Saturday concluded a week of activities marking the 176th commemoration of Elijah P. Lovejoy’s death.
Lovejoy, the publisher of the Alton Observer and a famed abolitionist newspaper martyr, died in 1837 after being shot near Downtown Alton defending his press.
A piece of the Lovejoy press is on display in the front lobby of The Telegraph and serves as a symbol of the importance of what the newspaper publisher did and what kind of lasting impact it has had on society in general.
This past week, a 22- by 44-inch marker, sponsored by the Lovejoy Memorial, was put on the northeast corner of College Avenue and Clawson Street in Upper Alton. The marker is by the sidewalk, so people walking by can read it without stepping off the sidewalk.
Steve Schwegel, who owns Alton Physical Therapy and is very supportive of the community, allowed the marker to be placed on his property. We think the community owes him a debt of gratitude for doing that because it will mean a lot in the future toward preserving what Lovejoy did in his stance defending the First Amendment.
Alton Mayor Brant Walker termed it “a wonderful testament to the history of Alton and standing up for freedom.” Walker also praised Ed Gray and the people of Alton for working on the project and we agree.
The marker explains the historic significance of Lovejoy, the first pastor of Upper Alton Presbyterian, which still has its original frame building from 1836. The marker explains how Lovejoy held a meeting forming the Anti-Slavery Society at the church, which caused a near-riot to unfold, then moved across the street to the still-standing “Old Rock House.”
Also on the marker are how the first two anti-slavery meetings were held Oct. 26 and 27, 1837, at the house and two weeks later the angry mob shot and killed Lovejoy for his anti-slavery editorials on Nov. 7. The printing press we talked about was tossed out the window, broken into pieces and thrown into the Mississippi River.
Little did the people who tossed the press in the river know that a portion of it would wash to shore years later and now stand in The Telegraph as a symbol for what Lovejoy did protecting the First Amendment.
Several local groups donated to get the marker made and placed in Upper Alton.
The (Alton) Telegraph