March 24, 1859 letter to Luke Keith from George Tomlinson

March 24, 1859

To: Luke Keith

From: George Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

Noah backed out of the trade because he wasn’t satisfied with the survey. He wanted it chained out; he wasn’t willing to take the U.S. survey. Would like Luke to put up a Farm For Sale board. They don’t expect Dan Sprague to live much longer. Old Squire Brooks was buried and his daughter, Mrs. Mathews, died March 27th.

Scan of 1859-03-24 George Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion March 24/59

C. L. Keith Esq

Uncle Noah[1] has backed out of the trade – a thing I did not expect – he is not satisfied with the survey of the land. He wanted it chained out – so he would know just the number of rods the deed calls for. He is not willing to take the United States survey. So I have that land on hand. Does Lasher[2] keep up the fences as he agreed? I suspect not. If you should see any one either in Kalamazoo or your place that wants to trade any goods in whole or in part for that land, hit into him – or any one wanting it on time – sell it. Perhaps you had better put up a board “Farm for sale.” Dont you want enough of the land to come to what I am owing you? We are well as usual. Mother[3] is rather down this winter she is troubled with her hand. Dan Sprague[4] is hard up – it is thought he will live but a few weeks at longest. He had an attack of rheumatism in the chest – which has run him into the consumption – he looks hard. Old Squire Brooks was buried one day this week. He bled from the lungs – dropt away suddenly. His daughter Mrs Mathews died a few weeks ago.

March 27. All well. Fine spring weather.


Geo. Tomlinson


[1] Noah Starr. George’s wife, Marion (Sprague) Tomlinson, and Noah’s daughter-in-law, Emma (Sprague) Starr, were first cousins

[2] See footnote #2 of the February 6, 1859 letter

[3] His mother-in-law, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague, who was Luke’s sister

[4] His wife Marion’s uncle. He died just a week later on March 31, 1859

February 6, 1859 letter to Luke Keith from George Tomlinson

February 6, 1859

To: Luke Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: George Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

Has negotiated a trade with Uncle Noah Starr for the land. Wants Luke to get a chain and measure it out in metes and bounds. Aunt Patty thinks it strange that none of her friends have written her since she left. She thinks Luke was glad to get rid of her and won’t write for fear she will come again. Uncle Myron Douglass was buried February 3rd.

Scan of 1859-02-06 George Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion Feb. 6, 1859

C. L. Keith Esq

I have partly negotiated a trade with Uncle Noah Starr[1] for that land – can trade if I am a mind to – the land I git is not worth over 2000$. Now what I want to know is can that land be sold for more than that amt.? I want to do the best I can with it. I am not able to keep it in its present shape. It pays nothing as you know. Is there any sale for land?

2nd Have you ever chained it out so you know there is what the deed calls for? Uncle Noah wants metes and bounds & a deed for 116 acres omitting the words “more or less.” Can you give me a plan of it with the distances in rods marked on each line? Like this: [there is then a simple drawing]. Also the directions. If you dont know can you get a chain & measure it? I should like to have this done without delay – so I can consummate the trade at once – if there is no prospect of doing better. I suppose the farm is running down pretty fast and I am afraid it will run down faster than land will raise in value.

I have had several nibbles for trade but nothing that comes to a focus till now. I want to get the farm off my hands to the best advantage as soon as possible.

3d How much is there due on that note you hold against me? I must try and pay you up some day.

4th I wish you would call upon Lasher[2] & find out how he thinks the acct. stands between us – get his bills if he has any – I suppose I may as well say we are square as any other way.

You must not say any thing of any trades for I have learned that a trade is not a trade till the writings are made – there may be forty slips besides I may think it not best to trade when I hear from you.

5th Write as soon as possible.

So much for business.

We are all well – get along first rate for lazy folks. Aunt Patty[3] thinks it strange that some of her friends dont write. She has heard nothing from them since she left. She thinks you were so glad to get rid of her that you wont write for fear you she will go again or else you have all gone to salt lake.

Uncle Myron Douglass[4] was buried Feb 3.


