Elijah Lovejoy (1802-1837)

A native of Maine, Elijah Lovejoy traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to become a schoolteacher shortly after his graduation from college in 1826. In 1831 he decided to become a minister and began studies at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Returning to St. Louis, he served as a minister there and published a religious newspaper that published criticism of American slavery. In 1836 a pro-slavery mob wrecked his press, forcing Lovejoy to move to Illinois, which had outlawed human bondage. In the river city of Alton, Lovejoy's anti-slavery activities proved hardly any more popular. Furious mobs destroyed three of his printing presses by throwing them into the Mississippi River. On the night of November 7, 1837 Lovejoy and a group of about twenty supporters stood guard over a new press until it could be installed in his shop. But a pro-slavery crowd had heard of the arrival of the new equipment, and gathered outside the building. First pelting the abolitionists with stones, the crowd soon began to discharge firearms. When a member of the mob attempted to set fire to the building's roof, Lovejoy rushed outside to stop him. A member of the crowd shot and killed Lovejoy. The crowd soon broke the new press into pieces and deposited them in the Mississippi.

A published Narrative of the Riots at Alton is available on Lincoln/Net. Please click on the title to view the book.


Simon, Paul. Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994.

Lovejoy, Joseph C. and Owen. Memoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy; Who was Murdered in Defence of the Liberty of the Press, at Alton, Illinois, Nov. 7, 1837. New York: John S. Taylor, 1838.