Select Palmer Miscellany

Here are some Palmer stories and accounts over the years:

Thomas Palmer's Epitaph at Snodland in Kent

A number of Palmers had been buried in the church of Snodland, near Rochester in Kent, including Thomas Palmer who had married the daughter of Fitz Simon and died in 1407.   The following epitaph was recorded there:

"Palmers all our faders were.
A Palmer lived here
And travelled still, til wud age
I ended this world's pilgrimage
On the blest Ascension day
In the cheerful month of May
A thousand with four hundred seven
I took my journey to heaven."

From this Thomas were descended the Palmers of Tottington in Aylesford and the Palmers of Owlet in Bekesborne.

The Palmers of Angmering

Sir Edward Palmer's main claim to fame was the siring of triplets by his wife Alice in the most unusual circumstances.  It is alleged that Alice was in labor for a fortnight producing John, Henry and Thomas on three Sundays in succession.  The medical profession today are aware of such a phenomenon.  But of course it is extremely rare. 

The eldest, John, was probably the Palmer who bought the Angmering manors and lands from Henry VIII.  He may not have been the most popular of landlords.

"People who happened to be passing through Angmering on their way to market one morning, probably early in 1545, were astonished to find this undistinguished village in an uproar.  In the midst of it could be seen John Palmer, the local landlord, backed up by seven or more of his servants, doing their utmost to smash down the doors of about half a dozen cottages. 

When asked why he was so asking, he responded: 'Do ye not know that the King's grace hath put down all the houses of monks, friars, and nuns?  Therefore now is the time that we gentlemen will pull down the houses of such poor knaves as ye be.'"

Other documents described him as "a man wholly addicted, inclined, and given to cruelty and mischief." Troubles had been brewing with his tenants for about fifteen years principally over grazing rights.  Following John's actions, a number were evicted from their homes and thrown off the "commons" on which they had been grazing their cattle. 

The next son Henry went on to found the Wingham branch of the family in Kent.  The youngest son Thomas was a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry VIII.  He was beheaded in 1554 for taking part in Lady Jane Grey's bid for the Crown.

Nathaniel Palmer and The Alfred Jewel

The Alfred Jewel is one of the most famous objects surviving from Anglo-Saxon England.  Found in 1693 at North Petherton, it immediately attracted the attention of scholars.  Shortly after its discovery the jewel was acquired by Colonel Nathaniel Palmer of Fairfield, Stogursey.  He bequeathed it to the University of Oxford.  It is now in the Ashmolean Museum.  A perfect replica can be seen in the church at North Petherton.

The jewel consists of a gold frame around an enamel design which is covered by rock crystal.  Around the edge of the jewel are the words in Mercian dialect AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWWYRCAN (Alfred ordered me to be made).  It is generally assumed that the individual was King Alfred.  Identifications of the enamelled figure have ranged from Christ, St. Cuthbert and St. Neot, to Alfred himself.

Dolly Palmer the Fisherwoman

Dolly Palmer was nicknamed "Dolly the Bridge" after her cottage by the Guilford bridge in Llangwm.  She was quite a village beauty in her younger days.  But she was best known in many parts of south Pembrokeshire as the quintessential Llangwm fisherwoman.

These fisherwomen were very distinctive.  They wore flat black-brimmed felt hats with white scarves tied under their chins, heavy dark shirts, and red flannel petticoats.  Other serviceable items of clothing were warm jackets, striped flannel aprons, three cornered shawls, and strong boots.  They were a unique breed of hard-working women.  It was even said that they chose their own husbands.  Because of their quaint costumes and customs, newspaper articles started to appear about them.

Dolly had married a local boy, William Palmer, in 1863 and they were eventually to raise ten children in their Guilford cottage.  Her own fine features started to capture the imagination of artists and photographers.  In 1880 William Powell Frith painted a Llangwm fisherwoman, reputedly Dolly, selling fish to his wife and daughters.  A sepia postcard of Dolly Palmer the Llangwm fisherwoman was in circulation by 1903 and colored versions were available by 1906.

Dolly lived onto 1932.  She died at the age of ninety, survived by five children, 26 grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren.  She is still remembered in Llangwm.

William Palmer the Norfolk Poisoner

On June 14, 1856 William Palmer was executed in public before 30,000 people at Stafford for the murder of John Cook in Rugeley.  He became known as "the Rugeley poisoner" and "the prince of poisoners."  Hie effigy stood in Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors for 127 years.

Newspapers at the time printed every rumor and accusation that reporters could extract from local gossip.  If the gossips were to be believed, then Palmer was also guilty of poisoning at least a dozen other people. Among his alleged victims were his outrageous mother-in-law, four of his five children, his lovely wife, and his drunken brother to name but a few.  That he was a rogue, heavily in debt, guilty of attempted bribery, fraud, forgery, and overly fond of the ladies and of gambling on the horses was beyond doubt.

