An Irish Palatine, born at Ballingrane, Co. Limerick, he heard John Wesley preach in Limerick in 1752 and was converted on 25 December that year. He was a master carpenter by trade and became a local preacher. Though accepted for the itinerancy at the Limerick Conference of 1758, he was never stationed, but married and joined the group of emigrants to America in 1760. He and his wife worshipped first at Trinity Lutheran church, New York and then at St. Paul's Anglican chapel.
In September 1766 he was persuaded by his cousin, Barbara Heck, to resume his preaching, to counteract a growing worldliness among the immigrants. He became a leading figure in the Methodist society that was formed and himself designed and built the first John Street church ('Wesley Chapel'). In 1770 he led a group of Palatine families who settled at a place they named Ashgrove, north-east of Albany in up-state New York. He died there in 1773 after an accident while mowing. His Bible and the pulpit he made are preserved at the present John Street church.