The Chariton Patriot, Chariton, Iowa
Wednesday, October 9, l872
As a mere antique, we shall miss him. He died only last week, but he was older than the photograph, the Protestant Episcopal Prayer Book; the American postoffice, the telegraph, our oldest railway, ocean steamers, and the Constitution of the United States.
He was contemporary to John Wesley, George Washington, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, James Madison, John Randolph, Roger Sherman, Richard Henry Lee, and other shining names. He came into the world before Abraham Lincoln, Stephen a. Douglas, Theodore Frelinghuysen, Thomas Ewing, Rufus, Choate, Edward Everett, and others who made their records long ago. When he was born the Union had but thirteen States, it was still under the Articles of Confederation, and the Continental Congress was in session in New York City. When the first census board was taken, five years after his birth, the country had a population of less than 4,000,000.
His long life of 87 years seems a short one, but the period was more golden than the seventy-five years that witnessed the invention of printing, the mariner's compass, gunpowder, the Reformation, and the first effectual blow against Popery. The period bounded by l785, and l872 has no rival in history, and PETER CARTWRIGHT's life spanned it all. He died as old as the Republic, and all his labor was given to Methodism, that mainstay of the Republic, as sturdy and vital as Puritanism.
At CARTWRIGHT's birth, John Wesley was still living. When he was converted in l80l, the American Methodist Church had less than 73,000 members, and the whole world had less Methodists than are now within the patronizing territory of the Northwestern. Long before his decease, in l872, the world had 3,000,000 Wesleyans and a Methodist constituency of over l2,000,000.
His chronology alone will attract a casual reader. He was born in Virginia, of a Revolutionary father and a Methodist mother, in l785; came to Kentucky almost on the heels of Daniel Boone; was converted in l80l, at a camp-meeting; joined the Methodist Church in the same year; was licensed to exhort by Jesse Walker in l802; was ordained deacon by Bishop Asbury in l806; was ordained an elder by Bishop McKendree in l808; was married in that same year; in l868 completed his fiftieth year as a presiding elder; and at Pleasant Plains, Illinois, on Wednesday, September 25, he was promoted to a land far better than the one in which he had labored so long.
The wide swing of his life's pendulum is illustrated by the facts that he was a member of all quadrennial general conferences from l8l6 to l860, inclusive, and, for the thirteenth time, sat in the conference of l868, at Chicago; that in the year of his birth our church in this country had but l8,000 members, while now the branch of Methodism in which he died a member numbers one million and a half; and that he cast ballots when George, Roberts, Soule, Hedding, J.O. Andrew, Emory, Waugh, Morris, Fiske, Hamline, James, Scott, Simpson, Baker, and Ames were elected Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. What grasp to the experience that grouped the maimed heroes of the war, which broke the power of kings, and those of the one which swept slavery away from among freemen!
He was a true gospel minister. Though not by any means a Chrysostom, or a Melancthon, or even a gowned gosling who so mumbles the invitation to sinners that it may be mistaken for the multiplication table he did work of which that other Peter, his prototype in all save denial of the Master, might not have been ashamed. He began Western evangelization when forty dollars per year was scarcely underpay; when Gothic architecture had not yet crossed the Atlantic, when a log, a stump, or kitchen table was an eligible pulpit, when a circuit was as large as New England, and "a Methodist" was here a synonym for everything grotesque, horrible or prescribed. This PETER was so brave, odd, ready and irresistible, that the Banters, Shakers, proselyting Baptists, Universalists, and unscrupulous sinners of that date came eagerly, saw him effectually, and were conquered to their hearts' content. The story of his life is stirring, militant, industrious, devout despite its brusqueness, often cutre, and always triumphant.
He was a true apostle, and, though also a rough one, the Church of earlier days would have placed him in her calendar of crowned, if not charming saints. The record printed in l856 reads like an apochrypha written by some pretensious boaster. He says truly, that he had already traveled eleven circuits and twelve districts; had received l0,000 persons into the church; had baptized l2,000; had preached 400 funeral sermons; had pronounced an average of four discourses a week for thirty-three years; and had preached in all near l5,000 sermons.
Two books yet in press give a good idea of the times, the words and the characteristic make-up of PETER CARTWRIGHT. These are his autobiography and "Fifty Years as a Presiding Elder." PETER CARTWRIGHT was called of God to the peculiar work of those days amid those surroundings, and to those people. Without such pioneer work by such a ragged worker the church of l872 would have been as impossible as modern civilization and disciplinary preparations.
Some college flattered the old man by giving him a diploma of a doctor in divinity. In his jolly moments he laughted at the time. How much more appropriate if he had died simply "PETER CARTWRIGHT" or died as "PETER THE GREAT", great in his peculiar, inimitable greatness. The funeral took place at Pleasant Plains, Illinois, September (can't read*). The sermon was preached by Rev. J.S. Barger. Other brethren were present and shared in the services. Over l,000 saddened (can't read*) persons participated in the last sacred rites in honor of the man whose fame is forever here below, and whose high record is on high.
--CHICAGO NORTHWESTERN CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE, October 2d.
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
June 4, 2003