Roswell Ransom at Alphadelphia

Roswell Ransom was a stockholder in the Alphadelphia Association. A brother of his was Dr. Farnsworth Fletcher Ransom, whose wife was Elizabeth Noyes, a sister of John Humphrey Noyes who founded the The Oneida Community. My James Noyes and John Humphrey Noyes were only 4th cousins, but I still have found it interesting that Elizabeth’s husband would end up in close proximity of the Alphadelphia experiment (she had died by the time it was begun) and have wondered if he had any communication with John Humphrey Noyes and might have sent him his impressions of Alphadelphia.

Below are bios of Roswell Ransom and Farnsworth Fletcher Ransom that were written by Wyllys Cadwell Ransom. He gives an account of Roswell’s association with it and defines the Alphadelphia experiment as “evil”, “delusive” and “disastrous”.

Who was this Wyllys Cadwell Ransom? Born in 1828, he was the eldest son of the eldest son of Ezekiel and Lucinda Fletcher Ransom, who were the parents of the above Roswell and Farnsworth Fletcher Ransom. So he too lived in Kalamazoo, his family making its way out there in 1834.

Already a brother and sister, with their families, and an unmarried brother had made their way to Michigan, and the glowing accounts that they sent back of the beauty and advantages of the new home soon decided the lawyer to follow in their footsteps.

Wyllys’ father was Epaphroditus Ransom, a lawyer, banker and politician who was governor of Michigan from 1848 to 1850. He proved unpopular as he held a strong anti-slavery position.

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Historical outline of the Ransom family of America
By Wyllys Cadwell Ransom

ROSWELL RANSOM, third son and sixth child of Major Ezekiel and Lucinda Fletcher Ransom, was born at Townshend, Vt., Nov. 21, 1802. He was named for that worthy great uncle of Revolutionary fame, Roswell Ransom, of Colchester, who was with the expedition to Quebec in 1777, was captured and thrown into a military prison to undergo almost unmitigated suffering until exchanged, when he returned to his command in the Continental line, in which he served to the end of the war.

Roswell, of Townshend, was reared on the farm at home and fitted as well as possible for his future career as an agriculturist. He remained with his father until about 1830, when he was seized with the idea afterwards ascribed as original with Horace Greeley, of going West, to grow up with the country. So with his bundle over his shoulder and a few dollars in his pocket, the savings that he had made since he had worked for himself, he bade farewell to his “ancestral halls” and started out for a long tramp for the new country beyond the great lakes, the fame of which was borne on every breeze from the far distant region. Full of hope and enthusiasm he began the tedious expedition, not knowing how far his venture would take him. Pushing on from one point to another he finally reached Tolland prairie, about 140 miles west of Detroit, which he at once decided was good enough for him, and within a few days he had bought out Tolland, the first settler on the prairie, securing the finest tract of land in that region, on which there was a log house uncompleted and a few acres under plough. After a short stay to arrange for the finishing of the house, and for the fencing and breaking of additional land the next spring, he returned to Vermont, where he passed the remainder of the winter and married Wealthy Lauretta Shafter, daughter of .Col. William, R. Shafter, of Townshend, a merchant and man of affairs generally. The newly married couple set out for their distant home in Michigan in May, 1831, and with their few household effects a month later reached their destination, both in good heart for the hard and trying experiences in store for them. Sept. 3, 1832, their first born, Elizabeth, came to them, and in a row, with strangely equal intervals until 1848, they had a happy array of seven children, five girls and two boys. After reaching their Michigan home, though encountering their full share of hardships incidental to the settling in a new country, the Lord seemed to prosper their undertakings, until in an evil moment Roswell was persuaded against the protests of all his friends to join in the Fourier experiment that was set on foot during the year 1841 by a group of visionary Socialists near Galesburgh, and close by his home. By their delusive project they succeeded in securing several large farms for co-operative uses, his among others, and notwithstanding for a time only rainbows with the fancied pot of gold at the foot of every one of them was in sight, it proved in the end a most disastrous venture for all that were engaged in it. The scheme was anything but a success, and’ the members soon fell to quarreling among themselves, each one for himself, to get out of the wreck with as little loss as possible. The whole affair finally collapsed, leaving the property once under its control involved in ruinous litigation. By dint of good management Roswell extricated himself from the tangle at last, and in course of time recovered possession of his farm, but encumbered with a mortgage liability, incidental to the closure with the Fourier association, and a few years later he was obliged to sacrifice his property to meet liabilities outstanding on that account.

