William Moroni Palmer
|Birthplace:||Nauvoo, IL, USA|
Son of Abraham Whitney Palmer and Patience Delila Palmer
|Managed by:||Della Dale Smith-Pistelli|
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About William Moroni Palmer
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF WILLIAM MORONI PALMER (1846-1929)
Written by his son and daughter, Asael E. Palmer and Ada A. Palmer (Orgill)
When the Pilgrims from England settled at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, they had a little army, under the command of Captain Miles Standish, to help protect them from the Indians. In 1630 there was a Sergeant William Palmer, who later was commissioned a lieutenant in Captain Standish’s command. Lt. William Palmer married Judith Feake, who had emigrated from London, England. Whether they were married in England or in America is not known as the record of their marriage has not been found. Lt. William and Judith had seven children — five sons and two daughters — before Lt. William’s death (about 1660).
After her husband William’s death, Judith married Jeffery Ferris and moved, with him and her seven children, to Greenwich, Connecticut. The children grew up in Greenwich where the fourth son, William, married Mary Tyler. They had three sons and one daughter, all born in Greenwich. William and Mary may have become Quakers. Likely they died in Greenwich.
William, the oldest child of William and Mary Tyler Palmer, was born in Greenwich on November 6, 1694. He married Rachel Fowler about 1716-1718, and they had a large family of 13 or 14 children. They moved to Nine Partners, Dutchess County, New York, about 1738. They were Quakers and their names appear frequently in the minutes of the Quaker meetings.
Abraham, son of William and Rachel Palmer, was born about 1723, presumably in Greenwich, Conn. On December 24, 1747, he married Abigail Bull in Nine Partners, Dutchess county, New York (Oblong Monthly Meetings, Society of Friends “Quakers”, Minutes Vol. 1149). Abraham apparently discontinued his affiliation with the Quakers and his name does not appear in their record after his marriage. While there have been no records found definitely giving the names of the children of Abraham and Abigail, it is quite evident from information secured that they had at least eight, and that two of these were British Soldiers; and that at least one, Noah, was an American Revolutionary soldier.
Noah Palmer, perhaps the fourth child of Abraham and Abigail, was born February 9, 1756, at Amenia, Dutchess County, New York. He married (1) Miss Sutherland and they had four children. After his first wife’s death, he married (2) Tirzah Whitney and they had six sons and four daughters. As stated, he was an American Revolutionary soldier. Noah died in September 1840.
Noah and Tirzah Palmer’s next-to-youngest child was a son named Abraham, who was born on December 4, 1807, at Sherbourne, Chenango County, New York. He married Patience Delila Pierce on July 10, 1825. Patience was born in Oswegatchie, St. Lawrence County, New York, on February 15, 1809. They lived on Oswegatchie, New York, until after the birth of their fourth child on May 13, 1831, when they must have moved from this northeastern New York locality to Castile, Wyoming County, New York, in the northwest part of the state, where two of their children were born. Undoubtedly, it was while they were living at Castile, about fifty miles southwest of Palmyra, that they became acquainted with the newly organized Mormon Church on February 14, 1835 — an event, which completely changed their future lives. Abraham and patience had two children born in Castile, one on August 27, 1833, and the other on October 15, 1835. Their next child was born at their old home in Oswegatchie on February 19, 1838, so they apparently returned there. In 1839, they, with seven other families, including one of Patience’s brothers, Isaac Pierce, her sister Ruth Crosier, and their families, left by wagon train to join the Mormons in Missouri. (For an account of some of the hardships and persecutions they experienced in common with other Latter – Day Saints, see “A Sketch of the Life of Patience Delila Pierce Palmer”, written by her son William Moroni Palmer.)
Abraham and Patience Palmer had endured the sufferings incident with the mobbings and the final expulsion of the Later-day Saints from Missouri and had helped build up the beautiful city of Nauvoo, Illinois. Abraham literally helped to build the city and the Nauvoo Temple as he was a carpenter and building contractor. When the Saints were finally driven out of Nauvoo, Abraham and Patience, with their four children ranging in age from two to nineteen years, crossed the Mississippi River west into Iowa. William Moroni Palmer, in the sketch of the life of his mother previously referred to, describes that experience thus:
“Twenty thousand people without homes, with not enough to feed themselves only for a few days, getting shelter the best they could. The subject of this sketch with her family got into a little log hut that had been built by trappers. It had no door and there were large cracks between the logs. There were two families, consisting of fourteen people living in this hut.
“On the 10th of December, 1846, in this little log hut, in a snow storm which was driven through the cracks, Sister Palmer’s tenth child, William Moroni, was born.” And so began the life of the subject of this history, William Moroni Palmer.
For two years these people struggled on across Iowa, traveling part of the time and stopping to work at times. Very late in the fall of 1848 they, with a small company, arrived at an abandoned Indian village on Pottawattamie Creek, fifty miles east of Kanesville, later called Council Bluffs, Iowa. Here on February 9, 1849, Patience Delila Pierce Palmer’s last (eleventh) child, a son named Hyrum Smith Palmer, was born.
In the fall on 1849, all of the families at Pottawattamie Creek moved to Kanesville, Iowa, where others had gathered. Abraham Palmer was appointed Bishop of Kanesville by Apostle Orson Hyde and chosen to remain there and fit out companies to travel to the West. In the spring of 1852, having built their own wagons and secured oxen and cows for teams, the Palmer family, along with others started for Utah. During the trip an epidemic of pinkeye (acute conjunctivitis) broke out in the camp. William Moroni Palmer, then a child of five years, contracted the inflammation and his mother, on the advice of someone who thought they knew, bathed his eyes with a solution of verdigris. The result was that William was blinded and remained blind throughout the remainder of his childhood. His sight was restored seven years later after an administration by President Heber C. Kimball. A beautiful account of this healing was written by Helen Harding Atwood and is included here as she wrote the story. (Helen Atwood is the daughter of William M. and Christina’s oldest child Helen who died when the baby Helen was born. The baby was raised by the grandparents as if she were their own child, and she called them “mamma and papa.”)
“You have asked me to write down what I remember of this story as told to me by Papa.
Of course I was a little girl with a vivid imagination and a romantic heart, and so if the story is not as you remember it, please bear this in mind, for I shall tell it as I have always held it dearly in my heart.
“William Moroni Palmer (what a grown-up name for such a little boy!) was a happy and playful young lad, who dearly loved his parents and his brothers and sisters. At the tender age of five years he contracted pinkeye. A “doctor” washed his eyes with a solution of blue viteral, which, of course, made him completely blind.
“What a tragedy for everyone in the Palmer home, but especially for William who could see no more the beauty of his mother’s face, the kind eyes of his father, and the rest of his family whom he loved so dearly. Nor could he see the blue skies, grass and flowers where he loved to romp and play.
“William’s mother spent many hours every day reading to him. His favorite stories were from the Bible, and she would read them and explain them to him until he knew them by heart. He could quote scripture as no other young boy could, and in later years they called him the “Walking Bible.”
“The years passed by, and William’s faith grew. He knew there was a God in Heaven. He knew about Jesus Christ. His testimony was wonderful to hear. He could feel the love of his family around him. He was happy, but sober and thoughtful.
“One day, after he had been blind for seven years, he heard his family talking about a Church conference which was to be held near them in a few days, and at which Elder Heber C. Kimball was to preside and speak. When William was alone with his mother, he took her hands in his and said, “Mother, would you ask Brother Heber C. Kimball to come to our place after the conference, and bless me so that I can see?”
“This loving mother, Patience Delila, took her son (who was not so small any more) into here arms, and said, “Dear William, do you believe you can be healed?” And William answered, “I know I can, Momma, if he will come.”
“Conference day arrived. The family knelt in prayer, and while his parents were away William spent much of his time in his mother’s room where he could be alone to pray.
