Philip was well-known to the Hecks. In fact, Barbara was his cousin and both families had emigrated from Ireland, although Barbara came over a year later than Philip. In the old world, Philip had been a Methodist preacher. When he arrived in America on this day, August 11, 1760, he was the first Methodist preacher to settle in Britain’s American colonies. Since then, he had been too busy scraping out a living in New York to take up church work, although he held family devotions and attended Lutheran services. However, the little group of Methodists had lost their thirst for divine things and grown spiritually lukewarm.
Barbara saw the danger. But Philip took some convincing. “I cannot preach, for I have neither a house nor congregation.”
“Preach in your own house first, and to our own company,” said Barbara.
Philip gave in and preached his first sermon, to five people, in his own rented house. This is believed to be the first Methodist sermon preached in America. Embury held services every Thursday evening and twice on Sunday.
The five people increased. Soon the congregation had to rent a large room. Rumors about the Methodists helped the church grow, because some of the people who came to investigate them were impressed and joined. A Methodist military man who had been converted in Bristol, England under John Wesley’s preaching, also joined Philip. This Captain Webb was a bold evangelist and began to speak to the neighbors and in the soldiers’ barracks and rum shops near where the Methodists rented their hall.
Standing in his scarlet uniform, Webb proclaimed “that all their knowledge andreligion were not worth a rush, unless their sins were forgiven, and they had the witness of God’s Spirit with theirs that they were the children of God.”
The little Methodist society began to grow. Eventually it built a church. One of the members wrote a letter to John Wesley, describing the situation and asking for legal advice on how to deed the land. Noting that Embury and Webb lacked training, he added, “We want an able and experienced preacher; one who has both gifts and grace necessary for the work.” This prompted Wesley to send his first Methodist missionaries to America.
“John Wesley passed through the county of Limerick, Ireland, in 1758, preaching night and day. He records in his Journal that he met there an extraordinary community, settled in Court Mattress and in Killibeen Balligarrane, and Pallas villages within 4 miles of Court Mattress. They were not native Celts, but a Teutonic population. Having been nearly half a century without pastors who could speak their language, they had become thoroughly demoralized; noted for drunkenness, profanity and utter neglect of religion. But the early Methodist itinerants had penetrated their hamlets and they are now reformed, a devout people. They erected a large chapel in the centre of Court Mattress. At later visits Mr. Wesley declares that three such courts were hardly to be found anywhere else in Ireland or England. There was “no cursing or swearing, no Sabbath breaking, no drunkenness, no ale house in any of them. They had become a serious thinking people, and their diligence had turned all their land into a garden.”
There was quite a large emigration of these people to New York in 1760, and among them were Philip Embury, then a local preacher, his two brothers, Paul Heck, and Barbara Ruckie, his wife, some of the Switzers, Dulmages, Millers, Huffs, and members of other families whose descendants are now quite numerous in this part of Canada. an Irish writer thus graphically refers to the departure of these people:
“On a spring morning of 1760, a group of emigrants might have been seen at the custom house quay, at Limerick, preparing to embark for America. At that time emigration was not so common an occurrence as it is now, and the excitement in connection with the departure was intense. They were Palatines from Balligarrane, and were accompanied to the vessel’s side by crowds of their companions and friends, some of whom had come sixteen miles to say “farewell’ for the last time. One of those about to leave was a young man of thoughtful look and resolute bearing, evidently the leader of the party, Philip Embury. In their humble chapel he had often ministered to them the word of life. He enters the vessel, and from its side once more breaks to them the bread of life. His party consisted of his wife, Mary Switzer, to whom he had been married on the — of November 1758; two of his brothers and their families; Peter Switzer, probably a brother of his wife; Paul and Barbara Heck; Valer Tettler, Philip Morgan, and a family of the Dulmages. The vessel arrived safely in New York on the 10th of August, 1760.ilt. He was “fervent in spirit,” however, as a local preacher and thus he built up the first congregation. In 1770 he moved from New York, north west of where the city of Troy is now located, between the Hudson river, and Lake Champlain. Paul and Barbara Heck moved with them. There again they formed the first Methodist class and the locality has been a strong hold for the denomination ever since. There he died suddenly in 1775. There he was a local preacher and a magistrate. Later on his widow married John Lawrence, who was with them in New York, and was a member of the first congregation and first class there.
