On November 7, 1837, a pro-slavery mob attacked a warehouse where Lovejoy was hiding his press. The mob fired shots into the warehouse and Lovejoy and his supporter Royal Weller fired back killing a man. The mob set up a ladder against the warehouse to light it on fire. Twice Lovejoy and Weller ran outside to push away the ladder. On the second attempt they were caught and Lovejoy was shot and killed while Weller was wounded.
Lovejoy became a martyr for the abolition movement. No one was ever convicted of the attack or murder.
The monument was designed by sculptor R.P. Bringhurst and errected in 1897. It stands 93 feet tall and is topped by a 17 foot winged statue of victory. The four sides of the pedestal contain quotes from Lovejoy.