Elijah Parish Lovejoy

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Elijah Parish Lovejoy
Appletons' Lovejoy Elijah Parish.jpg
Born (1802-11-09)November 9, 1802
Albion, Maine
Died November 7, 1837(1837-11-07) (aged 34)
Alton, Illinois
Cause of death Murder
Resting place Alton Cemetery
Education Waterville College
Spouse(s) Celia Ann French (m. 1835)
Appletons' Lovejoy Elijah Parish signature.jpg

Elijah Parish Lovejoy (November 9, 1802 – November 7, 1837) was an American Presbyterian minister, journalist, newspaper editor and abolitionist. He was murdered by a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois, during their attack on his warehouse to destroy his press and abolitionist materials.

Lovejoy's father was a Congregational minister and his mother a devout Christian. He attended Waterville College (now Colby College) in his home state of Maine. From 1824 until his 1826 graduation, while still an undergraduate, he also served as headmaster of Colby’s associated high school, the Latin School (later Coburn Classical Institute). He traveled west and in 1827 settled in St. Louis, Missouri. He worked as an editor of an anti-Jacksonian newspaper, the St. Louis Observer and ran a school. Five years later, he studied at the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey and became an ordained Presbyterian preacher. Returning to St. Louis, he set up a church and resumed work as editor of the Observer. His editorials criticized slavery and other church denominations.

In May 1836, after anti-abolitionist opponents in St. Louis destroyed his printing press for the third time, Lovejoy left the city and moved across the river to Alton in the free state of Illinois. In 1837 he started the Alton Observer, also an abolitionist paper. On November 7, 1837, a pro-slavery mob attacked the warehouse where Lovejoy had his fourth printing press. Lovejoy and his supporters exchanged gunfire with the mob, which fatally shot him. He died on the spot and was soon hailed as a martyr by abolitionists across the country. After his death, his brother Owen Lovejoy entered politics and became the leader of the Illinois abolitionists.

Early life and education[edit]

Lovejoy was born at his grandfather's frontier farmhouse near Albion, Maine, as the first of the nine children of Elizabeth (Pattee) and Reverend Daniel Lovejoy.[1] Lovejoy's father was a Congregational preacher and farmer and his mother, a devout Christian. Daniel Lovejoy named his son "Elijah Parish" in honor of his close friend and mentor, the Reverend Elijah Parish, who was also involved in politics.[2] Due to his own lack of an education, he encouraged his sons—Daniel, Joseph Cammett, Owen, John and Elijah—to become educated men. As a result, Elijah was taught to read the Bible and other theological texts at an early age. After completing his early studies in public schools, Lovejoy attended the Academy at Monmouth and China Academy. After becoming proficient enough in Latin and mathematics, he enrolled at Waterville College (now Colby College) in Waterville, Maine, as a sophomore in 1823.[3] He excelled in his studies, and upon faculty recommendation, he became a teacher in the college's preparatory division. Lovejoy received financial support from Reverend Benjamin Tappan to continue his attendance at Waterville College.[4] His cousin Nathan A. Farwell later served as a U.S. Senator from Maine.

In September 1826, Lovejoy graduated from Waterville College with first-class honors[5] at the top of his class.[6] During the winter and spring, he taught at China Academy. Dissatisfied with daily teaching, Lovejoy thought about moving to the South or Western United States. His former teachers at Waterville College advised him that he would best serve God in the West.[7] Agreeing, Lovejoy in May 1827 moved to Boston to earn money for his journey, having settled on Illinois as his destination.[8] Unsuccessful at finding work, he started to Illinois by foot. He stopped in New York City in mid-June, to try to find work. He eventually landed a position with the Saturday Evening Gazette as a newspaper subscription peddler. For nearly five weeks, he walked up and down streets, knocking on peoples' doors and wheedling passersby, in hopes of getting them to subscribe to the newspaper.[9] Struggling with his finances, he wrote to Reverend Jeremiah Chaplin, the president of Waterville College, explaining his situation. Chaplin sent the money that his former student so needed.[9] Lovejoy promptly embarked on his journey to Illinois, reaching Hillsboro, Montgomery County, in the fall of 1827. Lovejoy did not think he could do well in Illinois's scantly settled land, so he headed for St. Louis.[10]

There he quickly established himself as the editor of the anti-Jacksonian newspaper, the St. Louis Observer, and as the headmaster of a coeducational private school. In 1832, influenced by the Christian revivalist movement led by abolitionist David Nelson, he decided to become a preacher.[11] He returned East to study at the Princeton Theological Seminary, and upon completion, went to Philadelphia, where he became an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church in April 1833. Upon returning to St. Louis, he set up a Presbyterian church and renewed his work as editor of the St. Louis Observer.

