Hi Mike.In searching for information concerning Richard Mather, and what led up to his leaving England, I found the following sources:
In "The Last American Puritan:The Life of Increase Mather" (Wesleyan University Press, copyright 1988), by Michael G. Hall, the author talks about Richard Mathers, and the reasons he decided to leave England and join the settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
“In 1634 Richard Mather himself was investigated by a commission of bishops,” and “after agonized soul-searching, he and Katherine decided to leave the security of their home and families and flee to Massachusetts to join the Puritan settlement.”Mather went over his reasons for leaving England in a “long, studied document.”He put it in the form of a question, “What is God’s will in this matter?”His conclusion was that “he and his wife should gamble their lives and their children’s lives on this new undertaking.”In the spring of 1635 they “packed what they could, sold what they could not, and loaded their possessions on pack horses, the children riding in baskets slung across a horse.They traveled across the west of England, down the Severn valley to Bristol, and from there they took passage to America.”
In "The Cambridge History of American Literature," edited by Sacvan Bercovitch (Volume One:1539-1820), Cambridge University Press, copyright 1994, the author says that Richard Mather’s son, Increase Mather, wrote about his father in his autobiography that said “at the center of Richard’s arguments are the need for a father to be able to govern his own family as he wishes and for a minister to guide his own congregation, neither of which were permitted in England.England’s corruption threatened family order as well as proper religious worship.”(page 213)
In "Pilgrims:New World Settlers & The Call of Home" by Susan Hardman Moore, copyright 2007, the author writes (page 23) that “Richard Mather of Toxteth, Lancashire, took across the Atlantic in 1635 the certificate of ordination he had received from the Bishop of Chester in 1619,” and that he kept it in his study at Dorchester, Massachusetts, where years later one of his sons found it -- a torn piece of parchment -- and asked what it was.Mather admitted he received the certificate from his bishop, and said he tore it because he took no pleasure in keeping a monument of my sin and folly in submitting to that superstition.The author suggests that because Mather hadn’t tossed it into the fire, he might not have totally rejected his English ministry.
Further on, the author again mentions Richard Mather as bringing up the Protestant martyrs, and how they advised fellow Christians to flee England, and cited “Thou shalt not kill” to justify an escape from danger, “since a Christian who buckled under persecution committed spiritual suicide.”
I don’t know where the author got her information; but she says Richard Mather “sailed on the James with a hundred other travelers, twenty-three crew, twenty-three cows, three calves and eight mares.”
In "The Mathers:Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728" (University of California Press, copyright 1999), by Robert Middledauff, the author writes a history of Richard Mather in Book One that goes into more detail about his life than the others.It tells of his birth in 1596 in the village of Lowton in Winwick Parish, that his father seems to have been a yeoman whose family had lived in Lowton for several generations; and that his mother, Margarite, “must have come from yeoman stock.”If you’re looking for a very detailed biography of Richard Mather, this is the book to read.It talks about his conversion in 1614, teaching in Toxteth Park as master until 1618, matriculating in Brasenose College Oxford, his ordination in 1619, his marriage to Katharine in 1624, his problems with Archbishop Laud, and his trip to Massachusetts Bay in 1635.
Did Mathers “take the first available ship” fearing action by the Church of England?Did he baptize some of the children born in Lancashire on the way to the colonies?We know that he agonized over the decision, and in the end packed what he could and sold the rest before making the journey to Bristol to board the James.I haven’t seen any evidence that he baptized any of the children born in Lancashire on the trip to the Colonies; but I haven’t read his journal.Something might be in there that would confirm this.