Eljah Parish Lovejoy 1802-1837 | St. Louis, Mo / Alton, IL
Elijah Parish Lovejoy (1802-1837), a native of Albion, Maine, was murdered in Alton, Illinois by a pro-slavery mob on November 7, 1837 while defending his right to promote the abolition of slavery in the United States. His activity in support of abolition had been prominently on display in two local forums. The first was in his work as a Presbyterian minister. A graduate of Waterville (Colby) College and Princeton Theological Seminary, Lovejoy was ordained in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1834.
In Missouri, he began to denounce slavery from his pulpit and in his newspaper. After a mob destroyed his printing press, he moved to Alton, Illinois. In Alton, he led the College Avenue Presbyterian Church and started a newspaper called the Alton Observer, which regularly featured his anti-slavery columns. Thus, he became a highly visible target for pro-slavery advocates.
Lovejoy's violent death, and the man himself, have been majestically characterized in a number of different ways including: ‘First battle of the Civil War,’ ‘Abolition’s Martyr,’ ‘A Martyr to Freedom of the Press,’ and ‘Champion of Freedom – for the African American and the Press.’
In his biography of Lovejoy, former U.S. Senator from Illinois Paul Simon wrote that Lovejoy was a man “whose death would electrify the nation.” It’s also been claimed that the singular events that most hastened onset of the Civil War were John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry and Lovejoy’s martyrdom.
The legendary piece of Elijah P. Lovejoy’s printing press that was once thrown into the Mississippi River by a mob and then rescued, now has a permanent home. The Press is on display at the Hayner Public Library at the Downtown Alton location.
A memorial monument to Lovejoy is located in the Alton City Cemetery. The monument consists of a 93 foot tall main shaft topped by a 17-foot-tall winged statue of victory. There are two side spires mounted by eagles, as well as two bronze lion chalice statues, and a stone whispering wall bench that wraps all the way around the central spire, allowing you to hear someone whispering completely out of sight on its opposite side.The four sides of the central spire's pedestal contain quotes by Lovejoy, focusing on each aspect of his life.