A major port in a slave state surrounded by free ones, St. Louis was a center of abolitionist and pro-slavery factions. From 1814 to 1860, more than three hundred freedom suits were filed by slaves to gain freedom, often based on their having lived in free territory with their masters. At the same time, it was an area where both free blacks and slaves worked in the city, especially on the waterfront and steamboats.

Marriage and family[edit]

In 1835, Lovejoy married Celia Ann French, and they had two children.

Move to Alton[edit]

In 1836 Lovejoy moved with his family across the river to Alton, Illinois and the next year founded the Alton Observer. Although Illinois was a free state, Alton, Illinois was a center for slave catchers trying to capture escaped slaves and for pro-slavery forces. Many escaped slaves crossed the Mississippi River from Missouri, a slave state. Alton had been settled by pro-slavery southerners who thought Alton should not become a haven for escaped slaves.[12]

Tensions over slavery increased in St. Louis and three times, pro-slavery opponents destroyed Lovejoy's printing press to try to stop his publication. The last time was after he criticized Judge Luke E. Lawless for his failure to indict individuals linked to a mob lynching of a free black man, the Burning of Francis McIntosh.[12][13] An angry mob stormed the jail where McIntosh was held, removed him from the jail, where he was being held after killing two law officers during arrest, tied him to a tree and burned him to death.[12][14]

Wood engraving of the pro-slavery mob setting fire to Gilman & Godfrey's warehouse.

On November 7, 1837, pro-slavery partisans approached Gilman's warehouse, where Lovejoy had hidden his printing press.[15][16] According to the Alton Observer, the mob fired shots into the warehouse. When Lovejoy and his men returned fire, they hit several people in the crowd, killing a man named Bishop.[15]

The leaders of the mob set up a ladder against the warehouse. They sent a boy up with a torch to set fire to the wooden roof. Lovejoy and his supporter Royal Weller went outside, surprised the pro-slavery partisans, pushed over the ladder and retreated back inside the warehouse. The mob put up the ladder again; when Lovejoy and Weller went out to overturn it, they were spotted and shot. Lovejoy was hit five times with slugs from a shotgun and died immediately; Weller was wounded. The mob destroyed the new printing press by carrying it to a window and throwing it out onto the riverbank. They broke it up and threw the pieces into the river.

Francis Butter Murdoch, the district attorney of Alton, prosecuted Lovejoy's murder but no one was convicted.

Lovejoy was considered a martyr by the abolition movement. In his name, his brother Owen became the leader of the Illinois abolitionists. Owen and his brother Joseph wrote a memoir about Elijah, which was published in 1838 by the Anti-Slavery Society in New York and distributed widely among abolitionists in the nation. With his murder symbolic of the rising tensions within the country, Lovejoy is called the "first casualty of the Civil War."[12]

Elijah Lovejoy was buried in Alton Cemetery in an unmarked grave. In 1860, Thomas Dimmock, editor of the Alton Democrat, located the grave and arranged for a proper grave marker. Some of his supporters were later buried near him.

On November 2, 1837, five days before his death, he gave an emotive speech in Alton on the abolition question. In it, he asserted his willingness to respect the views of his opponents, but claimed the right to challenge them, as guaranteed in the Constitution. He reminded the audience that he was a hardworking and God-fearing citizen who had broken no laws, and that the physical threats to him and his family were totally unjustified. He ended by declaring that he would not be driven away, but would continue his work in Alton.[17]

There was such fear at the time of Lovejoy's death that no service was held, and the town newspaper he had led did not even report his death, though many other newspapers around the country decried this murder. The 1837 mob killing of Elijah Lovejoy was finally commemorated by a monument in Alton's City Cemetery, installed sixty years later in 1897. Another sixty years passed before John Glanville Gill published the first full-length biography of the slain abolitionist minister and editor. Gill was himself a former Alton minister who, like Lovejoy, also suffered persecution for his commitment to human rights.

