Noyes Family Constitution

Being Free-thinkers who had been associated with socialist experiments and who had moved to Liberal, Missouri, which was expressly for liberals, it’s not surprising that the Noyes family would form their own family constitution.

The document displays the year as being 283.

The Dictionary of Missouri Biography notes that Liberal was utilizing a different dating system, one that was based on 1600 A. D., the year Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for his astronomical and pantheistic beliefs, becoming known subsequently as a martyr for science. “Thus, the year 1883, using their system, was called E of M 283 or Era of Man 283. Such a dating system had been recommended by the National Liberal League.”

Nancy Benton sent me the document. Below is a transcription and images.

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Liberal, Mo. February 10th 283.

We the undersigned agreed to join together in a Society which shall be based upon and regulated by the following


1. The Name of the Society shall be Home-Circle.

2. Every member shall enjoy all the rights and priviledges which all others would claim for themselves; namely: every body shall have an opinion and views of his own upon all subjects and questions but shall always listen carefully to the suggestions and examine the ideas of others; perhaps, is he wrong and the rest right.

3. No oppression, forse, quarrel or fighting shall be practiced by any of the members, neither inside nor outside of the Circle.

4. Everybody shall be fully independent of all the others; provided that his actions and conduct are not in the way of anybody.

5. Nobody shall dictate or prohibit anything to anybody else, unless he is directly concerned in the business.

6. Whereas it is universally acknowledged that all what breathes, feels pain and joy as well as human beings, — Resolved : that it be the duty of every member of the Order not to torture or to cause any sufferings to any living beings, unless it be for self-defence or protection of personal property.

7. Let it be the desire of every member to help all others and try to make them pleasant and comfortable; but at the same time remind those, who involuntarily may commit somethings wrong, to better themselves. Such remarks shall be made privately and in a mild manner.

8. The Meetings of the Home-Circle will take place when the members will find it best.

9. The Officers of the society shall contain: a President, Secretary and Treasurer; They shall be reelected every 4 Weeks.

10. The Venerable Members of the Circle shall be honored and respected by the whole Membership.

11. The Secretary shall keep a brief and full record of all the proceedings of the Meetings and report everyone of them at the next meeting.

12. Any Law or Regulation may be added to this Constitution, according to the will of the members.

13. Every Member shall try to observe and practice the principles of the Constitution as strict as possible.

Carrie A. Noyes
J. A. Noyes
Cora R. Noyes
V. H. Noyes
A. M. Noyes
Paul Noyes
Ray Noyes
Viola Harmon
Sam Wegler, Secretary

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The document reveals the thoughtful respect, dignity, empathy, and compassion family members expected to be displayed by another both in and outside the home, and the allowance of perhaps an unusual degree of independence as well. Quite a different arrangement from the utopian experiment conducted by their relation John Humphrey Noyes of Oneida fame.

We see all the children were present to apply their signatures, including the eldest daughter Emma Viola Harmon, who had moved to Chehalis in Washington State with her husband, but was apparently visiting.

Sam Wegler is given as secretary for this meeting. I have examined several censuses and can’t begin to place who this individual may have been.

Images of Spook Hall

The below images are of “Spook Hall” in Liberal, Missouri, which served the spiritualists of the community, thus its name.

Exterior showing gable end, from the Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

Detail of gable end showing entrance, from the Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

Nancy Benton provided the below image of Spook Hall in winter, noting, “The building still stands today. During WW II it was used as a canning center. People could go there and preserve their food in tin cans. When I was in high school, it was the Vocational Agriculture building.”

Spook Hall in winter

J. P. Moore instead writes in his book on Liberal that the building, which had been built in 1890 by the Spiritual Science Association, and stood at the northeast corner of Yale and Paine Streets, was torn down in the spring of 1962.

With the waning of spiritualism, the building was sold to the Belks on January 21, 1903, then on July 24, 1930 was purchased by the Liberal school district.

There were some who felt Spook Hall should be preserved as so much of the town’s history was associated with it, and the school board offered to give the building for purposes of preservation, as long as it was removed to another place, but in the end there were no takers, the building was sold and “the buyer tore it down for the material”.


Spiritualism became quite popular in the mid to late 19th century. Interestingly enough, and not surprisingly, some of those who had been interested in the utopian movements were attracted to spiritualism. For example, James Allen Noyes, after the failure of the Alphadelphia Association, eventually moved to Liberal, Missouri, a town founded for free thinkers. Spiritualism proved to be popular there and the family was deeply involved. Meanwhile, back in Michigan, Spiritualism was popular with some others who had been involved in the Alphadelphia Association.