“William was first to hear the surrey returning from Conference, and his keen ears listened for the sound of the Apostle’s voice. He heard it, and gave thanks again to God.
“When Brother Kimball entered the house, he saw the eager face of William and said, “Is this the boy you told me of?” William’s mother said, “It is, but would you like to eat with us first?”
“This must come first. He has waited long enough.” A chair was placed for William to sit upon and the two Elders anointed him, and then Elder Kimball sealed the anointing with a wonderful blessing, and then said, “Open you eyes, Brother William, and you shall see.”
“William’s eyes flew open, he sat as if stunned for a moment, then he was out of the chair, through the door crying, “Oh! I can see! I can see! Oh, Momma, I can see!” and he fell down upon the grass and hugged himself to the wonderful earth. No more were the trees and flowers, the grass and sky, the streams and his home and family a dim memory, but real to him forever more, and he thanked God.
“That day a miracle was wrought, and William’s testimony grew, and in years to come William set the example for his family, and taught them to trust in God, and to keep His commandments.”
(End of Helen Atwood’s narrative.)
After receiving his sight, William had good vision at a distance of about six inches from his eyes. Beyond that he could see objects, but they were blurred. Throughout his life he could not recognize a person a few feet from his eyes unless they spoke. This caused him to develop a keen sense of voice recognition. His children considered it a great joke when they would pass him on the street and nod, and he would nod back without recognizing them unless they spoke. When reading, he held the book about six inches from his face, and at that distance could read for hours without tiring his eyes. He was a constant reader up until his death and never used glasses. Many times he tried to be fitted with glasses to correct his distance vision, but without success.
The Palmer family arrived in Salt Lake City in October 1852, and lived there until 1854 when they moved to Ogden, then a small village. The family at that time consisted of the father Abraham (46), the mother Patience Delila (44), Luther M. M. (27), Ann Eliza Stephens (21, married), William Moroni (7), and Hyrum Smith (4). (Numbers in brackets are years of age at that time.) There was also a granddaughter Ann Hutchings, whose mother, Susan Charlotte Palmer Hutchings had died at the baby’s birth on October 3, 1853. Patience Delila raised Ann as her own child until her maturity. It is possible that Luther and Ann Eliza did not go with their parents to Ogden. As Ann Eliza married Alexander Stephens on September 8, 1852, they, apparently, were married while their company was travelling from Iowa to Utah. Five of the Palmer children died at ages between one and twelve years, during the period of hardships in Missouri, Illinois, and on the plains. William Moroni Palmer’s boyhood was spent in Ogden, Utah. His father and mother were leading people in the community, the father having been a counselor to the president of Weber Stake, Aaron Farr, and the mother was Stake President of the Relief Society. They farmed and, undoubtedly, Abraham followed his trade as a carpenter. They owned the land where the union Railway Station now stands and used it as a pasture.
William often talked about his boyhood in Ogden. Their first year there was difficult as food was scarce and at times they lived on thistle and sego lily roots and bran bread. Being blind until he was about 13, he never attended school and did not learn to read until he was in the mission field at the age of twenty-nine years.
One day, after having received he sight, he went with his father to the mountains for a load of wood, to use for fuel in their home. As they were finishing loading the wood on their wagon, a heavy snowstorm came up and soon after starting for home they lost their way. Traveling with a wagon in the mountains when they could not see to follow the road was impossible so they unhitched he oxen thinking that without being encumbered with the wagon the oxen would instinctively lead them home; but the oxen refused to face the storm and turned to their drivers as if wanting to know what to do. Realizing the seriousness of their situation, as night was approaching, the father did what he had so often done during the quarter of a century since he and his wife had joined the Church in New York, he turned to the Lord. He said to his son, “William, we have done all we canto find our way, now we must ask the Lord for help.” The two knelt in the snow and explained their predicament to the Lord, asking for his help. When they arose they started the oxen in the direction they thought was right and the animals put down their heads, faced into the storm, and without further hesitation lead them home. The weather having cleared the next day, they went back and got their wagon with its load of wood. This experience taught William a lesson which apparently he never forgot as repeatedly in his daily diary, which he kept during the many years he was a Latter-day Saint missionary, he tells of his he was helped by prayer after having exhausted his own resources.
As an illustration of the financial condition of the people in the pioneering days, William and a boyhood playmate, Heber McBride, when they met in Raymond, Alberta, where they both settled in 1903, in reminiscing on their childhood in Ogden, were amused to remember that in the winter as they had no shoes they would wrap old cloth around their feet and tie board on their soles to skate on the ice. They seemed to feel, however, that they had as much fun as children raised in better conditions.
The family lived in Ogden for some time. William, in his “Sketch of the Life of Patience Delila Pierce Palmer”, states the following:
“Afterwards they moved to Sanpete Count where some of their children were located, where Abraham Palmer died on May 25, 1875, at Fayette, Sanpete County, Utah. Sister Palmer then lived with her son, William M., at Glenwood and later at Aurora, Sevier County, where she died on March 25, 1894, and was buried by the side of her husband in Fayette.”
Their graves are marked by a stone in the cemetery east of the Fayette village.
In the spring of 1866, William engaged as a teamster, of “mule-skinner”, to drive a six-mule team with two wagons in a mule train that was loaded with flour to freight from Gunnison, Sanpete Co., Utah, to Virginia City, Montana. They brought the first food supply to the new mining town of Virginia City that spring, and as flour was scarce and gold plentiful they got $125.00 per 100-pound bag for their flour. The mule train went on from Virginia City to Fort Benton, Montana, at the head of navigation on the Missouri River, to bring back a load of supplies for the mining camp. The nineteen-year-old William did not go to Fort Benton but went to work as an irrigater on a ranch on the Madison River, ten to fifteen miles east of Virginia City. One day when in town, William saw a group of people coming up the street, headed by members of the Vigilante Committee who had a rope around the neck of a man they were leading to the hanging room. Immediately behind the man were his wife and three small children, weeping and pleading for the life of their husband and father, who was taken into the room. The rope was thrown over the hanging beam and the Vigilantes started to pull the man up, but the pleadings of the wife and children prevailed. They let him down, took the rope from his neck, and told him to leave and never come back to those parts. Needless to say, the culprit took his family and left. He had operated a meat market in the town and had been stealing hogs from a nearby ranch. Such was the administration of justice in the frontier mining camps of that day.
William Moroni Palmer married Mary Ann Mellor Oglvie in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on April 5, 1869. Mary Ann was a young widow, 22 years old with two children: Alexander and Miranda. These two were sealed to William and Mary Ann. After their marriage, the young couple established a home in Fayette, Sanpete Co., Utah, where their first three children, William Moroni, Patience Delila, and James Lindsey, were born. Sometime after the birth of James Lindsey on April 12, 1875, and before the birth of Charles Abraham on July 28, 1878, they had moved to Glenwood, Sevier County, Utah, where their other five sons, Don Carlos, Parley Parker, Wilford Woodruff, Delbert, and Francis Marion, were born.
What William did for a livelihood during the first few years of his marriage is not clear, except that he told of hauling farm produce from the farming communities to Sevier Valley, Utah, to the Pioche mining area of eastern Nevada, which was the main market for their products. He also spoke of having sheep, which he turned over to the United Order in Glenwood when the Order was established in that community, so he must have had some land, which he farmed to produce winter-feed for the sheep that were pastured in the mountains in the summer.
One story he told of his freighting to Nevada was that on arrival at Pioche, food was so scarce that there was a ready sale, at good prices, for the flour, eggs and other products of his load. He found himself in possession of considerable cash, which presented a problem as highwaymen occasionally held up the returning freighters and relieved them of the cash they had received for their load. As a precaution, William tied most of his silver and gold coins in a handkerchief and dropped it into his water barrel. The paper bills he his in the woolen lining of an old quilt. He kept enough money in his pocket to represent the amount he would have received under normal market conditions, thinking that if he was waylaid the robbers would think they had secured all his cash and would not search further. Fortunately he was not molested, but when he arrived home they had to search for some time for the last twenty-dollar bill in the old quilt.
Those freight outfits hauling into eastern Nevada usually consisted of two covered wagons, the one hitched as a trailer to the other. The two-horse teams were hitched in tandem to the front wagon. There were brakes on the rear wheels of each wagon, which the driver operated by means of a lever at his right side. Each wagon carried a payload of about on ton, and in addition there was a forty-gallon barrel of water fastened to the side of each wagon box for use by man and horses when a dry camp was necessary at noon, or at night in the desert country that they crossed. Food for the driver and animals also had to be taken along. Generally two or more outfits would travel together for company, and to help each other in case of a broken wheel or other trouble. The journey of about 200 miles to Nevada took about five days going with loads, and four days or less coming back empty. This method of team freighting was common before the days of railroads or trucks. There was no road grading or other construction, except wooden bridges across canals or other streams that could not be forded, and doorways on the sides of hills or mountains. The only road regulations were that when meeting, each driver turned to the right, leaving half the road track to the approaching team. If one vehicle was loaded and the other one not, the one with the load kept to the road and the other turned completely out. It was the custom to stop and help anyone in trouble.
When William M. Palmer was twenty-nine years old, and had five children (two of them stepchildren), he was called by Brigham Young to go on a mission to explain Mormonism to the people of the Central United States. When he reported for service to the First Presidency Office in Salt Lake city, and was set apart April 10, 1876 to labor in the United States, President Young asked him if he had any relatives in the Central or Eastern States. His answer was that he had an aunt living in Michigan who was Mormon. President Young told him to go there and make that his headquarters, which he did. The aunt was Ruth Pierce Crosier Harrington. She and her first husband, John Crosier, and children, were one of the eight families that went with Abraham and Patience Delilah Palmer, William’s parents, form New York to Missouri and Nauvoo. The Crosier family did not go west with the Saints. The father died and Ruth had married John Harrington who was not a member of the Church.
The Harrington’s welcomed William and invited him to make their home his headquarters. He was glad to do this as he felt entirely incapable of doing missionary work, and wanted some time to prepare before he started his ministry. Later, in describing himself when he arrived at his aunt’s home, he said that he was a rough-looking Westerner, wearing homespun clothes, a shaggy beard, his left eye was crossed due to the injury to his eyes while crossing the plains (this eye was straightened by an operation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 4, 1881), and he could not read or write. His Aunt Ruth undertook to teach him to read, so he decided to delay missionary activity until he could read. He was no wholly unprepared, however, as he stated in his diary written in September of 1884. He had presided over a Priests’ Quorum of Chicken Creek, Utah, had been president of the Glenwood YMMIA, and had been a Ward Teacher and counselor to the president of the Sevier Stake YMMIA. This indicates that he was active in the church before his mission call.
While William planned to postpone missionary work, the Lord had other ideas. One night he was staying at a hotel operated by his cousin in a town near the Harrington farm home. A circuit minister was a guest at the same hotel, and in the evening they engaged in a religious discussion. In the morning as William approached the head of the stairs leading to the hotel parlor below, he heard the minister say to others in the parlor that it was a disgrace for the Mormon Church to send an uncouth, ignorant person as Elder Palmer to try to convert civilized Christian people to Mormonism. The minister said that he would show those present how ignorant the elder was by asking him some questions regarding the Bible. This frightened William, as he agreed with the minister’s appraisal of his own ignorance. He tried to find another stairway to go down in order to avoid the clergyman, but there was none. He then went back to his room, knelt and asked the Lord for help, stating that he had been called to do His work and seriously needed help. This gave him courage and he went down to the parlor where he was net by the clergyman with an open Bible in his hand, who said, “Mr. Palmer, I have a passage of scripture I would like you, as a minister, to explain to me.” The clergyman then read a passage from his Bible. The Elder had no idea as to the meaning of the verses read, but this reply flashed into his mind: “It is interesting that you should ask me this as I have a scripture I would like you to explain to me.” He then quoted a verse which his mother had taught her blind boy sitting at her knee: “And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” “Oh, Mr. Palmer,” the minister said, “That is not in our Bible. It must be in your Mormon Bible.” But the former blind boy had been taught to memorize chapter and verse along with his scripture, and he told his antagonist that he would find it in Revelations 14:6. The minister turned to the reference, read it, and said rather sheepishly, “Well, well. I have never seen that before. I will have to look it up in my Bible commentary.” Elder Palmer replied, “That is the position I am in with your scripture reference. Perhaps when we meet again we can explain to each other.”
And so that little tilt ended–but not the results. Those who witnessed the encounter saw the Mormon missionary, instead of being exposed as ignorant, come out the winner; and they must have thought that he was more intelligent that he appeared. At least that is what they told others, and they added that the Mormon had bested their minister in a scriptural argument. The story grew, as stories do, and soon it was that Elder Palmer was a very intelligent man who had a wonderful knowledge of the scriptures. So people started to come to him for explanations of scriptures they did not understand. Here, William said, the Lord came to his assistance again by giving him two wonderful gifts: (1) the ability to understand and explain scriptures that were presented to him, and (2) to remember the passages verbatim. Soon he had many Bible passages stored in his memory, with a clear knowledge of their meaning.
Another blessing he gained from this experience was that it assisted him greatly in learning to read. When anyone came to him with a scripture reference for explanation, he would have them read from their Bible and he would follow along in his, asking them to read slowly. At first he had to spell the words in his mind as they read. Soon he was able to recognize the words and to read–he became a prolific reader, especially of the Bible. Not only did he read the Bible, but he committed much of it to memory, often quoting entire chapters. His sermons, always, were interspersed with biblical quotations interwoven in such a way that they were convincing and almost poetic. His wide use and knowledge of the Bible caused him to be called “The Walking Bible”.
The experience with the clergyman was not the only thing that forced him to start his missionary activities without further delay. When he returned to his aunt’s home, her husband, who was not a member but was becoming interested (later baptized), said to him, “William, I am glad to know that you are going to start to preach today.” “No, Uncle John, I am not speaking today, nor for some time, until I am much better prepared.” “But,” said the uncle, “You will have to preach today. Word has gone around the entire area that you are to speak in that schoolhouse over there, and people are gathering. I saw one wagon load that has come twenty miles.” Although the missionary6 had known nothing about the meeting and suspected that his uncle and aunt had arranged it, he knew that he must speak to those people. Again he went to his room and asked for help, telling the Lord that, although he had been trying, he was so unprepared that he could not speak to that gathering unless he could have the influence of the Holy Ghost to guide him. As he walked to the schoolhouse, he saw that the one-room building was full to the door, with folks standing on the outside. This added to his fright, but he worked his way to the teacher’s desk and led them up in a hymn; he had a good singing voice, as well as a wonderful speaking voice, but, as he said later, it was a voice trembling with fear on that day. He then started to speak; his prayer was answered, and for over an hour the gift of the Holy Ghost directed his tongue and held the congregation spellbound. Several were converted that day, and some of them who emigrated to Utah frequently told his family that the first sermon William Moroni Palmer preached was one of his greatest.
This gift of the Holy Ghost to assist him in preaching the Gospel was not temporary, but remained with him as an abiding gift if he was humble. He soon received a lesson on the need for humility, as he began to feel a bit proud of his ability as people flocked to hear him speak. One evening he arose to speak to a large congregation, fully confident in his ability to preach a forceful sermon, but the Spirit of the Lord was not there, and being left to himself he was a miserable failure. This lesson was never forgotten, and when he thought he had given a good talk he usually said, “I had a good flow of the Spirit.” But he realized that to get the help of the spirit he must do his part, so he was always preparing himself by reading and thinking. He knew that one could not get a 4-inch flow through a 2-inch pipe.
