Peter Cartwright

1785-1872. American Methodist pioneer circuit rider. Born in Virginia and reared in Kentucky, he was converted in an 1801 camp meeting in the wake of the Cane Ridge Revival, after intense spiritual struggle over his “delight in horse-racing, card-playing and dancing.” Made an exhorter the following year, he was ordained deacon in 1806 by Francis Asbury* and elder in 1808. He served several circuits in Kentucky and adjoining states before he requested transfer in 1824 (because of his distaste for slavery) to Illinois, where he served as presiding elder for forty-five years. He attended twelve general conferences and two Illinois legislatures. He was defeated by Abraham Lincoln in an 1846 race for Congress. Rough, uneducated, and eccentric, he possessed unusual stamina, a quick wit, clear perception of human nature, and profound devotion to the work of God. He wrote Fifty Years a Presiding Elder and his Autobiography (1857).