Geo. Tomlinson


[1] George’s wife, Marion (Sprague) Tomlinson, and Noah Starr’s daughter-in-law, Emma (Sprague) Starr, were first cousins

[2] While “Lasher” is referenced repeatedly in Luke’s diaries and also in letters to Luke from Charles Cridland, the only evidence found regarding his first name, Joseph, was a receipt in the back of Luke’s 1858 diary dated December 6, 1858 for the payment of Comstock real estate taxes

[3] Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague was Luke’s sister and George’s mother-in-law

[4] A search of indicates that Myron Douglass died February 12, 1859 and is buried in Jug City Cemetery in Genessee County, New York; however, since George writes that Myron was buried on February 3, and since the headstone is broken and worn, it would appear that Myron died February 2. Myron Douglass’ relationship to either George or Luke is unknown at this time

April 12, 1857 letter to Luke Keith from George Tomlinson

April 12, 1855

To: Luke Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: George Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

Has written three times and received no reply. Mother is anxious to hear how her folks are. Wants to know if Luke has succeeded in selling their farm.

Scan of 1857-04-12 George Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion Apil 12 1857

C. L. Keith Esq

I have writen you three times have recevd no reply. I write a line to say that mother[1] is anxious to hear how her folks[2] are. We are all well — hav our grief as well as a christian faith calls us to do. We know it is all right yet cannot avoid wishing it otherwise.

Monday morning. It is a pleasant morning. I am full of business.

How do you succeed in selling our farm.

Write without fail soon.


G. Tomlinson[3]


[1] Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague, George’s mother-in-law and Luke’s sister

[2] Charles Luke Keith Sr. and Hannah Willcutt

[3] George Tomlinson was married to Luke’s niece, Marion Sprague

October 3, 1856 letter to Luke Keith from George Tomlinson

October 3, 1856

To: Luke Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: George Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

All are well here except Frank has the summer complaint. Getting along as well as when Patty was here. He’s thinking of selling the farm. If anyone inquires, he will take $23 per acres. If Lasher is willing to leave he will let him have whatever he can get over $23 per acre. Doesn’t want to build a barn if selling. Business is good at the store. Maybe Marion will write.

Scan of 1856-10-03 George Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion Oct. 3. 1856.

C. L. Keith, Esq.

Your line was not rec’d till yesterday. We are all well except Frank[1] has the summer complaint[2] somewhat – not very bad but we have not been able to check it. I dont see but we get along as well as when Aunt Patty[3] was here.

Libby says she cant stay with us only this week – dont know who we shall get. The Gentleman[4] has been _____ – has had the blues teribly – dirty wool, dull machines, cold weather & low water till within a few days & a great many other little devils to numeruous to mention.

On the whole I think if an opportunity offers we had best sell our farm.

You may say to men enquiring for land it is for sale – it has cost me to this date $23.80 per acre. I will take 23$. If those men want it I will let them have it – I shall want enough down to secure the sale & will give some time on the remainder. I think that fair good property if one could be there to see it. I want the means in my business or I would not care to sell. I shall not sell unless Lasher is willing to leave. I will let him have what he can get more than 23$ per acre – if he sells it this fall.

What is he doing about a barn. I dont want to build if I make a sale.

How are the horses?

Have you reserved that security?

I dont think of any thing new.

The Dea.[5] has gone to day to look up a girl – we are doing a fair business in the store.

G. Tomlinson

May be Marion[6] will write.


[1] His son, Frank Tomlinson

[2] A common, noncontagious diarrhea of young children, occurring in summer or autumn, sometimes caused by spoiled milk

[3] His mother-in-law, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague

[4] Perhaps he is referring to his father-in-law

[5] His father-in-law, James Sprague Jr.

[6] His wife, Marion (Sprague) Tomlinson

October 21, 1855 letter to Luke Keith from George Tomlinson

October 21, 1855

To: Luke Keith

From: George Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

Aunt Patty is concerned about her mother’s health and wants Luke to inform her immediately regarding same. She would like to come see her mother but feels she cannot leave the Deacon at this point. He has been unable to do much for the past month. George thinks he will come to Luke’s in about two weeks, but the Deacon and Aunt Patty may come instead, if the Deacon’s health improves. Heard that Loyal Starr’s wife is dead but had no particulars.

