Reverend Elijah Parish Lovejoy | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Reverend Elijah Parish Lovejoy

The 220th General Assembly (2012) designated Reverend Elijah Parish Lovejoy as an honored name.

Lovejoy was born in Albion, Maine, in 1802, and graduated from Waterville College in 1826.  The next year, he arrived in St. Louis where taught school and then worked as an editor at the St. Louis Times. In 1832, he decided to become a minister and traveled back east to study at Princeton Theological Seminary, completing the three year course in fourteen months.  The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. ordained him in 1833.

Upon his return to St. Louis, Lovejoy founded a religious and antislavery newspaper, the St. Louis Observer, while also serving as pastor of Des Peres Presbyterian Church.  His strong abolitionist stance spurred anger in St. Louis, and three times, opponents destroyed his printing press.  In May 1836, Lovejoy decided to move with his family across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois, where he founded the Alton Observer and served as pastor at Upper Alton Presbyterian Church (now College Avenue Presbyterian Church) and as stated clerk of the Presbytery of Alton.

Attacks on Lovejoy's printing press continued in Alton.  In November 1837, a mob attacked Gilman's Warehouse in Alton where he had tried to hide his new press.  Lovejoy tried to ward off the mob, but he was shot and killed, and the mob destroyed the new printing press by throwing it out a window and then tossing the pieces into the river.

The mob attacking the warehouse of Godfrey Gilman & Co., Alton, Ill., on the night of the 7th of November, 1837, at the time Lovejoy was murdered and his press destroyed. (Image ID: 4334)

Lovejoy became a national symbol for the abolitionist movement and is remembered today not only in the history books but with a large monument in Alton that overlooks the city.  He is also honored in the name of the current Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, formed from the merger of Elijah Parish Lovejoy Presbytery and the Presbytery of Southeast Missouri on January 3, 1985.

Lovejoy Monument, Alton Cemetery, Alton, Ill. Snapshot by D.B. Mabry, 1996. (Image ID: 4209)