CAPTAIN THOMAS WEBB
By Duane V. Maxey
The First Apostle of American Methodism
Francis Asbury was the key human instrument used of God for the early spread and organization
of Methodism in America. Stirred by that pious “Mother in Israel,” Barbara Heck, Philip Embury
became the pastor of the first Methodist Society in America, and his John Street Church was soon
after followed by the Log Meeting-house of Robert Strawbridge. Thus, Barbara Heck, Philip
Embury, and Robert Strawbridge were very much involved in the planting of Methodism in America.
However, the recognition of being the primary human instrument in the planting of Methodism on
this continent should, perhaps, go to Captain Thomas Webb. He, it appears, can be accurately called:
“The First Apostle of American Methodism.”
Methodist historian Abel Stevens says: “To Embury unquestionably belongs chronological
precedence, by a few months, as the founder of American Methodism, but to Webb belongs the
honor of a more prominent agency in the great event; of more extensive and more effective services;
of the outspread of the denomination into Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; the
erection of its first chapels, and the introduction of Wesleyan itinerants. Aside from the mere
question of priority, he must be considered the principal founder of the American Methodist Church
… He devoted at least nine years to the promotion of American Methodism, the periods of his
absence in Europe being spent there in its behalf. I have not hesitated to pronounce him the principal
founder of the denomination in the United States. No trace of his life can, therefore, fail to be
interesting to American readers.”
His Birth, First Visit to America, and Loss of His Right Eye
Thomas Webb was born about 1724. He became a Captain in the English army, and came to this
continent where he served under General Wolfe. During the siege and battle of Louisburg [1758-9]
He lost his right eye: “A ball hit him on the bone which guards the right eye, and taking an oblique
direction, burst the eyeball, and passing through the palate into his mouth, he swallowed it. His only
recollection was a flash of light, which accompanied the destruction of the eye. The wounded were
put into a boat, and having crossed the water, all were assisted to land excepting Webb, of whom one
of the men said, ‘He needs no help; he is dead enough.’ His senses had returned, and he was just able
to reply, ‘No, I am not dead.’ Had the ball struck him a hair’s breadth higher or lower it would have
taken his life! He had yet a great work to do for his heavenly Master, and for this he was preserved.
— Wes. Mag., 1849, p. 880. — Ever after this, he wore a green shade over his right eye lid.
Captain Webb was also with General Wolfe in the taking of Quebec, in 1759 [One source dates
the conquest of Quebec as 1758], and in that battle he was wounded in the right arm. When with
Wolfe’s army he scaled the Heights of Abraham and fought in the battle of Quebec, Captain Webb
took part in what one writer called, “the most important military event, before the Revolution, in the
history of the continent; for by it the Papal domination of France was overthrown in the North, and
the country, from Hudson’s Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, placed under
Protestant control, and opened for its great career in Christian civilization.”
His First Return To England, Conversion, and Beginning Ministry
Captain Webb returned to England in 1764. He became acquainted with an evangelical minister
of the Church of England, and through him he also became acquainted with the Methodists. He was
awakened under the preaching of Mr. Wesley, and after a severe mental conflict of nearly a year, he
obtained the consciousness of the forgiveness of sin. In 1765 he joined a Methodist Society. Being
present in the city of Bath where a circuit preacher was expected, who failed to attend, the captain
was requested to speak to the people. He advanced to the altar in his regimentals, addressed them
with great effect, chiefly narrating his own Christian experience, and his effort was made a blessing
to many. Wesley, ever vigilant for “helpers,” licensed him to preach, and through the remainder of
his life he was indefatigable in Christian labors both in the New World and in the Old; preaching,
giving his money, founding societies, and attending Conferences.