Scan of 1855-10-21 George Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion           Oct. 21, 1855

C. L. Keith Esq

Aunt Patty[1] wants me to write meant I should a week ago when we rec’d your last & insisted on an immediate answer.

She wants to know how her mother[2] is – is she able to be about? Does her health improve? &c, &c. write immediately all the particulars.

Aunt Patty has about concluded to stay at home this winter & not visit _____ till next summer. If her mothers health is not too precarious – she feels torn to do so. Various reasons induce her to say so – the most important of which is the Deacons[3] health. He has been unable to do much for a month past – is now some better. If his health continues to improve she may go but if not – only on the most pressing anxiety of her Mother.

We are behind hand with our work – our hired mans time is out – he is gone. I am now down with a lame back – help is scarce. How we shall get along I dont now see – got the blues some I guess.

I think I shall be ready to start for your place in about 2 weeks if nothing happens. It is very possible the Dea. & Aunt Patty may go in my stead – tho the Dea. will have to get very much better first.

When do you get lime? I wish you would speak to a mason to help me lay the wall the first thing after I get there if you can find one. I want to get the wall up before frosty weather. Write about your mothers health right away.


Geo. Tomlinson

We just heard Loyal Starrs wife is dead, no particulars.


[1] George’s mother-in-law, and Luke’s sister, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague

[2] Patty’s and Luke’s mother, Hannah (Willcutt) Keith

[3] Patty’s husband, James Sprague Jr.

August 7, 1855 letter to Luke Keith from Marion Tomlinson

August 7, 1855

To: Luke Keith

From: Marion Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

Marion was inquiring into the health of her grandmother who apparently was not well. Sarah Crittenden sold her farm to a Mr. Olmstead.

Scan of 1855-08-07 Marion Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion           August 7, 1855[1]

Uncle Luke,

Geo[2] recieved a letter from you stating that grandmother[3] was quite unwell. Now mother[4] wants to know the particulars – what the matter is, whether you consider her dangerous, or not. As soon as you get this write all about her. Mother thinks of going there this fall with Geo. It rains most of the time – we had a shower yesterday. This morning it is cold as winter. Our folks have their wheat cut and five loads in the barn. They have cut but little hay, what they have is mostly spoiled by the rain. Wheat is grown some, ours is not injured much yet. Harmden[?] Olmstead has sold his farm and bought Sarah Crittendens.[5] He gave her $3,000, sold his to Ozro Brown for $10,000, gives possession the 20th of this month. It is thought that Sarah will save but little. Gordon is very slack and their affairs were left in a bad shape. Gordon has sold his half of the shop to Sam Crossman he _____ bought to save himself. Write as soon as you recieve this. All well. Tell us all about Aunt C’s[6] affairs. Wont the Lees[7] all die some day.



[1] While the letter itself has a date of only “August,” on the reverse side it appears that Luke may have started to answer the letter as follow: “Batavia, Aug. 22, 1855; Mrs Tomlinson; Marion your letter of the 7″ came to hand Saturday last, safe and sound.” Nothing more was written

[2] Marion’s husband, George Tomlinson

[3] Hannah (Willcutt) Keith

[4] Luke’s sister, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague

[5] Sarah (Curtis) Crittenden; Sarah was the widow of Henry Crittenden, who was the brother of Luke’s second wife, Jerusha (Crittenden) Keith

[6] Luke’s sister, Catharine (Keith) Bradley Lee

[7] Catharine’s second husband, George Clinton Lee, died December 18, 1854, and this seems to be some reference to this branch of the family

February 21, 1855 letter to Luke Keith from George Tomlinson

February 21, 1855

To: Luke Keith

From: George Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

Is sending a note against Charles Anderson for $100.00 for the farm. Aunt Patty wants to know if and when Lois is coming.

Scan of 1855-02-21 George Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion           Feb. 21, 1855

C. L. Keith, Esq.

Enclosed please find a note against Charles Anderson for $100 on which is due the principal and int. at 10 per ct from date. If your Father[1] wants more I will send it. I think there is a poor sight for wood chopping just now. If you can get any one to chop handily do so if not let it go. My cousin takes possession the first of April so I am not so particular about it. When I see him again I will learn his calculations & advise you.

