The Alphadelphia Association


The Alphadelphia Association

The Alphadelphia Association was established in Galesburg, Michigan, in 1844. A German, Dr. H. R. Schetterly, was the leader. Three thousand acres of land were purchased, and a large mansion was built. At one time probably 300 members were admitted. The common property was valued at $43,897.21 in 1846. It was disbanded in 1848.

Two of the primary founders were the Rev. Richard Thornton, and the Rev. James Billings, both Universalist preachers. They published the Association’s paper, the Alphadelphia Tocsin, from 1844 to 1846.

The association was founded on the principles set forth by French socialist Charles Fourier which combined a belief in the possibilities of scientific evolution and social progress and the sense that ridding the world of evil would inaugurate a “reign of Social Harmony” that would hasten, according to the members of such groups as Alphadelphia, the coming millennium or the thousand year reign of Christ on earth.

The constitution for Alphadelphia was drawn up in December 1843 by a small group of individuals from various Michigan counties. These same selected members for a site committee to search out a suitable location for their home. Some partially cultivated acreage in Kalamazoo County seemed ideal for their purposes. The land was cut across by the Kalamazoo River and close by the anticipated completion of the Michigan Central Railroad tracks. Those who owned land on the site were encouraged to join the organization.

In the spring of 1844 a barracks for living quarters was built. There would also soon be a saw mill for the timber on the land, a blacksmith shop, and a printing office. From this latter office, the Alphadelphia members printed the Alphadelphia Tocsin and a journal, the Primitive Expounder.

Alphadelphia lasted but four years and really flourished only for one year until 1845. Some members left because of poor economic conditions and their sense that they could better themselves elsewhere. Internal dissensions also tore at the organization with charges of mismanagement and the shortage of cash to do business and to pay taxes. Alphadelphia ceased functioning, according to their records, in 1848.

More information on the Alphadelphia Association can be seen here.

May 23, 1847 letter to Charles Luke Keith Jr. from Harvey Keith

May 23, 1847

To: Charles Luke Keith Jr., Pavilion, NY

From: Harvey Keith, Comstock, MI

Jane Earl died Friday morning. The sore on Alfleda’s foot has pretty much healed. She has not done a day’s work since February. He is going to be working in the flowery mill. Galesburgh is growing. Alonzo Matthews sold his farm to Mr. Percival and it has been laid out into village lots. They have sold all south of the railroad and some north. Frank Clark is going to put up a brick tavern. Marion Wilcut married Mr. Rice from Illinois last Sunday. Harvey’s son Ruel lived only five weeks.

Scan of 1847-05-23 Harvey Keith to Charles Luke Keith Jr

Comstock, May 23rd /47 Sunday afternoon[1]

I have been trying ever since I got your last letter to get time to write but something happens every Sunday so that I could not get time. I have been to work all the forenoon and ought to be this after part ‑ we are generally enjoying good health here now. Jane Earl has been sick this sometime. She died at Charles Whitcombs Friday morning. Alfleda[2] has begun to step on her foot again. She has not done a days work since the first of Feb. The sore is pretty much healed up. I am to work in Galesburgh this summer on a flowery mill Ford Mills & Batt ar building for two run of stone. I get 10/- cash & my Board. Galesburgh is coming up this summer. Alonzo Mathews has sold his farm to Mr Percival. Has had it laid out into village lots. Has sold all south of the Rail Road and some north. Frank Clark is going to put up a brick tavern house in front of the old log house. He gave $.100 for the lot to build on. Henry D was down last Monday. He is the same old Henry. We have had a verry Backward Spring. People have not got their planting done yet. Father[3] ploughed his ground last fall & has got it planted. He has planted fifteen acres. It rains here about half of the time. Wheat looks verry well this Spring. Westly[4] wants to know what kind of a cake mother[5] wants. She says if he sends it she wants it sweetened but if he brings it she will take it without sweetning. Henrys health is verry good this sprig. Jo live in the old log house. Mr. Tubbs and Jake are in the other. Mead has gone to Ingham County. Crid & Taylor stay in the Manshion[6] yet. I have been building a hog power for Crid this spring. Alphadelphia[7] remains the same a usual. Ford has been trying to get his place back but has not brought it about yet. He offerd $.6.000 Stock for it and wanted the buildigs moved back on to it again and we wont stand that no how ‑ we had better set fire to the building than try to move them for the will hardly stand where they are. We have sold the square timber & old lumber to Mart and Nelson for about $1.80. Marion Wilcut[8] was married last Sunday to a Mr Rice[9] from Illinois. He came here last fall. They are going to start for the west in a few days. Groves goes with them. Uncle warren[10] is to work with me on the mill. Ezekiel was to have started last Thursday for the far west. Have not heard whether he has gone or not. Aunt Salina live with James on the widdow Earls place. Marquis Lee[11] has just been here. They are going to start tomorrow. The boys feel like death to go away. Mark says he had rather die. You mentioned in your last something about going into business when you get back. If I should go in with you I think we could do better here than at the Burgh for this reason. Here we could keep cows horses hogs & sheep if we wanted to but over thare we should have every thing to buy. We can get all the work to do here that we could do & we could do no more any whar else. I have Been down to Joes. He says tell Luke heis tinding Juliette this summer. He has got a pen built & keeps him shut up all the time. You said you had forgotten the name Alfleda hat laid up for the boy. We calld him Ruel but he lived only five weeks.[12] You say that when you come back you come double.[13] I should like to know in what way you in tend to double up. I have heard of animils doubling up and sticking their nose in their …. A. T. Jones[14] lives with Mr. Wells down below Lees. I saw him last Sunday. His health is about the same. Cathurnce[15] & family are well. Aunt Rhoda[16] has gone to Gull to live. There is a prospect of plenty of fruit this season. Wheat is slling at Battlecreek for $.100 in cash. Father is going to cary his there about 50 bushels.

