Cartwright Chapel, alias Mt. Pleasant Church of Hamilton Co., IL

From: Goshen Trails, Vol. 15, No. 2 -  April, 1979; p. 4
by Ralph S. Harrelson
Printed by permission

          CARTWRIGHT CHAPEL, formerly the old Mt. Pleasant church, locat4ed southwest of McLeansboro, Illinois has a unique nook in county history.  Recently the four walls of the church building fell, literally to the four winds, as it was reduced to ashes.  This event affected the feelings of a wide community of people and re-alerted their minds to recall some of the things relating to this historic site.

          Two things in particular add extra dimension to the history of this old church.  First, its location on a famous Southern Illinois roadway.  Second, the unusual accident that took the life of Cynthia Cartwright and her burial in its vicinity.

          The Goshen Road dates back to 1808.  At Cartwright Chapel it is the west border of the churchyard and cemetery.  A memorial monument to Cynthia Cartwright stands in the cemetery and its inscription gives a very brief sketch of her untimely death.

          It has been an oft repeated and rewarding experience for many persons to travel this old trail, stop at the old church and recall the history of the road and incidents related to the church.  The little white church will no longer add its influence to the tranquility of the visitor.

          The land on which the church stood was purchased from the government by Joseph B. Hensley in 1851.  The first church building, reportedly and evidently of log construction, stood in the center of a one-acre tract located near the center of the Hensley land purchase, the E1/2 of NW quarter and W1/2 of NC Quarter of Section 12, T. 6S of R5E.

          On December 1, 1856, Joseph B. Hensley and his wife Lucinda, sold the above mentioned tract of land to Henry S. Cox of Gallatin County, Illinois.  The cemetery and Mt. Pleasant church evidently came into existence; between 1851 and 1856.  They are both mentioned in a reservation, a part of the description of the land in the deed made to Mr. Cox.

          In 1859 and 1861 Henry S. Cox and his wife Hannah, sold this land to their sons Jacob and John Cox, and in that order.  Jacob Cox came into possession of the part east of the Goshen Road, where the church stood.

          Henry S. and Hannah Cox are the ancestors of many persons, members of families once living in that part of Hamilton County.  This family came from Tennessee to Illinois, it is indicated in census and marriage records.

           In 1866, Jacob and Ellender Cox sold the north half of their land lying east of the Goshen Road to Lucinda Oneal.  By two transactions, one dated 1877, the other 1885, Lucinda conveyed this same tract to William A. and Martha E. Oneal, reserving the right to live in the house on the northwest six and one-half acres until her decease.

          In 1903 and 1905, William A. Oneal (believed to be the son of Lucinda), and Martha E. his wife, convey and warrant two tracts of land to enlarge the old Mt. Pleasant Church property.

          Both deeds from the Oneals were made to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Both mention the old Goshen Road.  The 1905 instrument gives the name of the Church as Mt. Pleasant.  The trustees were: Winfield S. Bennett, William C. Mitchell, Alexander Cox, John Dial and Daniel H. Knight.

          The deed made in 1903 specified:..."The church house to be erected on said premises shall not be moved away but shall remain permanently for cemetery and burial purposes."  Evidently a conventional church structure was not there at that time.  Reportedly, the first church building had been destroyed by a windstorm.  

          The building projected in the above mentioned deed is the one destroyed by fire November 14, 1978.  A news item dated September 3, 1903, reported that lumber to build a church house at Old Mt. Pleasant had been contracted for.  This very plain 28' by 36' frame structure was dedicated Sunday September 10, 1905.  Robert Morris, well known Methodist minister, native of this County, preached the dedication sermon.  In April that same year the church installed a new organ.  Man persons attended the dedication, including Mrs. T. B. Stelle and Mrs. Lina Graff of McLeansboro.

          A document recently brought to our attention by Mr. Jill Dial, evidently has names of some donors and workmen who helped build the aforementioned house.  A part of the document is missing, so all names of donors are not known.  Some who donated work were Chester Hunt, M. D. Darnall (carpenter), Noble Dial and James Dial.

