Ken Ellingwood To Talk About His Recent Book On
Elijah Lovejoy, Martyr for Abolitionism &
Freedom of the Press
Author Ken Ellingwood is coming to town to speak about his recent book on Elijah Lovejoy, First to Fall. The event will be at Faith Des Peres Presbyterian Church on April 23, 2023, at 2:00 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Directions can be found by clicking here.
Elijah Lovejoy’s ardent abolitionism and advocation for a free press are recognized by historians as a major influence on John Brown and the fighting of the American Civil War. Lovejoy moved to St. Louis in 1827. He taught school and wrote for a Whig journal, The Times, and for the Missouri Republican. He left St. Louis to attend Princeton Theological Seminary and converted to Presbyterianism. In 1832, Lovejoy returned to St. Louis and started the St. Louis Observer, a religious newspaper with an anti-slavery bent. Lovejoy was certified as a minister at Old Des Peres Presbyterian Church in Frontenac, St. Louis County, in March 1834. The church, built by enslaved people in c. 1833, was an Underground Railroad station with a room hidden underneath the floorboards (the room was destroyed during renovations in the 1970s). Lovejoy was also in St. Charles and Alton, where he was murdered in 1837 while defending his printing press from a pro-slavery mob.
Lovejoy held no punches in his opinions and propagated an aggressive firebrand kind of journalism. For instance, he minced no words in reporting that “more than half of those critical of abolitionism had several relations with slave women.” In 1836, the brutal burning in St. Louis of the biracial boatman, Francis McIntosh, at the hands of a mob and without a trial or due process, horrified the nation and provoked Lovejoy to write of McIntosh’s scorched face screaming to be shot. McIntosh burned for eighteen minutes before he finally perished. No one was ever charged in conjunction with his murder. On the other hand, Lovejoy’s fervent anti-Catholicism anticipated the nativist rhetoric of the Know Nothing party formed in the 1840s.
Lovejoy is memorialized in Alton City Cemetery with a majestic 93’ tall column, crowned with a 17’ tall statue of Victory. It was designed in 1897 by architect, R.P. Bringhurst. His actual grave, in the same cemetery, lay unmarked for years to prevent vandalism. In the 1860s, local newspaper editor, Thomas Dimmock, located the grave, moved it to its current hillside location, and marked it. Lovejoy and his wife, Celia, lived in a two-story, wooden house on Cherry Street (demolished). The remains of his printing press destroyed on the Alton Riverfront are now on display at Hayner Public Library in Alton.
Presbytery History Team