Allison-Antrim Museum

William Palmer


Jacob (49) and Nancy (45) Palmer lived in the Catoctin Election District of Frederick County, MD, with their family in 1850 during the U.S. Census. Jacob was a miller and owned $2,500 worth of real estate. Lawson (23), the eldest, was a student at an institution of higher education. Elias (20) was a school teacher and William M., born January 14, 1832, was a farmer. The next four children – Caroline (15), Martha A. (13), Martin (12), and David (6) had all attended school within the year. The youngest children were Susan E. (3) and Mary Catherine (8 months).


The Jacob Palmer family was still living in the Catoctin District during the August 11, 1860 U.S. Census. Their post office address was Wolfsville, MD. The four oldest sons – Lawson, Elias, William, and David were all following in their father’s footsteps as millers. Another child, Caroline Rebecca (4) had been born since the 1850 census. Her first name was the same as 15-year old Caroline on the 1850 U.S. Census.


Although he lived in Wolfsville, MD, William M. Palmer made his way to Smithsburg, MD, where he enlisted, on October 25, 1861, in Co. H, 1st MD Potomac Home Brigade Infantry. On March 1, 1865, the 13th MD Regiment Infantry was organized from the veterans of the 1st Potomac Home Brigade.


In March of 1862, the 1st MD P.H.B. was assigned to the Department of the Shenandoah. Its duty included guarding the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and defending Harper’s Ferry. During the Siege of Harper’s Ferry, September 12 to 15, William was among the 12,439 Union soldiers captured during the surrender of Harper’s Ferry on September 15. For 80 years, it remained the largest surrender in the history of the U.S. Army until 1942 at the surrender on Bataan, during WWII. On September 16, 1862, those captured at Harper’s Ferry were sent to Camp Parole, near Annapolis, MD. The 1st MD P.H.B. fought in the Battle of Culp’s Hill, July 2 and 3, 1863, at Gettysburg. A monument was erected in the 1st MD’s honor. “Effective strength 739, Casualties, Killed 23, wounded 80, missing 1, total 104,” appears on the monument. During 1864, the regiment was back at Harper’s Ferry. William mustered out with his regiment on May 29, 1865. He had reached the rank of corporal. William had served three years, seven months, and four days. During the Civil War, the 1st MD Potomac Home Brigade lost three officers and 42 enlisted men, who were killed or mortally wounded, and disease killed one officer and 85 enlisted men. Like many Civil War veterans, William suffered from what, today, is called post-traumatic stress disorder. He dealt with the stress by turning to alcohol. William was a very active participant in the annual “camp fires,” or reunions held by the GAR. His children and grandchildren remembered him telling them how the soldiers would roast a chicken, when they were able to find them. After killing the chicken, and without first plucking the feathers, the men would pack mud all over the chicken, and then roast it over the fire. During the roasting process, the mud would get hard and dry. When the dried mud was broken off, the feathers would lift right off the chicken, and the meat was tender and ready to eat.


After the Civil War, William and his wife Susan were living in Antrim Township, on August 17, 1870, during the census. During the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Censuses in Wolfsville, MD, Susan R. Hays, William Palmer’s future wife, was living with Rebecca Easterday and her family. Rebecca Easterday owned a farm worth $6,000 in 1860. Susan, born June 15, 1844, was the daughter of Franklin Hays; her mother’s maiden name was Gaver.


William and Susan had three daughters – Nancy (2 years – named after William’s mother), and Caroline (4) and Catherine (seven months), who were both named after sisters of William. All three of their daughters had been born in Maryland, indicating that the family had moved to Antrim Township sometime over the past four years.


Within the ten years between the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Censuses, the Palmer family moved to Quincy Township, PA. William was still practicing the trade of coopering. Their oldest daughter Caroline was not on the 1880 census. Nancy (12), Catherine (10), and Anna (8) were all attending school. Anna was their first child born in Pennsylvania. Veronica was six and their only son Leroy was two years old. Elsie F. was the baby (six months), having been born in December 1879.


William and his family moved back to Antrim Township within the next ten years, where William was enumerated on the 1890 Special Schedule for Surviving Soldiers. It was noted that William had suffered with rheumatism for 26 years, since 1864. He received mail through the Shady Grove Post Office. On July 10, 1890, William applied to receive his pension. He was 58 ½ years old.


On June 13, 1900, William (68) and Susan R. (56) were still living in Antrim Township. They owned their own home but were paying off a mortgage. William was now a shingle maker and it must have been good work, because he was not out of work at any time over the past year. William and Susan had been married for 34 years, indicating they got married in 1866 or 1867. Susan had borne eight children but only seven were living at the time the census was taken. Living in the household with William and Susan was William’s younger brother, David, almost 58, his birthday being in July 1842. David was single and there was no occupation recorded. A granddaughter, Olive (14), and grandson, Chalmers James (12), were also living with William and Susan. They had attended school four months prior to June 14, 1900.


William M. Palmer died on Tuesday, February 28, 1905, when he was struck by the trolley. He is buried in Section J, Lot 72, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA. On March 15, 1905, Susan applied to receive William’s pension. Sometime within the next five years, Susan decided to go west and live with her only son Leroy V. Palmer. He and his wife Mamie A. lived in Fishing River Township, Clay County, MO. Nannie Meir-- and Elsie accompanied their mother. Nannie worked as a cook in a hotel and Elsie was a waitress in a hotel.


On January 27, 1920, Susan was renting a home on Dahlgren Street, Greencastle, PA. Her daughters, Elsie F. Holmes and Veronica Tichian (spelled Teatian on the census record), and Veronica’s husband Hays, were living with Susan. Veronica was an inspector in the knitting mill, off South Washington Street, and Hays was a laborer. Elsie was not working.


Susan R. Hays Palmer died, at the age of 76 years, four months, and 21 days, on November 7, 1920, at her home – 28 West Dahlgren Street. The cause of death was renal failure, caused by inflammation of the kidneys. She had been critically ill for about five weeks, but had been under a doctor’s care for about two years. Susan R. Palmer was buried on November 12, 1920 next to her husband William M. Palmer, in the family plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery.


With great thanks to Ted Alexander for extra insight into the life of William M. Palmer, Ted’s great-great-grandfather. Ted’s mother Jane Conrad Alexander was a great-granddaughter.




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