William worked diligently on this first mission, and his labors met with success. In a letter to the Deseret News of Salt Lake City dated October 23, 1876, from Sylvester, Michigan, he wrote: “My labors have been crowned with success. At first I met with much prejudice, but after much labor the Lord has blessed my labors so much that I have baptized 22 souls and shall baptize some more this week.” In 1876 and 1877 branches of the Church were organized in Sylvester, Millbrook, and Westville (Michigan).
Elder Palmer worked alone in 1876, and perhaps was the first missionary in Michigan after the Civil War. On May 6, 1877, additional missionaries were sent to Michigan and adjoining states. Among these was Elder Cyrus H. Wheelock, a man of experience who had performed several missions before and had been an associate of Joseph smith. A mission, called the Northwestern States Mission was organized, and Elder Wheelock was set apart as its president on May 6, 1878 (L.D.S. Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 4:362-3. See also “History of the Northern States Mission”, Church Historian office, Salt Lake City). This mission was comprised originally of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. Later, western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota (perhaps South Dakota) were added to the mission. The name of the mission was changed to the Northern States Mission on July 20, 1889.
Elder William Moroni Palmer was released from his mission to Michigan on October 1, 1877, and returned home where, apparently, he remained until April, 1880. There is a statement in the notes on the
“History of the Northern States Mission” in the Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City, which reads: “The Saints in Michigan, as well as a number of strangers, had spoken so complimentarily of Elder William M. Palmer, who had been so successful on his first mission, that President Wheelock, when he returned home in the fall of 1879 and reported his labors, recommended that William M. Palmer be called on a second mission to Michigan. Brother Palmer received a call accordingly.”
This call came to Elder Palmer the following spring, and on April 9, 1880 (according to Church Historian records), he was set apart for the mission. He was instructed by President John Taylor to preside over the Michigan – Wisconsin Conference of the North-western States Mission, and he presided over that conference until the fall of 1880. In a letter written July 20, 1889 (Church Historian records), he says, “Late in the fall of 1880 I received word from President John Taylor to look after the rest of the mission.” From that time until his release on July 20th, 1889, William Moroni Palmer presided as President of the North-western States Mission (later named Northern States Mission).
At that time, mission presidents did not take their families with them into the mission field but left them home, and the president returned occasionally to spend a few months with his family. President Palmer’s diary and church Historian’s records show that President Palmer returned home November 16, 1881, left again for the mission April 10th, 1882, left for home October 21, 1882, returned to the mission April 3, 1883, accompanied a group of emigrating Saints to Utah October 8, 1883, arrived home October 17, and left again for the mission November 18. The following December 26th, he again left the mission to accompany emigrants to Utah. In a note in his diary of September 26, 1884, he states, “From January the 6th on until September the 26th, 1884, I worked part of the time on my farm and at home, but most of the time I spent traveling among the Saints preaching, teaching, and instructing them in their duty. I also went to Salt Lake City at April Conference and appointed Elders who were called to the North-western States Mission to the different conferences, gave them instructions, and then returned home. I went to the City again in august to see about mission matters, etc.”
This indicates that President Palmer, while presiding over the mission, did not spend all of his time in the mission field. He accompanied emigrants to Utah quite frequently, and at such times spent a few days with his family. About every year he spent four or five months at home working on his farm and traveling among the settlements in the interest of Salt Lake publications such the Juvenile Instructor and the Contributor, which were private periodicals, and the Deseret News. In that way he was able to help finance himself and his family. At that time the church did not provide a living allowance for mission presidents. When in the mission field, he traveled, as did the other missionaries, “without purse nor scrip”. He stated that during his entire mission he received only one dollar from his family, and he sent that back. The missionaries depended on the Church members or friends in the mission for food and a place to sleep. Occasionally they were given some money or clothes. The Church did give President Palmer $500.00 to buy a 30 acre farm at Aurora, Sevier County, Utah.
When the mission president was absent from the mission, his assistant president directed it. President Palmer in his diary mentions John E. Booth and later Dennis E. Harris as his assistants. Both of these men were later presidents of the mission.
As might be expected, William Moroni Palmer had many interesting experiences as a missionary. Some of these are given herewith as he related them around the family fireside or as they are recorded in his diary. When copied from his diary, the date of the diary entry is shown. Some incidents connected with his first work in Michigan have been related previously.
An interesting incident that happened in Sylvester, Michigan, he wrote as a story that was printed in the Juvenile Instructor(?) under his pen name of “Ken” and is given here in summary. Elder Palmer arrived in Sylvester in the evening of a cold winter day. All the money he had was one silver dollar. As it was late in the evening and cold, with snow on the ground, and as the missionary was strange in the city, he thought he would ask a policeman to recommend a respectable hotel where he could get a room and breakfast for a dollar. As he walked up the street looking for a policeman, a little boy darted out from an alley and looking up at him pleadingly said, “Please, Mister, could you give me ten cents to buy some bread for my sick mother and my little sister?” The thinly clad little lad stood there lifting first one bare foot and then the other out of the snow to keep them from freezing. As he looked down on the boy, the missionary automatically put his hand in his pocket, drew out the lone dollar and gave it to the boy, who thanked him profusely and said, “I’ll run and get you your change.” “No, you keep it. You need it more than I do.” said the man. “But what is your name and where do you live?” “Jimmy Rose and I live there,” replied Jimmy, pointing to a door a short distance down the alley. He then darted away and entered the door he had indicated.
Elder Palmer made a note of the name of the alley and the location of the door then started up the street again, looking for a policeman. Suddenly he realized that it was pointless to inquire about a hotel, as he had no money. “Well,” he thought, “I guess the Lord id not want me to stay at a hotel tonight, so I will have to find some other place.” As he proceeded, wondering where he should go, he noticed a lighted office facing the street, and a man standing before an open fire, putting on his coat. The missionary stepped into the room and asked the occupant if he could warm himself by the fire. He was graciously asked to take a seat before the fire, and as he was carrying a traveling bag, the host asked if he had just arrived in town and where he was from. When informed that his visitor was a Mormon missionary from Utah, the man exclaimed, “Is it possible that I am looking at a real, live Mormon?” “I hope I am not a dead one,” replied the guest. The man then introduced himself as a physician, Dr. Gray, and asked at what hotel the missionary would be staying so that they could have further conversation. The missionary explained that he was traveling, as did Christ’s apostles, without purse or scrip, having faith the Lord would provide. “If you have that much faith in the Lord, the I will be his helper tonight,” said the doctor. “You will come home with me. My wife and I are alone in a large house and supper will soon be ready, so we had better go.”
When Dr. Gray introduced his guest to his wife as a Mormon missionary from Utah, Mrs. Gray registered some surprise on her face, but being and intelligent gentlewoman, acknowledged he introduction graciously. At supper and until after midnight, the three talked about Utah, the Mormons, and the gospel as restored through Joseph Smith. Dr. Gray showed a fair, intelligent interest, but the missionary could see that Mrs. Gray was listening with a deeper feeling. Her spirit was attuned to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and she was receiving a testimony of the truth of the gospel that was being presented.
