The names of Phillip Embury and Barbara Heck must ever be prominently associated with the founding of Methodism in the United States and Canada, and also in connection with early Methodism in Ireland. The story has often been told and yet it may be new to many readers of The Beaver - the young especially - and therefore it is worth the repeating here.
FOUNDING AMERICAN METHODISM
Abel Stevens writes: "Who among the crowd that saw them leave could have thought that two of the little band were destined, in the mysterious providence of God, to influence for good countless myriads, and that their names should live as long as the sun and moon endure? That vessel contained Philip Embury, the first Class-leader and local preacher of Methodism on the continent, and Barbara Heck, a mother in Israel, one of its first members, the germ from which, in the good providence of God, has sprung the great Methodist Episcopal church of the United States," now the largest and most influential of all the Protestant churches of that great nation.
The story of the founding of the first Methodist society in New York and America has often been told. New York, now the largest city in America and one of the largest of the entire world, was then but a small town, with a population of about 20,000 and there were but about three millions of white people in all that part of America now constituting the United States. For five years the Palatines had no regular minister of their own and, they became greatly demoralized. Barbara Heck became deeply distressed at this state of things and finally went to Philip Embury and on her knees earnestly implored him to preach to them. "God will require our blood at your hands, if you do not," was her impassioned words. It was then agreed that on the Sunday following he should preach in his own house, which he did and a class was at once formed. His preachings soon became popular and his house became too small. Then a sail-loft was rented and soon it became crowded. Then arrangements were made, and the historic John Street Methodist Church of New York - the first of its kind in America was built - largely through the instrumentality of Barbara Heck and Philip Embury. Embury preached the first sermon in it, was one of its first trustees, its first class leader and for a time its only preacher. Two years later Mr. Wesley sent from England two missionaries who were the first ordained preachers of the denomination in America.
Philip Embury was a carpenter and depended on his trade for the maintenance of his family. With his own hands the John street church was largely built. 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.
At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Paul and Barbara Heck, the Emburys and Lawrences moved to Canada, and lived for some years in Montreal and other parts of Lower Canada. In 1785, they moved to the township of Augusta, in Grenville county, in the third concession, where again they established a Methodist class with Samuel Embury, a son of the late Phillip as its leader. Though it was not regularly formed, according to discipline, there being no ordained minister in the country, no doubt this is the first planting of a Methodist class in Upper Canada. That was the year following the first arrival of the U.E. Loyalists from the states along the shores of the St. Lawrence and the Bay of Quinte.
When William Losee, the first Methodist preacher, came first to Upper Canada in 1790, there is a record that he preached to the Methodists of Augusta on his way from crossing the St. Lawrence, about St. Regis, before he reached Adolphustown, which was then his destination. There is a record, too, that a chapel was built there at a very early time, but a just what date does not now appear to be known.
THE CANADIAN EMBURYS
Among the U.E. Loyalist pioneers who first arrived in this county in 1784 was David Embury, a brother of Philip of whom the previous references are made, and his sons, John and Andrew. Of them some special reference should here be made, as their descendants are yet numerous and influential in this district. They settled in the second concession of Fredericksburgh Additional, a couple of lots west of No. 1 on the south shore of Hay Bay. The location is one of the pleasantest and most picturesque of any along that bay. Just there the bay is its narrowest, not much over three-quarters of a mile wide, and the soil is excellent. Not much now appears to be known of David, the father. It is said that he returned to New York State soon after, where he died. Very probably he was one of the brothers of Philip, who left Ireland with him. It is said that, the other brother settled somewhere about St. John, on the Richelieu river, but we have no definite information of him. John and Andrew were young men at that time, and were both married in this county.
