West Virginia pioneer describes mob killing of abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy
Dec. 20, 1837
The following was written 181 years, 5 months, ago.
It was a Wednesday.
Dec 20, 1837
I have lately arriv'd from the upper Mississippi [present day Iowa area] and upon my arrival, I found some letters directed to Henry, in which I found some broad hints about a little change and by this time I expect you think it long a comeing, however I do not wish you dispare altogether, our prospects are as good as when you left home. I expect Capt Stewart to start next Satterday for Maine for his famaly. I expect him to saw next season by the thousand. He is to furnish all the curant expenses, except coal and the blacksmithing, that he is to pay the engineer and what hands he wants in the mill, and find the saws and greese and do the labour of any repairs. He is also to use do diligence to save the timber, but runs no resque [risk] of loss. I take charge of the lumber when run off the mill. I have offered him $2 pr/m and he asks $2.12 1/2, and how we will make it is yet undecided. I expect Henry to start for Marietta [Ohio] next week, and how I shall make out alone through the winter I hardly know, but if I have good health, I am not uneasy about it.
Perhaps you will expect me to say something respecting my trip to the west. I found Moran in St. Louis in good health. He is going on very prosperously hunting up old claims. John Sutton is giting $65 pr month for tending saw mills. Parrott (that enlisted in the Dragoons) is at Fort Madison tending store. I am much pleased with the country above De Moines Rapids. My claim to the soldier's right is good, and the land is of good qualaty. It lies within three miles of the County seat and there is a gristmill and sawmill, which they are in the act of building within two miles of it. I did not go to see it. I got within 25 miles of it and the small streams was raised so high with the late rain that I could not ford them, but I saw a man that lived within 4 miles of it and I told him the range and no. and he said that there was no doubt of it being of good qualaty. I saw their crops was very good and they told me that in some instances they had raised as many as 800 bushels of potatoes to the acre, and turnips equally as many, and Mr. Pierson told me that he had raised turnips, that a single one weighed nine pounds. Moran says his fortune is made. He says he has realized $8,000 this year and has got papers that he thinks is worth $50,000 more and as far as St. Louis, I do not think I shall like to live there, but it is on a most butafull site for a large city, and I see nothing to prevent it ultimately becomeing as large as any city in America. The navigable waters that concentrate there is so immense, the soil so rich, and their minerals so abundant, that I think the inhabitants have but little idea of their wealth, however, they have got the price of property up to the highwater mark, and as for rents they are beyond all bounds. A block of buildings, 4 storeys high, and about 20 or 22 ft. front (they are not yet finished, but are rented for ten thousand dollars per year and a barber shop about 16 ft. square and on the 4th street from the river rents for $300 pr year.
I saw the building (at Alton) whare Mr. Lovejoy [Elijah P. Lovejoy] was kild and some pieces of the broken presses; and from the pertikulars that I have heard, I think he was very imprudent in persisting in his corse so long. The mob had broken one press and threttened him if he did not desist, and some that was oposed to slavery tried to have him give it up--but he persisted and got a new press, and he, with some friends (how many I do not know), armed themselves to defend it, and when the mob gathered, it appears that they did not wish to hurt any one, if they could otherways obtain the press -- but the warehouse was built of stone. It appears that the mob could not gain admittance, only at the risque of their lives, but the mob persisted until one of them was shot (by the party within) and then they became so enraged they they proposed to burn the house, and they set the ladder on the side whare there was no windows and commenced kindling a fire on the roof. Mr. Lovejoy, knowing what they were doing, slipped out and fired at the man on the ladder, but did not hit him. He then returned and reloded his gun and returned for a second tryst, when he was shot down. The owner of the house then told the mob if they would put out the fire, he would give up the press. The fire was stopped, but I think there has not ben anything done in refferance to arresting them.
Oh Chester, here is another long letter allmost fild up and not one word in it to remind you that you are mortal and in the slipery pathes of you. But do my dear son look well to your eternal interest and lay up your treasure above. I find as I am traveling to and from the world there is but verry little attention pade to the cause of religion, in comparison to the multatude that is engaged, after the bubbles that perisheth. Your mother's health is far from being good, but she stil continues in her old rounds, and she appears better than when I first got home and there are several of us that are grunting loud with bad colds.
You enquired of Henry, whether [he] went to St. Louis and what he was going for. If you want me, I will answer--I had claims there to the amount of $900, and a partner of one of the Co. had died, and I took along 60,000 lath that I sold for $4 pr m, and I likewise had a claim of $260 up at Burlington. I got it all settled satisfactorily, except $186 is yet in suspense. I also made arrangement for further sales.
I have not see any acknowledgment (on any of your letters) of $20 that I sent by Ele Dickerman–enclosed is $50 and I shall endeavor to keep you from becoming bankrupt altogether.