lovejoy2.jpgElijah Parish Lovejoy was born in Albion, Maine, on November 9, 1802, and graduated from Waterville College (now Colby College).  In 1826, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, as a schoolteacher. Then in 1831 Lovejoy joined the First Presbyterian Church and soon thereafter decided to become a minister, returning to the East and studying at Princeton Theological Seminary. After graduating from the Seminary in April of 1833, Lovejoy moved back to St. Louis where he was ordained by the Presbytery of St. Louis in 1834 and then elected as its moderator the very next year.

What Lovejoy is perhaps most known for, however, was the religious newspapers that he published, first the St. Louis Observer and later the Alton Observer, and the pro-abolitionist position that he and his paper took during the time of slavery. Despite how unpopular this opinion was with both slave-owners and Southerners at the time, Lovejoy persevered in arguing and fighting for the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the freedom from slavery. After his St. Louis press was wrecked by an angry mob in July, 1836, Lovejoy moved to Alton, Illinois, where he became the stated clerk of the Presbytery and continued to support the anti-slavery movement through writing and publishing the Alton Observer—even after three presses had been destroyed and thrown into the Mississippi River by enraged, pro-slavery citizens.

On November 7, 1837, Lovejoy along with a group of twenty of his supporters stood guard over a newly arrived printing press from the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, attempting to defend the new press from the growing mob that was collecting outside the building. Upon seeing them, one of the building owners, William S. Gilman, cried out that they would not give up the press and that those inside would defend it with their lives. Soon after the mob began to throw stones, breaking all of the windows in the warehouse, shots were heard as the mob began to fire into the building. Lovejoy and his men returned their fire, and thus a battle over the press began. Some of the mob’s leaders soon called for the building to be burned down, a ladder to be brought alongside the building, and a boy sent up to set fire to the warehouse’s wooden roof. Lovejoy and one of his supporters, Royal Weller, snuck outside and through the shadows of the warehouse to where the ladder was set, pushed it over, and quickly retreated inside again before the roof was lit or they were injured. The ladder was put into place a second time, however, and this time when Lovejoy and Weller were going to make it topple again, they were spotted. Lovejoy was fatally shot five times, Weller was wounded, and the roof was covered in flames. The two managed to make their way to the second floor before Lovejoy finally fell defending both the press and the freedom of speech. Unfortunately, with the building burning around them, Lovejoy’s supporters had little choice but to surrender the press to the mob; who broke it into pieces and then threw it into the Mississippi River.

Lovejoy was buried on November 9, 1837, in an unmarked grave on his thirty-fifth birthday, but was later moved to his current resting site. On his current grave rests a small, marble scroll inscribed with the Latin words, which translate to, “Here lies Lovejoy—spare him now the grave.”

More recently a comic was developed on the fateful battle between Elijah Lovejoy, his supporters, and the angry mob that eventually killed Lovejoy and destroyed his printing press. The comic, named The Death of Elijah Lovejoy, was declared the  eighth best minicomic by The Comic Journal in 2011.