Elder Palmer told the Grays of his experience with the little boy on the street, and said he would visit the boy’s home on the morrow, which he did. When he knocked at the door in the alley, Jimmy opened the door, grabbed his hand and led him across the room to the sick mother’s bed where Jimmy introduced him as the good man who had given him the dollar the night before. Mrs. Rose was effusive in her gratitude and stated that she had been ill for some time. She was a widow who had been supporting herself and two children on a small wage. When she became sick she had no income, and yesterday their food and fuel was exhausted. When Jimmy came in with the dollar, he put on his mother’s shoes and coat and went out and bought a bucket of coal and some food. The missionary talked to her about the gospel and explained the ordinance of healing by faith and administration. Mrs. Rose was impressed and requested administration, which was performed, and she said she felt she was healed. While the Elder was there, groceries and coal, ordered by Mrs. Gray were delivered. Dr. Gray came in to see Mrs. Rose and said that while she appeared to have been quite sick that she now seemed all right, and if careful, should be able to go about her usual work. Mrs. Rose fully recovered, joined the Church, finally immigrated to Utah with her two children where she remarried and as a bishop’s wife, she and her family were active members.
Dr. Gray was a Spiritualist, and he thought Joseph Smith to have been just a Spiritualist medium. He wanted Elder Palmer to go with him to a friend’s home where a noted Medium from Chicago was to hold a séance. The Elder was reluctant to become involved with Spiritualism, but when Dr. Gray offered to secure a hall for him to speak in the following night, and to advertise the Mormon meeting in the press if he would go with the doctor to the séance, Elder Palmer consented. When they arrived at the home where the séance was to be held, Dr. Gray introduced his guest as a friend from Utah. When the people were seated in a room with a table at the front, the medium entered and rapped on the table. This sent a shock, like and electric current through the missionary, but he breathed a quiet prayer and by the power of his priesthood, rebuked all unclean spirits from the room while he was present. He felt perfectly calm when the medium rapped the second and the third time. As the rapping produced no results, the medium left the room. Upon returning she faced the audience and said, “The spirits tell me that there is a Mormon in this room and they refuse to come here while he is present. It would be appreciated if he would leave so we may proceed with our séance.” Elder Palmer immediately arose an asked the hostess for his hat and coat so he could leave. Dr. Gray said, “Bring my had and coat too. There is no God here.” On their way home the Elder related what had happened, and explained that the priesthood he held, if exercised righteously, could have control over unclean spirits.
Dr. Gray had no further association with Spiritualism, but never joined the Mormon Church, although he continued to be friendly. Mrs. Gray was baptized and although they did not emigrate to Utah, remained a faithful, active member and their home was always open to the Mormon missionaries. Dr. Gray supported her in her Church activities.
After the Spiritualist meeting referred to, Dr. Gray kept his promise and rented a hall for the missionary, and advertised his meeting in the press. There was a good attendance, but as the meeting started, a professional lecturer and debater, who introduced himself as Professor Allen, challenged the speaker to a debate the following night on the topic “The Mormon Teachings do Not Agree Wit the Bible”. Elder Palmer stated that he would prefer not to debate, but when Professor Allen accused him of being afraid to have his church doctrines analyzed, and the man in charge of the hall refused to permit the meeting to proceed unless the challenge was accepted, the missionary consented and his meeting proceeded without further interruption.
Professor Allen was well known in the locality as he had debated this same subject successfully with various ministers. When the meeting started the following evening, with a full house, Allen stated that he wanted it understood that they were to take the Bible to mean what is said, “If it said bread, it did not mean potatoes.” Then, as the first speaker, he proceeded to give Bible quotations and arguments he had used to confound other ministers, such as baptism by immersion being essential, the necessity for authority and continuous revelation, etc. Obviously he knew nothing about Mormon beliefs, and when Elder Palmer arose to speak he had only to agree with Allen and explain the teachings of the Latter-day Saints, and show their agreement with the scriptures the Professor had presented. When Allen heard this, he was nonplussed, and when he arose for his rebuttal he started to explain that the Bible quotations did not mean just what they said. The Elder arose and reminded him that when the Bible said bread it did not mean potatoes. The audience saw the point and several shouted, “Allen’s beat! Allen’s Beat!” the Professor held up his Bible and in disgust said, “You people know I do not believe a word in this Bible.” Then he threw the book on the floor with the remark, “I would not keep a Bible that upholds Mormonism.” Turning to his debating opponent he said, “Mr. Palmer, I am through. You may have the remainder of the time.” Of course the missionary was glad to further explain the teachings of his church to an audience so well prepared to be receptive.
And so the missionary work was opened up in Sylvester, Michigan. When retelling this story in future years, William M. Palmer usually added that that dollar he gave to little, barefooted Jimmy Rose on that cold November night was on of the best investments he ever made. “But the lord directed it.”
Elder Palmer had other instances of the sick being healed under his administration besides that of Mrs. Rose. During his first mission in Michigan he was holding meetings in a home. And invalid, Mr. Backus, who had been bedridden for several years, lay in an adjoining room. She asked to have her door, opening into the room where the meetings were being had, left open, so she could hear. She was converted and asked for baptism, stating that she knew if she were baptized she would be healed. It was winter and as the only place the baptism could be performed was in a nearby lake that was frozen over, her family wanted her to wait until spring. She would not wait, and as Elder Palmer also felt inspired that the baptism should be done at that time and that she would be healed, the family consented. A hole was cut in the ice, and Mrs. Backus was wrapped in a blanket and carried to the lake where Elder Palmer baptized her in the icy water. She was again wrapped in a blanket and carried to the house. When she was dressed in dry clothes she would not go back to bed but said she was well and wanted something to eat. She lived for many years a healthy, devout, active member of the church. Maydell Cazier, who later married Asael E. Palmer; and Leslie L. Palmer, son of William A. Palmer, when missionaries in Detroit, Michigan, in 1915 and 1917 respectively, both met Mr. Backus, husband of this woman who had died a few years before. He continued to be an active Church member, and verified the story of his wife’s baptism and healing.
Other healings, following administration by the priesthood, are recorded in Elder Palmer’s diary. Under the date of June 18, 1883 he records that he and other Elders who had met in Johnsonville, Indiana, for a Priesthood Conference, administered to the wife of Brother William R. Newell, who was critically ill with infection, following childbirth. Three doctors had attended to her, but they gave little hope. The Elders too had little faith following their administration. The next day they again administered to Sister Newell, but still with little faith. On June 20, President Palmer and four of his missionaries went to the Newell home and found Sister Newell much worse. One leg and the lower part of her body were badly swollen and she was in extreme pain. The doctors had given up all hope and had left. The Elders went out into the woods and prayed fervently, asking the lord to heal her. President Palmer felt inspired that they should return to the house, that Elder E. F. Durfee should lead the family in prayer; Elder M. W. Pratt should anoint Sister Newell, and that Elder S. R. Marks should be mouth in sealing the anointing. This was done, and to quote from the diary entry, “The pain ceased, the swelling gradually went down and she was healed.” On that same day’s entry President Palmer wrote, “I blessed Brother and Sister Newell’s babe and named it Asta Earl.” On June 25 is the entry, “Held meeting at night at Brother William R. Newell’s. His wife is well.”
In his diary entry of Monday, May 9, 1887, President Palmer wrote, “In the forenoon, two Elders and I went and administered to Mrs. Hatfield, who was a Josephite but did not have faith in their Elders. She seemed to be dying. They had worked over her for hours. We anointed her and laid hands on her and rebuked the disease and she was healed instantly.” In the margin of that day’s entry is the note, apparently written later, “Was baptized.”
Another instance of healing occurred in Utah while President Palmer was on home leave from his mission. He was speaking at a Sake Conference in the Wayne Stake at Loa, Utah. After Conference, he was asked to go to a nearby home to administer to a woman mentally violent who was thought by her family to be possessed by an evil spirit. About the time the conference meeting was over, the sick lady in her bed at home commenced to rave violently, shouting that a man Palmer was coming from the meeting to administer to her. She told her folks not to let him come into the house, as he was a bad man. As President Palmer came to their door, she became more violent and had to be held by force. As he came in she started to taunt him, saying that he was bad, a coward that he had no authority to administer to her. She was held by force while an elder anointed her and then President Palmer, as mouth in sealing the anointing, commanded every evil spirit to leave her and that house, and blessed her that she would recover. The woman sank back on her bed, relaxed and exhausted. She soon recovered her normal health. President Palmer was fully convinced that an evil spirit had possession of that woman.
Many instances of answer to prayer were related by Elder Palmer. Some of these are recorded in his diary. Under the date of April 20, 1886, he wrote that at 6:25 p.m. he took a train at Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Monneopa, where he arrived at 10:30 p.m. Apparently this was a wayside station in the country, as his diary records:
“This night was very dark. I knew it was a mile and a half to South Bend but I did not know the direction, whether north, east, or which way. There was but one house besides the station. The station was closed. I went to the house; all was dark. I rapped and called for a long time, but no answer. A dog was there and he kept trying to get hold of my leg. I got away from him however, and went out in the road. After offering a prayer to God, asking him to lead me he His Spirit to South Bend, I started in the direction I felt impressed was right. The road led through the woods and was very muddy. I soon came to a main road, which crossed at right angles. I turned to the left and went on, but it did not seem right to me, and the farther I went the worse I felt. When I had got about 100 yards, I turned back and went in exactly the opposite direction. Other roads turned off but I went, as I felt led, keeping to the right. At last I came to a house, which was all dark and rapped at the door. Someone inside jumped and made a terrible racket, running about the room with boots on. It was then after 11 o’clock and I could not imagine what was up. He called, “Who is there?” When I replied, he tried to open first one door and then another, then told me to come to the back door. There I met him and asked if I could stay overnight. He said it was an empty house and that the Mormons had held a meeting in it that night. He had gone to sleep and had thus been left there. He escorted me to where the Elders were staying, about a quarter of a mile away. I was exactly on the right road, and thus the Spirit of the Lord had led me.”
Another dark night, he was walking along a forest road and it started to rain very hard. He soon became wet and cold, but die to the darkness and the lateness of the hour, with all home lights out, he could see no house where he could obtain shelter. In this condition he knelt down in the muddy road and asked the Lord to lead him to a home where he could stay for the night. As he arose and started on a light suddenly appeared in a window near the road. He hurried to the house, knocked on the door and was admitted by a man in his nightclothes, who said they had been in bed and asleep when their baby suddenly started to cry violently. The father got us and lighted a lamp to quiet the baby and so the light served as a beacon to direct the missionary to the house where he was invited to stay for the night.
In his diary, President Palmer tells of an interesting meeting he had with David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Under date of Wednesday, June 27, 1883, is this diary entry: “Elders S. B. Marks, W. M. Pratt, F. Davis, myself and Mr. O. Shelby of Covington (Indiana), started for Richmond, Mo., to see Mr. David Whitmer, the last remaining witness to the Book of Mormon.” On Saturday, June 30, is the entry (after their arrival in Richmond):
“Mr. David Whitmer came to the hotel to see us and we had a long talk with him. He bore a strong testimony to the Book of Mormon, and said his testimony is now just the same as that his name is signed to in that book. He told us how the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the plates; that he (David) and Oliver Cowdery were neighbors; they heard Joseph had the plates and was in Pennsylvania translating them. Oliver went to see, was convinced and was chosen of the Lord to write for Joseph. So Joseph and Oliver wrote to David for him to come and get them and take them to his father’s house to finish the translation. David had some breaking to do and did not know how to leave it. When he got up in the morning the plowing was done. He said he never knew how it was done. He took his team and went to Pennsylvania, which took him several days. Joseph told Oliver the time David started, where he put up every night, and what was on the sign of each place. Oliver wrote it down David saw it when he arrived, took the paper and noticed as he was going back; he signs were the same word for word. David Whitmer told us many things: how the angel looked, how the table looked, and that the voice of God sounded like a man’s voice, only it seemed to pierce them through. We enjoyed the visit very much.
When relating this story of his visit to David Whitmer, as President Palmer often did in later years, he usually stated the David, then 78 years old, seemed to be in good health and was mentally vigorous. Further, that David stated that the angel who showed them the plates appeared to be a man, and that he stood by a table and turned the pages of the plates in showing them to the three men: Joseph, Oliver, and David.
An indication of the United States Governments crusade against the practice of polygamy by the Mormons, and prosecutions carried out under the Edmunds and Tucker Act and other anti-polygamy laws, is contained in a journal entry of Sunday, October 31, 1886, at Detroit, Michigan. On that date President Palmer wrote:
“I went, in the morning, to the House of Correction to see the brethren from Idaho sent there for living with their wives. I had a talk with the Superintendent, Captain Joseph Nicholson. He said he was sorry there were any there in that house, put there for their religion, which e knew these men were, and they were honorable men. That he has, and intends to be, kind to them, and make their burdens as light as the rules allow. The Superintendent gave me from 1:30 until 2:30 p.m. with the 11 brethren who are confined there…
“I went to the pulpit and talked about ten minutes to them. My emotions were so great I could hardly talk, to see my brethren thus bound. We knelt and I offered a prayer that came from the depths of my soul. I then administered the sacrament to them, then spoke to them on the Signs of the Times and the Near Approach of our Deliverer and Lord. Encouraged them to patience and good works. Four or five of them spoke. They bore testimony to the truth of the Gospel; and kindness of the officers; that they were glad they made no promises to the court. I asked permission to shake hands and had a hearty handshake with all. Many tears rolled down.:
An instance of experiencing the gift of the interpretation of tongues is recorded in President Palmer’s diary under date of Sunday, September 4, 1881. A conference was being held at St. Francis, Minnesota, where there were many Swedish people. The diary reads:
“Meetings at 10 a.m., 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. The house was full of Saints and strangers. The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us and we had a time of rejoicing. I spoke, in the afternoon, on John’s Revelations and the Apostasy of the Primitive Church. After meeting Scandinavian said he could not understand English but had understood every word I said, and believed it.”
Christina Helen Larson, who became William Moroni Palmer’s second wife, lived with her parents, Jonas Olof and Margret Olson Larson and brother John, on a farm near Isanti, Isanti County, Minnesota, not far from St. Francis referred to above. Christina was born at Yttre, Bergsho, Sweden, on April 17, 1862. She came to America with her parents and brother John when she was three years old, and settled on a homestead near Isanti, where a number of other Swedish immigrants had located. President Palmer first referred to the Larson family in his diary on Tuesday, September 20, 1881, where he records: “I went to Isanti to Sister Larson’s and talked a great deal to her husband.” Apparently he stayed at the Larson home for a few days, as on September 23, he recorded: “I held a meeting at Cambridge, Sister Larson’s son and daughter went and we returned after meeting, it being dark as pitch and seven miles. After meeting a mob tried to throw a rope on me but did not make it.” On Sunday, October 9, he held two meetings at Cambridge and states: “After meeting went seven miles to Mr. Larson’s. His wife and daughter are members.” President Palmer recorded on October 15, 1881, that he held a night meeting at Spencer Brook, near St. Francis. A mob disturbed their meeting and as they were leaving, the mob threw rotten eggs at them. He wrote: “As I went out, they threw a volley of rotten eggs at me – - 3 of which hit me, one on the back of the head and two on my back, running down my overcoat… We went to Brother E. Clements’ and stayed that night.” Christina cleaned President Palmer’s overcoat, but in telling the story to her children in later years she usually added that at that time she had no idea she would ever be his wife. She was a young country girl of nineteen and he was a distinguished mission president.
