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A revealing look at the Will of Timothy Mather (1681-1755)

What we learn from the last wishes of Deacon Mather’s grandfather.

Timothy Mather, the father of Moses Mather, died in Lyme Connecticut in 1755.

To Moses, he left two hundred pounds. Much of the estate went to Moses’ two brothers, Joseph and Timothy, who remained in Lyme.

As we saw in an earlier blog, Moses’ son, Deacon Joseph, was an ardent abolitionist writing,“…it will be admitted on both sides…that slavery is a great evil and that it ought to be abolished.” However, in Timothy Mather’s will, we learn that slavery, or

certainly indentured servitude, existed in his household.

An approximate transcription is: “…and bequeath to Sarah my well-beloved wife the one third part of my farm I now live on with one third part of the building there on during her natural life: and also one third part of my stock and one third part of my household goods: and the Negro woman during the natural life of her mistress: but thereafter the said Negro woman shall -- live with either of my children which she shall choose, but if the said Negro woman be not able to maintain herself then it is my will that my son Joseph maintain her the said Negro woman at his own cost during her natural life.”

It appears that, as was typical in much of New England, with the passing of the surviving spouse, servitude/slavery was ended by manumission, and, in this case, the will assured that this woman would be provided for by Timothy’s heirs. Every family history has many chapters written in many places and many times. It is for us to look at each with context and with consideration.

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