James William Palmer1860-1931James William Palmer, son of Zemira Palmer and Sally Knight Palmer, was born September 23, 1860 in Provo, Utah County, Utah. He was the sixth child of twelve children, six sons and six daughters.
Very little is known about James' childhood and early life. However, we do know that, like most pioneer families, his parents moved from one place to another quite frequently. Some of his boyhood homes were: Provo, Meadow Valley , and Springdale in Utah. As a boy James helped with farming, sheepherding, or whatever there was to be done.
|Myrtle and James William Palmer|
Two years later James married Olive Myrtle Black, daughter of William Morley Black and Maria Hansen Black, a half-sister to his first wife, Mary Ann. They were married December 1881, in the St. George Temple and spent their honeymoon traveling by team and wagon from St. George to Orderville. It was in Orderville that their first child, William Zemira, was born on December 3, 1882. On December 25 that same year James married Eva Minerva Black, a full sister to James first wife, Mary Ann.
In the spring of 1884 James and his two polygamist wives, and baby Will, moved to Snowflake, Navajo County, Arizona, where they lived with James's brother, Asael. It was there in Uncle Asael’s home that James and Myrtle's second child, James Asael, was born on October 12, 1884.
James and his family had been in Snowflake only a short time when President John Taylor, who was then President of the LDS Church, advised all polygamous families to move to Mexico. James' brothers, Asael and Alma did not want him to go to Mexico, and they gave him some cattle and land as an inducement to stay. But James felt he should heed the advice of President Taylor, and it was not long until he and his family, and what few supplies could be hauled in one wagon, were on their way to Colonia Diaz. His brothers gave him a team of mules which faithfully and securely, carried their load to Colonia Diaz, Mexico. The family stayed only long enough to plant and harvest a crop. They reached Diaz on March 31, 1885.
From Diaz the family went to San Jose, a little Mexican town near Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico near the Casas Grandes River. The adults tried to catch fish from the river but usually caught turtles. Fish were needed to help supply food for the family. Many a meal consisted only of cornbread and water gravy thickened with cornmeal. James planted and raised corn and potatoes at San Jose. The potatoes were so small that it took twenty for just one serving. They ground the dried corn in an old-fashioned coffee grinder to get meal for bread, gravy and cooked cereal.
The James Palmer family next went to a pioneer camp near where Colonia Juarez is now located. At this camp they built forts or stockades in which to live, eight or nine families living in a stockade. Their only stove was a campfire in the yard. It made no difference how hot the summer or how cold the winter, their scanty rations were cooked on the same stove. They named the pioneer camp “Stringtown.” James' family had just moved into their part of a stockade when a pair of “twin” boys was born, October 14, 1886, Ellis for Myrtle and Edson for Eva. Several months after the "twins” arrived, the little colony of stockaders were eating their scanty noonday meal when suddenly it seemed that the whole earth began to shake. The tremor was just a minor part of the Mexico earthquake. It did not damage Stringtown much, but scared a year's growth out of the people.
In the spring of 1887 James hitched his faithful mule team to the wagon and with his family pioneered their way up the steep, rugged San Diego dugway to Corrales. It took almost two weeks to make the trip of only forty miles. Because the earthquake had shaken the road up so badly, they had to rebuild it as they went along. Corrales was a beautiful, picturesque little valley bounded on one side by the Sierra Madre Mountains. On the other three sides were mountains, hills, pine forests and two rivers - one running south and north, the other running east and west. The two rivers met a very short distance from where James built the three-room log cabin in which both families lived. The additions to the family caused the home to be as crowded as a can of sardines and Eva moved to another small log cabin.
When James and his family first came to Corrales, they lived in their wagon under pine trees until the log cabin was finished. During the first year there they built the log cabin; dug an irrigation ditch from the box canyon to the farm; plowed lands; planted and harvested crops; cut and hauled firewood; and made a corral and shelter for the mule team. All of his life James took great pride in having sleek, well-cared for horses and cattle.
|James Palmer, one of his wives and children|
Even after the most difficult years had passed and James had accumulated horses, cattle, a good ranch and all kinds of barnyard animals and fowl, he, as well as the other people in the mountain colonies and ranches had to be ever alert and on the watch for unfriendly Mexicans and Apache Indians. According to legend, Chief Geronimo's son, while yet very young, followed in his father's footsteps and led a very hostile band of Apache Indian into the mountains. It was they who were molesting and terrifying the people. They stole horses and cattle and would go into the fields at night, helping themselves to corn and potatoes.