Was a prominent man in his locality and considered wealthy for those times. His farm consisted of 400 acres of excellent land, being lots 2 and 3 in the third concession of Fredericksburgh Additional. He was a prominent Magistrate and married numbers of people in those days. He built a commodious stone house, which is still standing, and is probably the oldest stone house now standing in the township. Mr. Jacob Loyst, now owns and occupies the lot where he lived. In later years he had a very large orchard and cider mill, as numbers of others had who lived in that locality. During the time of the war of 1812-14 it is said that cider became worth $20 a barrel in Kingston and he took down twenty barrels at one time, all paid for in silver, which was bagged for them. A large amount of money was obtained in those days for the cider about the bay, which was then an important industry among the farmers. He had also a small brewery, the crumbling walls of which are still standing near the Bay shore. It was not thought anything improper in those days for even a Methodist official to own and operate a small brewery. Beer was reckoned a temperance drink and the early temperance pledges did not prohibit its use. His name frequently appears in connection with the presiding Magistrate of the Quarter sessions of the Midland District, held at Adolphustown and Kingston.
He married a Miss Detlor, daughter of Samuel Detlor, of Little Creek, south east of Napanee, who lived on the farm that Mr. John Dunbar and son now occupy. It was at Samuel Detlor's house that the third Methodist class of Upper Canada was regularly formed by Rev. W. Losee, on Wednesday March 2d 1791, the memorable day of the death of John Wesley. Mr. Detlor was the first class leader. It will be remembered that also a daughter married Rev. Darius Dunham. Squire John Embury was, therefore, a nephew of Philip Embury, the first Methodist preacher and class leader in the United states, a brother-in-law of the first ordained minister in Upper Canada, and son-in-law of the first Methodist class leader in Fredericksburgh. In the Original Government Crown land's record he is referred to as a sergeant of the King's Royal Regiment, of New York, a Magistrate, and entitled to 800 acres of land.
The Rev. John Carroll, in one of his historical books, published a letter from the Rev. Wm. Case, one of the early pioneer preachers and Indian missionaries of this Province, written to Rev. Dr. Nathan Bangs, who died some years ago in New York, in which he writes:
"A few years ago since I visited John Embury and his worthy companion. He was then ninety-eight years old. The scenes of early Methodism in New York were revived in his recollections, and he referred to them as readily as though they had recently occurred. He said, "My uncle, Philip Embury, was a great man - a powerful preacher - a very powerful preacher. I had heard many ministers before, but nothing could reach my heart until I heard my uncle Philip preach. I was then about sixteen. The Lord has since been my trust and my portion. I am now ninety-eight. Yes, my uncle Philip was a great preacher. After this he lived about a year, and died suddenly, as he arose from prayer in his family, at the age of ninety-nine. The Emburys, Detlors, Millers, Maddens, Switzers, of Bay of Quinte, are numerous and pious, and some of them ministers of the gospel - all firmly grounded in Methodism. Their Palatine origin is prominent in their health, integrity, and industry, and their steadfast piety by Irish training on Mr. Wesley's knee. Old Mrs. Detlor told me when a child in Ireland, Mr. Wesley took me on his knee when I sang for him.
Children of the Heavenly King
As we journey let us sing."
In last week's Beaver some notes were given by Philip Embury, the Irish Palatine, who, with Barbara Heck, was instrumental in first planting Methodism in America, who was the first preacher, the first class-leader and a trustee of the first Methodist Church in New York. Reference was also made to the fact that Barbara Heck and Philip Embury's son were among those who organized the first Methodist class in Upper Canada, in the township of Augusta, near where the town of Prescott now stands, soon after the year 1785. We also referred to the fact that David Embury, a brother of Philip and his sons, John and Andrew, were among the first company of United Empire Loyalist refugees who left New York in the autumn of 1783 and landed in South Fredericksburgh in June of the next year, and that many of the descendents of this historic family are now among the residents of this county and Hastings.
