Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties
Including Personal Reminiscens of Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902

Cartright at a Dance

Page 108

He was once traveling through Kentucky and stopped at a country tavern and asked to stay all night. The landlord told him he could but he was afraid he could not enjoy himself as there was to be a dance there that night. Peter asked how far it was to the next house and was told it was seven miles. Cartright told him if he would feed his horse well and treat him civilly he would stay. Being assured of that he dismounted and went in. The people came in large companies. There was not much drinking going on.

Peter took his seat in one corner of the house and the dance commenced. He sat quietly musing, greatly desiring to preach the next day. After concluding to spend the Sabbath there he asked the privilege to preach there on the morrow. A tall and beautiful young lady now approached him with pleasant winning smiles, asked him to dance with her. He, in a moment resolved on a desperate experiment. He rose as gracefully as he could with many emotions. The young lady moved to his right side. He grasped her right hand with his right, while she leaned her left arm on Cartright's; in this position the walked on the floor, the whole company seemed pleased at this act of politeness shown the stranger. A colored man, who was the fiddler, began to put his fiddle in good order.

Cartright then spoke to the fiddler to hold on a moment and said that for several years he had not undertaken any matter of importance without asking the blessing of God upon it and now he desired to ask the blessing of God upon the beautiful young lady and the whole company who had shown such acts of politeness upon a perfect stranger. He here grasped the young lady's hand tightly and said, "let's all kneel down and pray," and then dropping on his knees commenced to pray with all the power of soul and body he could command. The young lady tried to get away, but he held her tight; presently she fell on her knees. Some of the company knelt, some looked curious, some sat still, the colored fiddler ran out in the kitchen saying, "Lord, O'Massy, what's de matter! What dat mean?"

While Cartright prayed some wept aloud and some cried for mercy. He rose from his knees and commenced to exhort, after which he sang a hymn. The young lady, who had invited him on the floor, lay prostrate and was crying for mercy. He exhorted, sang and prayed nearly all night. About fifteen professed that night. The meeting lasted the next day and night and as many more were converted. Now, this condition of affairs would not be tolerated in some places. A man with such a bold manner of combating, the popular sin of dance, would be laughed at to scorn or be mobbed by the crowd whose designs he had flustrated. It was in politics that he had great power with men. Born a Jackson Democrat, when the Whigs and Democrats, both bowed their knee to slavery, he was an active worker in the Democratic party, both were proslavery alike. Cartright was elected to the Legislature twice over Abraham Lincoln. Of this he speaks with some pride, though when Lincoln beat him for Congress he does not say much about it. We can explain this, that Cartright generally came out ahead in everything he undertook. It was his victories that he talked of, not his defeats. After his defeat for Congress, he sank out of the political horizon and did not appear again till treason's dark and damning cloud appeared to darken the horizon, did he make himself appear as a flaming torch. He canvassed the state as a war Democrat, preaching with the people to stand by the Government and Abraham Lincoln.

Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson



1902 Index

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Illinois Ancestors