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Fayette County, Iowa  

 Biography Directory


Portrait & Biographical Album of Fayette County Iowa

Containing Full Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of

Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County

Lake City Publishing Co., Chicago

March 1891


~Page 331~


Caleb M. Palmer

Caleb M. Palmer, who is engaged in farming and stock-raising on section 10, Windsor Township, is numbered among the representative and prominent citizens of the community, therefore, we feel that this sketch will be of interest to many of our readers and gladly insert it in this volume. In Leroysville, Jefferson County, N. Y., he was born September 3, 1828, and is a son of Caleb and Patience (McOmber) Palmer. His father was born in Dutchess County, N. Y., in February, 1779, and his parents were Reuben and Lois Palmer, the former being a descendant of one of the 'Nine Partners' who emigrated from England at a very early day in the history of the colonization of New York and purchased from the King of England a large tract of land which included what is now Dutchess County and a large portion of the contiguous territory.


As far back as an authentic record is attainable we learn that the Palmers were members of the Society of Friends. Caleb Palmer, the father of our subject, was a 'Public Friend,' who traveled in the ministry of his church for many years. In 1828, he and a companion in the work, Daniel Childs of Philadelphia, traveled and preached in Canada West. At one time when they crossed the Niagara on the ice with a one horse sleigh they landed at a place called Black Rock, and while feeding their horse an officer from the custom house approached them and inquired if they would like to sell the animal. Father Childs replied that they were not particular about trading, but possibly might do so, and the officer at once decided that they were smugglers trying to evade the duties imposed at that time upon American importations and forthwith he arrested our ministerial friends, confiscated their horse, robes, cutter and other possessions, and marched them up to the custom house. Upon examination however the officer became satisfied from the plain Quaker garb, honest faces and straightforward explanations, that they were not seeking to evade the laws and set them at liberty, returning their property to them.


Caleb Palmer was a talented and distinguished minister whose life was spent in the service of the Friends Church in New York City and elsewhere, and was productive of much good. In his family were the following children: John, who died in Saratoga, N. Y., in October, 1856; Ephraim died in Jefferson County, N. Y., in 1858; Benjamin died in Livingston County, Mich., in April, 1878; Warren died in Saratoga, N. Y., in October, 1855; Phoebe, widow of Samuel Slocum who was a merchant and manufacturer, and owned and operated a flouring mill, store and woolen factory at Leroysville, N. Y., resides in Jefferson County, N. Y., and has four children, two sons and two daughters; Maria became the wife of Obadiah Davis, of Quaker Springs, N. Y., is still living, and the youngest of her four children, is station agent and telegraph operator at Holmesville, Neb.; Judith died September 18, 1854, at Saratoga Springs, N. Y.; and Caleb M. completes the family.


His minority was spent in his native State and at the age of twenty-six he came to Iowa in October, 1854, locating on eighty acres of wild prairie land situated in Fayette County, two miles west of Brush Creek. In February of the following year he exchanged that farm for forty acres of land near Mill Grove in Illyria Township, and in 1856 exchanged twenty-four acres of that farm for forty acres of unimproved land one mile north of Wadena. In the spring of 1860 he sold his property and followed various pursuits until February, 1863, when he purchased forty acres of land on section 7, Illyria Township, whereon he continued to reside with his family until February, 1876.


On December 2, 1860, Mr. Palmer married Miss Sarah Jane Coulson, the ceremony being performed at the residence of his friend, John Boale, three miles north of West Union, Judge J. W. Rogers officiating. The lady is a daughter of Maxwell and Emily (Paxton) Coulson. When a little maiden of nine summers, she was left an orphan, her parents dying suddenly, and went to live with an aunt, Mrs. Johnson English, in Cool Spring Township, Mercer County, Pa., where she made her home until her marriage. Three children bless the union and two still live, but Warren, their first-born, died in infancy in 1865. John B. was born January 8, 1867, and enjoyed the advantages of a good education, remained at home working on the farm until quite recently, when he apprenticed himself to the carpenter's trade. Alden C., born July 17, 1869, also enjoyed the advantages of the public schools and is yet under the parental roof, aiding in the labors of the farm, which comprises one hundred and twenty acres of prairie land under a high state of cultivation, well watered and supplied with fine buildings and all modern conveniences for successful farming.


Mr. Palmer has been a sufferer from asthma for many years, and decided in 1885 to try the effects of the sea breezes and mountain air of the Pacific Slope. Boarding a passenger train on the Northern Pacific Railroad, he visited the various places of interest along the route and on the coast, spending about five months in the 'sunset land.' The travel, change of climate and relief from the busy cares of life proved a real panacea for his ailment and Mr. Palmer returned much improved in general health, while his asthmatic trouble was almost entirely cured. One one occasion, while going from Portland, Ore., to the seaside, at a place called Corvalles, in Benton County, he found that the railroad track had been torn up and destroyed by some employees of the road on a strike, and no alternative was left him but to make the journey of sixty miles on foot. This he regarded as a ponderous undertaking for an invalid but he started on the journey reaching his destination after four and a half days of travel. However, he found that instead of proving disastrous as he had feared it came to him as a blessing in disguise for at the end of the journey he found himself much invigorated in body and mind, his strength had returned with each day's travel, his appetite was improved as was also his general health.


Mr. Palmer visited the new Government lighthouse at Cape Foulweather, which was constructed in 1883 at a cost of $90,000. The building stands one hundred and eighty feet above the sea level and has a spiral stairway leading to the extreme pinnacle. He attempted to ascend to the top but found his nerves better suited to navigation on terra firma, and was obliged to forego the pleasure of viewing the Pacific Ocean from such an elevation. The historian much regrets that space forbids him giving many more incidents of Mr. Palmer's journey which were told in his graphic and pleasing style. However one reminiscence is well worthy of re-telling here and we quote Mr. Palmer's own language as it appeared in the Yaquina Mail of June 10, 1885, under the title of 'The Broken Oar." Editor Mail: - 'Thinking perhaps you would like an item I will now endeavor to briefly furnish you with one. Last Friday I was strolling along the beach north of your pleasant town gathering here and there the wonders of the deep, in the shape of delicate shells and pretty stones to take back to my home in Iowa to show my friends, when I chanced to see a piece of a broken oar and it at once occurred to my mind that a mechanic's hand might might make something of it which would serve as a reminder of the place where it was found. I grasped the shivered piece and carried it to my boarding place, Fred Olsson's. In the yard I met a Mr. Bradley who said, 'What are you going to do with that?' I told him I wanted a cane made of it, and inquired where I could get the work done. He said there was a man up the bay a short distance, who, like myself, was an Iowa man. 'His Name,' he said, 'is Newton and he is a cabinet maker.' I found the place, Mr. Newton bade me come in and after a few moments' conversation I discovered to my great surprise that Mrs. Newton was my own cousin and that we had resided within a short distance of one another in Iowa, but had never met until the present time. Both Mrs. Newton's and my own family had been broken up by the destroying hand of death and each was the youngest in our respective families, and we would probably have never met had it not been for the strange freak that possessed me and caused me to pick up the broken oar.




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