Of whom special mention was made last week, lived on his large farm in Fredericksburgh, on the south shore of Hay Bay until an old man. He then moved to Richmond township, second concession, where Mr. Nelson Grooms now lives. There he and his wife spent the balance of their days. He died about 1848, being at that time according to the tradition of the family, one hundred and one years of age. His wife did not precede him long to the grave, and must have been, therefore, almost a centennarian. They both lie buried in the historic old Vandebogart burying ground, where a large proportion of the early Methodist families of this section found their last resting place. It is now the south eastern part of the present Napanee cemetery.
Andrew Embury, a brother of Squire John, who came into Upper Canada at the same time, also lived on the Hay Bay shore south, on the next lot west. The farm has been in the hands of the Embury family ever since and is now owned and occupied by a grandson, Mr. Edward Embury. He was a younger brother and married a daughter of Sergeant Wm. Bell, also a U.E. Loyalist. The late John W. Bell, M.P. for Addington was a descendant of that family. They reared a large family, most of whom lived and died in this county. He was also an officer of the King's Royal Regiment during the war of the American revolution and his sword is yet at this homestead in an excellent state of preservation. He was also a prominent man among the early Methodists, and their house was a regular preaching place for that neighborhood for many years. They lived five or six miles east of the first Methodist church built in Adolphustown in 1792 and his name appears on the original subscription list for £2 which was considered a liberal subscription at that time. It is said that it was for a long time on the regular plan for the preacher to preach at Andrew Embury's house on Saturday and then get on to Adolphustown for the Sunday service.
The late Rev. Wellington Jeffers, D.D. who became one of the most influential and eloquent Methodist ministers in Canada, and was for years editor of the Christian Guardian, once told the writer, with a considerable amusement, that it was at Andrew Embury's house he preached his trial sermon before the church Official Board, preparatory to being recommended for the ministry. That was a trying ordeal for young men and he was particularly sensitive and bashful. Rev. Anson Green, D.D., whose fame became general all over Canada was the Presiding Elder at the time. He was present and so were most of the official members. He said, "I got greatly embarrassed at the sight of all those grave old men before me, and in order to avoid looking at them I shut my eyes and being a good deal embarrassed, I went through with what I had prepared about as fast as I well could. I was then very anxious to know what they thought and whether I would be considered competent to pass. One of the old class leaders came and took me by the hand and said, "Well, I never before knew it was possible for a man to talk as long as that without taking his breath."
ANDREW EMBURY'S DESCENDANTS
Andrew Embury reared quite a large family and his descendants are numerous in this county. His son Andrew lived and died on the old homestead and had six children - three sons and three daughters, only one of whom, Edward, now lives in this county. William lived and died in Thurlow. Mr. W. A. Embury, of Napanee, is a son of his. He had eight children. There were also five daughters, all of whom married and had large families. Ann married James Vandewaters, who lived in the second concession of Fredericksburgh, where they both lived and died. Mr. D. Vanderwaters, of Napanee is a son. Flora married Mr. Gilbert Griffith, of second concession of Fredericksburgh, where some of the descendants yet reside. Peggy married John Hough who lived in Thurlow. Elizabeth married Cornelius Gunsolus, also of Fredericksburgh. Margaret married Daniel Dafoe, who lived in Richmond, west of Selby, where they reared a large family. Mr. Samuel Dafoe, now of Napanee, and his sons, J.R. and Albert, also residents here, are descendants. There are a large number of some branches of the Embury family in Hastings county.
AN OLD EMBURY BIBLE
There is now among the Emburys at St. Ola, North Hastings, an old copy of the original Philip Embury's new testament and Wesley's notes thereon. It once belonged to the late Samuel Wesley Embury and now to his son, Philip Embury. Rev. W. H. Adams, now of Orono, writes of it as follows:
"The book bears the marks of great age. The title page, together with the first eight leaves of St. Matthew's gospel, are gone, and the book of Revelation ends with the twelfth verse of the twelfth chapter. Some one of its owners (S. W. Embury, I think) had it rebound. In the process it was shorn of its ample margin, but its stout calf cover has saved it from further misfortune."