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

Anecdotes of Cartright

Page 111

We will be pardoned for a few Cartright anecdotes. The Methodist conference was being held at Nashville. Jackson was then in the youth of his power; it was before he was a "good man." Peter was to preach in one of the fashionable churches in Nashville and the people was afraid that he would say something that would offend Jackson.

So he had announced his text; just then Jackson and his suite came into the church and the preacher pulled Peter's coat-tail and told him that was Gen Jackson. Peter stopped and said in a loud voice, "Gen. Jackson; who is Gen. Jackson; if he don't repent of his sins and be a better man God Almighty will damn him as quick as a Georgia nigger." Peter's friends then tried to get him to leave the city at once, feeling sure that Jackson would kill him on sight the next morning, but Cartright said no; that he was taught to love everybody and fear nobody. The next morning, sure enough, one of Jackson's aids came into the hotel and handed Cartright a note to call at the Governor's mansion at once. His friends expostulated but he went. Jackson met him on the sidewalk and extended his hand, saying: "You are a brave man, just the kind of man I have been looking for. If I had a regiment like you I could whip the whole British Nation. Now," said Jackson, "you make my house your home as long as you stay in the city." This incident only illustrates Peter's character.

He never fained or fancied greatness, one man was as good as another. How different from many preachers who bow down to wealth and kiss the big toe of rich men, while the poor are too often neglected. Cartright may at times seemed warlike, too much like a boy with a chip on his shoulder. I recall the times he preached at Rock Creek campmeeting, when he would give his Cumberland brethren a jolt in final perseverance, and with a merry twinkle of his eye, appeared to see how they enjoyed it. He was as bold as a lion and as soft as a cooing dove. There was none before him like him, there was none in his time like him, and none after him like him.

It has often been thought strange that Cartright should have died worth $50,000, when he spent his whole life traveling large circuits, with only a small salary. His estate consisted of a large farm, which he bought at Congress price, and he always lived on it, never moved from one district to another. He settled on his farm way back in 1830 and the farm got to be quite valuable. It was situated eight miles southwest of Petersburg, in the edge of Sangamon County, but we always considered him a citizen of Menard, as he came to Salem very often.

He had quite a family. One daughter married Wm. Newman, who was a presiding elder; another married W. D. Trotter, who was another noted preacher. Another married Patten Harrison, who was one of the most noted rowdies of his day, and who caused Peter a great deal of trouble in his day. While his sons, Peter and Matt, were not noted for the piety, but the farm was run in Peter's absence in good order. He had about 600 acres and always held onto it and had a good home where he could rest from his long circuits. He would start north for 100 miles, the cross the Illinois River to Rock River, then down to Galesburg; thence to Canton, then to Pike County, cross at Beardstown, then home after six week's absence.

Cartright, ever since I knew him, always wore a white hat with a broad rim. It must have been a brother to the one Horace Greeler wore. It looked like the hat that Martin Waddle, the hatter, in Salem, used to make; the nap and fur on it were a half inch long. I have often seen him come to Salem, and I knew him by his hat if nothing else; the hat he wore in the "thirties," might not have been the hat he wore in the seventies, but it was the same kind and was made on the same block.

In personal appearance Cartright resembled Dick Oglesby more than any other man I can think of. I knew both men, in their time they both had the same kind of voices, and both, in ther declining years, had the same tremulous voice. The last time I saw Cartright was in 1868, when he stayed at my house for five days; the last time I saw Governor Oglesby was at the Old Salem Chautauqua in 1898; they had both outlived their days and generation, but people hung on their words with great reverence, as Oglesby was a power in the political world, so Cartright was a power in the religious world; nobody doubted the courage of Oglesby. He carried enough lead in his body to vindicate that and at the Salem Chautauqua, from his feeble voice, his unsteady step, most of the audience were conscious that they would hear his voice no more. When Cartright left my house in 1868, I said to my wife we will see Uncle Peter no more, it was his last round. He had fought a good fight and kept the faith and hence forth a crown was laid up for him.

A few years after the death of Peter Cartright, the final summons came to Mrs. Cartright, whose activity of body and mind continued to the last. This happened just as she had finished speaking at a Methodist love feast in the Pleasant Plains church. Her closing sentence was about her life duties being so near finished; that she was "Only waiting for the chariot of the Lord," she sank back suddenly to her seat. Willing hands were reached to her assistance; she did not need them. The "Everlasting arms" had taken her spirit home. Rev. Harden Wallace, who had charge of the meeting broke silence by saying: "The chariot has come." It had. She was buried beside her husband in the Pleasant Plains Cemetery.

Samuel Hill, the Salem merchant, was not a man of much physical strength himself, but was in the habit of taking some delight in whipping any person that might be offensive to him. It was he hired John Fergesson to whip Jack Armstrong, and for the job was to give a set of blue edged plates. John got the plates, but said it was the dearest set of plates he ever had. It was when Cartright was at his best that Hill conceived a dislike for him, but no bully ever took the job of whipping him from Hill. Cartright appeared to take great pleasure in coming and sitting under Hill's porch and annoying him. He would come and sit for hours and laugh and talk about Hill, while Hill stayed indoors. He was describing one day to a crowd how he viewed Hill's soul. He said he had some doubts whether he had a soul till one day he put a quarter of a dollar on Hill's lips, when his soul came guggling up to get the piece of silver.

Transcribed by: Brenda Hamilton Johnson



1902 Index

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Illinois Ancestors