Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Owen Lovejoy Papers, 1829-1943

Finding aid created by
Emiko Hastings, May 2008, and Meg Hixon, 2012

Summary Information
Title: Owen Lovejoy papers
Creator: Lovejoy family
Inclusive dates: 1828-1943
Bulk dates: 1830-1930
Extent: 261 items (0.75 linear feet)
Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864), brother of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, was a prominent abolitionist and congressman who staunchly supported President Lincoln during the Civil War. His papers primarily contain correspondence, speeches, and writings related to his family life, ministerial duties, and congressional activities, with additional materials from his descendants.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1948, 1952, 1953. M-689; M-711.2; M-897; M-957.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.


Gift of E. P. Lovejoy, 1948.

Preferred Citation:

Owen Lovejoy Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection has been organized into the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
    • Sub-series I: Correspondence of Owen Lovejoy
    • Sub-series II: Correspondence of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, II
    • Sub-series III: Miscellaneous Correspondence
  • Series II: Butler Denham Business Papers
  • Series III: Diary
  • Series IV: Documents
  • Series V: Speeches and Writings
    • Sub-series I: Speeches and Writings by Owen Lovejoy
    • Sub-series II: Writings about Owen Lovejoy
  • Series VI: Scrapbook
  • Series VII: Images
  • Series VIII: Memorials and Commemorations
  • Series IX: Newspaper Clippings
  • Series X: Bureau County Historical Society

Biographical/Historical Note

Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864), brother of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, was a prominent abolitionist and congressman who staunchly supported President Lincoln during the Civil War. Born in Albion, Maine, to Daniel and Elizabeth Pattee Lovejoy in 1811, he was one of eight children. He grew up on the family farm in Maine and enrolled in Bowdoin College in 1830, but left in 1833 when his father died.

Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Owen's eldest brother, was a Presbyterian minister, editor of a newspaper, and an antislavery leader in Illinois. Three of his printing presses were destroyed by proslavery mobs, and Elijah was killed defending the fourth press from an attack in 1837. Owen and his brother Joseph wrote a memorial volume for Elijah, commemorating his courage in defending abolitionism and freedom of the press. This book, Memoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy; who was murdered in defence of the liberty of the press, at Alton, Illinois, Nov. 7, 1837, became important propaganda for the antislavery movement, and made Elijah Lovejoy's name famous as a martyr for the cause.

Owen Lovejoy's commitment to abolition was influenced by his mother's strong religious convictions and solidified after his brother's death. He famously vowed that he would "never forsake the cause that has been sprinkled with my brother's blood." In 1838, advised by the Rev. Edward Beecher, he moved to Princeton, Illinois, the county seat for Bureau County, where he was appointed supply minister to Hampshire Colony Congregational Church. He remained with the church for 17 years and frequently spoke against slavery from the pulpit, honing his oratory skills.

In Princeton, Owen Lovejoy boarded with the widow Eunice Storrs Denham, whom he married in 1843, and with whom he had seven children. Eunice's first husband was Butler Denham, with whom she had three daughters. The Denhams lived on a 1300-acre farm, which was one of the principle depots on the Underground Railroad. When Eunice married Owen Lovejoy, they continued to offer the farm as a refuge for runaway slaves. In 1843, Owen was tried for harboring fugitive slaves, but was acquitted. His mother, who lived with them, was an active leader in the local women's antislavery organization.

An early organizer of the Republican Party, Owen Lovejoy was elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1854, and won a seat in Congress in 1856 as a Republican, where he served four terms. Involved with antislavery legislation, he also became an ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln, whom he befriended in 1858. He actively campaigned for Lincoln during the presidential campaign of 1860, giving over one hundred speeches for him.

Determined to end slavery and achieve more rights for African Americans, Lovejoy vigorously supported the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, although he did not live to see the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. After his death in March 1864, Lincoln called him "the best friend I had in Congress."

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Owen Lovejoy papers primarily consist of the correspondence, speeches, and writings of Owen Lovejoy, with additional material from his descendents. The collection contains 170 letters, 13 land records and indentures, a diary, 3 documents and 10 checks, 27 speeches and writings, 3 images, 11 commemorative items, and 26 newspaper clippings. The correspondence of Owen Lovejoy includes 71 letters written by him, mostly to his wife and children, and 40 letters received from family and friends. The other correspondence in the collection is primarily that of his son, Elijah Parish Lovejoy, II.

