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Albright, Jacob (01 May 1759–18 May 1808), founder of the Evangelical Association, a denomination now constitutive of the United Methodist church, was born near Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in Montgomery County, the son of John Albright (German spelling Albrecht); his mother’s identity is unknown. The Albrecht family were German-speaking Lutherans, and Albright was baptized and confirmed. His schooling was rudimentary. He served in the Revolution and lost a brother to the American cause. In 1785 he married Catherine Cope. They settled in Lancaster County, where Albright established a brick and tile business, a trade that he pursued even after taking up the ministry and that earned him a reputation as the “Honest Tilemaker.”...

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Bangs, Nathan (02 May 1778–03 May 1862), Methodist itinerant and missionary society founder, was born in Stratford, Connecticut, the son of Lemuel Bangs, a blacksmith, schoolteacher, and surveyor, and Rebecca Keeler. In 1782, the family moved to Fairfield, Connecticut, and then in 1791, to Stamford, New York. Bangs received little formal education as a youth, but in 1799 he was hired to teach school in Niagara, Canada. Although baptized in the Anglican communion, in Canada Bangs was drawn to Methodism because of its emphasis on inner religious experience. He became licensed as a Methodist itinerant in 1801 and labored tirelessly to spread the Methodist vision, first in Upper Canada from 1801 to 1804, and then in the province of Quebec from 1804 to 1812. He is regarded as the founder of Methodism in Quebec. In 1806, Bangs married Mary Bolton; they had at least two children....

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Embury, Philip (Aug. or Sept. 1728– August 1773), early founder of American Methodism, was born probably in Ballingrane, County Limerick, Ireland, his parents unknown. A descendant of Protestant Palatine refugees from the War of Spanish Succession, Embury grew up in Ballingrane and was educated at the local German school and possibly an English school in Rathkeale before training as a carpenter’s apprentice. He experienced a Methodist-style religious conversion (in his words, “the Lord Shone in to my Soul by a glimpse of his Redeeming love”) on Christmas Day 1752, most likely after hearing John Wesley preach in Limerick. Although a reticent public speaker, Embury was licensed as a Methodist local preacher by the Irish Methodist Conference in 1758. He married Margaret Switzer in the fall of 1758. In June 1760, the Emburys, forced out by rising rents and the scarcity of land, joined a number of their relations and other Irish Palatines in a heterogeneous parcel of emigrants bound for North America on the SS ...

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Gatch, Philip (02 March 1751–28 December 1834), Methodist preacher and abolitionist, was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, the son of Conduce Gatch, a Prussian immigrant, and Presocia Burgin, farmers. He received religious instruction at St. Paul’s Anglican church in Baltimore and formal education at a neighborhood school. In January 1772 Gatch first encountered Methodism when he heard Nathan Perigo preach. On 26 April 1772 Gatch underwent religious conversion at a Methodist neighborhood prayer meeting, and that summer he experienced entire sanctification—a term for John Wesley’s teaching on the experience of “Christian perfection” or “perfect love,” which Wesley believed to be obtainable in this life. He first preached at the Evans Meeting House in Baltimore County in July 1773. Thomas Rankin examined Gatch according to Wesley’s ...

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Heck, Barbara (1734–17 August 1804), "mother of American Methodism", “mother of American Methodism,” was born in Ballingrane, County Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of Sebastian Ruckle, a farmer, and his wife (name unknown), descendants of Protestant Palatine refugees from the War of Spanish Succession. She experienced a Methodist-inspired conversion at age eighteen, possibly after hearing John Wesley preach in Limerick, and married Paul Heck in 1760. In the spring of 1760 the Hecks left Ireland with family members and other Irish and Irish Palatine emigrants forced out by high rents and land scarcity. Their ship landed at New York City on 10 August. The Hecks communed with other Methodists at Trinity Lutheran Church, where the first three of their seven children were baptized between 1761 and 1765....

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Strawbridge, Robert (?–1781), Methodist lay preacher and farmer, was born in Drumsna (Drummersnave), County Leitrim, Ireland, the son of Robert Strawbridge, a farmer (mother’s name unknown). Little is known of his childhood or of his life in Ireland. In the mid-nineteenth century, Irish Methodist historian William Crook located the Strawbridge farm near Drumsna, on a “gentle eminence” overlooking the Shannon, and from its appearance concluded that the family had “lived in considerable comfort, if not affluence” (pp. 150–51). During the mid-1750s, Methodist evangelists in the vicinity of Drumsna converted Lawrence Coughlan, later a pioneer of Methodism in Newfoundland. Coughlan was instrumental in converting Leonard Strawbridge, Robert’s brother, and probably influenced Robert’s conversion as well. It is also possible that Robert was present during at least one of John Wesley’s visits to Drumsna....

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Watters, William (16 October 1751–29 March 1827), Methodist preacher, was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, son of Godfrey Watters, planter, and Sarah (maiden name unknown). In his autobiography, Watters celebrates his mother for instilling in him a sense of morality that encouraged his later interest in Methodism. The youngest of nine children, he was two years old when his father died. He noted that his family was not rich, “but in comfortable circumstances” even after the father’s death. He began schooling at age seven, but struggled in his studies and religious life while away from his mother. In his autobiography, the only substantive source of information, Watters’s main concerns were his conversion and ministry. He noted that his father, an Anglican vestryman, “committed [his family] to God” at his death. His mother’s home, and later those of his siblings, became important stops for Methodist preachers, including Bishop ...

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Webb, Thomas (31 May 1725–20 December 1796), soldier and Methodist evangelist, was born in England. Little is known of his parentage or youth. On 29 October 1754 he was commissioned quartermaster in the Forty-eighth Regiment of Foot in the British army and was promoted to lieutenant on 9 November 1755. During the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) the regiment went to North America to stem the advance of the French. He served under General James Wolfe in the siege of Louisburg (1758) but was severely wounded in the devastating French victory at Montmorency on 31 July 1759. All that he recollected was a flash of light as a musket ball destroyed his right eye, though later he was apt to embellish his account a little. That winter he prepared a slight ...

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Williams, Robert (1745–26 September 1775), pioneer Methodist preacher, was born probably in England, but nothing is known about his parents or his birth. His first recorded appearance was as a young preacher in the open air at Whitehaven, a seaport in Cumberland, England, on Sunday 29 June 1766. As Methodist leader John Wesley reported on the event, “At one Robert Williams preached in the market-place to some thousands of people, all quiet and attentive.” Later that year Wesley sent Williams to northeast Ireland to serve under James Rea, whom Wesley had urged to promote open-air evangelism, noting on 21 July that “Robert Williams … is usually a reviver of the work wherever he comes.” On 2 May 1767 Wesley wrote to Mrs. Sarah Crosby about “an amazing increase of the work of God within these few months in the North of Ireland,” praising the five preachers who labored there—including Rea and Williams—as “men devoted to God, men of a single eye, whose whole heart is in the work.” In 1767 Wesley moved Williams on to Castlebar to work under William Penington, Wesley’s favorite colporteur-preacher. Penington died later that year, but not before Williams learned from him the great value of distributing tracts and books wherever he preached....