1874 Letters

October 11, 1874 letter to Frank Tomlinson from Ethan Keith

October 11, 1874

To: Frank Tomlinson

From: Ethan Keith, Galesburg, MI

Had tried to do railroad work again, but had to quit as he could not do the work. Update on various family members, including Wesley Keith’s family who had moved to Kansas and had sold and moved about 20 miles further on. Their daughter liked it, but one of the boys had written to some neighbors that he didn’t like it and was homesick. Ethan included a photograph of an engine “put up at My Works last winter” and described the castings he made for it.

Scan of 1874-10-11 Ethan Keith to Frank Tomlinson

Galesburg Oct 11th 1874

Cousin Frank.

I will try & answer your letter after so long a time. Have been pretty busy most of the time for the last two months & for that reason have neglected writeing.

Pa[1] has got a hard cold, the rest of our folks are well as usual.

Ma[2] & I went to Kalamazoo yesterday visited at Orsen Stars.[3] His mother[4] has been there but has gone to Valparaiso Indiana. We called at Aunt Katies[5] they were well. Mart[6] has not made much Cider yet, I should think the Grangers[7] ought to give him their custom. The Grangers had a big picnic about two miles north of here yesterday. Galesburg brass band played for them.

I was out to Lawton a few weeks ago made Hank & Nancy[8] a visit had a good time. Hank[9] seems to be doing a good business he took some pictures to their County Fair got the first premium & six second premiums.

I guess Henry[10] does not stand much of a chance for getting into business of any kind, times are so hard that anyone cant get work. I have been trying Railroading again but had to quit, could not do the work. Mr Star could not get me an Engine to run as he expected but got me a position in Grand Rapids as Porter of the Union Depot. Dont know what I shall do now. Henry thinks more of his sister[11] than ever it grows on him I think, guess he visits Mr Flanders[12] occasionally. He calls in here once a month on an average.

Aunt Katie told ma yesterday that she heard Wesleys folks[13] had sold out again & gone about twenty miles from where they stopped in the first place. Edith[14] likes it there real well, but one of the boys[15] wrote to one of our neighbors that he was homesick did not like the country. We have got our corn husked got about two hundred & fifteen bushels of ears. We had as good corn as anone anyone in the neighborhood. Corn is hardly half a crop this year wheat crop was very good, a bushel of corn will almost buy a bushel of wheat.

I suppose you have got quite an insight into the Millers trade by this time.

I will send a Photograph of an Engine put up at my Works last winter. I made the castings of lead & pewter made a brass valve & valve-seat in the steam chest the cylender is 2½ inches in length 1½ inch stroke, 1½ inch bore, flywheel 8 inches in diameter weighs 4½ lbs that is lead, the driving pully is pewter 3½ inches in diameter with 1 inch face the Engine just as you see it in the picture weighs 12½ lbs. Edwin Flanders[16] & I timed it one day & it made 110 revolutions in a quarter of a minute. Henry got a boiler made for it at White Pigeon it is 20 inches long & 8 inches in diameter. Made a Safety-valve & put on the steam dome, the boiler is made of the heaviest tin they had with two bands around & a rod running through it from each head to help hold them. (Now if you should want any more power at any time to run your mills just let me know maybe I could help you.)

Frank I hope you will not wait as long as I have before you answer this letter. Respects to all


E. B. Keith


[1] Charles Luke Keith Jr.

[2] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[3] Orson Starr was the half-brother of Ethan’s Uncle Harvey Keith’s widow, Alfleda (Starr) Keith

[4] Mary (Crossman) Starr

[5] Catherine (Keith) Bradley Lee

[6] Martin Milham, who was married to Lucy (Lee) Milham, the daughter of Ethan’s Aunt Katie

[7] From Wikipedia: The Grange, officially named The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a social organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. The Grange, founded after the Civil War in 1867, is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope. The Grange actively lobbied state legislatures and Congress for political goals, such as the Granger Laws to lower rates charged by railroads, and rural free mail delivery by the Post Office. The word “grange” comes from a Latin word for grain, and is related to a “granary” or, generically, a farm.  The organization was unusual at this time, because women and any teen old enough to draw a plow (aged 14 to 16) were encouraged to participate. The importance of women was reinforced by requiring that four of the elected positions could be held only by women.

[8] His brother-in-law and sister, Henry & Nancy (Keith) Brown

[9] Henry Brown’s nickname

[10] His half-brother, Henry Keith

[11] His half-sister, Lois (Keith) Clark Skinner.

[12] Henry was the son of Charles “Luke” Keith Jr. and his first wife, Minerva (Payson) Keith. When she died just nine days after Henry’s birth, Joseph & Amanda (Hobbs) Flanders took Henry in and raised him even after Luke remarried. The Flanders wanted to adopt Henry but Luke said no; however, it looks like Henry 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

[13] John Wesley Keith and his wife, Harriet (Blakesley) Keith, and their children. Wesley was Ethan’s father’s adopted brother

[14] Wesley & Harriet’s daughter, Edith Keith

[15] Wesley & Harriet had three sons, Ellis, James & Grant

[16] The son of Joseph & Amanda Flanders

*Thanks to Leigh Terrass, great-granddaughter of John Frank Tomlinson, for sharing this letter with me and allowing me to post it. In order to keep the letters chronological in the https://lettersfromthe1860s.wordpress.com/ blog post, it was given a posting date of 07-28-2018 even though it wasn’t until September of 2021 that I received the letters from Leigh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s