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The Lovejoy Homestead, featuring an 1838 Greek Revival farmhouse, is located on the eastern edge of Princeton, Illinois. It is a former station on the Underground Railroad and a National Historic Landmark.

Visitors to the Lovejoy Homestead will learn the story of the Denham and Lovejoy families, and how they played a part in our local, state, and national history.

Butler and Eunice Denham built their Greek Revival farmhouse around 1836-1838. They had emigrated from the New England states to Illinois and purchased 1200 acres of land on the outskirts of Princeton.

Owen Lovejoy arrived in Princeton in October 1838 to assume the ministry at the Hampshire Colony Congregational Church. He boarded at the Denham farm, and when Butler Denham passed away in 1841, Lovejoy married his widow, Eunice. The couple had six children of their own, in addition to three daughters from Mrs. Lovejoy’s first marriage.

Lovejoy was a fiery abolitionist and preached his views from the pulpit of the Congregational church. This caused dissension in a community which was already divided by the slavery issue.

Lovejoy’s anti-slavery passion was fueled by the 1836 murder of his eldest brother, Elijah, in Alton, Illinois. Elijah was the publisher of an abolitionist newspaper, and was killed by a pro-slavery mob. Owen vowed to carry on Elijah’s anti-slavery cause.

Through Owen Lovejoy’s efforts, the Homestead in Princeton became one of the most important stations on the Underground Railroad in Illinois. Runaway slaves were harbored by the Lovejoys until arrangements could be made for them to travel to the next station on their way to Canada and freedom. It is also believed that Butler and Eunice Denham sheltered runaway slaves at their farm before Owen Lovejoy came to town.

Eventually Lovejoy felt the need to enter politics. He was elected to the State Legislature in 1854 and to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1856, where he served four terms. He became nationally known for his position to abolish slavery. During Lovejoy’s last two terms in Congress, Abraham Lincoln was President. They shared an interest in the goals of the Republican Party.

Reverend Lovejoy died on March 25, 1864 in Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 53, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Princeton, Illinois.

Today, guided tours show visitors through the 1838 Denham/Lovejoy home. It was built from locally sourced, black walnut lumber. Furnishings in the house date from the 1830s-1850s to reflect the era of the Underground Railroad. The secret hiding area above the stairs shows where runaway slaves were hidden.

In addition to the Lovejoy home, the Colton Schoolhouse is located on the Homestead grounds and open for tours. It was moved from its original location 2.5 miles east of the Homestead. The school was built in 1849, and classes continued until 1945. Today it is furnished as an example of a typical one-room schoolhouse.

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Aug 18 to Aug 19, 2018


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