Barbara Triphahn, a descendant of one of the Alphadelphia Association families who lived in Michigan, sends the below copy of the National Spiritualist Association Declaration of Principles 1914-1918.

I’m posting the images as I’ve not done a transcription.

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The Alphadelphian experiment having failed in 1848, and James Allen NOYES’ father, James NOYES, having remarried to Susan WATERS, James Allen NOYES is given as having traveled to Berlin Heights, Ohio where another experiment in socialistic living was being undertaken. This experiment, initially launched by Dr. NICHOLS, was about 1856, and failed very shortly.

I’m aware of at least another family, aside from the Noyes, who had been at Berlin Heights and later went to Liberal, and there were probably more.

The following is from the book “John Humphrey Noyes, The Putnam Community” compiled and edited by George Wallingford Noyes.

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Chapter 19


SWEDENBORG was not alone in his hostility to marriage. The socialistic innovators, whose experiments we have reviewed, attacked not merely the economic hilt also the sexual foundations of modern society.

The religious colonies that came early from Europe felt instinctively that marriage was antagonistic to communism. Partly for this reason and partly in the interest of a supposedly higher religious life the Shakers adopted celibacy as a cardinal principle. The Rappites too were originally celibate. Even after marriage was allowed in order that they might “raise their own members,” sexual commerce beyond the requirements of reproduction was prohibited, and virginity was held to be more commendable than marriage. The Ephratists, the Zoarites and the Amana Society tolerated marriage, but looked upon it with disfavor.

Robert Owen did not attempt the immediate displacement of marriage. But he included marriage with irrational religion and private property as one of the “awful trinity” of man’s oppressors, and contemplated its ultimate destruction. His son, Robert Dale Owen, was outspoken in his enmity to marriage, and became a leading advocate of free divorce. Both father and son were enthusiastic disciples of Modern Spiritualism, a religious cult of which Free Love was believed by many the social complement.

Certain groups of “antinomian Perfectionists” renounced marriage and mated by spiritual affinity. [1] Noyes and the Putney Perfectionists, as we have seen, held aloof from these groups, believing that marriage was ordained by God as the law of the apostasy and was not to be set aside until salvation from sin and the resurrection of the body had been attained.

The Mormons in 1843 adopted polygamy, which Noyes called a dilution of marriage.

Like Robert Owen, American Fourierists were cautious of im-

1 Religious Experience of John Humphrey Noyes Chap. XIX.


mediate changes in the law of marriage. But Henry J. Raymond showed in his public debate with Horace Greeley that as a system Fourierism permitted “higher degrees of amorous freedom” after the human race had become regenerated by socialistic institutions.

The socialistic reformer whose teachings were the most highly subversive of marriage was Josiah Warren, inventor of the term “Individual Sovereignty.” At Modern Times, Long Island, his final socialistic experiment, each member was supposed to know his or her best interests in the sexual relation as in everything else, and no questions were asked. It was here that Warren in 1851 enlisted Stephen Pearl Andrews to popularize the doctrine of Individual Sovereignty by a series of lectures and by a pamphlet distributed gratuitously. Among the converts were Dr. and Mrs. Thomas L. Nichols, water-cure specialists of New York City. They were publicity adepts and prepared themselves at Modern Times to broadcast the principle of Free Love based on Individual Sovereignty and Modern Spiritualism.

The essential connection between Free Love and Spiritualism is thus stated by C. M. Overton, editor of The Social Revolutionist, a Free Love journal: “Free Love is a doctrine of Spiritualism. I say of Spiritualism, not of Spiritualists. Many recognize the facts of Spiritualism who know little of its philosophy. But will any intelligent Spiritualist deny that the concurrent testimony of the spheres proves that their inhabitants are controlled in their love relations not by arbitrary outside authority but by the law of attraction, affinity or Free Love? Is it not a conceded fact that the angels do not have to be hauled up before a magistrate to legalize their marriages? How supremely ridiculous the idea that the men and women of Paradise live together on the cat and dog principle because it wouldn’t be respectable to separate! They are not so generous there as to sacrifice their individual happiness for the good of the community. They are not so senseless there as to stay together and scratch and pull hair from a sense of duty to their children or other members of the community, when these other members are doing the same thing from the same laudable motive! The fact that they break up false relations there and form new ones is as well established and is just as much a part of the Spiritual or Harmonic Philosophy as the doctrine of Endless Progression.”