A soldier in the English army, Thomas Webb enlisted in the Lord’s army, and thenceforth, as “a
good soldier of Jesus Christ,” he helped to advance the banner of Christ both zealously and
victoriously. The importance of the military victory at Quebec in which he took part, pales in
comparison to the importance of the spiritual beachhead he helped to make for God and Methodism
on the American shores.
His Second Visit to the American Continent in 1766
Near the year 1766 Captain Webb was appointed Barrack-Master of the English troops at Albany.
Upon arriving at his post of duty in Albany, Captain Webb set up family prayer in his own house,
which some of his neighbors frequently attended, to whom he gave a word of exhortation and advice.
The blessing of God attending these incipient efforts to do good, he was induced to extend his labors,
and He began holding meetings among his fellow-soldiers and others who wished to attend.
His Move From Albany to Long Island
About 1767 Webb’s service as Barracks-Master at Albany, New York apparently concluded his
time in the English army. One writer says: “Being at last on the retired list, with the title and pay of
a captain for his honorable services, he had leisure for travel. The kindred of his wife lived at
Jamaica, L. I. He went thither, hired a house, and preached in it, and ‘twenty-four persons received
justifying grace.’ ” Speaking of this same move from Albany to Long Island, Thomas Taylor wrote:
“About this period Mr. Webb, whose wife’s relations lived at Jamaica, Long Island, took a house in
that neighborhood, and began to preach in his own house, and several other places on Long Island.
Within six months, about twenty-four persons received justifying grace.
About four months before Captain Webb’s arrival in New York, Philip Embury, at the urging of
Barbara Heck, had begun to preach. The first meetings were conducted in Embury’s house, but it
would appear that shortly thereafter the meeting place was moved to a rented room. Thomas Taylor
wrote: “They then rented an empty room in their neighborhood, which was in the most infamous
street in the city, adjoining the barracks. For some time few thought it worth their while to hear: but
God so ordered it by his providence.” It would appear from this that there was some discouragement
in the first American Methodist Society during the time between its commencement in 1766 until
Captain Webb’s arrival among them in about 1767. Whatever their frame of mind may have been,
a fresh spiritual invigoration and blessing from God came their way with the arrival of Thomas
His Introduction to the Fledgling New York Methodist Society
Sometime, perhaps quite shortly after his move to Long Island, Captain Webb heard of the
Methodist meetings being conducted by Embury in New York, and, of course, he paid them a visit.
His first appearance among them was in the public assembly, and as he wore the uniform of a British
captain, the little society were fearful at first, that he had come to “spy out their liberties in Christ
” but, when they saw him kneel in prayer and devoutly participate with them in their acts of devotion,
their fears were exchanged for joy, and they hailed “him as a brother beloved.” He was therefore
soon invited to preach, which he did with great energy and acceptance. His appearance in the pulpit
in the costume of a military officer, with his sword either lying by his side or swinging in its
scabbard, was a novelty that attracted much attention and excited no little surprise among the citizens
who attended the meetings. His preaching, however, was in demonstration and power, and he
generally related his own experience as an evidence of the truth of his doctrine respecting
experimental religion. His conversion experience was very deep. He had a severe struggle while
passing from death to life before he obtained a bright and unclouded witness of his acceptance in the
Beloved. However, it is stated by those who heard him in those days, that he always took care to
guard weak believers against “casting away their confidence,” because their experience was not the
same as his.