Write when you get readdy. Our respects to all. Tell James to write som day.

Yours When you get it

Harvey Keith


[1] The letter was folded in such a way that it made its own envelope. It was addressed to C. L. Keith, Pavilion, Genessee Co., N York. Charles Luke Keith Jr. went by the name of Luke as did his father, Charles Luke Keith Sr.

[2] Harvey’s wife, Alfleda (Starr) Keith

[3] Charles Luke Keith Sr.

[4] Luke and Harvey’s adopted brother, John Wesley Keith

[5] Hannah (Willcutt) Keith

[6] Most likely referring to the Alphadelphia Association mansion

[7] See next page following for a brief description of the Alphadelphia Association

[8] Luke’s and Harvey’s first cousin, Marion Willcutt, daughter of Warren Willcutt and Electa Damon

[9] Elijah Rice

[10] Warren Willcutt

[11] Luke’s and Harvey’s cousin, Marquis La Fayette Lee, son of Charles and Rhoda (Keith) Lee

[12] Ruel was born March 6, 1844 and died in April 1844

[13] Luke married Jerusha Crittenden on July 25, 1847 so perhaps this is what he was referring to

[14] Have not been able to establish a blood relationship between A. T. (or A. F.) Jones and the Keiths. The 5-27-1838 letter suggests that he is living with Aunt Lydia, the 6-24-1838 letter from A. T. Jones says his is living with “Grandmother,” and the 5-23-1847 letter says that “A. T. Jones lives with Mr. Wells down below Lees.” A search of the census records shows an Asa F. Jones is living with Harvey Keith in 1850

[15] Luke’s and Harvey’s sister, Catherine (Keith) Bradley Lee

[16] Luke’s & Harvey’s paternal aunt, Rhoda (Keith) Lee

December 13, 1846 letter to Charles Luke Keith Jr. from Harvey Keith

December 13, 1846

To: Charles Luke Keith Jr., Pavilion, NY

From: Harvey Keith, Comstock, MI

Gives a brief account of what has been going on since Luke left. There have been some deaths and some marriages. Smallpox has broken out in the area. Was to Flanders and saw Henry. He “wants to see you Louis Grandma Payson.” There was a meeting of the Alphadelphia Association and some want to divide the land.

Scan of 1846-12-13 Harvey Keith to Charles Luke Keith Jr

Comstock Dec 13th/46

You will discover by this that I am in Mich. We got your letter yestrdy which found us all in very good health. Father[1] has been unwell a few days back with a bad cold but has got pretty much over it now. I got home the third day of Nov about eight oclock in the morney just in time to vote. We have had first rate weather for business this fall but I have not done any thing but rig up a place for my cattle mud up my house &c. I am going tomorrow to work on Cooleys mill up at Dibbles place. I will give you a short history of what has takes place in this part since you left.[2] There has been some deaths & some marriages. Eli Clintons wife & her twin brothers are all dead. Dict Harrises wife Died the day before I came home. Hannah Low is married to Silas Low. Widdow Whitcom is married to Braddock Baley and moved up to his place.