In 1852 the Nicholses joined with Andrews in establishing at Port Chester, New York, a Free Love School under the guise of a water-cure and vegetarian Medical College. It was suppressed by the authorities. Dr. Nichols then put forth a flowery prospectus


of “The Institute of Desarrollo.” This was to be based frankly on Individual Sovereignty, and was expected to garner all the results that had been vainly looked for in the Fourieristic Associations. A site was selected near Modern Times, the cellar dug, the foundation wall partly laid, when the plan was abandoned. Dr. Nichols explained that a campaign of education should precede practical attempts. To this be now addressed himself.

His first move was the establishment of a magazine called Nichols’ Journal, in which Spiritualism, health and social relations were discussed.

Next he published a book of five htindred pages entitled Esoteric Anthropology. This, he prefaced, was “no book for the center-table, the library shelf, or the counter of a bookstore.” It was a private treatise on physiology and health, written “not to get consultations but to prevent their necessity, not to attract patients but to keep them away.” Free Love, though hinted, was not directly advocated. During 1853 and 1854 twenty-six thousand copies were sold.

To this great audience Dr. Nichols in 1854 introduced his second book entitled Marriage, in which he openly presented his threefold creed, Individual Sovereignty, Spiritualism, and Free Love. Marriage ran through three large editions during its first year. By the fall of 1854 Dr. Nichols’ writings were circulating actively in every State of the Union, especially in the west.

So widespread was the popularity of these new doctrines that Dr. Nichols ventured upon overt acts in the full glare of publicity. With his former partner, Stephen Pearl Andrews, he instituted a series of “Sociables” in New York City, which were broken up by the police.

Dr. Nichols now found himself accepted as the prophet of a new age by scattered thousands eager to share in its benefits. How could he make his followers known to each other and commence the realization of their dream? The “spirits,” by whose illumination he says he had written his books, came again to his aid. They directed the formation of a “Protective Union.” A Central Bureau was established in New York City with Dr. Nichols as Secretary. All who wished to associate were enrolled as members and received a printed list of names and addresses. Thus a tempting opportunity was offered to affinity-hunters.

Early in 1856 Dr. Nichols began to see signs of a hurricane arising from the zephyr be had sown. Sensational charges were made in the newspapers and he found it necessary to issue a statement in his own defense. Hitherto no oath of secrecy had been exacted


from members, but now a circular was sent out prescribing a Declaration of Principles and secrecy of the most guarded kind. The Central Bureau was removed to Cincinnati away from the hostile press of the east and nearer the main body of its constituents. Dr. Nichols began to hint in the Journal that sexual commerce should be limited to propagation. In May 1856 he launched a “Harmonic Home” called Memnonia at Yellow Springs, Ohio. But he gave notice in the Social Revolutionist, that Memnonia would be “provisionally and necessarily a despotism,” as wise and benevolent as circumstances would permit.

But the western disciples of Dr. Nichols, trained by him in Individual Sovereignty, could brook no control. They turned their backs on Memnonia, and found a gathering-point at Berlin Heights, a small town near Cleveland, Ohio, where Individual Sovereignty, Spiritualism and Free Love were smoldering and could easily be fanned into flame.

Memnonia was Dr. Nichols’ last attempt at social reconstruction. After its failure, which was complete, Dr. and Mrs. Nichols recanted their errors to Archbishop Purcelle of Cincinnati and were received into the Catholic Church.

With the exit of Dr. Nichols the “Nicolaitan doctrine,” as it was called by Noyes in allusion to the doctrine which according to Revelation 2: 15 Christ “hated,” entered upon its fin~ phase. The Rising Star Association of Darke County, Ohio, believing that a large organization necessarily infringed the rights of the individual, had striven since August 1853 to realize Individual Sovereignty in a small group with the hope that later a federation of small groups could safely be effected. In the spring of 1857 this Association removed from Darke County to Berlin Heights, and its press, The Social Revolutionist, having taken over the subscription list of Nichols’ Monthly, became the organ of fierce Spiritualistic Free Lovers eager for advance on a large scale. A convention was held at Berlin Heights in the fall of 1856, another in the fall of 1857. The next year thirty householders pledged themselves to dispose of their property and remove to Berlin Heights as soon as practicable. But the public had become aroused. The Social Revolutionist for November 1857 was seized and burnt by a mob, and the number for January 1858 was the last. After this, though many Spiritualistic Free Lovers continued to live at Berlin Heights, the Free Love movement which had centered there fell into complete disorganization.