The earliest letters, from Owen Lovejoy’s student days at Bowdoin College, include affectionate advice from his parents and news from his siblings. He received 8 letters from his parents between 1830 and 1837. His mother’s letters are filled with religious references, and her strong faith is clear from her writing. She wrote passionately against the “crying sin of slavery,” and also supported the temperance cause (14 July 1836). Sister-in-law Sarah Moody Lovejoy wrote two letters to him in 1836, filled with news of the family and church. His sister Elizabeth, who ran a school, kept him informed about her endeavors and news of the family in three letters from 1836. Brothers Joseph and John also wrote occasional letters to Owen. The collection also contains three love letters written by Owen Lovejoy as a young man, including a poem he wrote entitled “Autumn pale fading autumn.”

The family was worried about Elijah Parish Lovejoy, the eldest brother, whose antislavery activities were becoming increasingly dangerous. His mother wrote to Owen in 1836, “you doubtless know what outrages they have committed in regard to destroying the types in that affair” (14 July 1836). His sister Elizabeth wrote, “E.P. does not write us at all why not I cannot divine & I wish I was there now” (30 July 1836).

A number of friends came to the aid of the Lovejoy family after Elijah Parish Lovejoy’s death in November 1837. Rev. Edward Beecher, the son of Lyman Beecher and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote a letter to Owen Lovejoy, in which he urged him to “collect and file all documents which have a relation to you brother’s life & efforts since he acted upon his course as editor…They will be read with interest in future ages” (14 November 1837). In 1838, Beecher wrote his best-known work, Narrative of Riots at Alton, on the subject. Owen and Joseph Lovejoy, meanwhile, were working on their own book commemorating their brother. Joseph wrote to Owen in December 1837, “The death of P. has made a very deep & strong sensation through this & indeed through all the country. A great many sermons have been preached & meetings are held in almost every village through the land” (7 December 1837). Owen also corresponded with his other siblings during this time.

Correspondence from a later period in Owen Lovejoy’s life reflects his growing involvement in politics. A letter from Abraham Smith in 1846 describes the activities of the Liberty party, of which Owen Lovejoy was a leader. Owen also corresponded with Gerrit Smith, an abolitionist and founding member of the Liberty party.

Owen Lovejoy’s letters from 1854 onward were addressed to his wife and children, while he was away from home on political business, usually in Washington, D.C. From October to November 1861, he wrote a number of letters to his family from the Missouri battlefield, having received a commission as colonel under General Frémont in the Western Department of the army. After returning to Washington, D.C., he wrote to his younger children of the death of Abraham Lincoln's son: "I have just been up to the White House to see the President. He feels very much the loss of his little boy Willie who is about the age of Parish…His father says he was a very gentle and amiable boy" (23 February 1862).

The correspondence of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, II, Owen Lovejoy's son, includes 36 letters written and received by him regarding his genealogical research on the Lovejoy family. He received a number of inquiries from others about his family history, and also conducted his own research. A number of his letters are correspondence with C.E. Lovejoy, the author of The Lovejoy Genealogy with Biographies and History, 1460-1930, published in 1930. He assisted C.E. Lovejoy with research and loaned him some materials from his own collection for the publication. The miscellaneous correspondence series includes the letters of other Lovejoy family members, as well as a few apparently unrelated letters. (For a listing of Owen and Elijah Lovejoy's correspondents, see the Additional Descriptive Data.)

The Butler Denham business papers contain 12 records of land purchases and an indenture contract with a young boy. Denham was the first husband of Eunice Storrs Denham, who married Owen Lovejoy after Denham's death in 1841.

A small pocket diary, dated 1857, contains appointments, expenses, personal notes, and what appear to be notes for a speech. The documents series includes Owen Lovejoy's call from the Hampshire Colony Church in 1839, his certificate of admission to the Illinois Bar in 1857, a note to his son E.P. Lovejoy for five dollars, and several checks written in 1862 and 1863.

