Contact Title:
Contact Name:
John Cornell
PO Box 628
Quincy, IL 62306
Phone Number:
(217) 223-1800

Tax deductible, charitable gifts may be given to "Friends of the Dr. Richard Eells House."

Quincy, IL
Education, Fine Arts

Friends of the Dr. Richard Eells House


Friends of the Dr. Richard Eells House (FDREH) was established in May, 1990 as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation to save and restore the nationally important and recognized Underground Railroad site at 415 Jersey Street in Quincy. FDREH also interprets the abolitionist movement and Dr. Eells’ role, as well the story of early Quincy architecture and building techniques.


Dr. Richard Eells was born in early 1800, only a few months after the death of George Washington. He attended Yale, and in 1826 married Jane Bestor, the daughter of Dr. Bestor, one of Dr. Eells’ instructors. The Eells came to Quincy in 1833, and Dr. Eells soon established his medical practice on the south side of Maine Street, facing John’s Square (now Washington Park).

In June 1835, he purchased Lot 6 of Block 19, and built a four-room, two story brick house. In 1840 two rooms were added when the Eells adopted two children. Dr. Eells was a trustee of the Congregational Church and soon became active in the Quincy and central Illinois abolitionist movement. He is credited with helping several hundred slaves flee from Missouri on their journey to Canada. However, in August 1842, Eells was caught helping slave Charley in an unsuccessful and dramatic effort to escape from his owner in Monticello, Missouri. Trial was set and in April 1843, Judge Stephen A. Douglas found Eells guilty and fined him $400. In December 1843, an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court was turned down.

Eells died in 1846 but six years later, his executor and prominent lawyers Salmon P. Chase and William Seward appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but lost. Because of these court cases and Dr. Eells’ prominence in the abolitionist movement, the Dr. Eells House is recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, as one of the forty-two most important Underground Railroad sites (out of 308 surveyed) deserving national recognition and support.


Because of our continuous state of reconstruction and restoration, made possible only as funds become available from grants and private contributions, our programs and services have been limited. In addition to several open houses during the year, we offer group tours available year round (arranged by appointment) and group meetings. Our board members also offer programs on Dr. Eells and the Underground Railroad in Quincy.

In 1991-1992, FDREH organized its first fund drive, with the help of the Gardner Museum of Architecture & Design, and 35 founding members exceeded the $150,000 goal with gifts of $157,000. In March 1992, the group received its federal tax exempt status Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. In June 1992, the property was purchased for $43,250 and saved from transformation into a parking lot. Membership categories were established to help with operating costs. Experienced historic preservation experts developed an extensive Historic Structures Report. Additional consultants added recommendations.

From the beginning, FDREH has relied on experts in the field as there is no paid staff. While the Eells-built rooms are being restored to their original time frame, the five post Eells rooms (1859-1871) will be used for exhibits, presentations and offices. All decisions are made by the Board of Directors, relying on consultants and in-house research. Fund raising is continuous. Generous support of over $900,000 has been received in our first 16 years, with major gifts from the State of Illinois, Quincy Foundation, CFM Foundation, Marion Gardner Jackson Charitable Trust, the U.S. National Parks Service, as well as from many Quincy businesses, associations, and individuals. In 2002-2004 a welcome grant was received to make possible the purchase of some fine early 19th Century furniture and furnishings for the historic Eells rooms, including Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Chippendale and Empire designs. Rooms have been papered and carpeting installed, reproduced from authentic historic patterns (including some wallpaper reproduced from samples found in the House from the Eells period).

Our attention is now directed to the development of two rooms of exhibits, one for the Underground Railroad story and Dr. Eells, and the other to present early Quincy Architecture. An exhibits expert has provided us with a guideline/report for our planning. The exhibits will develop as funds are secured. During 2004, we completed the restoration of the carriage house through federal, state, and city grants, and our own funds. With the help of a Master Gardener board member we have started historic landscaping as well. In 2005 we were awarded a grant from the U.S. Government’s National Parks Service for finishing restoration of the outside overhang woodwork, for stabilization work in the basement for the foundation, and completion of a post-Eells room. During 2005 we also hosted a reading of the play “Burnt Sugar” by former Quincyan Bob Austin. Also in 2005, our long term President, Mr. George Irwin, retired from the Board of Directors. During the year we were pleased that WGEM filmed a tour given by Mr. Irwin that will be a valuable addition to Quincy’s historic record. Mr. Irwin was part of the original group formed to save the House and he provided invaluable leadership and support for FDREH.

Ways to Give:

Gift giving opportunities continue to exist with interior restoration, furnishings, and substantial exterior restoration or for just a regular membership. Donors may underwrite an item of furnishings or any of our capital projects and they will be recognized as we have done for our major contributors. In addition to unrestricted gifts directly to Friends of the Doctor Richard Eells House (PO Box 628, Quincy IL 62306), the organization can accept gifts with restricted principal (income only spent) at the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area, Doctor Richard Eells House Fund.


Inquiries are invited to Friends of the Doctor Richard Eells House, PO Box 628, Quincy, IL 62306.