Reviewing the fruits of Berlin Heights Free Love a prominent convert asserted that among less than one hundred persons there


were several suicides; that one man was in prison charged with murdering his wife’s sister, with whom he had been intimate; that three-quarters of the married couples had been separated and their families broken up; that many children born in Free Love had been forsaken; and that venereal disease had become alarmingly prevalent.

Alphadelphia Society Constitution

I’ve not yet transcribed the constitution into text. The following are links to gif files which are rather hefty in order to ensure legibility. The links open up the gifs in their own browser window. To continue, close browser window and return to this page.

Many thanks to Barbara Triphahn who generously sent a beautiful xerox of the constitution so it could be scanned and placed on the internet.

Page 1 — Title Page
Page 2
Page 3 — History and Description of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 4 — History and Description of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 5 — History and Description of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 6 — Constitution of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 7 — Constitution of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 8 — Constitution of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 9 — Constitution of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 10 — Constitution of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 11 — Constitution of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 12 — Constitution of the Alphadelphia Association
Page 13 — Concluding Remarks
Page 14 — Concluding Remarks
Page 15 — Concluding Remarks
Page 16 — Concluding Remarks

Paper Gives Details of Old Society

Thanks to Nancy Benton who supplied the article. I did the transcription.

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Paper Gives Details of Old Society

Kalamazoo Gazette, 1962

GALESBURG, Mich – The presentation to the Galesburg Memorial Library recently of old Galesburg newspapers, some over 70 years old, revealed deatils of the short-lived socialistic society formed here over 100 years ago–the Alphadelphian Society.

Among the gifts, from an anonymous donor, was a copy of the Primitive Expounder dated June 12, 1845, published by the Alphadelphia Association at Alphadelphia, Mich., which was located near here.

The newspaper reports that the association was organized on Dec. 14, 1843, by 56 members for Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw, Genessee, Jackson, Eaton, Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties at a Jackson County meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was “To organize and found a domestic and industrial institution.” The site selected was the southeast quarter of section 23 in Comstock Township, near the Kalamazoo River.

Officers elected were Dr. H. R. Schetterly of Ann Arbor, president; A. Darrow of Bellevue, vice president; E. S. Camp of Marshall, secretary; and John Curtis of Jackson County, treasurer.

The newspaper described Dr. Schetterly as the controlling spirit of the association. It said he was small, slender, and had dark hair and dark eyes.

His picture of Alphadelphia was that of Arcadian healthfulness and enjoyment, of Spartan fidelity and frugality, and a life in which the selfish “mine and thine” would be absorbed by a harmonious “ours.”

Comstock members resided in their own homes and other members in whatever they could find until a two-story mansion was constructed in the fall of 1844.

The constitution told members “The religious and politican opinions of the members are to be unmolested and inviolate and no member shall be compelled to support any religious worship.

“All resident members whose stock is insufficient to support them in case of sickness or any other causes will be supported by the group.”

By may of 1845, the group’s membership was 188 and total assets were $43, 897.

The association lasted from March 21, 1844 until April 30, 1848. The last to stay with the association was Hannibal A. Taylor, who turned the property over to Kalamazoo County, which purchased it for a county house and farm.

Reasons that have been given for the association’s failure are:

1. Too many large, poor and hungry families who could do no work or were incapable of supporting themselves, and

2. The incompatibility of such a system with Yankee ambition, independence and individual enterprise.

The library plans to use the newspapers, most of which are Smiley’s Kalamazoo County Enterprise, as an aid to assemble a history of Galesburg, according to librarian Mrs. Lowell Titus.


Thanks to Barbara Triphahn, the source of the article.

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Problem of Workers and Shirkers Rock on Which Experiment Failed
Kalamazoo Gazette, Sunday Jan 24 1937

Most of the leaders of the Alphadelphia Association were of the Universalist faith and the preaching was largely by pastors of that denomination, although pastors of all denominations were welcomed. The pastors most active there were the Rev.Thornton, J. Billings and E. Wheeler.

Constitution of the Society declared, “The religious and political opinions of the members are to be unmolested and inviolate; and no member shall be compelled to support, in any way, any religious worship.”

Membership Requirements

It was the rule of the association that any person of good moral character of 21 years could be admitted to membership upon a two-thirds vote of the members present, provided the applicant has six month’s provisions for the future or the means to furnish it.

The association was to reward operatives in proportion to the skill or labor bestowed and they were to equalize the labor and skill of males and females. Women could become members upon reaching 18 years.

When organization was perfected the property, personal and real, of each member was appraised by competent judges appointed for that purpose and the accounts were entered upon the books as a credit to each member for stock at $50 a share.

List 188 Residents

In May 1845, the number of male and female residents on the domain was listed as 188 with probably a total of 300 resident and non-resident members. On March 9, 1846, Lyman Tubbs and E. M. Clapp placed the value of the association’s real estate at $43,897.21.

The first death on the domain was that of S. M. Vinton, in 1844. The first marriage united P. H. Whitford and Miss Emeline A. T. Wheelock in October 1845, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. Asa Bushnell. C. H. Bradford, the Alphadelphian poet, wrote a sonnet about this wedding, published in The Primitive Expounder, and entitled, “Socialist’s Bride.”

Fell Short of Goal

The plan was started as a cooperative venture in which each was to carry his share in making the community one in which members could live in harmony and enjoy the benefits of each other’s society and the fruits of their own labors.

The idea seemed like a good one, at the time.

But rifts soon appeared in the harmony. Jealousies crept in. Inequalities were charged in the division of the work, many feeling and getting the least of the returns. Members began to drop away and soon it became evident that disaster was inevitable.

Affairs of the society dribbled along with efforts made to divide up the property as fairly as possible, until the last entry on the books…April 30, 1848.

Kalamazoo’s adventure in communism collapsed in total failure.


Thanks to Barbara Triphahn, the source of the article.

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Site of Colony Obtained for Poor Farm After Long Controversy
Kalamazoo Gazette, Sunday Jan 24 1937

The Alphadelphia Association was not a local affair, but comprised several hundred members throughout the state. Headquarters were on the present site of the County Farm west of Galesburg…a spot selected for its beauty, natural advantages and its central location. The project was called the “domain,” where the members built a large tenement house called the “mansion.”

Permission was sought to dam the river at the site of the domain, but this was never granted either. A mill race was dug, however, and a sawmill and flour mill placed in operation. A general store was opened and a school and church operated. The members also had a printing office and issued papers.

The association planned to build a seminary and to establish a public library. The ifrst meeting of record on the domain was at the home of Harvey Keith, March 2, 1844. This session was adjourned from day to day during which time a constitution was drafted, applications for membership accepted and property inventoried and appraised.

The labor code provided that all members should work in common to produce wealth; that one-fourth of net income should be devoted to improvements and three-fourths to the payment of labor, whatever its form. Time records were kept by the treasurer. The net income proved to be small and the pro-rated wages correspondingly low. One store clerk was rated at nine shillings a week. But all held high hopes.

For four years, they labored faithfully. Then hope began to wane and the serpent entered the garden. Chiselers and shirkers appeared. A few absconded with unearned increment. The more farsighted began to withdraw, taking land for their stock, which several developed and became wealthy. After a few years more of struggle and discouragement, a final meeting was held to dissolve the association. Re-distribution of assets was promiscuous…some were gainers, others losers and many received little or nothing.

After years of controversy on the part of the board of supervisors, the present main building was erected at a cost of $2500 and was later enlarged to its present size.

That is perhaps the extent of the article, a double line at the bottom indicating the end.


Source of article, Barbara Triphahn

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Complete Data Obtained from Survivor of Communistic Association’s Last Chief Executive
Kalamazoo Gazette, Sunday Jan 24 1937

Note: The following reminiscences concerning the Alphadelphia Association formed near Galesburg in 1844, are written by Smith H. Carlton, surviving Civil War Veteran, of 1120 March Street. Carlton was born May 3, 1847 in Wyoming County, New York, and Came to Kalamazoo with his parents in 1849 at the age of 2 and 1/2 years. At the age of 17, he enlisted during the last year of the Civil war with the 28th Michigan Infantry and participated in several major engagements near the close of the rebellion. His regiment remained in North Carolina on reconstruction duty until February 1866.

Corporal 28th Michigan

Ethan B. Keith died at 83 years, Aug. 28, 1934, at his home near Galesburg on a farm southwest of that community which had been entered from the government by his grandfather in 1834.

Among Keith’s effects were the constitution, by-laws and papers of the old Alphadelphia Association, consisting of many leatherbound volumes and including bills, receipts, contracts, reports and correspondence, which show all the activities and the transactions of the association. Luke C. Keith, Ethan’s father, was the last president of the association and he had retained the records intact.

Carlton Knew Members

Having in my younger days been acquainted with many former members of the association, and having heard much of the story by word of mouth, I was interested in reviewing the records. I also know many of the descendants of these old members and am sure that a brief summary from the original records will be of interest.

That is the extent of the article(?), a double line at the bottom indicating the end.