Speeches and writings by Owen Lovejoy comprise three sermons, pamphlets of six political speeches, several printed copies of "An Agricultural Poem," written in 1859, and a copy of his last public prayer in Princeton from 1863. Excerpts from all of these have been republished in a comprehensive collection of his speeches entitled His Brother's Blood: Speeches and Writings, 1838-64. A draft of a poem entitled "The Wild Horses," is also included. The collection also contains writings about Owen Lovejoy, including articles and speeches written after his death, such as "Addresses on the Death of Hon. Owen Lovejoy" and "The Great Anti-Slavery Agitator Hon. Owen Lovejoy as a Gospel Minister." Also included are the recollections of Parker Earle on the nomination of Owen Lovejoy to Congress.

The scrapbook (29 disbound pages) includes newspaper clippings, articles, pamphlets, memorials, and manuscripts pertaining to various members of the Lovejoy family, particularly Elijah Parish Lovejoy (1802-1837) and Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864). The items about Elijah P. Lovejoy concern his death, his religious beliefs, and his memorial at Alton, Illinois. The scrapbook also has contemporaneous articles about Owen Lovejoy's abolitionist work and about Illinois politics around the time of the Civil War. Other articles, biographies, speeches, memorial programs, and memorial poems concern the lives and deaths of Owen G. Lovejoy, Lucy Lovejoy, Charles P. Lovejoy, Eunice Storrs Lovejoy, and members of allied families. One article describes Helsinki, Finland.

The collection is rounded out by three printed images of Owen Lovejoy, materials regarding memorials and commemorations for Owen Lovejoy and his brother Elijah Parish Lovejoy, and newspaper clippings about Owen Lovejoy and his descendents. Several of the commemorative materials pertain to the Lovejoy Monument Association, including a booklet of music for the dedication ceremonies of the Lovejoy Monument. The Lovejoy papers also contain correspondence and an inventory regarding the Lovejoy collection located at the Bureau County Historical Society of Illinois.

Subject Terms

    • Abolitionists--United States--Political activity.
    • Illinois--Politics and government--To 1865.
    • Liberty Party (U.S.)
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    • United States--Politics and government--1849-1861.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Lovejoy, Owen, 1811-1864.
    • Beecher, Edward, 1803-1895.
    • Denham, Butler, d. 1841.
    • Lovejoy family.
    • Lovejoy, Clarence E. (Clarence Earle), 1894-1974.
    • Lovejoy, Daniel, 1776-1833.
    • Lovejoy, Elijah P. (Elijah Parish), 1802-1837.
    • Lovejoy, Elijah Parish, II, b. 1850.
    • Lovejoy, Elizabeth Pattee, 1772-1857.
    • Lovejoy, John Ellingwood, 1817-1891.
    • Lovejoy, Joseph C. (Joseph Cammet), 1805-1871.
    • Lovejoy, Owen Glendower, 1846-1900.
    • Lovejoy, Sarah Moody.
    Genre Terms:
    • Checks (bank checks)
    • Diaries.
    • Indentures.
    • Poetry.
    • Printed ephemera.
    • Scrapbooks.
    • Speeches.
    • Speeches.
    • Sheet music.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Correspondence of Owen Lovejoy [subseries]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     6 January 1830-29 September 1831 (7 items)
    Folder   2  
     1 January 1833-March 1836 (6 items)
    Folder   3  
    1 April-29 September 1836 (8 items)
    Folder   4  
    28 September-25 December 1837 (5 items)
    Folder   5  
    14 January-2 July 1838 (9 items)
    Folder   6  
     17 August 1846-16 March 1855 (7 items)
    Folder   7  
     30 June 1856-8 March 1858 (7 items)
    Folder   8  
    4 April-16 July 1858 (6 items)
    Folder   9  
     22 January 1859-31 January 1860 (8 items)
    Folder   10  
    8 February-15 April 1860 (10 items)
    Folder   11  
    14 July-24 October 1861 (8 items)
    Folder   12  
    28 October-15 December 1861 (8 items)
    Folder   13  
     23 February 1862-6 December 1863 (8 items)
    Folder   14  
    16 January-15 March 1864 (9 items)
    Folder   15  
     Undated (5 items)
    Correspondence of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, II [subseries]
    Folder   16  
     7 March 1911-7 December 1912 (7 items)
    Folder   17  
     3 January 1913-24 August 1921 (9 items)
    Folder   18  
    2 August-22 November 1929 (11 items)
    Folder   19  
     25 December 1929-6 December 1934 (9 items)
    Miscellaneous Correspondence [subseries]
    Folder   20  
     1832-1898,  undated (15 items)
    Butler Denham Business Papers [series]
    Folder   21  
     2 June 1828-1 January 1845 (13 items)
    Diary [series]
    Folder   22  
     1857 (1 item)
    Documents [series]
    Folder   23  
     7 August 1839-18 November 1862 (13 items)
    Speeches and Writings [series]
    Speeches and Writings by Owen Lovejoy,  1842-1864 [subseries]
    Folder   24  
      January 1842-January 1850 (3 items)
    Folder   25  
     21 December 1857-23 January 1861 (8 items)
    Folder   26  
     1862-26 November 1864,  undated (8 items)
    Speeches and Writings about Owen Lovejoy,  1864-1943 [subseries]
    Box   2 Folder   1
     28 March 1864-23 July 1907 (3 items)
    Folder   2  
     9 January 1908-September 1943 (5 items)
    Scrapbook [series]
    Box   3  
    Lovejoy Family Scrapbook,  [1853]-1925
    Images [series]
    Box   2 Folder   3
     Undated (3 items)
    Memorials and Commemorations [series]
    Folder   4  
     26 October 1897-6 January 1912 (11 items)
    Newspaper Clippings,  1862-1928 [series]
    Folder   5  
     16 October 1862-31 March 1864,  undated (7 items)
    Folder   6  
     16 February 1900-29 January 1928,  undated (19 items)
    Bureau County Historical Society [series]
    Folder   7  
    Lovejoy collection correspondence and inventory, 21 June-25 June 1940 (5 items)
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Correspondents of Owen Lovejoy

