Seven Things about Asahel Amora Phelps

1. Asahel Amora Phelps lived from 11 December 1795 [1] until 25 May 1854. He was the son of John Beach Phelps [2] and Sarah Susannah Beach. He had at least three siblings: Anson, Dianthe, and Caroline. (Ancestry)

2. The name Asahel (Latin: Asael) means “made by God.” Its origins are Hebrew and Ancient Greek. Pseudo-historically (biblically), Asahel was a military leader under King David, as well as David’s nephew and the younger brother of Joab.

3. The name Amora is a Hebrew word meaning “the interpreter” or “the speaker”. It generally refers to a group of Jewish scholars (singular of amoraim) active in the 3rd to 6th centuries C.E. The group/groups were known for their commentaries on and interpretations of the Mishnah and Gemara.

4. Asahel, along with John Holmes and Asahel’s son, John Benjamin Phelps II, formed the famous trio of creators known for Delhi Coverlets, coverlets and quilts created in Delhi, New York between 1833 and 1860, generally highly prized by collectors. These “Delhi Coverlets” are held in various museums across the United States, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg, Niagara on the Lake Museum and others.

Asahel Phelps (probably). 1853. Wool and cotton coverlet. Delhi, New York. Accession Number: 1989.264.2 Image: The Met

5. Asahel Amora Phelps married Margaret Mathews (Matthews; died 1889). They had three children: John Benjamin (married Julia Peake), Edwin Sylvester (married Ella Mae Williams), and Frances E. (married Edward Clark). (Ancestry)(FamilySearch)

6. It’s believed that Asahel made 110 coverlets/quilts between 1834 and 1854. There is no record of him making any coverlets before 1828. He was a farmer. (Duerden)

Detail of Woven Doublecloth Coverlet by Asahel Amora Phelps, 1841, showing corner block. Cotton and wool. Collection of Colonial Williamsburg, Accession number 2006.609.11 (Image: Colonial Williamsburg)

7. Asahel Amora Phelps committed suicide in 1854:

“It is our painful duty to notice the death of one of our best and esteemed citizens by his own hand. Mr. Asahel A. Phelps, residing about 3 miles south of this village, and in easy circumstances was found on Wednesday morning last, about a mile from his house, on a cross road, lying near the track, with his throat cut, still holding the razor in his hand.
It appeared he had sat down upon a small hillock taken off his hat and placed it a short distance from him; also, his cravat, unbuttoned his shirt collar, and sitting in a position that the blood would fall between his feet, com- mitted the fatal act, and it seemed as he became faint from loss of blood he leaned over on his right side and ex- pired without a struggle.

Mr. Phelps was about 58 years of age, and had resided on the same farm from childhood, having removed with his father from Columbia County, – He has never enjoyed what is called robust health, and for some years past has been subject to nervous complaints, with depression of spirits, which has much increased for the last few months. He leaves a wife and 3 chil- dren, with numerous friends to mourn his fate.

  • Delaware Gazette May 31, 1854 (See Duerden)


(1) There is an alternate (unsubstantiated) birth date of about 1789.

(2) Middle name may be Benjamin (unproved/unsubstantiated).


Ancestry: “Asahel Amora Phelps”

Anderson, Clarita and Foster McCarl. American Coverlets and Their Weavers: Coverlets from the Collection of Foster and Muriel McCarl. 2002. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Colonial Williamsburg: Woven Doublecloth Coverlet by Asahel Amora Phelps, 1841.

Duerden, Tim. “Delhi Coverlets

FamilySearch: “Asahel Aurora [sic] Phelps (1795-1854)”

Find A Grave, “Asahel Amora Phelps (1795-1854).”

Find A Grave, “John B. Phelps (1831-1900).”

Find A Grave, “Margaret Phelps (1803-1889).

Niagara on the Lake Museum. “Coverlet

Yale University. Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 2018. “Recent Acquisitions, Online Supplement.” Page 8. Acuisition number 2017.152.9a–b

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