Palmer Pioneers of Madison, A Vintage Vignette

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Palmer Pioneers of Madison
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
July 1, 2007

Osiah Palmer served in the 3rd Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteers that occupied Madison in 1864. In 1866 Osiah moved from Ohio and Indiana to buy some of John Cartright’s land in the Madison area at the junction of Palmer Road with County Line Road. He wrote a letter to encourage his brother Samuel to move to Madison. Samuel moved here in 1870 and stayed, but Osiah moved back to Ohio. The letter excerpted and edited below was found in the belongings of Osiah’s daughter, Katie Ruth, upon her death. It was written by Osiah's niece (Samuel’s never-married daughter) Octavia, a Madison native and lifetime resident. “Ockie” wrote the letter in 1965 to her cousin Elno Palmer Ackworth of Kent, Ohio. A copy of the complete letter was contributed to the Palmer family website by Norma Dome of Indiana:

Madison Ala July 25th, 1965

Dear Cousin Elno,

You have no idea how glad I was to hear from you all once again and that all is well. It’s been some time since I heard from the Indiana Palmer people or the Ohio people either. I still live here alone with my Collie Dog. Most of the time I seldom go away from home, and everyone is very kind and takes good care of me. I was 90 years old on Feb. 5, 1965 and several of the older neighbors came and cooked my birthday dinner -- things they knew I liked best.

My Grandmother (Trump) Palmer was born at LeesBurg, Virginia. Arlington National Cemetery (homeplace of Robert E. Lee) was the Old Palmer estate before he bought it. I was there when they were preparing the Unknown Soldier’s grave, and I also have been told that President Kennedy is buried on that land. I was there in 1929 and many of my friends who go up there for a summer vacation tell me it’s changed quite a lot. I so often long to go back to those places and to Dad’s old home in Ohio. I knew all his brothers and his youngest sister. They all visited him here in Alabama. Uncle Osiah visited him several times. He lived in Madison when Dad moved here from Ohio (Nov. 3, 1870). Uncle Johnathan also lived here when Dad first came to this country, but he died here in 1889 ( I think it was). Dad’s sister Aunt Catherine came from Montana and spent the winter with us in 1918. She was one of the dearest sweet persons I’ve met. Time with me is growing short now among dear friends who love me so much. Write again to Ockie.

It is believed that Johnathan Palmer was buried in the old cemetery on Samuel’s land. That cemetery is today called the Cartwright Cemetery, located on the south shoulder of Palmer Road just east of County Line Road. However, there is no marker for Johnathan or any other Palmer at that location. There is a common marker and plot for the family of Samuel Palmer at the west end of the old city cemetery on Mill Road at Maple Street. Separated from that common marker by about 50 yards is the tombstone of Charles Lee Palmer, an infant son of Osiah and his first wife Lavina. A later article will tell the story of Charles’ death according to the 1870 letter written by Osiah to Samuel to induce Samuel to move here. Samuel and his wife Nancy Jane (“Jenny”) Guiley stayed in Madison, where Samuel became noted as a nurseryman, specializing in grapes and various fruit trees. His orchard today is known as Palmer Park, and the road to it from the historic district of Madison bears his name. There are even some peach trees growing on the west side of Palmer Park, behind the ball fields. Perhaps these trees are descended from those raised by Samuel himself.

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