Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
It is with a feeling of sadness that we heard of the death of that Christian hero, William J. Rutledge. He had lived an eventful life, but the battle is fought, the victory one and he is crowned at last.
He had lived his four score years and was acquainted with the majority of the people in Central Illinois. He was of a tall commanding appearance. You were favorably impressed with him at first sight. He was the oldest member of the Illinois conference. He entered the itinerant ranks when very young on the west side of the Illinois river and, like Uncle Dick Haney, was a connecting link of the past with the present.
He was styled the poetic preacher and could repeat the hymns of John and Charles Wesley to a finish. He was stationed at Havana in the "fifties" as presiding elder. His parentage dates back to old Virginia and three generations back to the Revolution.
William J. Rutledge possessed all the characteristics of a pioneer preacher. In his early ministry he preached in log cabins, swam rivers to get to his appointments and shared all the privations of a pioneer. He never read his sermons. He hadn't the time to read them for the lightning of his eye went flashing along from pew to pew nor passed a sinner by.
His conversational powers were greatly above the average and it was a very unappreciative audience that he could not interest. A chaplain in the late war he caught the dying messages of the expiring soldiers and transmitted them to their friends at home. He was one of Lincoln's most trusted friends and was often sent on an errand of great importance. Brave as a lion and gentle as a dove. He commanded the respect of friend and foe.
It was related that at Vicksburg he went out to have his morning devotion, with his trusty rifle by his side, and hearing the brush make a noise, he saw a rebel about to get the drop on him, but Rutledge was to quick for him and laid him low and then went on and finished his prayer. His whole life was full of thrilling incidents.
I don't recollect of ever meeting a more sweet spirited man than William J. Rutledge, a more devout Christian or a better citizen than he was. But he is gone from earth and its toils and cares. And when the roll is called up yonder no purer or brighter spirit than William J. Rutledge will answer the call.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson