James William Palmer
James 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. Two of the girls were twins.
Father's father was born August 9, 1821, at Loborough, Toronto, Canada. His mother was born December 1, 1836 at Gailston, Missouri. Her father, Newell Knight, Jr., was instrumental in bringing about the first miracle performed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the time of the miracle, Newell Knight, Jr. and his wife were living with Newell's parents, Joseph Knight, Sr. and his wife, Polly Peck. Although the Knights had not yet joined the Church, they were dear friends of the Prophet Joseph Smith who visited them often and conversed with them on spiritual subjects and the plan of salvation. These conversations inspired Newell with a desire to assist the Prophet by offering prayer in one of the Sabbath meetings. But when the time came for him to pray, his courage failed him and he could not utter a word. This disturbed him very much in mind and in body. By the time he reached home, he was acting very strangely. He asked his wife to send for the Prophet. When the Prophet arrived, Newell was suffering so intensely his face and limbs were twisted out of shape in a most terrible manner. He was on the floor when suddenly he was caught up from the floor and tossed about the room. After some difficulty, the Prophet took Newell by the hand and Newell pleaded with the Prophet to cast the devil out of him. The Prophet said, “If you believe that I can, it shall be done.” Then, almost unconsciously, the Prophet rebuked the evil spirit and demanded it to depart. Immediately Newell began to speak, saying he saw the evil spirit leaving him and vanishing from the room. This vision was one of Father's choice memories and an inspiration to him throughout his life.
Father 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 Father, but when he was called upon to speak in any church meeting he humbly responded.
He 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. Father was also ever ready with labor and means when a church or school donation was called for.
He held several responsible civic positions such as school trustee, water supervisor and president of a stockholders' association. Due to the fact that Father never did talk much about himself as a boy, we know but very little about his 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, Father helped with farming, sheepherding, or whatever there was to be done.
From their Springdale home, Father's parents moved to Orderville, Kane County, Utah, where they lived the United Order for ten years. It was here that he met Mary Ann Black, a daughter of William Morley Black and his wife, Amy Jane Washburn Black. Father and Mary Ann were married in the St. George Temple on June 25, 1879. Mary Ann died the same year, leaving Father a widower at the age of nineteen.
Two years later Father married Olive Myrtle Black, daughter of William Morley Black and Maria Hansen Black, a half-sister to Mary Ann. They were married December 1881, in the St. George Temple. They 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, Father married Eva Minerva Black, a full sister to Mary Ann. After Father's third marriage to Black girls, no doubt he was referred to as “Jimmy Palmer-the man who prefers Black Girls," or "There comes Jimmy with his three Black wives,” and “No matter how bright the day or dark the night, it's always Black for Jimmy!”
In the spring of 1884, Father, his two Black wives, and baby Will, moved to Snowflake, Navajo County” Arizona, where they lived with Father‘s brother, Asael. It was there in Uncle Asael’s home that Father‘s and Mother's second child, James Asael, was born on October 12, 1884.
The journey from Orderville to Snowflake was very hazardous because of the wild, undeveloped country and the terrible road over which they had to travel. It took weeks to make the long, tiresome journey. They had miles and miles of sand and more sand to go through, which made traveling almost impossible. At Lee‘s Ferry they crossed the Colorado River on a ferry. Father drove team, wagon and all onto the boat, and they were safely ferried to the opposite side of the river, where the most dangerous part of the road, “Lee's Backbone,” was staring them in the face. As they passed over Lee's Backbone, the wagon, team and all could have been thrown to the bottom of the canyon hundreds of feet below if Father's team had made only a careless swerve to the left. While on their journey to Snowflake, the nights on the windswept desert were made dismal by the bloodcurdling howls of hungry coyotes, and the fear of rattlesnakes, which were plentiful. These conditions made sleeping on the ground a terrifying experience.
