Underground railroad part of Pettengill's past - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Underground railroad part of Pettengill's past

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He was an abolitionist, a church leader, and a friend of Abraham Lincoln. Moses Pettengill holds a special place in history for his efforts toward civil rights.

It all unfolded here in Peoria. While there is a lot we don't know about Moses Pettengill, there is much to recognize about him and his first wife, Lucy.

"Moses and Lucy were part of the abolitionist movement.. it was not popular at all. When they would have meetings there would be angry mobs and you didn't even want to mention it", said Mary Hamm, house manager through the Peoria Historical Society.

It begins at the their home on Jefferson and Liberty in Peoria. The house was destroyed in 1911, but it's history holds strong.

"There was a man that was walking by when he was younger and he would go by daily and one day he decided to walk around the back and look in the cellar windows. He found five runaways... in the cellar", said Hamm.

The house was a stopping point for slaves for over 20 years. It was torn down for the Jefferson Hotel to be built. After that, the Civic Center.

The Peoria Historical Society only has one photo of the original home, one Abraham Lincoln stayed in when he would visit the Pettengills.

"So much was kept a secret during the underground railroad just to protect the slaves that were trying to get freed to move them through. So, a lot of what we're piecing together... we don't have a lot of facts on", said  Colleen Johnson. Johnson is the executive director of the Peoria Historical Society.

The Pettengill's next house, built in 1868, is what stands today to remind us of his story. It sits in the historic district on Moss Avenue. This house was not apart of the underground, but contains the only photograph of Lucy Pettengill. Moses and his second wife lived here, as Lucy died as it was being built.

While very few things remain original in this home after many renovations, it was the foundation that created a platform for others to thrive.

"When you have a legacy like that and live in a house like this, it would influence you to be on the right side of things and to give back. The people that lived in this house certainty gave back, and gave back and gave back. They were all lifetime volunteers in Peoria", said Johnson.

This house is called the Pettengill-Morron House Museum because of Jean Morron, another owner known for her philanthropic work. She donated the house to the Peoria Historical Society upon her death because of its historical value.

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the Pettengill-Morron House being built. You can tour the house by contacting the Peoria Historical Society.

Also inside is a special gift shop containing unique items.

(309) 674-1921 - Tuesday through Friday

900:am - 4:30pm

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