Barbara Heck

Barbara Heck urging Philip Embury to resume preaching.

Barbara Heck in Ireland

The story of Barbara Heck, America’s “Mother of Methodism” actually begins in Ireland during the first half of the eighteenth century. In a Palatine Settlement in the county of Limerick, Ireland she lived in one of four key Methodist settlements. Each of these landholdings was part of the Lord Thomas Southwell estate.

The four settlements were, Court-Matrix, Killiheen, Ballingrane, and Pallas. These “Irish settlers” were actually transplanted German citizens of the Palatine region. In 1709 they were forced from their homeland of Germany when the French King, Louis XIV decided to confiscate their beautiful and productive lands. These men and women were an organized and hard-working group of individuals. These valuable lands caught the eye of the despotic king. For a more detailed account of this terrible event and the subsequent rescue of these stranded-on-the-streets-of-London German citizens, refer to the article, Francis Asbury and the Palatines.

Barbara Heck resided in the Southwell estate. She was a personal friend of the traveling preacher, Philip Embury. Philip and his wife would hold prayer and Bible studies in their home. Barbara Heck was a regular attendant.

Barbara Heck in America

From 1710 to 1760, Lord Southwell allowed the transplanted German residents to live on his estate. He allowed a nearly 90% discount of the normal tenant rates. But as he warned years earlier, in 1760, the rents would rise to normal rates. This forced many of these German citizens to consider the American Colonies. One of these brave German citizens of Ireland was Barbara Heck.

Barbara Heck John Street Church New York

Joining Barbara Heck for the Atlantic crossing to New York was Mr. and Mrs. Philip Embury. The young preacher and his wife also chose to brave the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean. There they would secure a better life. For the next six years, Philip Embury and his wife did just that. In the American Colonies, they enjoyed the fruits of their successful farm while raising a family. But all was not good.

Barbara Heck Tosses Playing Cards

Inciting incident which sends Barbara Heck stomping to Philip Embury’s house to urge him to resume preaching, “lest we all go to hell!”

Soon Barbara Heck realized that many of the families failed to keep their Christian faith. In the new land, seeking fortune and fun became the main focus of their lives.

This misguided approach led Barbara Heck to erupt with anger one night when she happened into a neighboring friend’s house. There she discovered a raucous game of card playing. Accompanying this loud gathering was a never-ending supply of adult beverages. Even worse, her husband, Paul, was present. She abruptly grabbed the glass bottles of whiskey and rum- tossing them into the fireplace. As the men sat back in their chairs in fear, she cleared the table of the playing cards. She grabbed whatever cards she could and tossed them into the fire. Barbara Heck was not happy.

She departed the partying home as quickly as she arrived. She immediately stomped three doors down the street to the home of Philip Embury. Barging into the home of her dear friends, she confronted Philip and urged that he begin to preach once again. Her words were clear, “lest we all shall go to hell together and God will require our blood at your hands!”