Although James loved his children and did everything in his power for their comfort and well-being, he had very little companionship with them. He never took time out for relaxation except on Sunday, and that was strictly "go to church day.”
James had many faith promoting experiences. He was bitten by a rattlesnake once while hoeing corn in his bare feet. He had no shoes. On another occasion he camped in the oaks at the foot of the San Diego dugway and made his bed under a large oak tree. He was almost asleep when he was prompted to move his bed. He tried to ignore the prompting and go back to sleep, but he could not, so he moved his bed. About an hour later, one of the terrible electrical storms the country was accustomed to headed James' way. The big oak he had moved from under was shattered with lightning. The prayer he had offered before going to bed was answered.
While throwing corn fodder from the barn loft into the manger below, James fell and broke two ribs. There were no doctors in the country. The only remedy the family had for all kinds of sickness, accidents or anything was faith in the healing power of the priesthood. James was also saved from being killed by a big, brown bear through prayer. Another man was killed by the bear.
An exciting but sad experience happened on Sunday, July 4, 1910. Lightning struck James' barn and it was burned to the ground. His wife, Eva and son, Newell were lucky enough to get all the horses and cattle out of the barn, but the effects of the lightning caused Old Glory's death three days later. Old Glory was a thoroughbred horse for breeding purposed, for which James had paid $1,000. The death of the horse was quite a shock to James and a large financial loss in those days.
James was accustomed to have very severe headaches. They caused him to be delirious at times. These headaches, along with worry and loss of the horse, caused James to become very nervous and discontented. He decided to make a trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, thinking the change would improve his health, and it did. It also brought a big change in the families' lives, for James never returned to Mexico.
James W. Palmer decided to make a new start at Grayson, Utah which is now called Blanding. The new start would not have been so difficult if he could have sold his property at Corrales and Pacheco. But soon after he left Mexico, the Mexican Revolutionaries started making trouble for the people in the Mormon colonies. They became so dangerous by 1912 that the President of the LDS Church, Joseph F. Smith, advised people to leave. It was thought that the trouble would soon be over and the colonists could return to their homes. Most did not return, however, except a very few.
When James decided to stay at Blanding, he sent for his wife, Eva and her unmarried children to move to Blanding.
Myrtle and her family left Pacheco and Corrales with the rest of the Corrales and Pacheco people Tuesday morning, July 28, 1912. That was twenty-seven years after James had settled at Corrales. After twenty-seven years of hard labor and sacrifice, James now had no earthly possessions except the two teams and what few supplies and household goods could be hauled, plus a few horses his son, John, drove across the line and on to Blanding. Regardless of this, James was not broken spiritually. He had laid up for himself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves cannot break in and steal. He was ready and willing to make a new start and was very successful
James developed his farm, not far from Blanding, to be one of the best, if not the very best, in the country. During the cold winter months when he could not work on the farm, he carried mail from Blanding to Buff by team and buggy in order to get money for shoes, clothing and other necessities. Most of the food was produced on the farm and in the home garden, but money was scarce.
James was of a quiet, reserved nature and would not tolerate anything loud, boisterous or obscene. He was very neat and particular, and viewed everything he did with pride. Public speaking was very difficult for James, but when he was called upon to speak in any church meeting he humbly responded.
James was a faithful church member. No man ever paid a more honest tithe. More than once the Bishop said, “Jimmy Palmer goes through his bins and sorts out a big tenth of the best he has for tithing.” Of course, in his day, tithes and fast offerings were paid with produce such as corn, potatoes, beans, squash, molasses, cornmeal, eggs, poultry, livestock, lumber, or whatever the people had. James was also ever ready with labor and means when a church or school donation was called for. He also held several responsible civic positions such as school trustee, water supervisor and president of a stockholders' association.
James kept going, and was never idle until his failing health forced him to slow down. He did not completely quit until he was helplessly confined to his bed. Finally, even the most efficient doctors could do nothing for him. He grew weaker until February 20, 1931, when he breathed his last breath at 9 AM Friday morning. James William Palmer's funeral was held on February 21 at the Blanding chapel and he was laid to rest in the Blanding cemetery.
|obituary - San Juan Record 2-26-1931|
Related post: Olive Myrtle Black Palmer (1865-1949)
- History: "James William Palmer 1860-1931" written by his daughter, Chloe Amelia Palmer Nelson
- Obituary: San Juan Record February 23, 1931
- FamilySearch.org Family Tree