We are having in this place what the Doctors call the small pox. Lyman Bacon & family have been to Indiania on a visit this fall came home three weeks ago on their way home stop’d at Charls Galligans staid all night. He was then braking out with the disorder gave gave it to two of the children one of Charles & one of his Brothers that lives in the house with him. There is none others got it yet. Bacon did not know what was the matter with him.

You wanted to know how the old cow gets along. She has not got a calf yet dont think she will have before Feb. Mother[3] & Wes[4] made a bet before he left. She says he must get the biscuit ready. He bet she would give milk by the first of Dec. Mother says tell Wes he must write to them and let them know what he is doing.

I have been down to Flanders.[5] Henry[6] says he wants to see you Louis[7] Grandma Payson.[8] He has had the ague considerable this fall by spells. He is having it now. Flanders says he has not got any pay from those demands you left. I want you should make a pattern for the axletree to my waggon and bring with you if you come home in the spring. John Earl was here to day. Says he wishes you wer here to build him a waaggon. They have not got their works to going yet. They cant get their Engine. It was to have bee here the middle of Oct. Their boiler has got here. They have a grist mill saw mill & Distilery all to go by one Engine. David Smith has bot Capt Thayers place on the Indian field the place that Ruel Starr[9] first bot. I have not seen him. R. S. Clapp has not got back nor I dont know when he is coming back. Alphadelphia[10] remains about the same. We had a meeting the other day. Some were for dividing the land according to the stock others not. Ransom thinks that Bond a good one. He says he is not going to divide his farm but is in favour of wating a while longer pay up the Vandewalker Mortgage and then put that Bond into the mill and see what they can make out of it. But for my part I am willing or would rather have ten acres. I know it was mine and to have it lay along in this way for a number of years. Crid lives in the old printing office cooks and eats his own Bread and Diner. Cooks it all on the _____ stove. Father has been down in the woods to day. They are all well. I have not been there since I got home. You say you have sold your knife for fifteen shilings. I dont think you got pay for making it. I keep mine yet.

You say that Mr Starrs family are all well but Orson. We did not know that he was in that part of the country. I saw him the fore part of Sept said he was going to the coppe contry to spend the winter. Write to me let me know how long he has been thare and whether he went to the copper mines. I dont think of any thing more to write this time. Give our respects to all the friends in Pavillion.

Yours When you get it

Harvey Keith


[1] Charles Luke Keith Sr.

[2] After Luke’s wife, Minerva (Payson) Keith died on August 29, 1843, it appears as though he traveled back to Pavilion, New York, once or twice. His daughter, Lois, was living with her grandmother there until he could get settled again. It is also possible that he was courting his second wife, Jerusha Crittenden, at this point

[3] Hannah (Willcutt) Keith

[4] John Wesley Keith; Bible records indicate that he was adopted

[5] After Charles Luke Keith Jr.’s first wife, Minerva (Payson) Keith, died, Joseph & Amanda (Hobbs) Flanders took in their children, Henry and Lois Keith. From letters from that time, it would appear that Lois was then sent to Minerva’s parents while Henry lived with the Flanders family. According to Carol Boyer, the Flanders raised Henry even after Luke married his third wife, Sarah (Crawford) Keith. They wanted to adopt Henry but Luke said no; however, it looks like he lived with them throughout his youth. This seems to be corroborated by the 1860 census showing “Henry L Flanders,” who I believe was actually Henry L. Keith, age 16, living with Joseph & Amanda. From a picture album, written above Mary Flanders’ picture, it was written: Mary & Edwin Flanders raised Lois & Henry after their mother Minerva died until Luke married Jerusha Crittenden. However, Edwin Flanders was born 10-7-1837 and Henry was born 8-20-1843, so that is obviously wrong

[6] Luke’s son, who was about 3-1/2 years old

[7] Luke’s daughter, was was about 6-1/2 years old

[8] Research continues as to “Grandma Payson”

[9] Harvey was married to Alfleda Starr so perhaps this is one of her relatives

[10] The Alphadelphia Association. See page following the May 23, 1847 letter for a brief description of the Alphadelphia Association

August 19, 1844 letter to Charles Luke & Hannah Keith Sr. from Matthew Keith

August 19, 1844

To: Charles Luke & Hannah Keith Sr, Covington, NY

From: Matthew Keith, Winfield, NY

Received their letter and would have been glad to meet them at Covington, but cannot because money is very tight. They have received word that his wife’s oldest brother is not well and that they should come see him. If they do, they shall go in September and be gone about 15 days. He has had to pay out $250.00 in 18 months and he has lost a debt of $280.00 in Illinois. He has given away his Michigan land to his children. Has looked at the constitution of the Alphadelphia Association and is a little afraid of it, but would like Luke to send him the papers when it gets in operation.