    • Beecher, Edward
    • Benedict, S.W.
    • Dana, Charles Anderson
    • Denham, Lucy Storrs
    • Denham, Elizabeth S.
    • Denham, Mary B.
    • Greenleaf, E. A.
    • Johnson, Eliza
    • Lovejoy, Charles P.
    • Lovejoy, Daniel
    • Lovejoy, Elijah Parish, II
    • Lovejoy, Elizabeth Pattee
    • Lovejoy, Eunice S. D.
    • Lovejoy, John W. E.
    • Lovejoy, Joseph C.
    • Lovejoy, Mary
    • Lovejoy, Owen Glendower
    • Lovejoy, Sarah Moody
    • Lovejoy, Sybil P.
    • Randolph, Eliza S.
    • Seriter, Elizabeth Lovejoy
    • Smith, Abraham
    • Smith, Gerrit
    • Turner, Asa, Jr.
    • Ward, G. L.
    • Washburn, Judith
    • Yates, Richard
    • Harriet

    Correspondents of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, II:

    • Adams, Frank L.
    • Barnes, Gilbert H.
    • Cropley, Sarah E.
    • DuVall, Grace B.
    • James, Edmund J.
    • Kenny, W. W.
    • Lovejoy, C. E.
    • Lovejoy, Frederick B.
    • Norton, W. T.
    • Reeve, Darlene
    • Steele, Richard
    • Weber, Jessie Palmer
    • Winkler, E. F.
    Related Materials

    Owen Lovejoy collection, Bureau County Historical Society, Princeton, Illinois.

    Held by the Clements Library:

    Lovejoy, Joseph C. and Owen. Memoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy; who was murdered in defence of the liberty of the press, at Alton, Illinois, Nov. 7, 1837. New York: John S. Taylor, 1838.

    Lovejoy, Owen. The Barbarism of Slavery. Speech of Hon. Owen Lovejoy, of Illinois, delivered in the U.S. House of representatives, April 5, 1860. Washington: Buell & Blanchard, 1860.

    Lovejoy, Owen. Confiscation of rebel property. Remarks of Hon. Owen Lovejoy, of Illinois, in reply to Messrs. Crittenden and Wickliffe, of Ky., delivered in the House of representatives, April 24, 1862. Washington, D.C.: Scammell, 1862.


    Lovejoy, Clarence E. The Lovejoy Genealogy with Biographies and History, 1460-1930. New York: The author, 1930.

    Lovejoy, Owen. His Brother's Blood: Speeches and Writings, 1838-64. William F. Moore and Jane Ann Moore, eds. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

    Magdol, Edward. Owen Lovejoy, Abolitionist in Congress. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1967.