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Julia Louisa Lovejoy

Julia Louisa LovejoyAbolitionist, missionary. 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 wanted to influence the world around her. She wanted to become a missionary or to find another application for her religious ardor. At one point, she remarked, “if I have not done good, I have done evil.”

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the ensuing conflict between free-state and proslavery interests in the territory provided Lovejoy an opportunity. With her husband, Charles Haseltine Lovejoy, an itinerant Methodist Episcopal preacher, Julia moved in 1855 from New Hampshire to Kansas Territory. The couple came as part of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, which recruited antislavery settlers to move to the new territory. Lovejoy saw the end of slavery as a way to better the world and she became the voice of Bleeding Kansas for many in the East. Her letters to eastern newspapers told of the difficulties of migration, including illness and the high costs of travel and provisions.

The letters Julia wrote were especially emotional when describing the illness of her four-year-old daughter, Edith, who had measles and was so ill that she died the first week the Lovejoys were in Kansas Territory. Julia wrote:

For five short summers she has gladdened our hearts, and been a light in our dwelling, and within four days of her sixth birthday, the spirits took its heavenward flight, and we laid her precious dust away on a beautiful prairie, near Lawrence, Kanzas Territory. Sleep on, my angel child—though thy mother’s heart is breaking with untold anguish death’s icy grasp will ere long be broken, and then my eyes undimmed by burning tears, will behold thee, a seraph, with the “shining band.”

The Lovejoys settled first at Manhattan and later Lawrence. Lovejoy's wrote to the Independent Democrat of Concord, New Hampshire, and other newspapers. Her propaganda campaign detailed, with some embellishment, the bloodiness of the conflict between the two factions.

Charles Lovejoy was put in charge of the Fort Riley mission in June 1855, and the family built the first house on the Manhattan Town Company site. Julia’s letters give first-hand information on the pioneer settlement that is the present-day city of Manhattan. Then they moved to Lawrence during the height of territorial conflict. During an attack September 1856 on the city by proslavery supporters, Julia was forced to flee from her home. She wrote:

When the firing commenced . . . expecting our dwelling to be demolished by cannon balls though built of stone, I caught my darling babe (now a year old) from the bed. . . . I rushed to a place of safety out of town as fast as my feeble limbs could carry me until I had walked about two miles . . .

The Lovejoys relocated frequently due to Charles’ mission work.  In 1864 Charles switched from the Methodist Episcopal Church to the free Methodist Church, and relocated to Lebanon, Illinois. Eventually, the family returned to Kansas and settled in Palmyra (now Baldwin City) a few miles south of Lawrence in rural Douglas County, where Julia died February 6, 1882.

Lovejoy’s diary, in the collection of the Kansas Historical Society, gives insight into life for settlers in eastern Kansas during the territorial conflict.

Entry: Lovejoy, Julia Louisa

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: October 2007

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.