But Christina’s life pattern changed rapidly in the next two months. She had been a member of the L.D.S. Church for four years, having been baptized on July 26, 1877 and had been a close friend of the S.W. Clements family who, also, were converts to the Church. Like most converts at that time, the Clements family wanted to emigrate to Utah. In the fall of 1881 they sold their property in Minnesota and prepared to make the move west. Christina had often lived with the Clements family to help Mrs. Clements with her work, and felt like some of their family, so she decided to go to Utah with them. The J. Crawford family and Miss Gracie Erickson from the same locality also accompanied them. President Palmer was instructed in a letter from President John Taylor, received November 2, to come home to Utah for the winter and to supervise the emigration of these Minnesota members and others from his mission who were emigrating at that time. The Minnesota Saints left St. Paul, Minnesota, November 10, for Omaha, Nebraska where they met the emigrants from other parts of the mission, and arrived at Ogden, Utah, at 6 a.m., November 16 and at Salt Lake City the same day at 10. a.m. President Palmer remained in Salt Lake City for a day to attend to mission business, and then went to his home and family in Glenwood. Christina went to Provo with the Clements family. Some time soon after their arrival in Utah and after William could get the consent of his first wife, Mary Ann, he asked Christina to become his plural wife. She was hesitant, as she feared her father, who was not a member of the Church, might be opposed to her marrying in polygamy. William told her that her father was a broadminded, intelligent man, and would consent to their marriage. Further, William predicted that if Christina and he were married, her parents would move out to Utah. They wrote to the mother, who was a member of the Church, asking her to present the proposal to the father. His rely was “If Christina wants to marry President Palmer of her own free will, I will give my consent, as he is the most outstanding man we have seen her; but if she has been coerced into this marriage I will get her out of it if it takes my last drop of blood. We will sell our property here as soon as we can and move to Utah so we can help Christina if it is needed.” And so the consent of the parents was given, and William and Christina were married in the Endowment House, Salt Lake City, December 15, 1881.
William stayed home that winter until May 1, 1882, when he left for the mission field. An indication that mission presidents at that time had to finance themselves is shown in a diary entry of May 1st which reads:
“I had not enough money to get me a suit of clothes to carry me to my field of labor. I expected to borrow $25, but knew not when I could pay it back; but by going to President Taylor’s office I found a free pass over the U.P.R.R. sent by the company’s agent, Mr. Stebbins of Omaha, on recommendation of Brother James H. Hart, our emigration agent. This saved me $30 so I did not need to borrow.”
Under the date of My 16, 1882, is this diary entry: “Brother Wulffenstijn and I got a horse of Mr. Heath and a buggy of a Mr. Bradford, and came to Isanti to my wife Christina’s father, mother and brothers house. They welcomed me and were very kind to me. My wife’s mother belongs to the Church and is a faithful member, but her father and brother do not, but they all intend to go to Zion as soon as they can sell.: on august 6, President Palmer recorded: “I came after dark to my wife Christina’s folks. They welcomed me. They have sold out and will go with me to Utah this fall.” He was released to return home for the winter, and on October 17, 1882, left Omaha for Utah with 49 emigrants. Some of these were from Minnesota, but there is no mention in the diary of Christina’s folds being with them; however the following March 30, when he left again for the mission field, President Palmer recorded that his wife Christina remained with her parents in Aurora, Utah. Undoubtedly they were with the 49 emigrants the previous fall. On March 29, 1883, William purchased a farm of 30 acres at Aurora from Joseph Noble for $500 cash, which the Church appropriated for that purpose. Christina continued to live in Glenwood; 12 miles south of her parents home in Aurora, until the winter of 1886-87, when William built a house for her on their farm at Aurora. Her first three children were born in Glenwood: Helen Christina, July 26, 1883, John Melvin, December 24, 1884; and Willard Taylor, October 13, 1886. Willard died of pneumonia June 26, 1888 in Aurora. Soon after Willard’s death, Christina moved with two of her children to Salt Lake City where she lived incognito in a part of the City where she was not known, to avoid being arrested for polygamy under the federal anti-polygamy laws which the Mormons considered unconstitutional. While she was living in the exiled condition, her son, Asael Exile was born on November 26, 1888. The second name given this son was to commemorate the sacrifice his parents were making for a principle of their religion. The practice of performing plural marriages was discontinued two years later.
William Moroni Palmer was released as President of the North-western States Mission, and from his missionary calling on July 20, 1889. in a letter written to him by President Wilford Woodruff, giving him his release, President Wilford Woodruff praised him for his long, faithful, and effective labors and stared that one reason for the release was William’s poor health. A major weakness of William, among his many strong traits of character was his tendency to magnify in his own mind all his aches and pains. This trait remained with him throughout his later life. He suffered from hemorrhoids from the time of his early missionary days until his death, which undoubtedly was very annoying and painful, and may have caused him to magnify other indispositions. Dr. Steel of Minneapolis, Minnesota, removed the hemorrhoids in August 1882 and again by a doctor in Salt Lake City in January 1907, but they returned again each time. Frequently in his diary he recorded that he was not feeling well but he did not let this interfere with his missionary activities. He had one severe illness – an attack of malaria –, which was so severe that his life was despaired of for a time. This started September 10, 1885 and became so bad that Apostle Franklin D. Richards wired from Salt Lake City instructing two Elders to bring him home. Elder John C. Mellor and William Brown were appointed to accompany him, and they left September 17, arriving in Salt Lake City on the 20th. President Palmer remained under the care of Dr. Seymour b. Young, at the Frink home, until the 29th when he left for his home in Glenwood. He fully recovered, and returned to the mission field April 2, 1886.
About the time of William’s release from missionary activity, his wife Mary Ann left him, secured a divorce, and married Isaiah Huntsman. Mary Ann and Isaiah Huntsman had one child, a daughter they named Mary An, who died shortly after birth. Mary Ann also died at the time of this childbirth. The family knows little about the cause of the separation of William and Mary Ann, as it was not discussed in later years. Perhaps it was one of the fatalities of the difficult social situation that existed at that time, aggravated by Williams long absences form home. After Mary Ann’s death, Christina took Mary Ann’s four youngest children, Parley, Wilford, Delbert, and Marion, and raised them as her own. They and Christina’s children grew up together and hardly realized that they were not full brothers and sisters. Mary Ann’s oldest son, James, went to work on a sheep ranch at the age of 16, when his father and mother separated, and made his own way form then on. He visited home frequently, and often expressed to Christina his appreciation for her being such a good mother to his brothers. He went to Alberta with Parley and Delbert in 1902, and spent part of the summer there, but did not like the country, as there was so much rain that season, and returned to Utah. He married Jane Kennedy of Aurora, Utah in 1903, bought a farm there, and lived in Aurora the remainder of his life. James and Jane had a fine family of four girls: Ardene, Chloe, Belva, and Maydell and one boy, William. William is the only one of the Palmers still living in Aurora, where he is counsellor in the presidency of the North Sevier Stake of the LDS Church.
Charles and Don lived with their mother’s relatives for a time and then went to work on their own. They went to Jerome, Arizona, to work in the smeltering and their whereabouts were unknown to the others of the family for twenty years. They were finally found in Los Angeles where both were prosperous citizens – Charles had become an electrical engineer and Don a mining engineer. They also were engaged in mining development, and owned real estate. Both married. Charles had a daughter, Ruth (adopted, married name is Greenhall), and Don a daughter, Edythe (married name is Tyler). Charles died April 23, 1959 at 84 years and Don on March 21, 1957 at 79 years, both in Los Angeles.
