The oldest house still standing in Lombard, Illinois, was owned and occupied by successive generations of the Peck family from 1839 until 1995 when it was donated to the Lombard Historical Society. Sheldon Peck, who built the house, was a renowned folk art painter who worked from his home or on location for clients. He started the first school in the area by hiring a teacher and setting aside a room in his house for the school. The posted rules for teachers seem onerous today. While men teachers who attended church were given two hours a week “for courting purposes,” women teachers were expected to spend their free time reading the Bible or “other worthy books.”
Despite draconian rules for teachers, which were the norm in his day, Peck was deeply involved in the Underground Railway in the 1850s and helped many escaped slaves continue on their journey to freedom. He was an outspoken abolitionist with numerous friends and business associates in the Underground Railway. As a Railway conductor who sometimes harbored fugitive slaves, he kept the Underground secrets to himself. His anti-slavery activities are documented in a diary that was preserved by his son Frank who witnessed many of his father’s activities.
His paintings can be seen in the Chicago Historical Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. Reproductions of these paintings are in the Peck homestead, which is restored to its original state with period furnishings. It is open for visitors on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
For more information, you can visit their website www(dot)villageoflombard(dot)org
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