing, another from one of suspected veracity,” till at length a mutual council was called. After great, but unsuccessful, efforts to effect a reconciliation, the council at last, 30 September, 1697, “advised the Pastor to ask a Dismission, and the Church to grant it ‘with such Expressions of their Love and Charity as the Rule called for.’ ” Accordingly he “resigned his Office, and at his Request was dismiss’d October 5, 1697, to the great Grief of a Number in Church and Town, who earnestly desired his Continuance.

Judge Sewall, in noticing the result, writes: “This was for his Notorious Breaches of ye Seventh Comandmt, & Undue Carriage in chusing Elders. Thus Christs words are fullfilled, Unsavoury Salt is cast to the Dunghill. A most awfull Instance!” Oct. 7. Mr. Torrey tells me that Mr. Mather declard  among the Ministers that they had dealt too favourably with mr. Cotton.“l

After his dismission, Cotton’s son, Josiah Cotton, says he “tarried something above a year at Plymouth, in which time he preached some Sabbaths at Yarmouth, on their invitation, and then, having a call to Charleston, the chief place in South Carolina, by their messenger, the worthy Robert Fenwick, Esquire, he accepted of the same, and having settled his affairs,” and, adds Thacher, “made up all differences with Plymouth Church,2 and received a recommendation from several ministers, set sail for Carolina, November I5th, 1698,” Fenwick and Joseph Lord, H. U. 1691, being fellow passengers, and arrived at Charleston 7 December.”

Here,” continues his son, “he set himself to do all the good he could, and was very abundant and successful in his labors. He gathered a church and was settled pastor of it March 15. He set up catechising, preached a lecture once a fortnight, had private meetings, private fasts alone, and with others, made frequent visits to the sick, opposed gainsayers, satisfied the doubtful, and was the instrument of edifying and quickening many saints and converting many sinners. In the short time of his continuance among them there were many baptised, and about twenty-five new members received to full communion. He had abundant respect shown him by those that were good, and also by some that were great, even the Governor himself, &c. He was there counted worthy of and received double honor.”

He died 17 or 18 September, 1699, of the yellow-fever, which, introduced by a vessel from Barbadoes, broke out 17 August, and carried off not less than one hundred and seventy-nine persons.3 The church bore the expenses of his funeral, and erected a monument over his grave. A memorial of him was set up in the Plymouth burying-ground by one of his sons in 1725.

First Church of Charleston, SC where John Cotton Jr. preached and died.

My father,” to quote the son again, “was a living Index to the Bible. He had a vast and strong memory, in so much that if some of the words of almost any passage of Scripture were named to him he could tell the chapter and verse, or if chapter and verse were named, he could tell the words. He learned the Indian language in a short time, which hath words of a prodigious length, so that he quickly preached in that language and afterwards corrected the second and last edition of the Indian Bible. He prayed in Indian at his Indian lectures.” He wrote his sermons, but delivered them in a loud and clear voice, without using his manuscript. “He had a noted faculty in sermonizing and making speeches in public, . . . had a good gift in prayer and inlarged much therein as there was occasion. . . . He was a competent scholar but divinity was his favorite study. . . . He ruled his house as a tender parent, was a hearty friend, helpful to the needy, kind to strangers, and doubly a good man. And yet what man is there without his failings? He was somewhat hasty and perhaps severe in his censures upon some persons and things, which he thought deserved it; and that possibly might occasion some hardships he met with and the violence of some people against him. But the brightness of the celestial world will effectually dispel the blackness of this.

He “never aimed at laying up for or leaving a great estate to his children; but yet took special care of and was at great charge about their education, which is better than an estate without it. He did as his father and brother before him had done, bring up all his four sons (that grew up) to the College, and that without the advantage of a school in the town except a short time that Mr. Corlet kept it about the year 1672.” He “was a man of universal acquaintance and correspondence, so that he had and wrote (perhaps) twice as many letters as any man in the country.” Like many clergymen of his time, he strenuously opposed the calling of the Lord’s Day Sunday, “as it originated with some heathen nations who were worshippers of the Sun, that planet being the object of their idolatry.

His son further observes: “He was of a handsome ruddy yet grave countenance, of a sanguine complexion, a middling stature and inclined to fatness. He was of a strong healthy constitution, so that (if I mistake not) he was not hindered by sickness for above one day from his public labors for 20 or 30 years together.