          Other subscribers to designated amounts of money were: John Dial, W. R. Dial, Lee Robertson, John Oglesby, M. Russell, James Hamilton, H. A. Ritchson, L. D. Maulding, L. A. Johnson, W. L. Coons, A. J. Jones, J. C. Carner, J. I Webb, John B. Lockwood, W. H. F. Bridwell, W. H. Hatcher, J. C. Guill, Alfred Braden, J. R. Carter, A. J. Lockwood, W. R. Lockwood, Carrol Flint, J. G. Hunt, N. A. Vaughn, E. Acuff, E. F. Dickey, George. A. Hungate, James Eblen, C. G. Cloud, Henry Betts, E. M. Lee, Glasby Richson, C. M. Johnson, F. M. Johnson, Granville Hungate, S. E. Flannigan, Jr., G. W. Hogan, Miller Bros., John Holland, John Oneal, R. B. Turner, Lon Moorman, Wm. C. Moore, C. C. Dial, C. A. Johnson and L. E. Fulkerson.

          The old Goshen Road, beside which this church stood, connected the Goshen Settlement near Edwardsville with Shawneetown on the Ohio River.  In Hamilton County four towns were surveyed on its course: Walpole, Middletown, Mellonsville and Independence.  Peter Cartwright traveled over the roadway in 1824.  A faulty tree, at the base of which the Cartwrights built their evening campfire, burned to the extent that in the morning hours it toppled over, falling on Cynthia their daughter, crushing her life away.  Traveling about twenty miles from the scene of the freak accident they buried the little girl in Hamilton County.

          In April, 1902 the District Conference of Methodists, meeting at Eldorado, Illinois appointed a committee to locate the gravesite of Cynthia Cartwright.  Robert Morris, Attorney, Methodist minister and noted singer, led in the search for the burial site at that time.

          Where was Peter Cartwright's daughter buried?  Morris placed such a query in local newspapers.  He received opinions from many persons, locating the grave in three different places.  First, on the farm of Henry Seel, south of Dahlgren.  Second, at or near old Mt. Pleasant cemetery on the old Goshen Road.  Third, within the Knight's Prairie church cemetery not far from Mt. Pleasant.

          In a published declaration written September 1902, Robert Morris stated: "The preponderance of information received so far seems to favor Knights Prairie cemetery as the place."

          In the spring of 1906 the Methodist District Conference meeting in McLeansboro, changed the name of Mt. Pleasant to Cartwright Chapel in honor of Peter Cartwright.  They also decided to place a memorial marker in the cemetery in honor of Cynthia, the daughter.

          Peter Cartwright was a son of a Revolutionary soldier.  As a pioneer Methodist circuit riding preacher he became quite famous.  He wrote several books and Waller's Brief History of Illinois gives him credit for founding McKendree college at Lebanon, Illinois in 1828.  Cartwright served in the Illinois Legislature, elected in 1828 and 1832, but was defeated for the U. S. Congress in 1846 by Abraham Lincoln.  He died September 25, 1872.

           The memorial monument was unveiled on Thanksgiving day, 1906, by W. F. Short, D. D. of Jacksonville, Illinois--a personal friend of Peter Cartwright.  Dr. Short also delivered a lengthy address, said to have been filled with most interesting reminiscences and of great historical value.  The audience request the address be printed in the Mt. Carmel District Advocate.

          1906 was an active year for Cartwright Chapel.  Robert Morris and pastor Phillips of Belmont, preached there in a springtime revival.  The membership grew to 32.  Three persons who joined were Mrs. Betty Oneal, John Hungate and "Sis. Huffstutler who had been member of the old M. E. Church that went down years ago."

          The memorial monument placed in the Cartwright Chapel cemetery does not, and was not meant to mark the grave of Cynthia Cartwright.  Neither did its placing bring complete agreement as to her burial place as shown by the following paragraph taken from the McLeansboro Times for November 29, 1906.

          "People are welcome as they are free to their beliefs, but facts are facts.  The little Cartwright child was buried at Knight's Prairie.  'T'was the first grave ever dug at this place.  A Flint child was the next.  This church was organized on this hill in 1847, about fifty-nine years ago and was put there because the cemetery was here.  Colonel Hall will tell any one who wishes to know that his mother took him many times to the little Cartwright grave.  Col. Hall ought o know for he was raised near this place.'"

        There are a few people today who religiously contend that Cynthia was buried under the small oak tree that stands beside the Goshen Road south of the cemetery.  Did the Cartwrights hope the public would forget the exact location of their daughter's grave?  It is sufficient that we remember the tragedy and a family's sorrow with feelings of deep respect.

        And, too, let us not forget the tragedy of 1978, when a little white church, like Cynthia Cartwright, fell victim to a flame of fire, burning in the night.

Read more about Peter Cartwright. Click here!

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