Merrill, Elizabeth Ambrose. Letter, 1837 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
This collection contains a letter from Elizabeth Ambrose Merrill to Anna Burnham of Fort Towson, Oklahoma. Written from October 23 to November 8, 1837, Merrill described the events leading up to the murder of Elijah Lovejoy by an anti-abolition mob in Alton, Illinois.
Elizabeth Ambrose Merrill (1810-1868) was born in New Hampshire. In 1835, Merrill moved to Eagletown, Oklahoma, as a missionary, specifically to work with the Choctaw Nation. In 1837, Merrill traveled east through Arkansas and along the Mississippi River and arrived in Alton, Illinois. Anna Burnham (1778-1847) was also a missionary in Oklahoma and had been working with the Choctaw since the 1820s. Elijah Lovejoy (1802-1837) was a Presbyterian minister and newspaper editor who was eventually killed by a pro-slavery mob because of his advocacy for abolition.
This collection consists of a letter from Elizabeth Ambrose Merrill to Anna Burnham of Fort Towson, Oklahoma. Merrill wrote the letter over five installments from October 23 to November 8, 1837. Merrill had traveled from Arkansas to Alton, Illinois, earlier in October, and recounted her travels to Burnham. Merrill also described the days leading up to the murder of Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist newspaper editor living in Alton, Illinois. Merrill reported that after a sermon by Edward Beecher that she attended in late October, pro-slavery mobs threatened Lovejoy and others associated with his newspaper, The Observer. Merrill was lodging with J.C. Woods, an abolitionist and one of the defenders of the press building the night of the mob attack. Merrill wrote that Lovejoy pleaded with the mob days before he was killed. She observed, “He wept freely, but stated that it was not for himself those tears were shed. He felt a consciousness that he was in the path of duty. The thought of my wife & child, said he, causes my heart to bleed.”
The library purchased this collection in 2022 with support from the Stone Family Endowment and the Bruce C. Creamer Fund.