Cotton married at Wethersfield, Connecticut, 7 November, 1660, Joanna,4 born July, 1642, daughter of Dr. Bray, or Bryan, and Elizabeth Rossiter, by whom he had eleven children: 1. John, born at Guilford,**** Connecticut, 3 August, 1661, H. U. 1681, was minister of Yarmouth, Massachusetts; 2. Elizabeth, 5-6 August, 1663, married the Reverend James Ailing, minister of Salisbury, and afterward his successor, Caleb Cushing, H. U. 1692, and died in September, 1743; 3. Sarah, 17 June, 1665, died at Guilford, 8 September, 1669; 4. Rowland, born at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 27 December, 1667, H. U. 1685, minister of Sandwich, Massachusetts; 5. Sarah, 5 April, 1670, married William Bradbury; 6. Maria, 14 January, 1671-2, married Wymond Bradbury, of Salisbury; 7. A son, 28 September, 1674, died the next day; 8. Josiah, 10 September, 1675, died 9 January, 1676-7; 9. Samuel, 10 February, 1677-8, died 23 December, 1682; 10. Josiah, 8 January, 1679-80, H. U. 1698, compiler of the manuscript history of the Cotton Family, died at Plymouth, 19 August, 1756; 11. Theophilus, 5 May, 1682, H. U. 1701, minister of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.

  1. Letters in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, i, xxi, xxxv, and xxxviii.
  2. T. Prince, in the manuscript catalogue of his New England Library, which belongs to the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, writes: ” Ye Rev Mr John Cotton of Plimouth being well acqd wth ye Indn Langg was desd by ye Indn Comisnrs to correct mr Eliot’s versn of 1663; took this method—while a good Reader in his study read ye Eng Bible aloud, Mr Cotton silently look’d along in ye same Place in ye Indn Bible: & whr He thot of Indn words wc He judg’d cd express ye sense better, There He substituted ym & this 2d Editn is accordg to mr Cotton’s correction.” The Apostle Eliot wrote in the Roxbury Church Records: “When the Indians were hurried away to an Iland at half an hours warning. pore [?] soules in terror y left theire goods. books, bibles. only some few caryed yr bibles. the rest were spoyled [?] & lost. So yt wn the wares wr finishd, & y returned to yr places, y wr greatly impovisht, but y especially bewailed ye want of Bibles. ys made me meditate upon a 2d imprssion of o Bible. & accordingly tooke pains to revise the first edition. I also intreated mr John Cotton to help in y work, he having obtained some ability so to doe. he read over the whole bible, & what ever doubts he had, he writ ym downe in order, & gave ym to me, to try ym & file ym over among or Indians. I obteined the favor to reprint the New testamt, & psalmes. but I met wth much obstruction for reprinting the old testamt. yet by Prayer to God. Patience & intreatys. I, at last obteined yt also praised be the Lord.”
  3. In 1688, Mr. Eliot wrote to the Honorable Robert Boyle, asking £10 for Mr. Cotton, and adding: “I must commit to him the care and labour of the revisal of two other small treatises, viz: Mr. Shepheard’s Sincere Convert and Sound Believer, which I translated into the Indian language many years since.”
  4. Cotton “kept a Journal or Diary of Remarkables from the time of his going from New England to September 14, 1699 . . . four days before his death.”

Authorities.— F. Baylies, Historical Memoir of the Colony of New Plymouth, ii. 252. W. G. Brooks, Manuscript Letters, 1862, February 24; 1872, August 14. Connecticut Public Records, ed. J. H. Trumbull, i. 346, 359. A. B. Chapin, Glastenbury, 37. John Cotton, Account of the Churches in Plymouth, An Appendix to P. Robbins’s Sermon at C. Robbins’s Ordination, 16-22; and in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, iv. 122-129. Josiah Cotton, Manuscript History of the Cotton Family, and Diary, copied by W. G. Brooks from the original in possession of Roland Edwin Cotton. H. W. Cushman, Cushman Genealogy, 88, 103. J. Davis, in N. Morton’s  New England’s Memorial, 344, 409, 411. J. Eliot, in Roxbury Church Records. J. Farmer, in American Quarterly Register, x. 245; and Farmer and Moore’s Collections, iii. 41. N. Goodwin, Foote Family, xxxix. D. Gookin, in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, i. 203-205. Harvard College Steward’s Account-Books, i. 167, 168. E. Hazard, State Papers, ii. 507, 508, 530. A. Holmes, Annals of America, i. 469. Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, i. 203-205; xiii. 187, 188; xxii. 147, 300, 301, 310; xxxv. 133; xxxviii. 226-259, 403, 482. C. Mather, Magnalia, iii. 31, 200. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, i. 164; ii. 78; v. 240, 241; viii. 31; ix. 132. T. Noyes, in American Quarterly Register, viii. 147, 155. Plymouth Records, x. 329, 330, 331, 356. T. Prince, in E. Mayhew’s Indian Converts,  299. J. Savage, Genealogical Dictionary, i. 462; iii. 577. S. Sewall, Manuscript Diary. N. B. Shurtleff, Letter, 1872, August 26. J. Thacher, History of Plymouth, 2d ed. 123, 136, 154, 168, 273-278. J. A. Vinton, Giles Memorial, 78.

