Elijah Lovejoy


Around 1822, a schoolteacher named Anthony C. Parmer sold his two story brick building at 301 South Main Street to a prominent physician from Vermont named Dr. Seth Millington. Seth, and his brother Jeremiah were prominent residents in the early village of St. Charles, but he died on August 4, 1834. At the time of his death Seth Millington’s estate would include nine enslaved African Americans.

Seth and Jeremiah had a sister Sarah”Sally” who had married Thomas French but she had become widowed in 1835 and she had gone to stay at Seth’s former home in 1837. Sally and Thomas’s daughter Celia had married the former St. Louis editor Elijah P. Lovejoy, who was a well-known abolitionist in addition to being a Presbyterian minister. On October 3, 1837, Elijah Lovejoy had just finished giving a “talk” at the Second Street Presbyterian Church and was visiting the home of his mother-in-law with his wife and baby.

St. Charles Presbyterian Church on Second Street

When Lovejoy had left the church a few minutes before, he had been passed a note of warning by William Campbell, telling him that he was in danger and should leave St. Charles immediately. Campbell himself was also a slave owner, and executor of the estate that included Archer Alexander and his wife Louisa, and their children. A large group of angry men soon arrived at Sally French’s home in the former Millington house, and were about to attack Lovejoy, when his wife fainted and the men decided to retreat.

Lovejoy’s close friend George Sibley, whose wife and he had founded a girls school they called Linden Wood, lent him a horse. Late that night Lovejoy and his wife would make it to their home in Alton, Illinois where Lovejoy was the editor of the Alton Observer. It would only be a few weeks later when Lovejoy was revisited by the angry mob on November 7, 1837 in Gilman’s Warehouse in Alton. There Elijay Lovejoy was shot and murdered while trying to save his press.

The formerly enslaved John Richard Anderson would witness the whole event, as he was working as a typesetter for Lovejoy. Anderson was a former slave of the Bates family, who after being emancipated, would learn how to read and write and later become a Baptist minister, like his close friend John Berry Meachum. The angry crowd also wrecked Lovejoy’s press and threw it into the Mississippi River.