Three generations of Cottons were Puritan ministers and leaders in early New England theological and political affairs. John Cotton (1584-1652) was born and educated in England. In 1633, he came to New England, was ordained at the First Church of Boston, and remained in Boston until his death. His son, John Cotton (1640-1699), graduated from Harvard in 1657 and was missionary to the Indians at Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, 1664-1667. He then settled in Plymouth where he was ordained and served as minister until 1697. Josiah Cotton (1680-1756) was the son of John Cotton (1640-1699) and graduated from Harvard in 1698. He was a school teacher in Marblehead and Plymouth, and Indian missionary, 1707-1744. As a missionary he preached to local Native groups, translating sermons, and compiled a Massachusett / Wampanoag language dictionary. Unlike John Eliot, Experience Mayhew, and his own father, he had no settled pastorate. Instead, he spent the majority of this time preaching to isolated Indian families and indentured servants living in the midst of English society.
This collection contains three volumes of sermons. Two volumes, dated 1710 and 1711, contain five sermons written by John Cotton and delivered on a number of occasions to unspecified Native groups or families within Massachusetts. The sermons are written both in English and Wampanoag / Massachusett, part of the Algonquian language family. Location and date of delivery are noted. The third item is an incomplete volume of sermons numbered 10-15, which appear to have been penned by a member of the Cotton family. However, there is no substantial evidence to determine exactly who wrote them. The incomplete volume of sermons was owned at one time by Nathaniel Mather, and the sermons were attributed to John Cotton (1585-1652).