  1. Sewall writes in his Diary, March 8, 1697-8. “Get to Plimo-abt Noon, Are Entertaind at Cole’s. Send two mile for mr. [Ephraim] Little [H. U. 1695], who prays at ye opening of ye Court invite him to Diner: Speak not to Mr. Cotton.” March 10. “Had large discourse in ye even wth mrs. Cotton, mr. Cotton, mr. Rowland. I told mr. Cotton, a free Confession was ye best way, spake of Davids roaring all ye day long & bones waxing old, whilest he kept Silence. I spake with Deacon Fance to day, sent for him to mr. Cotton’s: It seems upon ye 5.th of October, The Church by speaking one by one, declared their Mind was to Release mr. Cotton from his Office-bond as Pastor; sent to mr. Cotton to meet them (they were at Shirtly’s 25. in no Some yet could not come sent yr minds to ye same effect: and New Society ready to do it) Mr. Cotton to come to ye Meeting-house, thither yy goe, and there Deacon Fance declares what ye Church had done. Mr. Cotton was at Cole’s when redy to come away March 11 I said his Danger was, lest catching at shadows, he should neglect the cords thrown out to him by Chr, & so be drownd. Some of my last words to him, was Kisse the Son, lest he be angry! This was in ye house between him & me alone. Just as was mounting, He desired me to pray for him, till I heard he was dead.”
  2. At a meeting of the church of Plymouth, 18 October, 1698, “for hearing what Mr. Cotton desired to offer to them in pursuance to advice given them by the Council there convened Sept. 29, 1697, as satisfaction for those offences which he was there convicted of,” he “made a full and penitential acknowledgment of those evils, and desired forgiveness of God and the Church; accordingly having made confession to them, they did express and vote their ready and hearty acquiescence of his satisfaction offered unto them and their full reconciliation unto him.”
  3. The following extract from a letter by the Reverend Hugh Adams, H. U. 1697, to his “Dearly beloved Brother,” “John Adams Shop-keeper in Boston,” dated at Charleston, 23 February, 1699-1700, is taken from Sewall’s Diary:— “It is hard to describe the dreadfull and astonishing aspect of our late terrible Tempest of Mortality in our Charlestow; which began towards ye latter end of August, and Continued till ye middle of November. In wch space of time there died in Charlestown, 125. English of all sorts; high & low, old & young. 37. French. 16. Indians, and 1 Negro. Three Ministers; viz. Mr. Jno Cotton dissenr, Mr. Samuel Marshal Conformist,  Mr. Preolo French Minister. Mr. Gilbert Ashly an Anabaptist preacher, Mr. Curtice a Presbyterian preacher dyed all in ye begining of ye Mortality for ye peoples Contempt of yr Gospel Labours. After whose decease, the Distemper raged, and the destroying Angel slaughtered so furiously with his revenging Sword of Pestilence, that there died (as I have read in ye Catalogue of ye dead) 14. in one day Septr 28th, and raged as bad all October: So that the dead were carried in Carts, being heaped up one upon another. Worse by far than ye great Plague of London, considering ye smallness of ye Town. Shops shut up for 6 weeks; nothing but carrying Medicines, digging Graves, carting ye dead; to ye great astonishment of all beholders. Out of mr. Cotton’s Church there died himself Septr. 17th, Mr. Jno Alexander Mercht Mr. Curtice preacher, Mr. Matthew Bee Schoolmaster, mr. Henry Spry (besides his Servtman, his youngest child, and an Indian Woman) But lastly wch may grieve you most of all, our precious godly Mother, Avis Adams departed ys Life Ocbr 6th last, being infected by means of tending mr. Cotton all ye time of his Sickness, wch was but three days.”
  4. Their son Josiah writes: ” My mother was a comely, fat woman, but her internal endowments made her excel. “She was a woman not of ceremony but substance, of great knowledge, uncommon wisdom and discretion, spotless virtue, and one that feared God above many. Her education was more than ordinary. She understood something of Latin and poetry, had a great insight in the medicinal art, in the practice whereof she was much improved and became very useful and helpful in the town, &c. “She could argue about common and religious things, was careful to promote good discourse where she was, a strict observer of the Sabbath, constant in her devotions, and had the care of religion in her family, town and country much at heart, and by private advice and discourse was a helper to my father in the work of the Gospel. She . . . ruled her children and servants well, by whom she was very careful to set good examples, keeping up family duties in my father’s absence, &c. Instructed suitably, corrected seasonably. Had a notable faculty in speaking and writing; both of which she done with freedom and courage without flattery and at the same time with a good command of her spirit. “She . . . managed secular affairs, most of which passed through her hands, with singular prudence and industry. And finally, she was a good wife, a good mistress, a good neighbor, and a good Christian, and one of the best of mothers. But lest I should say what may be thought too much I shall finish with saying that she was not perfect. Affliction and reproach had too much influence  and impression upon her, and finally broke her heart.” After her husband’s death, the son wrote that she, “who had been under great concern of mind about her removing out of her native country, was now released from her trouble on that head, but saw herself reduced to the desolate estate of a sorrowful widow, which she never expected; And being a woman naturally too susceptible of the impressions of grief, she gave such way thereto as to abate her natural force and vigor and shorten her days. And after breaking up housekeeping at Plymouth  and sojourning a while at Salisbury and then settling at Sandwich in the County of Barnstable with her son Mr. Rowland Cotton, she finished her course October 12, 1702.”

Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 1:496-508.

*An interesting letter from the Apostle John Eliot, dated Roxburg, July 7, 1688,” to the “Right honourable, deep learned, abundantly charitable, and constant nursing father,” Robert Boyle, from which an extract respecting Cotton is made on page 508, may be found in Boyle’s Works, ed., 1744, i. 136.  The following is the entire passage relating to Cotton:  “I am drawing home, and am glad of the opportunity to take my leave of your honour with all thankfulness.  Sir, many years since you pleased to commit 30 l. into my hand, upon a design for the promoting Christ his kingdom among the Indians; which gift of yours I have religiously kept, waiting for an opportunity to improve it; but God hath not pleased yet to open such a door.  I am old, and desire to finish that matter, and take the boldness to request your honour, that it may be thus disposed of.  It being in the hand of major Gookin’s relict widow, and he died poor, though full of good works, and greatly beneficent to the Indians, and bewailed by them to this day; therefore let his widow have 10l. his eldest son, who holds up a lecture among the Indians and English 10l. and the third 10l. give it to Mr. John Cotton, who helped me much in the second edition of the bible.  And also I must commit to him the care and labour of two other small treatises, viz., Mr. Shegheard’s Sincere Convert and Sound Believer, which I translated into the Indian language many years since; and now I hope, that the honourable corporation will be at the charge to print them, by your honours favour and countenance.  But I cannot commit them to the press without a careful revisal, which none but Mr. Cotton is able to help me perform.”  Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 1:598.

**For “1639” read “1639-1640,” and for “1698” read “1699.”  Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 2:532.

***Insert “Hartford 1659 April 11th, ‘the town by their vote did grant a rate of thirty pounds to be paid to Mr. Cotton for his labours amongst us, and his charges in coming up to us, the half to be paid at the end of the year.  Capt. Lord and Mr. John Allen to make Mr. Collins rate.'”—G. L. Walker, Letter, 1883, March 17.  Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 3:444.

 Rev. John Cotton’s Brief but Fateful Sojourn in Charles Town, South Carolina

After leaving Plymouth,  the Rev. John Cotton Jr. went to Charleston, South Carolina to become pastor of what is now referred to as the Circular Congregational Church..  What follows are two different accounts of Rev. Cotton  in Charleston.


The next pastor was John Cotton, the son of the distinguished John Cotton of Boston. He was born March 15, 1639/40, and was a graduate of Harvard College in the class of 165 7. In 1698, after a thirty-year pastorate in the original Pilgrim Church at Plymouth, he had been dismissed by council. One Saturday morning in July of that year, while still resident in Plymouth, he writes to his son as follows:

Dear Son: God’s ways are past finding out. When I came home I found Mr. Robert Fenwick at my house where he had waited divers hours for me with his call subscribed by Gov. Blake, some of his council and sundry inhabitants of Charlestown, and their promises amount to £67 annually. Mr. Allyne, Mr. Willard send me a letter under their hands encouraging me.’

“Mr. Lord much encourages me to goe. Mrs. Lord grasps your mother by the hand, is ready to leap out of her skin for joy.

