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Eastman, Zebina

Born: 1815-09-08 Massachusetts

Died: 1883-06-14 Illinois

Flourished: Chicago, Illinois

Zebina Eastman was a journalist, newspaper editor and publisher, and abolitionist. Born to Elijah Eastman and Rebecca Hall, Zebina Eastman grew up in his hometown of North Amherst, Massachusetts. His father died in 1820 and his mother followed in 1822, leaving Zebina under the care of Israel Scott. At the age of fourteen, Eastman became an apprentice at the Amherst College Printing Office to learn the printing trade. He left his apprenticeship after eighteen months and enrolled in Hadley (MA) Academy to prepare for college. Ill-health forced Eastman to abandon his college course, and he became an employee with the Hartford Pearl. Eastman moved from Connecticut to Vermont, where, at the age of eighteen, he invested in The Free Press in Fayetteville, Vermont. The paper failed after a year, and Eastman found work as a newspaper correspondent. He married Sarah T. Ormsbee on February 12, 1834, in Townshend, Vermont. She died just two years later in 1836 at the age of eighteen. Spurred on by his outrage over the murder of Elijah J. Lovejoy by a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois, Eastman decided to devote his life to abolitionism. In 1837, he emigrated west, settling first in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1839, Eastman moved to Chicago for a short time before moving to Peoria to work at the Peoria Register. After several brief stints at other newspapers, Eastman began to publish The Genius of Liberty in 1840 with Hooper Warren in Lowell, Illinois. The Genius of Liberty became known as the first abolition newspaper in the United States. In June 1840, Eastman married Mary J. Corning, with whom he had five children, two of whom survived to adulthood. Two years later, Eastman returned to Chicago and began publishing The Genius of Liberty as The Western Citizen, which became the organ of the Liberty Party in the Northwest. In 1853, Eastman joined with Warren and E. Goodman to publish the Free West, which in 1856 merged into the Chicago Tribune. After demise of the Free West, Eastman established The Chicago Magazine, a literary and historical journal that ceased publication after the fifth number. Eastman became an important figure in the formation of the Republican Party in Illinois, and he supported Abraham Lincoln in the 1858 senatorial election. In 1860, Eastman and family were living in Chicago's Second Ward, and he owned real property valued at $7,000 and had a person estate of $5,000. In 1861, President Lincoln appointed Eastman U.S. Consul to Bristol, England, where he served until 1869. Eastman died in Maywood, Illinois.

Vermont, U.S., Vital Records, 1720-1908, 12 February 1834, Townshend; 9 October 1836; 29 June 1840, Burlington (Lehi, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, 2013); Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McLean County, ed. by Ezra M. Prince and John H. Burnham (Chicago: Munsell, 1908), 1:145; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 55; Douglas C. McMurtrie, "The First Printers of Illinois," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 26 (October 1933), 213; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, Chicago, Cook County, IL, 91; The Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 15 June 1883, 8:5; Gravestone (Elijah), North Cemetery, Amherst, MA; Gravestone (Rebecca), North Cemetery, Amherst, MA; Gravestone, Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Chicago, IL.