Last week I was traveling toward Virginia, Illinois when I spied a sign that said that outside of the town of Pleasant Plains was the gravesite of Peter Cartwright. I start shuffling through my history lessons and sadly all I can come up with is Bonanza and thoughts of the Cartwright family on the western television show Bonanza. I decided to drive out to the gravesite to see what I could learn about a man that was worthy of a historic marker along the highway.
At the site I learned several things that made me want to know more. He had been an effective Methodist Preacher and served in the War of 1812. I decided to do a bit of research and found that this Peter Cartwright had been a charismatic Circuit riding preacher that made his mark on the Christian faith by baptizing almost 10,000 converts, and preaching around 15,000 sermons in his more than 50 year career. He had preached the gospel first in Kentucky and Tennessee until he decided to transfer to Illinois because he did not support slavery.
Besides his Christian faith and serving in various offices in the Methodist church, Cartwright also served in the Illinois legislature and made a bid for congress losing to Abraham Lincoln. He also made an unsuccessful bid for Governor. Unlike today, Rev. Cartwright had no problem mixing religion with politics and from the research I did, that was probably why he lost his bid for congress along with his aversion to alcohol.
It wasn’t until the age of 15 that Peter Cartwright found God. Before that he lived the life of a wild frontier boy with his father supporting his “boys will be boys” mentality. His devout mother along with preaching at a camp meeting set Cartwright on the path to living a faith filled life that never left him after his conversion at 15.
Now I know who Peter Cartwright is and will try to slow down the pace a bit to stop at the wayside signs pointing out the history that makes up the fabric of our landscapes!