Do you have any offer for the place? Aunt Patty[2] says ask Luke if Lois[3] is coming down here this spring and have him write right off. If she is coming she wants to know it – if not she wants to know – she adds have her come without fail.

We are totally well. Marian[4] is a little out of health, but is now getting better – will be around again in a few days we think.

What do you mean by saying “Hellens Walter is dead”? who is or wasWalter“?

Write about Lois the same day you get this so say Aunt Patty.

We are having fair winter weather – good sleighing.


Geo. Tomlinson


[1] Charles Luke Keith Sr.

[2] George’s mother-in-law, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague

[3] Lois Keith, Luke’s daughter by his first wife, Minerva Payson

[4] George’s wife, Marion (Sprague) Tomlinson

February 1, 1855 letter to Luke Keith from George Tomlinson

February 1, 1955

To: Luke Keith

From: George Tomlinson, Pavilion, NY

George and his cousin have agreed to rent Luke’s farm for ten years. His cousin has a farm and so won’t be able to get there before August. Aunt Patty wants Lois to come and stay with her for at least a year if not longer.

Scan of 1855-02-01 George Tomlinson to Luke Keith

Pavilion           Feb. 1. 1855

L. C. Keith

I have agreed with my cousin to go on to your farm if you have not sold it or bargained it away. If you have made no sale – take down the board – If all goes as I expect the farm is let for 10 years.

It may be considered strange that I dont hear any thing from you. Have you got the draft? What have you done about chopping? Can any one be got to get out the manure in the spring & plant the orchard to corn & potatoes on shares and cut the grass? Ask Oscar about it & see if he is in a condition to do it?

My Cousin has a farm on his hands here and thinks he cant get there before the first of Aug. – Have you written to me since I left? If you can get inclination on time to write call in and tell Ethan what to say. We are all well – Having winter in good earnest – roads full of snow &c.

Aunt Patty[1] hasnt called more than once because Lois[2] did not come home with me. She says tell Luke to have her ready & the first chance have her come along. I suppose she means the first chance for company. I shall look out and if I find any one going that way shall send for her – so be ready.

Aunt Patty says tell Lois to make calculations to stay a year if not longer & maybe more. I have not time to write.

Write in answer to this before you sleep.

Geo. Tomlinson


[1] George’s mother-in-law, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague

[2] Lois Keith, Luke’s daughter by his first wife, Minerva Payson

June 16, 1850 letter to Luke Keith from James Sprague Jr.

June 16, 1850

To: Luke Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: James Sprague, Jr., Pavilion, NY

Will have to give up buying the farm as he doesn’t have the means. Martha and the children would rather stay where they are, so they will stay there until they have an opportunity to sell. The body of Mr. Chilson, who drowned in the Genesee River, was found yesterday and buried today. There is a new species of fly that looks like a honeybee but is a size smaller. It is something they haven’t seen before.

Scan of 1850-06-16 James Sprague to Luke Keith

Pavilion June 16 1850[1]

We receved your letter dated June 8 which found us all well. In relation to the farm we shall have to give up buying it for the want of means. I should like to buy the farm if we could sell the shop. There is no chance to sell as we know of. Martha[2] & the children[3] think they had rather stay here then sell & come there. We had a chance to sell the farm last winter & dont know but we could now. I dont know as it would be best if I could. We can get a living here if we work all of the time. We will try to stay here untill we have an opportunity to sell & then we will buy if an oportunity offers to suit. We will make you no more trouble about the Farm. Wheat looks extrordinary well genarally Spring crops or backward but the prospects is good for good crops. Wheat is worth about $1.50 pr bush corn five shillings. Mr Chilson[4] that was drounded in the Genesee River was found yesterday and buried him to day. Charles Anderson has been to Rochester and bought him a farm. He starts back to morrow. I send this by him. Marion[5] rote to some of you the other day. I suppose she told you the news – there is a new species of Fly among us that is quite numerous. It loks considerable like the honey bee a sise smaller & more yellow. It is said by some to be the W__ole Fly. It is something we have not seen before.

James Sprague Jr.


