Julia Louisa Lovejoy, 1812-1882
Born on March 9, 1812, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, Julia Louisa Hardy reportedly experienced a deep religious conversion at the age of nine. From that moment on she was a devout Methodist who thought her life to be a vehicle through which to influence the world around her. She had tentative plans to become a missionary, or to find some other method or arena where her religious ardor could be applied. At one point, she remarked, “if I have not done good, I have done evil.”
Fortunately for Lovejoy, the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the ensuing conflict between free-state and proslavery interests in the territory of Kansas provided an outlet for her religious zeal and reform impulses. With her husband of twenty-plus years, Charles H. Lovejoy (an itinerant Methodist Episcopal preacher), Julia Louisa Lovejoy moved from New Hampshire to Kansas Territory early in 1855. The Lovejoys settled first at Manhattan and later Lawrence. In both locations, Lovejoy applied herself to the abolitionist cause by writing letters to eastern newspapers, including the Independent Democrat of Concord, New Hampshire. Her efforts took the form of a propaganda campaign, detailing, with some considerable embellishment, the bloodiness of the conflict between the two factions.
From Lawrence, on August 25, 1856, Lovejoy wrote, “We are in the midst of war—war of the most bloody kind—a war of extermination. Freedom and slavery are interlocked in deadly embrace, and death is certain for one or the other party.” She closed: “Everything is as gloomy as the grave! The ruffians are circulating their handbills, in which is printed, ‘We give no quarter, nor ask quarter.’ Women and children now will not be spared, and only God knoweth where it will end. Do come and help us. Come on through Iowa. Forty wagons are now on their way here it that direction, we learn. If any of the friends of freedom will set apart a day of fasting and prayer for bleeding Kansas, they will confer a favor. Do help us in some way and God will reward you.” With a style manifesting her knowledge of the Book of Revelation, Lovejoy’s letters were meant to impress upon her readers the seriousness of the situation in Kansas and the need for free-state reinforcements, not only of people, but also of material and funding.
In 1864 Charles Lovejoy switched from the Methodist Episcopal Church to the free Methodist Church, and relocated to Lebanon, Illinois. Eventually, the Lovejoys returned to Kansas and settled a few miles south of Lawrence in rural Douglas County. Julia Lovejoy died there on February 6, 1882.
Fellman, Michael. “Julia Louisa Lovejoy Goes West.” Western Humanities Review 31 (Summer 1977): 227-242.
Lovejoy, Julia Louisa. “‘Letters From Kanzas.’” Kansas Historical Quarterly 11 (February 1942): 29-44.
Pierson, Michael D., “‘A War of Extermination’: A Newly Uncovered Letter by Julia Louisa Lovejoy, 1856.” Kansas History 16 (Summer 1993): 120-123.