Mr. Lord was the pastor of the Dorchester group who had migrated to South Carolina in 1695.  He had returned with his wife April 16, 1698.Having accepted the call, Mr. John Cotton leaves his wife and sons in New England. On November third and again on the ninth he writes to his son that he is only waiting for a fair wind to take his departure. He writes with much concern about his papers and MSS., which he wants to have preserved, and closes his letter to his son Rowland with the words: “I pray you (which I know you will do) assist your dear mother in all her affairs and comfort her to the utmost.”

This John Cotton, in his earlier life, before beginning his pastoral work in Plymouth, had been a missionary to the Indians. He had prepared a ” Vocabulary of the Indian Language,” the MS. of which, bound in vellum, is now in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, as are the originals of the letters quoted above. He preached his first sermon to the Indians in 1666, and was such a valuable assistant to John Eliot, the Apostle to the Indians, that the latter made Cotton his literary executor. He had helped in the revision of the Indian Bible, and to him was left the revision of other MSS. for publication, a work which, wrote John Eliot,  “none other but mr. Cotton is able to help me perform.”   -from Harvard Biographies, Vol. IV.

When John Cotton was ordained in Plymouth Church in 1669, John Howland, an aged survivor of the original Pilgrims, was one of those who joined in the laying on of hands. Thus the early Independent or Congregational church of Charlestown was linked to the first Pilgrim church in America. The visit of Robert Fenwick to secure Mr. Cotton for their pastor may be attributed to their desire to secure a man of maturity and ability, so that there would be no danger of importing a flighty youngster like his predecessor. In his ministry Mr. Cotton is said to have made much of the Psalms and of a three-year course in catechising, using the General Assembly’s Shorter Catechism.

His son writes: “My father was a living index to the Bible,- he had a vast and strong memory. He could give chapter and verse from a word or two of the verse and recite the verse if given its number, etc.” He was gifted in prayer, scholarly, a hearty friend, but hasty in temper and judgment. He had a very wide correspondence, was of a “handsome, ruddy, yet grave countenance, a sanguine complexion, of medium stature, inclined to fatness, very seldom ill”

He arrived in Charlestown December 7, 1698. “Here,” writes his son, “he set himself to do all the good he could and was very abundant and successful in his labors….. He gathered a church and was settled pastor of it Mar. 15, 1699. Twenty-five new members were received to full communion. He was abundantly respected by the good, and even by the Governour himself.” He died, however, of yellow fever, September 17 or 18, 1699, only a little over six months after his settlement. The church bore the, expenses of his funeral and erected a monument over his grave. One of his sons set up a memorial stone for him in Plymouth in 1725, which can still be seen on Burial Hill.

Fortunately we have a fragment of a letter by John Cotton written in Charlestown in 1699. It begins on page 5 of the letter, where he speaks of “Landgrave Morton who of all the Council is my most ingenuous friend and comes to heare me each Sabbath.” He speaks of Nicholas Trot, the King’s Attorney General, and says that new members are coming in weekly, so that the church fellowship amounts to one hundred and fifteen; he refers to Mr. Pierpont, the former pastor, and speaks of the possibility of baptizing a Jew who has come to him “lively in his good motions“; he requests that a “stately gown of sad stuffe such as Bro. M. or his son we are [be] made and brought with your mother (which] will cover my meaner clothes on the Sabbath.” Near the close he writes: ” Two ships have come in this morning; Mr. Bennett in a great fly (?) boat waits but a high tide to bring him over the barre to us.” One cannot but feel a note of tragedy in the anticipation if this was the ship from the Barbados which brought death “over the barre” both to him and to nearly two hundred fellow citizens.   note:  This letter is preserved by the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.


Of John Cotton, his successor, a more ample history might be given.  He was son of the celebrated John Cotton of Boston; was graduated at Harvard, in 1657, at the age of seventeen years and four months. From 1664 to 1667 he preached as a missionary to the Indians on Martha’s Vineyard, in whose language lie became a proficient. In November, 1667, he removed to Plymouth, where for thirty years he preached to the descendants of the Pilgrim fathers. Some difference of opinion arising between him and his church, he was dismissed October 5th, 1697.

He was invited to South Carolina, and set sail for Charleston, November 15th, 1698, where, say the authorities we have consulted, he gathered a church, and labored with great diligence and success till his death, which occurred September 18th 1699. During his brief ministry of nine months, twenty-five were added to the church, and many were baptized. In his labors he was very abundant and successful, as appears from a daily journal kept by him, which yet exists among his descendants.