Scan of 1844-08-19 Matthew Keith to Luke & Hannah Keith

Winfield[1] August the 19th 1844

Dear Brother and Sister[2]

I once more take my pen to let know how we do. We are waneing out Pretty fast. My own health has Been very poor for a month past. I feel almost worn out. I received your letter in due time and was glad to hear that are well. I should Been exceeding glad to have accepted your invitation to meet you at Coventon.[3] Money is very hard for me to get. If I had your letter three days sooner I should have come. Miss Keiths[4] Oldest brother Jarvis [or family?] is quite low. They have sent for to come and see him. I sent word only three days Before I got your letter. It is not certain that we shall go. If we do we shall go the first of Sept and Be gone about 15 days. I should have Been exceeding glad to had you and your wife made us a visit. I do not mutch think I shall ever see you again. Time grow Darker every day. We had laid out next summer to have come to michigan. I have had to pay two hundred and fifty dollars in about 18 months. I had it to live and it must be paid soon. I have just heard that I have lost a Debt in Illinois of 280 dollars which I expected was safe and was looking for the money or apart of it every day to help me out of my troubles but it is gone for ever. I have given away My Michigan lands to my children in order to get rid of that trouble 7 lots I have one yet. Our friends have one. All well as usual. I looked at your constitution[5] not as mutch as I mean to do. I am alittle afraid of it but I hope you will Prosper in it. Give our Best love to Esqr Spouge[6] and family and to sister Lee[7] and your children. When you get home send me some of your papers when they get in opperation.


Matthew Keith

to Luke and Hannah Keith


[1] The back of the letter, which was folded so as to make its own envelope, shows “Winfield N.Y. Aug 19,” and is addressed to “Luke Keith, Coventon, Genesee County N.Y., Pavillion Post Office”

[2] Charles Luke Keith Sr., who went by the name of Luke, and Hannah Willcutt.

[3] Covington, New York. Luke and Hannah were living in Michigan at the time of this writing, but it appears that they were visiting relations in New York

[4] His wife, Lucretia (Jepson) Keith

[5] The Alphadelphia Association. See page following the May 23, 1847 letter for a brief description of the Alphadelphia Association

[6] James Sprague, husband of Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague, Luke and Hannah’s daughter

[7] Luke’s and Matthew’s sister Rhoda (Keith) Lee

August 4, 1844 letter to R. S. Clapp from Charles Luke Keith Jr.

August 4, 1844

To: R. S. Clapp

From: Charles Luke Keith Jr., Stafford, NY

It appears that Mr. Clapp is anxious to have the payment of his note put off a short time. Mother has thought of putting her money in the Association, but thinks they are not doing very well.

Scan of 1844-08-04 Charles Luke Keith Jr to R S Clapp

Stafford August 4th 1844

Mr. R. S. Clapp

Sir your letter of the 27th Date Came to hand on friday last. You Appear to be Anxious to have the payment of your note put off a short time. Mother[1] has Thought some of putting her money in to the Association[2] as soon as she gets home again but as we have not heard any thing about the Association she thinks some times they are not doing very well or we should heard something about it. The president Told me when I left home he would let me know how they prospered. I have not heard The first word from him just as Expected Whig .. Whig- .. Whig—

As for the money, you can have it som six or Eight months. She Thinks she would not like to put it off any longer if she should ever get back to Michigan & the Association should prosper she thinks her money would gain her as much or more then ____ any other place she could put it.

We shall probably if our healths _____ be Home next month. We are all rather Home sick want to get back to Michigan.

There are a great many Old gals down here that would like to Emigrate to Michigan. I think you have best come this way in stead of going south &c &c and so on.

By Order of Mrs Payson I Send You This

You Can Have The Money Till The first of March 1845 if not longer

Yours &c

C. L. Keith

R. S. Clapp

Stafford Aug 4th 1844


[1] Believe he is referring to his then mother-in-law, Mrs. Payson

[2] The Alphadelphia Association; see the post following the May 23, 1847 letter for a brief description of the Alphadelphia Association