graphicPrinceton’s heritage dates back to 1831, when this fertile prairie welcomed Massachusetts church members making their way west to seek religious freedom.

Among early settlers were John and Cyrus Bryant, brothers of William Cullen Bryant of American literary fame. It was John who was Princeton’s first anti-slavery activist in those pre-Civil War days.

Soon following was Owen Lovejoy, new minister to the town’s Hampshire Colony Congregational Church. Lovejoy, a fiery abolitionist and later influential statesman, joined the movement, and the Lovejoy Home became one of the most important stations in the "Underground Railroad" in Illinois. Now restored, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Princeton, named county seat of Bureau County in 1837, continued to grow and prosper as a hub of activity. Abraham Lincoln, a friend of Lovejoy, spoke at anti-slavery rallies here. The coming of the railroad in 1854 expanded the growth, lengthening the business district to meet the rails which fell slightly to the north.

Much of Princeton’s colorful heritage is preserved for visitors through the city’s various historic sites. The Bureau County Historical Museum celebrates Princeton’s past with a wealth of treasures from early settlers to the area.

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