The following is taken from: The American Biographical Dictionary, by William Allen, D.D

John Cotton was born on the 13th. of March, 1640. For some reason he was excommunicated by his father’s church, May, 1664, but was soon restored.  He preached first at Guilford, Mass.  He was eminent for his acquaintance with the Indian language. He hired an Indian for his instructor at twelve pence a day for fifty days; but his teacher, before twenty days elapsed, having received his whole pay, deserted him. He found means, however, of perfecting himself in it, and frequently preached to the Indians, who lived in several congregations in his neighborhood.  The whole care of revising Elliot’s Indian Bible fell on him. He died, according to Cotton Mather, who was his nephew, of yellow fever – “the horrible plague of Barbados was brought into Charlestown by an infected vessel. It had been there little above a fortnight before many above an hundred were dead.”  He had eleven children, five of whom died young. Four of his sons were graduates of Harvard, three of whom were ministers of the gospel (John at Yarmouth; Rowland at Sandwich; and Theophilus, at Hampton Falls).


American Quarterly Register, vol. x., p. 246;  Allen’s Amer. Biog. Dict., p. 268; ;  ‘Mass. Hist. Coll., vol. iv.; Magnalia, iii.; Holmes; Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of New England.


On 7 Nov 1660 when John was 21, he married Joanna Rossiter1,1,2,2, daughter of Dr. Bryan or Bray Rossiter & Elizabeth Alsop,  Wethersfild, Hartford County, Connecticut.1,2,7,8 Born in Jul 1642 in Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut.2,2 Joanna died in Sandwich Township, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, on 12 Oct 1702; she was 60.1,2,9,1,2,9

They had the following children:

2            i.          John (1661-1705)

3           ii.          Elizabeth (1663-1743)

4          iii.          Sarah (1665-1669)

5          iv.          Rowland (1667-1721)

6           v.          Sarah (1670-1732)

7          vi.          Mariah (1671-1725)

8         vii.          Samuel (1677-1683)

9        viii.          Josiah (1679-1756)

10          ix.          Josiah (1675-1676)

11           x.          Theophilus (1682-1726)


Second Generation


  1. John Cotton. Born on 13 Aug 1661 in Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut.7,7 John died in Unknown 21 Feb 1705/06; he was 43. Aft 1681 when John was 19, he married Sarah Hubbard.
  2. Elizabeth Cotton. Born on 6 Aug 1663 in Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut.7,7 Elizabeth died in Salisbury, Essex County, Massachussets, in Sep 1743; she was 80. On 14 Mar 1697 when Elizabeth was 33, she first married Rev. Caleb Cushing, son of Colonel John Cushing & Sarah Hawke. Born on 6 Jan 1672 in Scituate Township, Massachusetts. Caleb died in Salisbury, Essex County, Massachussets, on 25 Jan 1752; he was 80.

They had the following children:

  1. Caleb (1703-1797)
  2. Rev. James (1705-1764)
  3. Rev. John (1709-1772

They had the following children:



Elizabeth- On 2 Jun 1690 when Elizabeth was 26, she second married Rev. James Alling. James died on 3 Mar 1696

4. Sarah Cotton. Born on 17 Jan 1665 in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.7,7 Sarah died in Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut, on 8 Sep 1669; she was

5. Rowland Cotton. Born on 27 Dec 1667 in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts.7,7 Rowland died in Unknown 18 Mar 1721/22; he was 53. On 22 Sep 1692 when Rowland was 24, he married Elizabeth Saltonstall, daughter of Nathaniel Saltonstall. Born on 17 Sep 1668. Elizabeth died in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, on 9 Jul 1726; she was 5.

