Cartwright, Peter

Cartwright, Peter a famous pioneer Methodist Episcopal minister, was born in Amherst County, Va., Sept. 1, 1785. He removed at the age of eight with his parents to Logan County, Ky., and grew up amid the wild scenes of backwoods life, being more familiar with the axe, rifle, and plough than with books, and hence his education was quite limited. He was converted at a protracted meeting in 1801; received license to exhort in 1802, from bishop Asbury, and removed to Lewiston County, where he entered Brown's academy and received the rudiments of an education, but continued his work as an exhorter, holding forth to large congregations. He was soon licensed to preach, which enlarged his authority but did not increase his labors or usefulness. Leaving his school to form a circuit, he supplied, it with preaching, and was thus employed by the presiding elder until 1804, when he was admitted into the Kentucky Conference. His theological studies were begun with Mr. McKendree, afterwards bishop. In 1806 he was ordained a deacon by bishop Asbury, and appointed to Marietta Circuit, O., meeting with hard service and poor fare. His next appointment was Barren Circuit, where he was allowed the first and only vacation he ever enjoyed. In 1808 he was ordained an elder, and in 1812 was appointed presiding elder of Wabash District, and in 1813 of Green River District. Between 1816 and 1820 he traveled circuits in Kentucky, and in 1821 was appointed presiding elder of Cumberland District, which was the beginning of his fifty years in regular succession of presiding eldership. He was a delegate to thirteen general conferences, beginning with 1816. In 1823 he rode on horseback into Illinois to explore the country, and in the following year moved his family to Pleasant Plains; there he continued to reside during the remainder of his eventful life; there he died, Sept. 25, 1872, and there his remains still lie in the soil which he, like Abraham, purchased with his own money. The Illinois Conference was organized in 1824, and Mr. Cartwright, becoming one of its members, was appointed presiding elder, and in that office continued in that conference until, at his own request, in 1869, a superannuated relation was granted him. He was present at first roll-call of forty-five out of the first forty- seven sessions of the Illinois Conference; was a conference visitor six years to McKendree College, three to Illinois Wesleyan University, and one to Garrett Biblical Institute; and was eight years a member of the old Western Conference, eight of the Tennessee Conference, four of the Kentucky Conference, and forty-eight of the Illinois Conference. He took an active part in all the controversies growing out of the presiding-elder question, slavery, lay delegations, etc., being firm in his opposition to all innovations on primitive Methodism; and during the earlier years of his ministry had many controversies with Presbyterians, New Lights, Universalists, Halcyons, Mormons, etc. He published two anti-Calvinistic pamphlets, but his principal literary production was his Autobiography, which has had an immense sale, and been translated into German and French, the Revue des deux Mondes regarding it as a romance. While on the Illinois District he was a candidate to the state legislature, and, entering with zeal into the campaign, was elected, but soon became disgusted with politics, and returned to his God-appointed work. Few men ever passed a more eventful or toilsome life. For upwards of fifty years he was an indefatigable servant of the Church. Although considered eccentric, he was an acknowledged leader in his conference. In person five feet ten inches high, with a square- built, powerful physical frame, weighing nearly two hundred pounds, an immensely strong and enduring constitution, dark complexion, high cheek bones, small, piercing black eyes, large head, and curly black hair, he naturally appreciated highly the muscular part of Christianity, considering himself one of' the Lord's breaking-up ploughs, to drive his way through all kinds of stubborn soil; hence the roughs and disturbers at camp- meetings and elsewhere stood in awe of his brawny arm. Above this there was a moral and kingly power that belongs to all real heroes, which commanded the respect and reverence of all. Mr. Cartwright was a man of superior mental force, a master in interpreting human nature; a preacher warm in sympathy, clear in thought, and often of the highest style of oratory. His speeches were short, pithy, and pointed, exhibiting a scathing sarcasm, a stern indignation, and a piercing wit that defied rejoinder. See Minutes of Annual Conferences, 1873, p. 115; Simpson, Cyclop. of Methodism, s.v.; also his Autobiography.

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