Jacob Albright was born in 1759 to John Albright (Johannes Albrecht) and his wife, in the region of Fox Mountain (Fuchsberg) in Douglass Township (now Montgomery County) northwest of Pottstown, Pennsylvania and was baptized into the Lutheran Church. His parents were German immigrants from the Palatine Region of Germany, but sources disagree on when they immigrated to the United States. (Johannes Albrecht and his wife, Anna Barbara, both born in either Austria or Palatine depending on the source, came to America on the ship Johnson in 1732. There were seven children: Jacob, aged 5 among them. This Johannes and his family settled in Bern Township, Berks County where Johannes died in 1751 or 1752. His son, Jacob, left Berks County in 1760.) Jacob Albright was educated in a German school where he learned reading, writing and arithmetic. In addition to speaking the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, he spoke German and taught himself enough English so he could deliver a sermon in that language.
During the American Revolution, Jacob Albright served in Captain Jacob Witz’s Seventh Company, Fourth Battalion, Philadelphia Militia as a drummer boy and later as a guard for the Hessian prisoners at Reading, Pennsylvania. Although uncertain, several sources indicate that he served through 1786.
In 1785, he married Catherine Cope and they had six (or nine) children. Only three children survived to adulthood: Sarah, wife of Noah Ranck; Jacob, who died childless; and David, married to Mary Riedenbach (Raidenbach or Raidabaugh), who had children. There are descendants of Jacob Albright through his son David living today. The young family moved to Earl Township, Lancaster County, and they lived near Ephrata, Pennsylvania, where the young Jacob took up farming and was in the business of manufacturing tiles and bricks.
A German Lutheran in his heritage, he was converted in about 1790 to Methodism, when several of his children died causing him to go through a religious crisis. Lutheranism did not give him comfort. He visited with several members of the United Brethren in Christ and later attended a Methodist class (a religious meeting held in a private home). He was called to take the message of Methodism to the German-speaking people. (George Miller wrote the first biography of Jacob Albright and it is available in two English translations, one by George Edward Epp and the other by James D. Nelson. Written three years after Jacob Albirght’s death, Miller uses the preacher’s words as remembered by followers in telling about his spiritual journey.) Although he felt that he was unfit to preach, contemporary records reveal that he was a powerful and moving speaker, converting many to Methodism. He was licensed by the Methodist Church but was not permitted to preach in the German language, so he set out on his own.
He began preaching in Pennsylvania and by 1800 formed three classes among his converts in the German settlements. Later several other classes were formed and a meeting was held for the classes in 1803, even though they had no formal name or any official documents. There, Jacob Albright was ordained a minister by representatives from these classes. He was elected bishop at the first annual conference held by his followers in 1807 but he never really accepted the title. The Conference also adopted the episcopal form of government, articles of faith and a book of discipline.
Weakened and in poor health from exhaustion and tuberculosis, Jacob Albright fell ill while traveling from Linglestown, Pennsylvania, northeast of Harrisburg. When he reached Kleinfeltersville, in Lebanon County, he could go no farther and there he died, May 17, 1808, at the age of 49. He was buried there in the Becker family plot. A chapel was built near the burial site and remains as a museum and memorial to Jacob Albright.
The movement did not take the name of Evangelical Association until after Jacob Albright’s death. The family also changed their name to Albright. (Jacob Albright used the name Albrecht.) The church spread to various parts of the United States. In 1894 the Esher-Dubbs dispute occurred and 1/3 of the church left to form the United Evangelical Church. In 1923, most of the disputing congregations returned and the church was renamed the Evangelical Church. The remaining churches became the Evangelical Congregational Church. The Evangelical Church united in 1946 with the United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution) to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church and that body in turn united with the The Methodist Church in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church.
The Evangelical churches have always believed in education for both men and women, forming educational institutions through the country. Two institutions have been named after Jacob Albright. Albright Seminary was established by the Pittsburgh Conference in Berlin, Pennsylvania in 1853 and lasted about 5 years. Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, formed by the merger of several Evangelical institutions, is a United Methodist affiliated school. One of the highest scholarships the college awards is the Jacob Albright Scholarship, which gives students a substantial stipend per year.
In 1789 he visited New England and established Methodism from the Connecticut River to the farthest settlement in Maine. He formed the first Methodist class in New England, at Stratford, Connecticut, September 26, 1787. He preached his first sermon (outdoors) on June 7 or 17, 1789 in Norwalk, Connecticut. He held the first Methodist class in Boston, Massachusetts on July 13, 1792. For his pioneer work in New England he was often called the Apostle of Methodism. He was a friend of Francis Asbury, and served as his assistant from 1797 to 1800. He lacked only one vote of being elected Bishop by the General Conference of 1800, but was appointed to be a presiding elder of the south district of Virginia in 1801. He wrote A Short Account of the Life and Death of the Rev. John Lee (1805) and a History of Methodism in America (1807), which has value for the early period. On May 22, 1809 Lee was appointed Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives He was reappointed on November 2, 1812 and served for two sessions. Upon leaving the chaplaincy of the House he was appointed Chaplain of the United States Senate on September 27, 1814 where he served until December 1815.
In June 1789, Lee, came to Norwalk to preach his first sermon in Connecticut. He had some reason to believe that the Hezekiah Rogers house on Cross Street would be available for the meeting, and word had been sent around among those interested to assemble there. When Lee arrived, Hezekiah was not at home, and his wife hesitated to open the house to a public meeting. A neighbor refused to let Lee use her orchard for concern that the gathering would trample down the grass. Finally, Lee assembled his audience under an apple tree by the roadside and preached his sermon from the text “Ye must be born again.” Such was the beginning of Methodism in Norwalk. Today, there is a stone marker at the location
Philip William Otterbein
He was the founder of The Church of the United Brethren of Christ, one of the predecessor branches of The United Methodist Church. Otterbein (1726-1813), a native of Germany, was ordained in the German Reformed Church. He came to the United States in 1752 and served as pastor of the Reformed congregations in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In 1774 he became the pastor of an independent Reformed congregation in Baltimore, Maryland, which he served until his death. He had close ties with the American Methodists and assisted in the ordination of Francis Asbury at the Methodist Christmas Conference of 1784. Otterbein became a leader of a small group within the Reformed Church seeking to promote a spirit of inward piety. In 1800 The Church of the United Brethren in Christ was formed. Otterbein, along with Martin Boehm was elected bishop. The relationships between the leaders of this church and The Methodist Episcopal Church were close. The Church of United Brethren in Christ merged with The Evangelical Association in 1946 to form The Evangelical United Brethren Church. In 1968 The Evengelical United Brethren Church merged with the Methodist Church to form The United Methodist Church.
Martin Boehm (November 30, 1725 – March 23, 1812) was an American clergyman and pastor. He was the son of Jacob Boehm and Barbara Kendig who settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Boehm married Eve Steiner in 1753 and in 1756 he was chosen by lot to become the minister of the local Mennonite church.
Although raised a Mennonite, he lacked the assurance of the presence and power of Jesus Christ in his life and he prayed for a heart-warming experience, to deepen his personal faith. Then one day, after many months of prayer and meditation he had an epiphany. After this, Martin preached with confidence and fervor. In 1761, Martin was advanced to the office of bishop in the Mennonite tradition.
In 1791, Boehm donated land to the Methodists to build some type of religious buildings. That same year a church was built and named Boehm’s Chapel.
In 1800, after being expelled by the Mennonites for being too evangelical, Boehm along with Philip William Otterbein, formerly a pastor at First Reformed Church, Lancaster, formed the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and they became the sect’s first two bishops. They first met on May 10, 1767, in a Great Meeting held at Long’s Barn in Lancaster, Pa. Otterbein was so impressed with Boehm’s passionate message that he embraced Boehm and declared, “Wir sind Brüder” (We are brethren). In 1802, Boehm joined the Methodist Episcopal Church while still a bishop of the United Brethren.
Martin Boehm died on March 23, 1812. Bishop Francis Asbury and Henry Boehm conducted a memorial service for Boehm on April 5, 1812.