Interesting Christians: Philip Embury

Philip Embury

In the late 1600’s Louis XIV tried to stamp out
Protestantism in the Palatinate (on the Rhine), sending thousands
of people fleeing to England, Ireland, and America. Philip Embury
was born in 1728 or 1729, either in the Palatinate or in Ireland,
where his family settled in County Limerick. He was apprenticed
to a carpenter and became skillful in the craft. On Christmas Day
in 1752 he became a Christian and about that time first heard
John Wesley. In 1758 he began preaching and also married Mary
Switzer. In 1760 they left Ireland for New York.

Most of his fellow immigrants soon fell away and
he became discouraged and stopped preaching until 1766, when his
cousin Barbara Heck, outraged at a card game she found being held
in her home, implored him to resume and brought four persons to
hear him at his home. In 1767 they were visited by an army
officer, Captain Thomas Webb, who had been authorized by Wesley
to preach and soon joined them, preaching in uniform with his
sword lying on the desk before him. This attracted so many people
they had to rent a rigging loft, where Embury and Webb preached
to crowds three times a week. Barbara Heck had been praying for a
meeting house, and drew up plans which were approved by the
Society. They leased a site on John Street in 1768 and bought it
in 1770. A stone faced chapel was built on the site, with Webb
contributing generously to the financing and Embury doing much of
the carpentry work, including constructing the pulpit. Within
three years at least 1000 hearers were crowding the Wesley
Chapel, though it remained unfinished inside for a long time.

Philip Embury was seldom paid but continued to
minister faithfully until Wesley’s first missionaries arrived in
New York City in 1769. Not long afterward he retired to the Camden
Valley of Shushan, NY, where he continued to preach and founded a
society at Ashgrove, east of Cambridge, (where he also owned
land). In 1775, while mowing a field, he was injured and died

He was first buried in Camden on Peter Switzer’s farm, but in 1832 was
disinterred and moved to Ashgrove where his church was. In 1866
his remains were moved again to Woodlands Cemetery in Cambridge,
where you can find his grave today.

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Pictures of the Emburys: