Elijah Parish Lovejoy

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Elijah Parish Lovejoy
Appletons' Lovejoy Elijah Parish.jpg
Born(1802-11-09)November 9, 1802
DiedNovember 7, 1837(1837-11-07) (aged 34)
Cause of deathMurder
Resting placeAlton Cemetery
EducationWaterville College
Celia Ann French
(m. 1835)
RelativesOwen Lovejoy (brother); Nathan A. Farwell (cousin)
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. After having moved his newspaper from St. Louis, Missouri to Alton, Illinois, he was fatally shot during an attack by a pro-slavery mob. They were seeking to destroy a warehouse owned by Winthrop Sargent Gilman and Benjamin Godfrey, which held Lovejoy's press and abolitionist materials.

According to John Quincy Adams, the murder "[gave] a shock as of an earthquake throughout this country".[1] "The Boston Recorder declared that these events called forth from every part of the land 'a burst of indignation which has not had its parallel in this country since the Battle of Lexington.'"[2] When informed about the murder, John Brown said publicly: "Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery."[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born at his paternal grandparents' frontier farmhouse near Albion, Maine, as the first of nine children of Elizabeth (Pattee) Lovejoy and Daniel Lovejoy.[4] Lovejoy's father was a Congregational preacher and farmer, and his mother was a homemaker and a devout Christian. Daniel Lovejoy named his son in honor of his close friend and mentor, Elijah Parish, a minister who was also involved in politics.[5] Due to his own lack of education, the father encouraged his sons—Elijah, Daniel, Joseph Cammett, Owen, and John—to become educated. Elijah was taught to read the Bible and other religious texts at an early age.[6]

After completing early studies in public schools, Lovejoy attended the private Academy at Monmouth and China Academy. When sufficiently proficient in Latin and mathematics, he enrolled at Waterville College (now Colby College) as a sophomore in 1823.[6] He excelled in his studies. Based on faculty recommendations, 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). Lovejoy received financial support from minister Benjamin Tappan to continue his studies at Waterville College.[7]

In September 1826, Lovejoy graduated cum laude from Waterville,[8] and was class valedictorian.[9] During the winter and spring, he taught at China Academy. Dissatisfied with daily teaching, Lovejoy considered moving to the Southern or Western United States (area of the Northwest Territory). His former teachers at Waterville College advised him that he would best serve God in the West (now considered Midwest).[10]

Lovejoy in May 1827 moved to Boston to earn money for his journey, having settled on the free state of Illinois as his destination.[11] 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 worked to sell subscriptions.[12] Struggling with his finances, he wrote to Jeremiah Chaplin, president of Waterville College, explaining his situation. Chaplin sent the money that his former student so needed.[12]

I go to tread
The Western vales, whose gloomy cypress tree
Shall haply, soon be enwreathed upon my bier;
Land of my birth! My natal soil, Farewell
—Elijah P. Lovejoy[13]

St. Louis, Missouri[edit]

A major port in a slave state surrounded by free ones, St. Louis was a major center of both abolitionist and pro-slavery factions. From 1814 to 1860, slaves filed more than three hundred freedom suits seeking to gain freedom, often based on their having lived in free territory with their enslavers. At the same time, it was a city where both free Blacks and enslaved African Americans worked, often together, especially on the waterfront and on steamboats.[14][15][16]

After receiving needed funds, Lovejoy embarked on his journey west,[17] during which he became ill. He arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in late 1827. It was a slave state. Lovejoy operated a private school in St. Louis with a friend, which they modeled after academies (high schools) in the East.[13][18] His interest in teaching waned, however, when local editors began publishing his poems in their newspapers.[18]

In 1829, he became a co-editor, with T. J. Miller of the St. Louis Times, in which he promoted the candidacy of US Senator Henry Clay (D-KY) for the presidency.[18][19] Working at the Times introduced him to like-minded community leaders, many of whom were members of the American Colonization Society. They supported sending freed American blacks to Africa, considering it a kind of "repatriation". By this time, as noted by Frederick Douglass who opposed the ACS, most African Americans had been native born for generations and considered their future to be in the US. Among Lovejoy's new acquaintances were such prominent St. Louis attorneys and slaveholders as Edward Bates (later US Attorney General under President Abraham Lincoln); Hamilton R. Gamble, later Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, and his brother Archibald Gamble.[18]

Lovejoy occasionally hired slaves who were leased out by owners, to work with him at the paper. Among them was William Wells Brown, who later recounted his experience in a memoir. Brown described Lovejoy as "a very good man, and decidedly the best master that I had ever had. I am chiefly indebted to him, and to my employment in the printing office, for what little learning I obtained while in slavery."[20]

Lovejoy struggled with his interest in religion, often writing to his parents about his sinfulness and rebellion against God. He attended revival meetings in 1831 led by William S. Potts, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, that rekindled his interest in religion for a time. However, Lovejoy admitted to his parents that "gradually these feelings all left me, and I returned to the world a more hardened sinner than ever."[18]

A year later, Lovejoy found the call to God he desired. In 1832, influenced by the Christian revivalist movement led by abolitionist David Nelson, he joined the First Presbyterian Church and decided to become a preacher.[21] He sold his interest in the Times, and returned East to study at Princeton Theological Seminary. After graduation, he went to Philadelphia, where he became an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church on April 18, 1833.

St. Louis Observer[edit]

Friends in St. Louis offered to finance a Presbyterian-affiliated, religious newspaper in the Missouri city if Lovejoy would agree to return and edit it. Lovejoy accepted and on November 22, 1833, he published the first issue of the St. Louis Observer.[18][19] His editorials criticized slavery.[19]

In spring 1834, Lovejoy wrote a number of articles and editorials criticizing the Catholic Church. The large Catholic community of St. Louis, made up then largely of ethnic French, was offended by these attacks, but Lovejoy did not back down. In keeping with strict Presbyterian practice, his editorials criticized the use of tobacco and liquor. That same year, Lovejoy began writing editorials about the institution of slavery, the most controversial social issue of that time. His views were influenced by David Nelson, a Presbyterian minister, abolitionist, and first president of Marion College in Missouri.[18]

In 1835, the Missouri Republican began suggesting gradual emancipation of slaves in Missouri, and Lovejoy supported this endeavor through The Observer. Lovejoy's views on slavery began to incite complaints and threats.[18] Pro-slavery proponents condemned anti-slavery coverage in newspapers, stating that it was against "the vital interests of the slaveholding states." Lovejoy was threatened to be tar and feathered if he continued to publish anti-slavery content.[22]

By October 1835, there were rumors of mob action against The Observer. A group of prominent St. Louisans, including many of Lovejoy's friends, wrote a letter pleading with him to cease discussion of slavery in the newspaper. Lovejoy was away from the city at this time, and the publishers declared that no further articles on slavery would be published during his absence. They said that when he returned, he would follow a more rigorous editorial policy. Lovejoy responded by expressing disagreement with the publishers' policy. As tensions over slavery escalated in St. Louis, Lovejoy would not back down from his convictions; he sensed that he would become a martyr for the cause. He was asked to resign as editor of The Observer, to which he agreed. After the newspaper's owners released The Observer property to the moneylender who held the mortgage, the new owners asked Lovejoy to stay on as editor.[18]

Lovejoy and The Observer continued to be embroiled in controversy. In April 1836, Francis McIntosh, a free man of color and boatman, was arrested by two policemen. En route to the jail, McIntosh grabbed a knife and stabbed both men. One was killed and the other seriously injured. McIntosh attempted to escape, but was caught by a white mob, who tied him up and burned him to death. Some of the mob were brought before a grand jury to face charges. The presiding judge, Judge Lawless, refused to convict anyone; he said the crime was a spontaneous mob action without any specific people to prosecute. The judge made remarks suggesting that abolitionists, including Lovejoy and The Observer, had incited McIntosh into stabbing the policemen. In the face of other negative publicity, in May, Lovejoy decided to move The Observer across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois, in the free state.[18] At the time, Alton was large and prosperous, many times larger than the frontier city of Chicago.[22]

Marriage and family[edit]

Lovejoy also served as an evangelist preacher; he traveled a circuit across the state, during which he met Celia Ann French of St. Charles, located on the Missouri River west of St. Louis.[22] (Today it is considered a suburb.) The couple were married on March 4, 1835.[22][23] Lovejoy described his wife as "intelligent, refined, and of agreeable manners".[22] They had two sons, Edward and a baby born after Lovejoy was killed.[24]

Move to Alton[edit]

In May 1836, after pro-slavery forces 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. Before he could move the press, an angry mob broke into The Observer office and vandalized it. Only Alderman and future mayor Bryan Mullanphy attempted to stop the crime, and no policemen or city officials intervened. Lovejoy packed what remained of the office for shipment to Alton. The printing press sat on the riverbank, unguarded, overnight; vandals destroyed it and threw the remains into the Mississippi River.[18]

Although Illinois was a free state, Alton was also a center for slave catchers and pro-slavery forces active in the southern area. Many refugee slaves crossed the Mississippi River from Missouri. Among Alton's residents were pro-slavery Southerners who thought Alton should not become a haven for escaped slaves.[25]

Lovejoy served as pastor at Upper Alton Presbyterian Church (now College Avenue Presbyterian Church). In 1837, he started the Alton Observer, also an abolitionist, Presbyterian paper.[26] Lovejoy's views on slavery became more extreme, and he called for a convention to discuss forming an Illinois state chapter of the American Anti-Slavery Society, established in Philadelphia in 1833.

Many residents of Alton began to question whether they should continue to allow Lovejoy to print in their town. After an economic crisis in March 1837, Alton citizens wondered if Lovejoy's views were contributing to hard times. They felt Southern states, or even the city of St. Louis, might not want to do business with their town if they continued to harbor such an outspoken abolitionist.[18]

Lovejoy held the Illinois Antislavery Congress at the Presbyterian church in Upper Alton on October 26, 1837. Supporters were surprised to see two pro-slavery advocates in the crowd, John Hogan and Illinois Attorney General Usher F. Linder. The Lovejoy supporters were not happy to have his enemies at the convention, but relented as the meeting was open to all parties.[27]

On November 2, 1837, Lovejoy responded to threats in a speech, saying

As long as I am an American citizen, and as long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write and to publisher whatever I please, being amenable to the laws of my country for the same.[24]

Mob attack and death[edit]

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

Lovejoy had acquired a fourth press and hid it in a warehouse owned by Winthrop Sargent Gilman and Gilford, major grocers in the area. A mob, said by Appleton's to be composed mostly of Missourians, attacked the building on the evening of November 6, 1837.[28] Pro-slavery partisans approached Gilman's warehouse, where Lovejoy had hidden his printing press.[29][30] The conflict continued. 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.[29] After the attacking party had apparently withdrawn, Lovejoy opened the door and was instantly struck by five bullets, dying in a few minutes.[19]

Mid-19th century memorial card with Lovejoy's silhouette

Elijah Lovejoy was buried in Alton Cemetery; his grave was unmarked to prevent vandalism. The ceremony was kept small. In 1864, Thomas Dimmock "reclaimed from oblivion" Lovejoy's grave. Dimmock had "succeeded in establishing the location of the grave... in a roadway where vehicles were passing over it... Mr. Dimmock had the bones disinterred and... laid in a new grave where they would be free from trespass." He also arranged for a gravestone and helped found a committee to create a monument to the editor. Dimmock was principal orator at the dedication of a later monument erected in 1897 to commemorate Lovejoy.[31][32]

Elijah Lovejoy grave as it appeared in 2003.

The Chicago Tribune said of the grave marking and association to fund a monument:

For many years Lovejoy's grave was unmarked and in danger of utter oblivion, until one who had known him in life, Thomas Dimmock of St. Louis, . . . marked the grave with the simple stone bearing he inscription: "Hic jacet Lovejoy. Jam parce depulto." "Here lies Lovejoy: now spare his grave." It was largely through the efforts of Mr. Dimmock that ten years ago the Lovejoy Monument Association was formed . . . .[33]

Alton Riot Trial[edit]

Francis Butter Murdoch, the district attorney of Alton, prosecuted charges of riot related to both assailants and defenders of the warehouse in January 1838, on Wednesday and Friday of the same week. He called the Illinois Attorney General, Usher F. Linder, to assist him.[34]

Murdoch (with Linder) first prosecuted Gilman, owner of the warehouse, and eleven other defenders of the new press and building. They were indicted on two charges related to the riot at a trial opening 16 January 1838, for "unlawful defence", so defined and charged because it was "violently and tumultuously done."[35][34] Gilman moved to be tried separately; his counsel said he needed to be able to show his lack of criminal intent.[36] The court agreed on the condition that the other eleven defendants would be tried together. Although the proceedings lasted until 10 p.m. that night, in the case of Gilman, the jury returned after ten minutes to declare him "Not Guilty." The next morning the "City Attorney entered a 'Nulle Prosequi' as to the other eleven defendants", effectively dismissing the charges against them.[34]

A new jury was called to hear the case against the assailants of the warehouse. The attackers allegedly responsible for destruction of the warehouse and Lovejoy's death were tried beginning 19 January 1838. Concluding it was not possible to assign responsibility among the several suspects and others not indicted, the jury gave a verdict of "not guilty".[34] The jury foreman had been identified as a member of the mob and was wounded in the attack. The presiding judge doubled as a witness to the proceedings. These conflicts of interest are believed to have contributed to the "not guilty" verdict.[18]

Legacy and honors[edit]

The 110-foot tall Elijah P. Lovejoy monument, in Alton, Illinois
  • Lovejoy was considered a martyr by the abolition movement. In his name, his brother Owen Lovejoy 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.[37] With his killing symbolic of the rising tensions within the country, Lovejoy is called the "first casualty of the Civil War."[25]
  • Abraham Lincoln referred to Lovejoy's murder in his Lyceum address in January 1838.
  • John Brown was inspired by Lovejoy's death, declaring in church, "Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery."[38]
  • 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.[39] This thesis was adapted and published in 1958 as the first biography of Lovejoy, entitled Tide Without Turning: Elijah P. Lovejoy and Freedom of the Press.
  • The majority African-American village of Brooklyn, Illinois, located just north of East St. Louis, is popularly known as 'Lovejoy' in his honor.
  • Elijah Lovejoy is recognized by a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[40]
  • His descendant, 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.
  • The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, Presbyterian Church (USA), formed on January 3, 1985, from the merger of Elijah Parish Lovejoy Presbytery and the Presbytery of Southeast Missouri.[26]
  • Awards and scholarships
    • The Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award was established by Colby College in his honor. It is awarded annually to a member of the press who "has contributed to the nation's journalistic achievement." A major classroom building at Colby is also named for Lovejoy. An inscribed memorial rock from his birthplace was installed in a grassy square at Colby.
    • In 2003, Reed College established the Elijah Parish and Owen Lovejoy Scholarship, which it awards annually.
  • Memorials and plaques
    • In 1897, the 110-foot tall Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument was erected at Alton's City Cemetery; $25,000 had been appropriated by the state legislature, and $5,000 raised by residents of Alton and other supporters.[33]
    • A plaque honoring Elijah Parish Lovejoy was installed on an external wall at the Mackay Campus Center at his alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary.
    • He is the first person listed in the "Journalists Memorial" located at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC.[41][42]
  • Numerous places and institutions were named after him:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Brown 1916, pp. 97–98.
  2. ^ Brown 1916, p. 98.
  3. ^ Brown 1916, p. 101.
  4. ^ Lawson and Howard, p. 528.
  5. ^ Dillon, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Lovejoy and Lovejoy, pp. 18–19.
  7. ^ Dillon, p. 5.
  8. ^ Lovejoy and Lovejoy, p. 23.
  9. ^ Dillon, p. 6.
  10. ^ Dillon, p. 7.
  11. ^ Dillon, p. 9.
  12. ^ a b Dillon, p. 10.
  13. ^ a b "Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy: A biographical sketch". Bangor Daily Whig and Courier. 1870-12-15. p. 4. Archived from the original on 2021-06-07. Retrieved 2021-06-07.