They had the following children

  • John (1693-1757)
  • Nathaniel (1698-1729
  • Roland (1701-1778)
  • Josiah (1703-1780)
  • Ward (1711-1768)
  1. Sarah Cotton. Born on 5 Apr 1670 in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts.7,7 Sarah died in Salisbury, Essex County, Massachusetts, 21 Feb 1732/33; she was 61. 16 Mar 1696/97 when Sarah was 25, she married William Bradbury, son of William Bradbury & Rebecca Wheelwright, in Salisbury, Essex County, Massachussets. Born on 16 Oct 1672 in Salisbury, Essex County, Massachussets. William died in Unknown on 20 Apr 1756; he was 83.
  2. Mariah Cotton. Born 14 Jan 1671/72 in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts.7,7 Mariah died in Kittery, York, Maine, 30 Jan 1725/26; she was 54. Mariah married Wymond Bradbury.
  3. Samuel Cotton. Born on 10 Feb 1677 in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts.10 Samuel died in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts, on 23 Dec 1683; he was 6. Buried in Dec 1683 in Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts.11,1
  4. Josiah Cotton7,7,12,12. Born on 8 Jan 1679 in Plymouth Township, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts.1,7,1,7 Josiah died in Plymouth Township, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, on 19 Aug 1756; he was 77.1,1 Buried in Aug 1756 in Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts.1,13,14,1,13,14 Brief Bio: Hon. Josiah Cotton was son of John Cotton, some time minister of Plymouth, and grandson of John Cotton, minister in Boston. He was born in Plymouth, Jan. 8th, 1679, and graduated at Harvard College in 1698, and became a teacher of a school in Marblehead, in October fol lowing, where he preached his first sermon, September, 1702. In 1704, he discontinued preaching and re turned to his native town, where he was a school in- structer for seven years. This respectable man held, at different times, several civil offices in the county, as clerk of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Justice of the same court, Register of Probate, and Register of Deeds. He was also occasionally employed as a preacher to the Indians in Plymouth and the vicinity, having acquired a competent acquaintance with their language. He was the author of the Supplement to the New England Memorial. He left a Diary, which he began in his youth, soon after he left college, and continued nearly to the time of his decease. It is in the possession of his grandson, Rosseter Cotton, Esq. the present Register of Deeds for the county of Plymouth. It contains many historical facts, which it would be desirable to have extracted and presented to the Massachusetts Historical, or to the Pilgrim Society, for preservation. Mr. Cotton died in 1756, aged 76 years, leaving a numerous progeny. He possessed a strong and sound mind, and was fervently pious, and indefati gable in the discharge of all the duties of his various and honorable stations in life.15

On 8 Jan 1707 when Josiah was 28, he married Hannah Sturtevant1,1, daughter of John Sturtevant & Hannah Winslow,  Plymouth Township, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts.16,17 Born on 10 Apr 1687 in Plymouth Township, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts.1,1 Hannah died in Plymouth Township, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, on 27 May 1756; she was 69.1,1

They had the following children:

  1. Hannah (1709-1731)
  2. Mary (1710-1789)

iii.          Rev. John18,18 (1712-1789)

  1. Bethia (1714-)
  2. Colonel Theophilus19,19,20,20 (1716-1782)
  3. Lucy (1717-)

vii.          Josiah (1719-1719)

viii.          UNNAMED (1721-1721)

  1. Edward (1722-1722)
  2. Josiah (1723-1723)
  3. Josiah (1724-1745)
  4. Edward (1726-1726)
  5. Rowland (1727-1727)
  6.  Margaret (1730-1789
  7. Rowland (1732-1734)

10. Josiah Cotton. Born on 10 Sep 1675 in Boston, Massachusetts.7,7 Josiah died in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts, on 9 Jan 1676; he was <1.10 Buried in Jan 1676 in Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts.11,

11. Theophilus Cotton. Born on 5 May 1682 in Plymouth Township, Massachusetts.7,7 Theophilus died in Unknown on 16 Aug 1726; he was 44. On 19 Feb 1708 when Theophilus was 25, he first married Elizabeth (Elliott) Dimond in Marblehead, Massachusetts. On 16 Aug 1711 when Theophilus was 29, he second married Mary (Gedney) Gookin.


