Mayslake Peabody Estate

Some 15,000 years ago, the landscape of Northeastern Illinois was an icy one. Mile-high glaciers covered DuPage County and what is now the Mayslake Peabody Estate Historic Site. As the climate warmed and the ice receded, Native Americans arrived. Game was plentiful, the waters were pure and the land was rich. A clovis point dating back to 8,000 B.C. was found at Mayslake, evidence of this early human influence upon the land. There is one registered archeological site at Mayslake, and artifacts found date back to 3,000 B.C.

More recently, the outposts and campsites of the Pottawatomi village of Sauganakka were included within the Mayslake Forest Preserve site. Try to imagine the movement of these peoples over the waterways and through the prairies and woodlands of the eastern DuPage County wilderness less than 200 years ago.

The Treaty of 1816 with the Pottawatomi, Ojibwa and Chippwea Indians included a provision to purchase land 20 miles in width for the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and set the stage for European settlement in the territory. The northern boundary ran southeast from Kenilworth to the Illinois River establishing the Old Indian Boundary Line which ran diagonally through present- day Oak Brook and the center of the Mayslake Forest Preserve site.

After the Blackhawk War and followed by the Treaty of 1833, Native Americans were displaced from this region and moved westward beyond the Mississippi River.

By 1852, scattered farmsteads were transforming the natural features of the county. Prairies were quickly cultivated and woodlands were felled to provide for the lumber needs of early settlers. The historic community of Fullersburg was flourishing, and the nationally recognized Graue Mill was in operation. It is believed that Lincoln stopped here while riding the judicial circuit. In the l860's, the railroad came through, and the rural character of the area changed forever.

By 1919, wealthy coal magnate, Francis Stuyvesant Peabody, had accumulated 848 acres of prime real estate in DuPage County and began construction of his 39 room Tudor Revival mansion known as Mayslake Hall at a cost of $750,000. His estate was named as a tribute to his first wife and daughter. The historic mansion was designed by renowned Chicago Architect, Benjamin Henry Marshall, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Tragedy struck shortly after work on the mansion was completed. On the Sunday morning of August 27, 1922, a gala social event and fox hunt was taking place at Mayslake. When the chase ended, Mr. Peabody was not among the returning guests. His body was found later upon a grassy knoll by searchers. Efforts to revive him proved futile. Peabody had died of a heart attack at the age of 63. At the time of his sudden death, he had amassed a personal fortune of $35 million, and his business enterprise was worth $75 million.

The grieving family did not wish to remain at the estate, and on March 28, 1924, the property was sold to the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Hearth, Order of Friars Minor for $450,000.

The St. Francis Retreat House was formally dedicated on March 1, 1925. Over 500,000 persons attended retreats at the site. A wing was added to the Peabody Mansion and dedicated in 1951 to house the retreatants.

The Portiuncula Chapel, the only known replica in the United States of the famous Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy, was built as a memorial to Peabody and his legend. Today, it is preserved as a work of art and rented out for weddings and other events.

For more information about the Historic Mayslake Peabody Estate Site, visit www.mayslakepeabody.com

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