History of the Homestead
built by Butler Denham as a farm house surrounded by almost 1300 acres of
Mostly built of black walnut from the local sawmill
White oak used for sills, studs and floor joists; bark left on floor
All timbers were connected by mortise and tenon, secured by heavy wooden
Lath was hand-split from scrap wood from the sawmill
Mortar was made from mud
East section of house added
Eunice (Denham) Lovejoy died. Her daughters and one of Owen’s sons lived
in the home for 7
years, and then it became a tenant home for those who farmed the land.
Home was purchased by Jay Spaulding and his daughter, Sue Gross, who did
some restoration work. It was opened to the public as a private period
The home changed owners many times and was vacant for a number of years.
The building deteriorated and birds even nested inside.
Concerned citizens of Princeton formed a Restoration Committee, and the
was saved from the bulldozer when the State of Illinois purchased it.
Grant for $30,000 was obtained from the State of Illinois to restore the
The home was restored. Building was raised 8 feet into the air by a
professional house mover and a new concrete block foundation was
constructed with a brick facing on the outside. (Old bricks were used to
keep the character.) Steel I-beams were installed in the basement to
support the home.
Siding replaced where necessary
Roof strengthened and hand-split wood shingles put on wooden v-shaped
gutters were repaired and barrels were placed at the corners of the house
to catch rain water
Plaster repaired or replaced
Electric baseboard heating installed
State deeded house to the City of Princeton (October)
House placed on the National Register of Historic Sites
Recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution
House designated a National Historic Landmark
Homestead was admitted to the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
Created this web site for the Owen Lovejoy Homestead
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Biography of Owen Lovejoy
Lovejoy was born in
Albion, Maine in 1811. The details of his early life are sketchy, but it
is known that he attended college for a few years and taught school for a
short time before moving to Illinois. In 1836, Owen arrived in Alton,
Illinois to be with his older brother, Elijah, and study for the
ministry. Elijah was the editor of an anti-slavery newspaper and was
eventually murdered by an angry mob of pro-slavery citizens. After his
death, Owen devoted the rest of his life to the abolitionist cause.
He came to Princeton, a village of about 200 people, in 1838 to
assume the ministry of the Hampshire Colony Congregational Church for the
salary of $600 a year. He held that position for seventeen years,
preaching his views against slavery.
Lovejoy boarded and roomed with the Butler Denham family for
three years. After the death of Mr. Denham, Lovejoy married his widow and
continued to help operate the farm. (The Denhams owned nearly 1,200 acres,
but only 240 acres were listed as “improved” in the 1850 Census.) They
raised her three daughters in addition to six children of their own.
The home became an important station on the Underground
Railroad. The Denhams were abolitionists and it is believed that they
sheltered runaway slaves before Owen Lovejoy’s arrival in Princeton.
Lovejoy’s reputation as an
abolitionist spread, and he eventually felt the need of political power to
fulfill his life purpose. In 1854 he was elected to the Illinois
legislature. Two years later he won the nomination for the U.S. House of
Representatives by one vote, and was elected to four consecutive terms.
After the outbreak of the
Civil War in 1861, Lovejoy was appointed a Colonel of the infantry. He
took a leave of absence from Congress to serve in the war.
Lovejoy was an
acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, and Lovejoy was one of the special guests
invited to witness the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lovejoy died in 1864 of Bright’s disease (a liver and kidney disorder) at the age of 53. He is
buried in Oakland Cemetery in Princeton. His widow lived to be 89 and
continued to live in the house for a number of years after his death. One
of their sons owned the home and farmed the land until his death in 1931.
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of Eunice Lovejoy
Eunice Lovejoy was a remarkable woman in her own right, but her place in
history is overshadowed by her more public husband, Owen Lovejoy.
Eunice Storrs was born in Trenton, near the city of Utica, New
York in 1809. Her parents were Joshua and Mary Perkins Storrs, and her
grandfather, Rev. John Storrs of Mansfield, Connecticut, was a chaplain in
the Continental Army. Eunice married Butler Denham when she was
twenty-six years old, and came to Princeton in 1838 where she lived the
rest of her life.
Butler Denham died in 1841, and Eunice married Owen Lovejoy two
years later. The Denham’s land and other assets always remained the
property of Eunice—the title never passed to Owen Lovejoy, even though the
farm became known as the Lovejoy Homestead after Owen and Eunice were
married. (The three Denham girls also went by the name of Lovejoy,
although Owen never legally adopted them.) Butler Denham’s will required
that his estate be used to support his daughters, and as early as the
1850s, the estate was forced to sell some parcels of land to pay for the
daughters’ school expenses.
By all accounts, Eunice Lovejoy was a congenial and sensible
woman. She successfully handled the business of the farm during her
husband’s absences in Washington, D.C., and was also a good parent to her
After Owen Lovejoy’s death, Eunice remained at the farm with
several of her daughters and her son. She died in January 1899 at the age
of 89 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Princeton, Illinois.
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The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad
was maintained in the northern states to aid Negro slaves in their attempt
to reach Canada and freedom. It wasn’t a real railroad and it was not
under the ground. It was called “underground” because it was secret and
“railroad” because it seemed to run regularly like train routes. The
Princeton station was probably the most important in Illinois because of
the powerful personality of its conductor, Owen Lovejoy.
Runaway slaves came up the Mississippi River and stopped at many
stations between Quincy and Galesburg before reaching Princeton. Each
stop was usually about ten miles apart. Transportation was sometimes by
wagon with the Negro hidden under a load of hay or straw, but many walked
during the night. The trip to Canada could possibly take a year.
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