But he was only actually tried for one murder, although a coroner's jury had found him guilty of the murders by poison of his wife Ann and his brother Walter.  He was convicted from circumstantial evidence in the absence of any concrete facts.  Efforts were made until the very end to get him to confess to the murder of John Cook.  But he refused, maintaining that Cook did not die from strychnine.  In a botched post-mortem no strychnine was found in the body of Cook.  Yet it was claimed that Cook had died of symptoms that could have been caused by strychnine.        

Although Palmer was reviled at the time, some think he may have been innocent. 

Nathaniel Palmer from Stonington, Connecticut

As a skilled and fearless seal hunter, Nathaniel Palmer achieved his first command at the early age of 21.  His vessel, a diminutive sloop named the Hero, was only 47 feet in length.  Palmer steered southward in the Hero at the beginning of the Antarctic summer of 18201821.  Aggressively searching for new seal rookeries south of Cape Horn, young "Captain Nat" and his men became the first Americans to discover the Antarctic Peninsula.  

After concluding a successful sealing career, Palmer, still in the prime of life, switched his attention to the captaining of fast sailing ships for the transportation of express freight.  In this new role, the Connecticut captain traveled many of the world's principal sailing routes.  Observing the strengths and weaknesses of the ocean-going sailing ships of his time, Palmer suggested and designed improvements to their hulls and rigging. The improvements made Palmer a co-developer of the mid-1800's clipper ship.

Palmer closed his sailing career and established himself in his hometown of Stonington as a successful owner of clipper ships sailed by others.  He died in 1877, aged 78.  His Stonington home, the Capt. Nathaniel B. Palmer House, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

Daniel Palmer, Chiropractic Pioneer

Chiropractic inventor Daniel Palmer was born in 1845 in Toronto, Ontario.  He was one of five siblings, the children of a shoemaker and his wife.  Daniel and his older brother fell victim to wanderlust and left Canada with a tiny cash reserve in 1865.  They immigrated to the United States on foot, walking for thirty days before arriving in Buffalo, New York.  They travelled by boat through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Detroit, Michigan.  There they survived by working odd jobs and sleeping on the dock.  Daniel settled in What Cheer, Iowa, where he supported himself and his first wife as a grocer and fish peddler in the early 1880s.  He later moved to Davenport, Iowa where he raised three daughters and one son.

Palmer was a man of high curiosity.  He investigated a variety of disciplines of medical science during his lifetime, many of which were in their infancy. He was intrigued by phrenology and assorted spiritual cults and for nine years he investigated the relationship between magnetism and disease.  Palmer felt that there was one thing that caused disease.  He was intent upon discovering this one thing, or as he called it, the great secret.

In September 1895, Palmer purported to have cured a deaf man by placing pressure on the man's displaced vertebra.  Shortly afterward Palmer claimed to cure another patient of heart trouble, again by adjusting a displaced vertebra.  The double coincidence led Palmer to theorize that human disease might be the result of dislocated or luxated bones, as Palmer called them. That same year he established the Palmer School of Chiropractic where he taught a three-month course in the simple fundamentals of medicine and spinal adjustment.

Palmer, who was married six times during his life, died in California in 1913.  He was destitute.  His son Bartlett Joshua Palmer successfully commercialized the practice of chiropractic.

Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Jamaica

Rose Hill Great House is the most famous house in the parish of St. James and perhaps in all of Jamaica.  It was built on a hill, two miles east of Ironshore, by John Palmer, the Custos of St. James, and named after his wife Rose.

The house attracts over 100,000 visitors each year.  The attraction of the house is the legend of its white witchl, Annie Palmer.  The old John Palmer had died and his grand nephew, John Rose Palmer, had come out from England in 1818 to manage the property.  Two years later, he had met and married the beautiful and notorious Annie Palmer. 

The stories about Annie are legion.  She is said to have practiced voodoo magic; to have tortured her slaves and to have conducted human sacrifices; and to have gruesomely murdered all three of her husbands.  It was one of her slaves who eventually strangled her.  However, her ghost is still believed to haunt the property.  Visitors to the Great House claim that they have seen Annie riding her horse at night on the plantation grounds looking for runaway slaves.

Rose Hill Great House was destroyed during the slave rebellion of 1831 and left in ruins for over a century. John Rollins, a wealthy American, bought the property in 1966 and restored the house to its former glory.

Reader Feedback - Palmers in Jamaica 

My maternal grandfather is a Palmer and I am researching my ancestry in Jamaica but only got as far back as his father, Henry Alexander Palmer. That's as far as I got via internet research.  I am curious as to when they came into Jamaica.  There is a record of a Palmer arriving in Kingston, from Sierra Leone in May 1842. 

Hope McQueen (

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