The Final Showdown
Elijah Lovejoy and a few loyal supporters expected a new printing press to replace the old one. They looked for a location to put it that would be easy to defend. Wintrhop Gilman, a wealthy Alton businessman and a loyal Elijah Lovejoy supporters, suggested the press be placed in a warehouse that he owned with another Alton businessman. It was a courageous position for Gilman to take, for in the warehouse was the city's largest collection of salable merchandise. The warehouse was a stone building separated from the river only by a wharf and a street.
In a few days about 30 of Elijah Lovejoy's followers met at Gilman's store to organize themselves into a voluntary company to protect the property and the press. They planned to spend the night in Gilman's warehouse. They were armed.
During the night the new press was moved into the building with surprising ease and quiet.
The next day word spread quickly. Elijah Lovejoy's friends were now genuinely frightened. The angrier people became, the more they drank—and the more they drank, the angrier they became.
A group left a local bar, formed a line, and headed for the stone warehouse. As the small group marched toward the warehouse its size grew. Some who came along were only curious; other wanted entertainment and were always ready for a good fight; others were genuinely angry.
At first only a few of them had guns. Most had clubs or sticks. Some had stones. Before long about 150 shouting stone-throwing men were at the side of the warehouse.
There soon were more shouts from the mob, and even from some of the spectators anxious for excitement: "Fire the house!" "Burn them out!" "Shoot every abolitionist in the building if they try to escape!"
Gilman confronted the job to defend his property. A man among the mob said they had come for the press. Suddenly, a gun was drawn on Gilman and he retreated into the warehouse where Elijah Lovejoy had been.
A barrage of stones battered the building, shattering nearly every window. Shots were fired. The locked doors were under assault. More shots were fired.
One of the men in the warehouse returned fire, wounding someone in the mob.
Shots from the mob were fired. A youth known only as "Okeh" climbed on the roof to light the fire. Before the blaze could be started, three or four people confronted him, Elijah Lovejoy included, and pushed him to the ground.
Elijah Lovejoy's supporters wavered, but he did not. "I for one, am willing to lay down my life."
Elijah Lovejoy and Royal Weller approached another person attempting to torch the roof. Weller was shot as was Elijah Lovejoy—five times.
"My God, I am shot!" he yelled. He died immediately.
The building was engulfed in flames. Feeling victorious, some of the men in the job began to put out the fire. Others broke up the press and dumped it in the river.
Elijah Lovejoy was buried on his 35th birthday. Celia Ann was a widow at age 24.
The first trial that followed Elijah Lovejoy's death had Gilman, who owned the property, as a defendant. Charge—starting a riot.
Eleven others faced the same charge. All were Elijah Lovejoy supporters. A jury took only 15 minutes to find Gilman not guilty and the 11 others had the charges dropped against them.
The mob leaders were the next to be tried. Again, a not guilty verdict. The jury foreman was a leader among the anti-Elijah Lovejoy forces.
No one was ever convicted.