  1. La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton and a COTTON GENEALOGY of His Descendants, Published Privately in Batavia, New York 1945, Vol. I, page 24.
  2. John Wingate Thornton, Esq., LL.B., “Genealogies: The Cotton Family,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume I; Issue No. 2, April 1847, page 164.
  3. Savage, James, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Genealogical Publising Co. Inc., Baltimore 1965, Vol. III of IV, page 49, page 462.
  4. A Report of the Boston Records Commissioners, Boston Births, Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths 1630-1699, Whitmore, William H. and Appleton, Willam S., Rockwell and Churchill, City Printers, Boston 1883, Document 130 – 1883, page 7.
  5. Dr. James Thacher, History of the Town of Plymouth, Original Published 1835, Boston, Parnassus Imprints, Yarmouthport, MA 1972, published through a grant from the Plymouth-Provincetown 350th Anniversary Commission, page 275.
  6. Robinson, Barbara, Howard & Cynthia, Burial Hill in the 1990s, Plymouth Massachusetts, Plymouth Public Library Corporation, page 374.
  7. Lee D. van Antwerp, Vital Records of Plymouth, Massachusetts to the year 1850, Ruth Wilder Sherman, Picton Press, page 2.
  8. Barbour Collection, Connecticut Vital Records: Guilford- Births, Marriages, Deaths 1639-1850, Connecticut State Library 1924, Vol. A, page62.
  9. New England Historical and Genealogical Society, “Vital Records of Sandwich Massachusetts,” Volume II, 1996, page 1996.
  10. Lee D. van Antwerp, Vital Records of Plymouth, Massachusetts to the year 1850, Ruth Wilder Sherman, Picton Press.
  11. Robinson, Barbara, Howard & Cynthia, Burial Hill in the 1990s, Plymouth Massachusetts, Plymouth Public Library Corporation, page 369.
  12. La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton and a COTTON GENEALOGY of His Descendants, Published Privately in Batavia, New York 1945, Vol. I, pages 30-31.
  13. Kingman, Epitaphs from Bulrial Hill, Plymouth, MA, pages 31 & 32.
  14. Robinson, Barbara, Howard & Cynthia, Burial Hill in the 1990s, Plymouth Massachusetts, Plymouth Public Library Corporation, page 370.
  15. Dr. James Thacher, History of the Town of Plymouth, Original Published 1835, Boston, Parnassus Imprints, Yarmouthport, MA 1972, published through a grant from the Plymouth-Provincetown 350th Anniversary Commission.
  16. La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton and a COTTON GENEALOGY of His Descendants, Published Privately in Batavia, New York 1945, Vol. I, page 30.
  17. Lee D. van Antwerp, Vital Records of Plymouth, Massachusetts to the year 1850, Ruth Wilder Sherman, Picton Press, page 89.
  18. La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton and a COTTON GENEALOGY of His Descendants, Published Privately in Batavia, New York 1945, Vol. I, page 37.
  19. Lee D. van Antwerp, Vital Records of Plymouth, Massachusetts to the year 1850, Ruth Wilder Sherman, Picton Press, page 39.
  20. La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton and a COTTON GENEALOGY of His Descendants, Published Privately in Batavia, New York 1945, Vol. I, pages 37 & 38.



  •       Elizabeth                                                     child of 3
  •       Rev. James                                                   spouse of 3
  •       Joanne                                                         child of 3
  •       Mary                                                           child of 3


  •       Elizabeth                                                     parent of spouse of 1


  •       William                                                       parent of spouse of 6
  •       William                                                       spouse of 6
  •       Wymond                                                      spouse of 7


  •       UNNAMED                                                 child of 9
  •       Bethia                                                         child of 9
  •       Edward                                                        child of 9
  •       Edward                                                        child of 9
  •       Elizabeth                                                     3
  •       Hannah                                                        child of 9
  •       Rev. John                                                     parent of 1
  •       Rev. John Jr.                                                 1
  •       John                                                            2
  •       John                                                            child of 5
  •       Rev. John                                                     child of 9
  •       Josiah                                                          10
  •       Josiah                                                          9
  •       Josiah                                                          child of 5
  •       Josiah                                                          child of 9
  •       Josiah                                                          child of 9
  •       Josiah                                                          child of 9
  •       Lucy                                                           child of 9
  •       Margaret                                                      child of 9
  •       Mariah                                                        7
  •       Mary                                                           child of 9
  •       Nathaniel                                                     child of 5
  •       Roland                                                        child of 5
  •       Rowland                                                      5
  •       Rowland                                                      child of 9
  •       Rowland                                                      child of 9
  •       Samuel                                                        8
  •       Sarah                                                          4
  •       Sarah                                                          6
  •       Theophilus                                                   11
  •       Colonel Theophilus                                        child of 9
  •       Ward                                                           child of 5


  •       Rev. Caleb                                                   spouse of 3
  •       Caleb                                                          child of 3
  •       Rev. James                                                   child of 3
  •       Colonel John                                                parent of spouse of 3
  •       Rev. John                                                     child of 3

(Elliott) Dimond

  •       Elizabeth                                                     spouse of 11

(Gedney) Gookin

  •       Mary                                                           spouse of 11


Sarah                                                          parent of spouse of 3


  •       Sarah                                                          parent of 1


  •       Sarah                                                          spouse of 2


  •       Dr. Bryan or Bray                                          parent of spouse of 1
  •       Joanna                                                         spouse of 1


  •       Elizabeth                                                     spouse of 5
  •       Nathaniel                                                     parent of spouse of 5


  •       Hannah                                                        spouse of 9
  •       John                                                            parent of spouse of 9


  •       Rebecca                                                       parent of spouse of 6


  •       Hannah                                                        parent of spouse of 9