HECK, SAMUEL, Methodist preacher and farmer; b. 28 July 1771 in Camden Township, N.Y., son of Paul Heck and Barbara Ruckle*; m. c. 1797 Lois Wright, and they had eight children; d. 18 Aug. 1841 at his home in Augusta Township, Upper Canada.
Paul and Barbara Heck were members of a group known as Palatines who migrated from Ireland to New York in 1760. In Ireland many had become followers of John Wesley, and in North America the Hecks, and particularly Barbara, took an active part in the formation of the first Methodist society in New York City. Subsequently, they and other Palatine families moved to Camden Township, near modern Bennington, Vt, and established a Methodist community there. With the American Revolutionary War the Hecks became loyalist refugees and in 1785 they settled in Township No.7 (Augusta), in what would soon become Upper Canada.
Once more, the Hecks and other Palatine Methodists kindled the flame of Methodist teaching, and their settlement became one of the two centres of a Methodist community in Upper Canada which began to take shape in 1790. Samuel Heck was converted and, anxious “to tell to all around, What a dear Saviour he had found,” he was licensed as an exhorter, probably in 1797. In 1803 he was made a local preacher, that is, someone authorized to conduct services in the absence of the itinerant, or travelling preacher, and to assist the latter at camp meetings and on other occasions; his licence would be renewed shortly before his death. In conformity with the practice of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, to which the Methodist societies in Upper Canada belonged, Heck was ordained deacon in 1817 and elder in 1828. In the latter capacity he had authority to administer the sacraments, but was not expected or empowered to participate in the itinerant ministry.
Throughout his life Heck farmed in Augusta where he offered hospitality to a long succession of travelling preachers in his comfortable home. For many years he was secretary of the Augusta Circuit Quarterly Meeting and he preached regularly. In 1817 he was one of the trustees in Augusta who assumed responsibility for building a new meeting-house. That year he signed a letter to the British Conference protesting the intrusion of Wesleyan Methodist missionaries into the Upper Canadian circuits. However, he did not join those local preachers who left the Canada Conference after its union in 1833 with the British Conference, a merger that gave rise to a new Methodist episcopal church in Upper Canada.
Regrettably, Heck’s letters have not survived. If he wrote his sermons, which is unlikely, they too have disappeared. He was evidently a kindly, humble, and unpretentious man who was greatly respected and admired. It was said that “all the Christian graces shone very brightly in the life and character of our departed father, but no one more clearly than the grace of patience.” He “was emphatically a man of peace,” who was saddened by the divisions in Canadian Methodism and particularly by the break between the Canadian and British conferences in 1840
Samuel Heck was one of a select company of local leaders whose regular preaching over many years, faithful commitment to Methodist teaching, and willingness to sustain their church helped to lay strong foundations for the community in Upper Canada. During the frequent absences of the itinerant ministers, they maintained continuity in teaching and discipline and provided much of the material support required for the institutional growth of Methodism. They endeavoured with considerable success to secure acceptance of an evangelical faith, to uphold a high standard of individual morality, to perpetuate Upper Canada’s distinctive mixture of British and North American values, and to persuade their brethren that Christianity should transcend national boundaries.
SOAS, Methodist Missionary Soc. Arch., Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Soc., corr., Canadas, no.222 (petition, Bay Quinty Circuit, 4 Feb. 1817) (mfm. at UCC-C). UCC-C, “A collection of documents relating to the Hecks, Emburys, and other clans,” comp. Eula [Carscallen] Lapp (copies); Methodist Church, Augusta District, minutes of district meetings, 1834–44. Christian Guardian, 20 Oct. 1841. J. [S.] Carroll, Case and his cotemporaries . . . (5v., Toronto, 1867–77), 4: 350. Eula Carscallen Lapp, To their heirs forever (Belleville, Ont., 1977).