  14. ^ "Freedom Suits Case Files, 1814–1860" Archived 2018-12-13 at the Wayback Machine, St. Louis Circuit Court Records Project, a collaboration between the Missouri State Archives, the St. Louis Circuit Court Clerk's Office, the American Culture Studies Program, Washington University, and the Missouri Historical Society (St. Louis, MO), 2004, accessed 4 January 2011 and 5 November 2012
  15. ^ "Freedom Suits" Archived 2015-01-19 at the Wayback Machine, African-American Life in St. Louis, 1804–1865, from the Records of the St. Louis Courts, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, National Park Service, accessed 11 January 2011
  16. ^ "Before Dred Scott: Freedom Suits in Antebellum Missouri" Archived 2020-08-08 at the Wayback Machine, Missouri Digital History, Missouri State Archives, accessed 1 February 2011
  17. ^ Dillon, p. 11.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Van Ravenswaay, Charles (1991). St. Louis: An Informal History of the City and Its People, 1764-1865. Missouri History Museum.
  19. ^ a b c d Appletons', p. 34.
  20. ^ Brown, William W. (1847). Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, written by himself. Boston. Archived from the original on 2019-10-19. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  21. ^ Balmer, p. 346.
  22. ^ a b c d e Ritchie, Donald A. (2007). American Journalists. Oxford University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-19-532837-0. Archived from the original on 2021-07-10. Retrieved 2021-06-07.
  23. ^ "Elijah P. Lovejoy As An Anti-Catholic". Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia. 62 (3): 172–180. 1951. ISSN 0002-7790. Archived from the original on 2021-06-07. Retrieved 2021-06-07.
  24. ^ a b "Love and Devotion Marked Home Life of Elijah Lovejoy". Alton Evening Telegraph. 1937-07-22. p. 7. Archived from the original on 2021-06-07. Retrieved 2021-06-07.
  25. ^ a b John Glanville Gill, Tide Without Turning: Elijah P. Lovejoy and Freedom of the Press (1958).
  26. ^ a b "Reverend Elijah Parish Lovejoy". Philadelphia: Presbyterian Historical Society. Archived from the original on November 26, 2020. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  27. ^ Simon, Paul (1994). Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy (Rev. ed.). Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-8093-1941-1.
  28. ^ Appleton's, p. 34.
  29. ^ a b "Winthrop S. Gilman Dead: An Original Abolitionist and Successful Business Man and Banker". The New York Times. 1884-10-05. Archived from the original on 2016-04-20. Retrieved 2017-02-07. 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 ...
  30. ^ "Elijah Parish Lovejoy Was Killed By a Pro-slavery Mob". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2009-12-05. 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.
  31. ^ "Dimmock Funeral To-day". St. Louis Globe-Democrat. November 20, 1909. Archived from the original on June 7, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  32. ^ St. Louis Marriage Index, 1804-76. St. Louis, Missouri: St. Louis Genealogical Society, 1999
  33. ^ a b "Lovejoy Memorial at Alton, Illinois to be Dedicated Tomorrow". Chicago Tribune. 1897-11-07. p. 12. Archived from the original on 2021-06-07. Retrieved 2021-06-07.
  34. ^ a b c d "The Riot Trial". The Alton Observer. Madison County/Illinois GenWeb. 24 January 1838. Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  35. ^ Gilman (1838), Alton Trials, p. 8
  36. ^ Winthrop Sargent Gilman; John Solomon; William Sever Lincoln (1838). Alton trials: of Winthrop S. Gilman, who was indicted with Enoch Long, Amos B. Roff, George H. Walworth ... for the crime of riot, committed on the night of the 7th of November, 1837, while engaged in defending a printing press, from an attack made on it at that time, by an armed mob. New York: J.F. Trow. Archived from the original on 2021-06-10. Retrieved 2021-06-10.
  37. ^ Appletons' & p.34.
  38. ^ "Biography of John Brown". War and Reconciliation: The Mid-Missouri Civil War Project. University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  39. ^ Gill, John G (Mar 22, 1946). Lovejoy; the issues involved in the death of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, Alton, 1837. OCLC 76984559. Archived from the original on November 18, 2018. Retrieved Mar 22, 2021 – via Open WorldCat.
  40. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Archived from the original on 2 February 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  41. ^ Rosenwald, Michael S. (June 29, 2018). "Angry mobs, deadly duels, presses set on fire: A history of attacks on the press". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 29, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  42. ^ "Journalists Memorial". Newseum. Archived from the original on October 29, 2019. Retrieved Mar 22, 2021.


Further reading (most recent first)[edit]

External links[edit]