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Marker spotlights Lovejoy sites in Alton

Published: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 9:35 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 2)

ALTON (MCT) - A new historical marker now designates an area significant to martyred abolitionist newspaper publisher and minister Elijah P. Lovejoy, in time for the 176th commemoration of his death.

"I think it looks great," said Ed Gray of Godfrey, registered agent with Lovejoy Memorial, as he stood in front of the marker on the northeast corner of College Avenue and Clawson Street in Upper Alton on Friday.

"I like the location," Gray said. "It is by the sidewalk, so people walking by can read it without stepping off the sidewalk. I appreciate Steve Schwegel for allowing us to put this up."

Schwegel owns Alton Physical Therapy, on whose property the marker sits.

The 22- by 44-inch marker, sponsored by Lovejoy Memorial, is similar to other historical markers put up in the region the past several years.

It has a curved bottom with black type on a background of shades of blue. There are photos of the original church where Lovejoy preached, and the current College Avenue Presbyterian Church on the same site to the west across Clawson Street.

There also are line drawings of Lovejoy's profile and the historic Old Rock House that still stands across College Avenue to the south.

The marker's title, "The Anti-Slavery Society is Born," is in brick red lettering.

"It's a wonderful testament to the history of Alton and its stance against slavery and standing up for freedom," Mayor Brant Walker said. "Folks like Mr. (Ed) Gray are a testament to the people in Alton that will not let us forget our great history. Mr. Gray should be complimented for his work on this site. He's done a fantastic job. It is a perfect tie-in with what we are trying to do" to generate tourism in the region.

The marker explains how Lovejoy was the first pastor of the church - then called Upper Alton Presbyterian - and that its original frame building was constructed in 1836 on the same site as the current church at 1702 Clawson St. Prior to building the first structure, the congregation had been worshipping in its so-called "Little Brick Building."

The Presbyterians later replaced the frame structure with stone, which burned in 1858. The next replacement building was completed in 1865. The congregation eventually replaced that building with the current, larger structure after the church acquired adjacent property in the early 20th century. Dedication was Nov. 27, 1927.

The newly installed marker tells how Lovejoy held a meeting forming the Anti-Slavery Society at the church, which caused a "near riot" to break out, then moved the meetings across the street to the "Old Rock House." The two-story, stone house, which is painted white, still stands. It reportedly was a "station" for the Underground Railroad slave escape route.

The marker also tells how the first two anti-slavery meetings in Illinois were held Oct. 26 and Oct. 27, 1837, at the house, which was built in 1834-35. Less than two weeks later, an angry mob shot Lovejoy to death for his anti-slavery editorials on Nov. 7. They tossed his printing press out the window, breaking it to pieces and throwing the parts in the Mississippi River.

Patricia King, president of Lovejoy Memorial and retired principal of Lovejoy School in Alton, said the memorial's work is important.

"Lovejoy Memorial is proud to perpetuate the memory of Elijah P. Lovejoy with this memorial, thanks to the keen foresight of Jesse Cannon, James Bailey Sr. and the Rev. Joe Brewer," she said of the now deceased men. "They came up with the memorial to perpetuate the memory of Elijah P. Lovejoy and to establish the scholarships. They started with $50 scholarships in 1954, and it's grown - thanks to support of the community - to $5,000 that are renewable for four years."

The Memorial also provides non-renewable scholarships for academic achievement.

Gray said he expects Lovejoy Memorial to give out about $50,000 in scholarships next year, with the trust earning good interest rates. "We gave out $42,500 this year," he said.

"We have a lot of loyal supporters," King said. "They are dedicated to strengthening our community through our young people, through education."

Lovejoy Memorial also holds a ceremony every November marking Lovejoy's death. This year it will be held at noon today, in front of the towering Lovejoy Monument at Alton City Cemetery, Fifth Street and Monument Avenue.

A second Lovejoy marker went up Friday on the kiosk at the old Alton Military Prison (Confederate Prison) site on William Street, just north of West Broadway.

That marker includes pictures of the Godfrey, Gilman & Co. Warehouse in which Lovejoy printed the "Alton Observer" with his anti-slavery editorials; a view of Alton from the riverfront in 1832; and a section of the Lovejoy printing press that the mob destroyed and threw in the river; and the Lovejoy Monument.

Alton Township Supervisor Don Huber provided historical information for both markers and worked with designer John Celuch of Edwardsville. The markers were an outgrowth of the city of Alton's 175th anniversary celebration last year, Gray said.

"Bo Jackson was the primary advocate for getting this done," he said. The markers project cost $4,600, with Lovejoy Memorial obtaining a $1,500 Looking for Lincoln National Heritage Coalition grant to pay for part of the expenses.

Donations from Alton Community Service League, The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy' History Team, Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Alton Area, Chicago Headline Club, along with Lovejoy Memorial, covered the remaining cost.

(c)2013 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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