Murder of the Rev. E.P. Lovejoy

Colby Bicentennial Seal 1813-1863

Nov. 6, 1837

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Of this atrocious crime … the mayor of Alton, John M. Krum, gives the following account. 

An artist’s rendering of the scene that led to the death of newspaper editor Elijah P. Lovejoy shows the pro-slavery crowd outside the warehouse holding Lovejoy’s press.

Word of the death of newspaper editor and slavery opponent Elijah Parish Lovejoy in Alton, Ill. traveled far and wide. One account was provided by the mayor of Alton, John M. Krum. It was published on the front page of The Observer newspaper, in New York, Nov. 25, 1837.

I was requested to go to the warehouse and state to those within, that those outside had resolved to destroy the press, and that they would not desist until they had accomplished their object; and that all would retire until I should return, which request was made by acclamation, and all soon retired to await my return.

I was replied to by those within the warehouse that they had assembled there to protect their property against lawless violence, and they were determined to do so. The mob began again to assemble with increased numbers and with guns and weapons of different kinds. I addressed the multitude and commanded them to desist and disperse, to which they listened attentively and respectfully, but to no purpose–a rush was now made to the warehouse, with the cry “fire the house,” “burn them out,” &c. The firing soon became fearful and dangerous between the contending parties–so much so that the further interposition on the part of the authorities was believed altogether in adequate and hazardous to the extreme–no means were at my control, or that of any other officer present, by which the mob could be dispersed, and the loss of life and shedding of blood prevented. Scenes of the most daring recklessness and infuriated madness followed in quick succession. The building was surrounded and the inmates were threatened with extermination and death in the most frightful form imaginable. Every means of escape by flight was cut off. The scene now became one of most appalling and heart rending interest! Fifteen or twenty citizens, among whom were some of our most worthy and enterprising, were apparently doomed to an unenviable and inevitable death if the flames continued.

About the time the fire was communicated to the building, Rev. E.P. Lovejoy, (late editor of the Observer) received four balls in the breast, near the door of the warehouse, and fell a corpse in a few seconds. … A large number of persons rushed into the warehouse, threw the press upon the wharf, where it was broken in pieces and thrown in the river.

Editor’s note:

Mr. Lovejoy was a native of Maine, and a graduate of Waterville College. He practiced law for a while in St. Louis and edited a paper there. … He at length proposed the organization of a State Anti-Slavery Society, and advocated the measure with his accustomed zeal. Soon after this his press was destroyed by a mob, another press was procured and destroyed, and with the destruction of the last, came the catastrophe which we now record.

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