In 1854, New Hampshire residents Reverend Charles Hazeltine Lovejoy (1811-1904) and his wife, Julia Louisa Lovejoy (1812-1882), packed their belongings, their three children and headed to Kansas to fight slavery.
Charles was a Methodist minister with only six months of formal schooling. He prepared himself to preach by reading while working on his grandfather's farm in Maine. Charles' first circuit as a preacher was 600 miles in circumference: New Hampshire to Vermont to Canada.
After the death of his first wife, he met Julia Louise Hardy of Lebanon and married her. They lived in the Grantham/Croydon area of New Hampshire. L.D. Dunbar's The History of Grantham, NH 1761-1885 lists the names of the preachers and the dates of their pastorate with the Methodist Episcopal Church of Grantham. Rev. C.H. Lovejoy was the pastor from June 1852 to June 1853.
There is only one year (1853) of tax records for the Lovejoys with the town of Croydon. Charles preached in town, perhaps overlapping with his time in Grantham. It is documented by Edward Wheeler, author of the History of Cheshire & Sullivan County 1886, that Charles helped form a church in Croydon. Wheeler writes in the History of Croydon NH 1766-1885 section: "Preachers of the Methodist order had often visited the town and organized classes, but it was not until 1853 that a church was formed. At that time society comprising some 36 members, was organized. In 1854 they erected a meeting house in East Village, in which their services have since been held. The Rev. C.H. Lovejoy was their first pastor."
In a letter to his friend in January 1855, Charles Lovejoy wrote, "I have been makeing my plans for a few months to go west in the spring...I am a member of the New Hampshire Conference — have travalilled in the regular work 21 years — have been an opposer of Slavery from my earliest recollections — have acted with the Abolitionists from the first — am possesed of good health — have a wife & three children — one, a boy 17 years, a girl 15 and another girl 6 in the spring — All in good health, & spirits."
That spring, the Lovejoy family crossed the Missouri River into the newly created Kansas Territory. It was a difficult move, as Julia writes in her diary. "Kansas City, Mo. March, 18th 1855. We left Lebanon, N.H. the old paternal home the 6th of March, 1855. O the tears, and heart-agony, as we tore ourselves away from those aged parents, who gave us birth, and those brothers and sisters, so dear to our hearts — we wept until we reached "White River Junction," at Hartford, Vt. where bro. Daniel, who accompanied, us there, left us, and we took the cars. Had a pleasant journey from there to Alton Ill. In the cars, and thence up the Mo. River, by steam-boat. The "Kate Sweeney," Capt. Choteau, the owner, and Capt. of the boat treated his passengers in princely style, and permitted us to have Divine worship, on board. Every thing seems new and strange to us, from dear old N. E. the farther we journey, toward the sunny South. We landed here at K. City Sunday Morning. What a desolate place!"
It was the Lovejoy's chance to stake claims in what had recently been Indian lands, and become farmers plowing soil with less rocks than New England's fields. And it was their chance to help stop slavery. "A great work is to be done, and Kansas is the great battlefield where a mighty conflict is to be waged with the monster slavery, and he will be routed and slain. Amen and Amen," wrote Julia Louisa Lovejoy to the Independent Democrat of Concord, N.H., on Aug. 1, 1855.
They settled in the anti-slavery stronghold of Lawrence, Kansas, in the fall of 1855. Charles was a traveling Methodist preacher, sometimes giving sermons in tents. Julia served as a news correspondent to four newspapers back East. She was outspoken in her views, writing that "it is well-known that we are from Yankee land and hate slavery to the death, with all its kindred evils."
It was a violent time in "Bleeding Kansas." The federal government was letting new states, like Kansas and Missouri, vote on whether they wanted to become free or slave states. Both sides sent settlers and weapons, and Julia's letters documented the struggle: "The greatest trouble in this part of the Territory now is about our Missourian neighbors, whose hearts are set on mischief. We are apprehending trouble if not 'hard fighting' in our quiet community."
The Lovejoys fled their home in 1856 when a pro-slavery mob stormed the town. She writes on Aug. 25, 1856: "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...A crisis is just before us...and only God knoweth where it will end."
In 1863 Confederates burned Lawrence to the ground. Julia wrote to the newspapers: "I rushed out and saw the smoke of the burning city, and met the preacher who has spent the night with us, and had started for Lawrence, panting for breath, and urging on his horses to hide them in our woods; having left his wagon by the wayside, he cried out, "Sister Lovejoy, Quantrell has burnt Lawrence, and is within two miles of us with 3,000 men' — some have since thought not so many — and I could see every house this side of Lawrence, with a volume of dense smoke arising from them as they advanced, firing every house in the march of their death."
After the fire, Julia joined Charles, who served as a chaplain at an army hospital in Corinth, Miss. She taught white children by day, black children by night. She describes their life in a letter to Zion's Herald in Boston, Mass.: "Chaplain Lovejoy, in addition to his duties at this post, is teaching a colored school, with some eighty names enrolled of all grades, men, women, and children, and also an evening school composed of men who labor during the day and can find no other time to learn to read. Our own peculiar work is teaching the whites in a day school and a separate school of colored in the evening, and we have never found in New England or elsewhere children with such ambition to excel, nor those who make such rapid proficiency in so short a time. The most who commenced with the alphabet now read in 'easy lessons', and I have one old Aunt Sally now learning her A, B, C's, who must have been a slave, judging from her physical contour, at least 60 years, and how her eyes danced with joy when she could spell A, X, ax. They are deplorably ignorant of everything but hard fare, hard labor, and the overseer's lash; and on the back and shoulders of our washwoman, I could lay my finger into the scars of the deep-cut gashes of the slave-driver's whip, for failing to make up her quota of cotton picking. Slavery, accursed of God and humanity, how art thou fallen from thy lofty estate!"
After the war they returned to Baldwin, Kansas, and lived out the rest of their days on their farm. A PBS series, "The West," featured the Lovejoys in 2003.