Father and family had been in Snowflake only a short time when President John Taylor, who was then President of the Church, advised all polygamous families to move to Mexico. Father's brothers, Asael and Alma did not want Father to go to Mexico, and they gave him some cattle and land as an inducement to stay. But Father could not settle down and be contented. He 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. Father's brothers gave him a team of mules and they, faithfully and securely, carried their load to Colonia Diaz, Mexico, where they stayed only long enough to plant and harvest a crop. They reached Diaz on March 31, 1885.
From Diaz they went to San Jose, a little Mexican town near Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico. San Jose was located near the Casas Grandes River. Mother and Aunt Eva 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. Father 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 corn in an old-fashioned coffee grinder to get meal for bread, gravy and mush.
From San Jose, Father and family 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.”
Father and family had just moved into their part of a stockade when a pair of “twin” boys was born, October 14, 1886, Ellis for Mother and Edson for Aunt Eva. Poor Father now had to be nursemaid, baby-sitter, diaper changer, laundry woman, chief cook and bottle washer, besides trying to provide for the family. The fact that he was a proud father of four robust sons, however, overbalanced anything else
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. Everyone was very excited and thought surely their time had come. One woman who was running around with a 1~w1 of soup in her hands said, "I'm going to eat my soup before I die!” And she drank it down in a hurry. The tremor was just a minor part of the Mexico earthquake we read about in history. It did not damage Stringtown much, but scared a year's growth out of the people.
In the spring of 1887, Father hitched his faithful mule team to the wagon and he and 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 Father 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. Then, and only then, did Father move Aunt Eva to another small log cabin. The parting of the two families was a sad one, even though they lived close enough together to see one another every day.
When Father 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 his life Father took great pride in having sleek, well cared for horses and cattle.
Another pair of “twins" had the great honor of being the first ones born in the newly-made log cabin-Olive Rachel for Mother and Benjamin Elias for Aunt Eva, The stork delivered the twins August 2, l888. The next child was Newell B., born to Aunt Eva. He was born August 22, 1890. Following him was Mother's second daughter, Chloe Amelia, born October 15, 1890. Aunt Eva gladly welcomed her first daughter, Myrtle Amy, October 14, 1892. Next In line was John David for Mother. John was born April l9, 1893.
Then, Hallelujah! Another pair of "twins" was born - Ida for Mother and Mary Ann for Aunt Eva - on March 13, 1895. Mother's darling little Loren Morley was born May 2, 1897 and died with whooping cough on August 14, 1898. His was the first death in the family, and how sad for everyone. The next child on the list was Aunt Eva's daughter, Jennie, who was born November 12, 1897. Following Jennie was Joseph Martin, Mother's sixth son He was born September 16, 1899. Following Joseph was Aunt Eva's daughter, Margaret Ellen, who was born November 26, 1899.
Mother's fourth and last daughter was the first child In the James William Palmer family to be born in the twentieth century. She arrived July 2l, 1902. Following Viola was Aunt Eva's fourth and last son, Delbert, born September 5, 1902. Next was Aunt Eva's daughter, Florence, born July 27, 1904. Mother's son, Guy C., was born September 16, 1905. Aunt Eva's tenth and last child, Inez, was born November 23, 1906, and died February 27, 1907. Again, the family was very sad and missed little Inez so much, and yet it seemed that a death or any other tragedy in the family only brought them closer together and caused them to be more humble and prayerful. It was a consolation to Aunt Eva to feel within her heart and soul that little Inez, her tenth child, had been given as a tithe offering.
Oren Kenneth, Mother's twelfth and last child, was born January 18, 1908. Kenneth was Father's last and twenty-second child. The first child William Zemira, was born December 3, 1882, and the last child was born in 1908, making a difference of twenty-six years between the first and last child. During twenty-six years, Father was blessed with twelve sons and ten daughters, the majority of whom were born in the little three-room cabin.
