Hi Mike.The only verified information that I can find concerning James Atherton in Lancaster, Massachusetts was in a book published in 1826 called Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Town of Lancaster, by Joseph Willard.He went through the town records and found that James Atherton was one of the original subscribers of the Nashaway Plantation (Lancaster), and listed on the rolls as one of the signers of the covenants in 1652 (page 26).He voted in the first town meetings of 1654 and 1655 (page 29).
There are a few other books that have the same information about James and Hanna Atherton taken from the town records.
So we know that James Atherton was there in what became the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1652; and there are records of children born to James and Hanna Atherton from 1654.I can’t find anything that connects him to the 1635 voyage of the pilgrim ship James from Bristol, England other than speculation by amateur genealogists.Some sources say that James and his wife Hannah came to Lancaster from Dorchester, but I can’t find anything that verifies this.
As far as I can see, we don’t know who James’ parent were, what town in England he was born, or when he arrived in Massachusetts from England.I plan on going to Lancaster, which is an hour’s drive from Newburyport, sometime next week to see what I can find.
As far as Richard Mather, I can only guess that he had to leave England because of his problems with the Church of England, for the safety of his family.That seems evident; but it doesn’t look like he organized any mass exodus, at least I don’t see any evidence of that.Further research is needed.