Legacy and honors[edit]

The 110-foot tall Elijah P. Lovejoy monument, in Alton, IL
  • 1838, his brothers Joseph P. and Owen Lovejoy wrote a memoir about him and his defense of the free press, which they published in New York, under the title: Memoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy: Who was Murdered in Defence of the Liberty of the Press at Alton, Illinois, Nov. 7, 1837
  • Abraham Lincoln referenced Lovejoy's murder in his Lyceum address in January 1838.
  • John Brown was inspired by Lovejoy's death.
  • In 1897, Alton citizens erected the 110-foot tall Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument at the cemetery where he was buried.
  • John Glanville Gill completed his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1946 on The Issues Involved in the Death of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, Alton, 1837.[18] This thesis was later turned into a book, the first biography of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, entitled Tide Without Turning: Elijah P. Lovejoy and Freedom of the Press, Boston: Beacon Starr King Press 1958.
  • The majority African-American village of Brooklyn, Illinois, located just north of East St. Louis, is popularly known as Lovejoy in his honor.
  • The Lovejoy Library at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is named in his honor; some had proposed naming the university after him.
  • The Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award was established by Colby College in his honor, and is awarded annually to a member of the newspaper profession who "has contributed to the nation's journalistic achievement." A major classroom building at Colby is also named for Lovejoy. Furthermore, an inscribed memorial rock from his birthplace occupies a prominent position in a grassy square at Colby.
  • Elijah Lovejoy is recognized by a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[19]
  • In 2003, Reed College established the Elijah Parish and Owen Lovejoy Scholarship, which it awards annually.
  • The family continues to be active in social justice issues, especially modern abolition: Martha Lovejoy is a supervisor in the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which coordinates the United States Government's efforts to combat modern forms of slavery.
  • There is a Lovejoy Elementary School in Alton, IL.
  • There is a plaque honoring Elijah Parish Lovejoy on the external wall at the Mackay Campus Center at his alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Lawson and Howard, p528.
  2. ^ Dillon, p3.
  3. ^ Lovejoy and Lovejoy, pp. 18–19.
  4. ^ Dillon, p5.
  5. ^ Lovejoy and Lovejoy, p. 23
  6. ^ Dillon, p6.
  7. ^ Dillon, p7.
  8. ^ Dillon, p9.
  9. ^ a b Dillon, p10.
  10. ^ Dillon, p11.
  11. ^ Balmer, p.346.
  12. ^ a b c d John Glanville Gill, Tide Without Turning: Elijah P. Lovejoy and Freedom of the Press (1958).
  13. ^ "Proslavery Contemporaries of Lovejoy". Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Deputy Sheriff George Hammond", Officer Down Memorial (ODMP), accessed 26 January 2011
  15. ^ a b "Winthrop S. Gilman Dead: An Original Abolitionist and Successful Business Man and Banker". The New York Times. 1884-10-05. Winthrop Sargent Gilman, head of the banking house of Gilman, Son Co., of No. 62 Cedar-street, this city, died at his Summer home in Palisades, Rockland County, N.Y., on Friday, age 76. Mr. Gilman was known as a business ... 
  16. ^ "Elijah Parish Lovejoy Was Killed By a Pro-slavery Mob". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2008-06-07. On November 7, 1837, Elijah Parish Lovejoy was killed by a pro-slavery mob while defending the site of his anti-slavery newspaper, The Saint Louis Observer. 
  17. ^ Joseph P. and Owen Lovejoy, The Martyrdom of Lovejoy, An Account of the Life, Trials, and Perils of Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy (1838).
  18. ^ John Glanville Gill. The issues involved in the death of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, Alton, 1837, Ph.D. Thesis, Harvard University, 1946
  19. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Phillips, Jennifer (2009). Elijah Lovejoy's Fight for Freedom. Publisher: Nose in a Book Publishing.  Biography for middle-grade readers.
  • Simon, Paul (1994). Freedom's Champion. Carbondale, IL 62902-3697: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 206. ISBN 0-8093-1940-3. 

External links[edit]