Even after the most difficult years had passed and Father 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, thieving Mexicans and wild Apache Indians. Chief Geronimo and his hostile band of Apaches were not the only Indians to hide out in the Sierra Madre Mountains. According to legend, Chief Geronimo's son, while yet very young, followed in his father's footsteps and led a very hostile band of wild 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. No doubt if the United States soldiers had not killed or captured most of the Indians, the Indians would have killed many of the people.
Later on, however, two Apaches and a squaw, who were on a cliff above Pratt's ranch where the Thompson family was living, shot and killed one of the Thompson boys as he came home to do the morning chores. They also shot the mother and thought they had killed another boy. The Indians came to the house and discovered the mother was not dead, so they dragged her by her hair to the side of the house, set her against it, and beat her to death with rocks. The five year old girl, Annie, was not hurt, because the Indians intended to take her with them when they left the ranch after plundering the house. They ripped open all the pillows and feather beds. There was such a terrible whirlwind of feathers through the house that Annie took a chance on not being seen if she tried to escape. She went to the chicken coop to hide. Elmer, the boy whom the Indians thought they had killed, was in the coop. Most surely a divine power was protecting Elmer and Annie from the clutches of the savage Indians, for when they discovered that both Annie and Elmer had gone, they started hunting for them. One buck looked in the coop but did not see them. The Indians were somewhat superstitious about the disappearance of Annie and Elmer and left the ranch in a hurry. After Elmer and Annie were sure the Indians had left, they started for Cave Valley, but Elmer was bleeding so badly he could not go far. Annie ran on as fast as she could until she met my father-in-law, Hyrum Nelson.
A few years later, Brothers Allen and Harris encountered the Indians in the mountains. They very quickly hid behind a boulder and got their guns ready to fire in case the Indians discovered them. Soon, the Indians packed up and started on their way, which led right past where Allen and Harris were hiding. The squaw, who was ahead of the others, saw the men. As quick as lightning she had her gun on them. One of the men fired at her when she drew her gun and she fell from her horse. The next rider was shot by the other man and fell from his horse. When Allen and Harris felt sure the Indians were dead, they went to their bodies and discovered a little Papoose on the back of one of them. They were sorry that the little fellow had also been shot. The other two Indians had whirled their horses quickly and galloped away in the opposite direction. So far as anyone knows, they were the only two who escaped and they did not molest anyone again. However, their tracks were seen several times in the Sierra Madres, and more than once people were near enough to smell the tobacco they were smoking. I had this experience myself once when on a fishing and hunting party in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Although Father 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.”
Father 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 father’s 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, he fell and broke two ribs. There were no doctors in the country. The only remedy our parents had for all kinds of sickness, accidents or anything was faith in the healing power of the priesthood. Father was 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 Father's barn, and it was burned to the ground. Aunt Eva and 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 Father had paid $1,000. The death of the horse was quite a shock to Father and a large financial loss in those days.
Father 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 Father 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 Father never returned to Mexico.
He 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 Father 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 our 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. But even they could not live in peace because of the Mexicans.
When Father decided to stay at Blanding, he wrote a letter to our brother who was preparing to go on a mission to Mexico City, asking him to help Aunt Eva and her unmarried children move to Blanding. Will went as far as the United States line with Aunt Eva and her children, got them through the customhouse, and saw them well on their way to Blanding before going to Mexico City. He could not finish his mission because of the trouble the re-flaggers were making for his family at Corrales. All Mormon missionaries in Mexico were advised to go home and protect their families.
Mother 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 Father had settled at Corrales. After twenty-seven years of hard labor and sacrifice, Father now had no earthly possessions except the two teams and what few supplies and household goods could be hauled, plus a few horses our brother, John, drove across the line and on to Blanding. Regardless of this, Father 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
He 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.
Father 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 nine AM Friday morning. Most surely when his spirit left its earthly tabernacle and returned to the home from which it had come seventy-three years before, it was welcomed with this greeting: "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."
After very appropriate funeral services were held February 21 at the Blanding chapel, father's body was laid to rest in the Blanding cemetery.
--Chloe Amelia Palmer Nelson, daughter