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The Cartwright Legend

Across the Old Goshen road, and set amidst Cartwright cemetery there is a
headstone that has an inscription which reads: “Cynthia, daughter of Peter &
Frances Cartwright~ Born March 27, 1815.  Was killed by a falling tree.  
October 23, 1824. ‘She closed at night her sleepy eyes and woke at dawn in
Paradise.’”  Although a stone is erected there, this young girl is not buried in
this spot.
According to the Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, a circuit riding preacher,
he and his family were traveling north on the Old Goshen Road.  They stopped
for the night, and built their fire near a presumably sound tree.  During the night
the tree fell on their third daughter, Cynthia.  Traveling several miles north, they
buried her in Hamilton County near the site of the current Cartwright church,
once called Mt. Pleasant church.  
Many from this area have said that Cynthia Cartwright is buried on our property
under the only oak by the Old Goshen Road.  One older Hamilton County
citizen told us that his dad showed him the place where she was buried- along
the east edge of our property, under the solitary oak tree- this landmark
denotes Cynthia’s grave.  History calls aloud on our farmstead! Legend, lore or
legitimate- you decide.

Amanda K. McDaniel (Prairie Proclamation Volume 11, Issue#2)
The Legend of Cartwright Hill

Around McLeansboro, folklore has it that a
circuit ridin’ preacher named Cartwright
brought his family through the Hamilton County
area and encamped on a hill in Flannigan
Township.  That evening, they pitched their tent
under an old dead tree for what shelter it
would provide.  During the night, their campfire
charred the dead tree, and it fell on his
youngest daughter, killing
her.  Some people
say that a storm blew up instead and blew the tree over on her.  She was then buried there on the hill
where the cemetery now stands.  Others tell that she lies under the only tree that borders the road on the
southeast perimeter of our property.  It is strange that this tree is the only one left standing under the
electric grid in the surrounding area.  The story never seems to be told the same twice.  What do you
think?  Is there any truth to this legend?  Was there really such a tragedy that happened so many years
ago?  Or is this a story that has grown more dramatic with the ensuing years?  We decided that since our
farm lies partly on Cartwright Hill and directly across from Cartwright Cemetery, we would like to get to the
bottom of this mystery.  Where better to find the truth, but straight from the horse’s mouth?  Since the
players in this drama have long since passed on, we were a little stumped as to how to go about our
detective work.  What happened?  Well, be looking for the next Prairie Proclamation to find the exciting
conclusion to the “Legend of Cartwright Hill!”    
(Taken from the Prairie Proclamation July 1997)

Perusing the selection of books in our local library, we happened upon the “Autobiography of Peter
Cartwright.”  BINGO!  And now for the real story, in the words of Mr. Cartwright himself. . . . . . .
“. . . Just before we struck the prairies, the man that drove my team contrived to turn over the wagon, and
was very near killing my oldest daughter.  The sun was just going down; and by the time we righted up the
wagon, and reloaded it was getting dark, and we had a difficult hill to descend, so we concluded to camp
there for the night; almost in sight of two cabins containing families.  I was almost exhausted  reloading
my wagon; the evening was warm, and my wife persuaded me not to stretch out our tent that night; so I
struck a fire, and kindled it at the root of a small, and, as I thought, sound, tree.  We laid down and slept
Just as the day was appearing in the east, the tree at the root of which we had kindled a small fire fell,
and it fell on our third daughter, as direct on her, from her feet to her head, as it could fall; and I suppose
she never breathed after.  I heard the tree crack when it started to fall, and sprang, alarmed very much,
and seized it before it struck the child; but ti availed nothing.  Although this was an awful calamity, yet God
was kind to us, for is we had stretched our tent that night, we should have been obliged to lie down in
another position, and in that event the tree would have fallen directly upon us, and we should all have
been killed instead of one.  The tree was sound outside to the thickness of the back of a carving knife, and
then all the inside had a dry rot; but this we did not suspect.  I sent my teamsters to those families near at
hand for aid; but not a soul would come nigh.  Here we were in great distress, and no one to even pity our
condition.  My teamster and myself fell to cutting the tree off the child; and we drew her from under it, and
carefully laid her in our feed trough, and moved on about twenty miles to an acquaintance’s in Hamilton
County, Illinois, where we buried her.”
Now, as to the exact location in Hamilton County?  No one knows for sure, but there is a marker in the
cemetery across the road.  It reads as follows: Cynthia, Daughter of Peter & Frances Cartwright, Born
March 27, 1815.  Was killed by a falling tree October 23, 1824, She closed at night her sleepy eyes, and
woke at dawn in paradise.  Erected by the Mt. Carmel District, Southern Illinois Conference, Methodist
Episcopal Church.
What do you think?  

By: Rhonda K. McDaniel (taken from the Prairie Proclamation August 1997)