Oberlin-Wellington Rescuers (1858), H.E. Peck is second from the right
Henry Everard Peck.
H.E. Peck joined J.B.T. Marsh as co-editor at The Lorain County News when he bought a share of the paper from V.A. Shankland on March 5, 1862 (Williams Brothers, 65). Peck continued to edit the paper until September 1863 (H.E. Peck, Lorain County News, September 30, 1863).
Henry E. Peck was born in Rochester, New York on July 20, 1821 (Faculty File, H.E. Peck, Oberlin College Archives). His father, Everard Peck, worked in the print industry as a printer, publisher, and bookstore owner. The elder Peck was deeply involved in the revival movement and was a friend of President Finney's, the second President of Oberlin College (Fletcher, vol. 1, 23-24). H.E. Peck finished his preparatory schooling at the Oneida Institute near Rochester, and then received a degree in 1841 from Bowdoin College in Maine. Finally, he earned an A.M. from the Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1845 (Faculty File, H.E. Peck, O.C.A.). After graduating from Oberlin Peck returned to Rochester to do pastoral work (James H. Fairchild, Oberlin: The Colony and the College, 1833-1883 [Oberlin, OH: E.J. Goodrich, 1883] 298-299). Henry Peck married Ester Buckley on May 3, 1849. They had three children (H.E. Peck, Faculty File, O.C.A.).
Peck became the Professor of Sacred Rhetoric and Adjunct Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at Oberlin College in 1851. This was a position he held until 1865. During his time at Oberlin Henry Peck was known as eccentric and liberal compared with his colleagues. He was also known as a staunch abolitionist (Fletcher, 691). Peck often traveled throughout Northern Ohio making speeches concerning the abolition of slavery, and campaigning for abolitionist candidates (Fletcher, vol. 1, 391).
Peck was involved in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue in September of 1858. Oberlin was a town infamous for harboring escaped slaves. In 1858 slave catchers came to Oberlin, acting under the Fugitive Slave Law, to find and return former slaves to the South. They caught John Price and headed to Wellington, just south of Oberlin. A large group of men from the town and college were warned of the abduction and they set off for Wellington to rescue John Price, where they forcefully removed him from a Wellington hotel. In December of 1858 Peck pled innocent, along with twenty other Oberlin men. to "infringement of the Fugitive Slave law" a federal offense. Peck spent 85 days in jail with the other rescuers during the spring and summer of 1859. The prisoners were made to feel quite at home and their incarceration garnered national attention. Peck was even allowed to preach in jail to the other inmates (Fletcher, vol. 1 403-409). The federal trial ended when the slave catchers (the main witnesses for the prosecution) were indicted in Lorain County Court on charges of kidnapping. Peck was never convicted and released from prison on July 7, 1859 (Fletcher, vol. 1, 411).
In March of 1862 Peck took on the co-editorship of The Lorain County News, while he was a professor at the College. He left the paper in September 1863 so that he could devote more time to the war effort. Peck was involved in recruiting soldiers.He made many trips to the front to visit local soldiers in battle, bringing them some of the comforts of home, and taking back news of the war to the residents of Oberlin (Fletcher, vol. 2, 864, 867). In 1865, after the war, Peck resigned from the College to become the first U.S. Minister to Haiti. He died of Yellow Fever in office in Haiti on June 9, 1867 (H.E. Peck, Faculty File, O.C.A.). His body was returned to Oberlin for burial (Fairchild, vol. 1, 299). Peck was quite a hero in Oberlin. He was one of the most influential professors in the college, and a man that threw himself into dangerous situations to stand up for what he believed in, namely the abolition of slavery.