After leaving his farm he moved into the village of Galesburgh, on the east edge of the prairie, and engaged in milling and mercantile business for many years, until his death, which occurred Nov. 13, 1877.

No more kindly-hearted, genial man ever existed than Roswell Ransom. He was one of those always more ready to confide in the good qualities of associates than to be suspicious and on the look out for their bad ones. Such confidence sometimes brought undesirable consequences in its train, but rarely did he resent an injustice by retaliation, seemingly willing to leave it to time, the great healer, to bring restitution for an injury and to “render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar’s.” For many years, politically, he was a Democrat, but when the agitation of the slavery question became rife all over the North, he soon joined the ranks of the Abolition party.

His wife, Wealthy Lauretta Shafter, born at Athens, Windham Co., Vt., Oct. 22, 1810, was a woman of irrepressible energy and force.

It was largely through her unfailing help and hopeful endeavor that they managed to “pull through” the adverse experiences that followed upon the mistaken plans of the early 40s. She died at Kalamazoo, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Mary Burdick, Aug. 28, 1892, and her remains were buried by the side of her husband’s, in the cemetery near Galesburgh.

They had a family of seven children, five daughters and two sons, all of whom still survive except Gertrude, the youngest daughter, who died at Nashville, Tenn., while engaged as a nurse at the Federal Hospital in that city, Dec. 28, 1865.

The remaining children are all married and have made homes widely separated from each other. Elizabeth, Mrs. Sutton, and Frances, Mrs. Van Doren are living at Los Angeles, Cal.; Helen, Mrs. Mills, resides at Kalamazoo, where her husband, Ephraim T., is the active secretary and treasurer of one of the most extensive manufacturing concerns in the West. Mary is also living at Kalamazoo; James Newton, the oldest son, is the proprietor of a large ranch in Texas, while his younger brother, Albert E., more familiarly known as “Loll,” lives at Salina, Kan., and not far away has a large stock farm, where he is engaged in raising fine horses.

The grand-children have turned out well, and seem to be enjoying prosperous and promising lives.

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DR. FARNSWORTH FLETCHER RANSOM, second son and fifth child of Major Ezekiel and Lucinda Fletcher Ransom, was born at Townshend, Vt., Aug. 22, 1800. He was called, and usually signed himself, Fletcher in all business transactions. The name Farnsworth was after an early friend of his father, living at Shelburne Falls, Mass. He was brought up on the farm with his brothers and sisters, attending the public schools and academies of Windham County until he became of age, when he determined to be a doctor, and for a time he took up the study of medicine with his uncle, Dr. Luther Ransom, at Halifax, Vt., then a practitioner at that place. Subsequently, however, he went to Middlebury, Vt., where he took a partial course at Middlebury College, at the same time continuing his professional studies in the office of Dr. Jonathan Allen, a distinguished physician of that place. From Middlebury he went to the medical college at Castleton, Vt., from which he graduated in 1830, and located in Putney, Windham Co., in the medical practice, and was there married to his first wife, Elizabeth Noyes, June 28, 1831. He continued his practice at Putney until 1835, when he moved to Glenns Falls, Warren Co., N. Y. He remained there for about two years and then emigrated to Kalamazoo, Mich., where the most of his father’s family had already located. He decided to remain with them and to resume the practice of his profession. But it had never proved to his liking, and though not unsuccessful he determined to abandon it, and did. Shortly after he was elected Justice of the Peace, in which office he served acceptably, and was also chosen as representative in the legislature from Kalamazoo County, sessions of 1845 and 1846, where he was recognized as among the most useful members of the Lower House. Declining further office from his party he moved to the township of Alamo, Kalamazoo Co., to make it his home.

He had previously purchased from the government 3 large tract of lands and was able to go into the business of stock raising on an extensive scale. Such occupation was to his liking, and he continued in it until advancing years decided him to turn over the active management of the estate to his sons Charles and John, who had been with him constantly from their mother’s death, which occurred Oct. 16, 1840. He then resumed his residence in Kalamazoo and was there married to Miss Lucia Lovell for a second wife.. After his return to Kalamazoo he was badly crippled by a fall from a wagon, which disabled him from further participation in the active concerns of life. He died at Kalamazoo, Mich., June 3, 1867. Dr. Ransom was a man of far more than ordinary ability naturally, and had scholastic attainments of a high order. All through his earlier manhood he was an uncompromising Whig, but declined to follow that party into the Republican ranks, and joining the Democrat contingent, in full communion with his aforetime political enemies, died.

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