[1] It appears that someone added “James Sprague, June 16-1858” on the envelope part of the letter; however, from the contents of the letter it is clear that it was written in 1850

[2] His wife, and Luke’s sister, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague

[3] Assuming he is referring to his daughter and son-in-law, Marion and George Tomlinson, since she was his only living child and they all lived together

[4] A search of shows that Alva Chilson, aged 26, drowned in the Genesee River on November 8, 1849 and that his body wasn’t found until June 18, 1850. Since this letter is dated June 16, 1850 it would appear that his body was actually found on June 15

[5] His daughter, Marion (Sprague) Tomlinson

March 18, 1850 letter to Luke Keith from Lois Payson

March 18, 1850

To: Luke Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Lois Payson, Covington, NY

Hasn’t heard from him in ten months. Hopes his new wife will be a good mother to his kids. Thanks him for his invitation to come live with him. Includes a letter to Mr. Clapp asking him to pay her the money he owes her for the last four years. 

Scan of 1850-03-18 Lois Payson to Luke Keith

Covington March the 18″ 1850


Youre longe expected letter has arrived at last after waiting nearly ten months. I had concludeed that you had forgotten that there was such a being on earth. I was however verry glad to hear from you and learn that you were all alive and well. I suppose that I must make some allowances for your not writeing sooner as I perceive you have had other buisness to attend to, you tel me that you have got another wife.[1] I hope she may prove to be a good one. My desire is that she may have wisdom and patience to help you train up your Children[2] in the way they should be. I think it is an arduous task to be a step mother. I hope you will do youre part and the Children are so old now[3] I think they may be got a long with without much trouble. I do hope so in deede for they are verry dear to me. I want to see the Children verry much but have verry faint hopes that I ever shall but the subject is to painful to dwell upon and I will drop it. I am much obliged to you for youre invitation to come and live with you but that I could not do if I was ever so much disposed to for the want of money. How I have been disappointed a bout the Claps not geting that money for me every time I have hard from you for too yeares past it would be paid in the spring and the next time in the fall and so it has been ever since I left Michigan. My Friends here are verry kind but I now they think I mite as well use up my own propperty as to live at their expence. I have bee sick and lame and owe doctors bills and so on and so forth. I wish I could see the Clapps. They would hear something from me that they never heard from a woman. I shall write on this paper to Edwin.[4] I wish you to have him see it soon. Patty[5] designs to go to Mich in May if she is alive and well. She can tell you more than I can write. The harmonyville folks are all well at present and wish to be kindly rememberd to your self and Lady. They say they should like to have Harmony graced with a visit from your Lady and self and Children some time when you can make it convenient. Fances and Elly Sprague send their best love to Lois and Henry and want to see them very much. My respects to all pleas to write as often as you can for you now that I am always glad to hear from you. As I do not think of any thing more of importance I must bid you good by.

Youres as ever

Lois Payson[6]

Mr Clap

I am some what astonished that all most four years should pass a way and you pay no more attention to paying them notes. Luke tells me everry time he writes that he speaks to you verry often and that you promis verry fair and that is all. I think that living on promises is rather hard fare and I cant endure it any longer. It is not what I expected from you nor your Brother while I was in Michigan I was no more troubled a bout that money than I should have been had it been in my owne trunk when I left I expected the money in a few months. I think that a borrowed money debt ought to be considerd sacred and especially when borrowed of a woman. The last time I saw Rufus[7] what fare promises he made. He told me not to give my self any uneasiness about those notes for I should be paid ery cent. Luke says he has written to him but has receivd no answer and now Mr Clap I will tel you what I want you to do and I hope you will not disappoint me this time. Mrs Sprague Lukes sister will be in youre place some time in the month of May and I want you to make youre calculations to send me the money that is due to me by her when she returns for I am absolutely in want of it.

Youres Respectfuly

Lois Payson


[1] Luke married Sarah Crawford on November 14, 1849

[2] Lois and Henry Keith, Luke’s children by his first wife, Minerva Payson

[3] Lois was nine years old and Henry was six years old

[4] Edwin Clapp

[5] Luke’s sister, Martha “Patty” (Keith) Sprague

[6] It is believed that this is Minerva Payson’s mother, however efforts to verify this have proved unsuccessful

[7] Edwin Clapp’s father, Rufus Clapp