William Moroni Palmer and all of his family, except James, Charles and Don, moved from Aurora, Utah, to Raymond, Alberta, Canada in March of 1903, arriving in Raymond March 27, 1903. Those who came to Raymond were the parents, William Moroni and Christina Helen Palmer, and sons and daughters: Parley P., Wilford W., Helen C., J. Melvin, Delbert, F. Marion, Asael e., Ada A., Leslie L., Glen C, and Arlo V. Christina’s father, Jonas O. Larson and her brother John and John’s family moved from Aurora to Raymond at the same time. Raymond was a new town, 18 months old, with a population of a bout 1000 people when the Palmers and Larson’s arrived. Theo only living accommodations they could secure were two rooms in an unfinished house Christopher Nilsson was building. They cooked and ate and the women and girls slept in these two rooms, while the men slept in other parts of the unfinished, large building. They lived in this house for about a month when each family secured a large Markee tent from the government immigration office in Lethbridge, and lived in these tents on land they purchased from the Canadian Northwest Irrigation Company, eight miles northwest of Raymond. Fortunately the weather was mild during April and early May so they were quite comfortable. However, on the 13th of May a storm developed which started as a heavy rain, and during the night turned into a severe blizzard with high north winds, which lasted for three days and left 18 inches of snow on the ground with drifts 6-8 feet high around the tent. The cattle and horses were running loose on the prairie and they drifted south with the storm fortunately y three horses, a cow and a calf were in a shed that had been built. Thus there was a cow to provide milk for the family and horses to ride in search of the lost animals after the storm. The cattle and horses were found 20 miles south of Milk River Ridge. All were recovered except one horse that was drowned in a lake, and six newborn calves that perished. No such May storm has been experienced since 1903. A house was built in Raymond that summer, and the parents with the girls and the three small boys lived there during the school year so the children could attend school. A one-room house had been built on the farm, and Melvin and Asael stayed there to care for the stock. The other older boys secured work in the neighborhood. Melvin contracted pneumonia and was taken to Raymond where he died January 2, 1904. Delbert, who was working for the Knight Ranching Co. in Milk River Ridge, took typhoid fever in late June, and died in early July 1904. Both Melvin and Delbert were 19 years old at the time of their deaths.
When the William Moroni Palmer family came to Raymond, they bough 500 acres of prairie land on a 10 years payment contract from the Canadian Northwest Irrigation Company, with the intention that all the boys would farm this together. With the deaths of Melvin and Delbert, however, and a total crop failure on dry land in 1904, together with insufficient capital to purchase the required horsepower and machinery, the older boys decided to work for themselves and the father sold all but 206 acres of the land, which he continued to operate.
Parley married Ella LeBaron and settle at Barnwell, Alberta where Ella’s mother and family lived. They had two daughters, Nellie (Gib) and Ruth (Lowry), and three sons, Edwin, Eldon and Lamar. (Names in brackets are the girls married names.) Parley died at the age of 79 years. Wilford worked at various places before going into business in Raymond where he lived the remainder of his life. He was killed in a collision between his car and a streetcar in Lethbridge in 1933, when he was 50 years old. Helen taught school one year in Lemington, Utah, before going to Alberta. She married John Hoarding on December 24, 1906. They lived on a homesteaded farm south of Taber, Alberta, had one son, William and two daughters, Iola (Layton) and Helen (Atwood). Helen died May 13, 1912, at the birth of her last daughter, Helen. Marion married Carrie Lee on December 24, 1906. They had seven daughters: Mary (Hurley), Mable (died in infancy), Zelda (Wooley), Maurine (Roy), Eva (Pengilly), Elaine (Clarke), and Ardell (Prosk); and three sons: Merril, Lee and Gerald. Marion and Carried secured a farm near Blackie, Alberta where all their children were born. Later they returned to Raymond where Carried died in 1956. Some year’s later Marion married Mrs. Rhoda Allred. He died May 26, 1969 at Raymond, at the age of 82.
Asael stayed at home and helped operate the farm until October 1913 when he left to take a degree course at the Utah Agricultural College. He married Maydell Cazier on October 5, 1916. They have two sons, Delbert an Byron, and two daughters, Camille (Hawkins and Eileen (Smith).
Ada has lived in Raymond all her life, where she married Clarence O’Brien on October 2, 1908. They had four daughters: Helen (Sabey), Marie (Matkin), Nova (Thomas), and Sylvia (died in infancy); and two sons: Delman and Clayton. Ada’s husband, Clarence died in 1922, and in 1957 she married Isaac Orgill.
Leslie remained at home and helped operate the farm until he was about 20 year sold, when he went on a two-year mission for the LDS Church. On his return, he rented the farm for a few years, and then became postmaster at Raymond. He married Florell Love on October 27, 1920. they had two sons, Lamont and Harrison and tree daughters: Mona (Macriss), Donna (Spackmann), and Geraldine (Ursenbach). Leslie died of a stroke on September 6. 1969, at the age of 72 years, having been predeceased by his wife, Florell a few months.
Glen remained at home and died of rheumatic fever March 11, 1915, at 16 years of age.
Arlo remained at home until he went on an LDS mission at the age of 19. He married Zina Heninger on December 9, 1926, and they had four daughters: Donna Jean (McLean), Norma (Blankanagel), Arlene (Smith), and Nancy (died in infancy); and two sons, Douglas and Glen. Arlo operated toe post office in Raymond for a time, then farmed at Wrentham, Calgary and Rosemary; he also operated the Rosemary Post Office. He died in his 54th year at Rosemary on September 21, 1955. Zina died in Salina, Utah, June 1, 1971.
William and Christina had a daughter, Margret Lucille, born at Raymond, April 20 1908. She died the same day.
The firs few years of the William Palmer family in Alberta were difficult financially because of the lack of experience in that particular type of farming, lack of operating capital, and loss of crops by drought and hail. However, they always had some income from the small herd of a bout 50 head of cattle, which pastured summer and winter on the open prairie. Some of the cows were milked during the summers, and butter and cheese were made and sold in Lethbridge. Pigs, chickens and white Peking ducks also brought in some revenue. Sixty acres of the farm were irrigated, so in the driest years there was a good garden and hay and feed grain for the livestock. The winter of 1905-06 was disastrous for the ranching industry, as the practice was to let the stock take care of themselves both summer and winter on the open prairie. That winter, snow came early and continued to pile up without the usual Chinooks to melt it. By New Year there was over a foot of snow, and as it was crusted the cattle could not get to the grass. Literally thousands of cattle starved or froze to death on the open range. In some localities 60% to 90% of the cattle perished. The Palmers had put up hay and by confining their cattle to a feed corral during January and early February, they had no losses. The very good crop years of 1915. 1916 and 1917 with high prices for grain, removed the financial stress.
After settling in Raymond, the family continued active in the LDS Church. William was appointed president of the Seventies Quorum and was in demand to speak at ward and stake meetings. He was sent as a missionary to outlying districts, such as Bow Island and Foremost on several occasions. He continued to be a forceful and inspirational speaker. About six months before his death, he accompanied his son Asael to a conference in the Claresholm Ward of the Lethbridge Stake, and spoke to a thrilled audience for half and hour.
On the morning of January 25, 1929, William awoke and asked Christina if she was going to get up and prepare breakfast. When the meal was ready, Christina went to tell William, and found that he had peacefully passed away. Thus, fifty days after his 82nd birthday ended the over eventful life of this great man, one of the Mormon Church’s outstanding missionaries. His last years with his devoted wife, whom he loved very dearly, were happy and contented ones. As old age approached, he looked forward with faith and assurance to an interesting, active, useful and so a happy eternal existence where he could use his gifts and powers to bring the unconverted to a knowledge and acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That he considered to be is destiny.
Christina lived 24 years after Williams passing. On the 26th of May 1953, shortly after her 91st birthday, she went to take her place beside him as his companion and helpmate in whatever would be their glory. With two such as these their station should be glorious.
PARENTAL PROGENTITORS OF WILLIAM MORONI PALMER
1. Abraham, born 4 December 1807 at Sherbourne, New York. Died 25 May 1875 at Fayette, Utah. Married Patience Delila PIERCE 10 July 1825
Children: (M) Isaac Pierce
(M) Luther M.M.
(M) John Quincy
(F) Ann Eliza
(F) Susan Charlotte
(M) Abraham P.
(M) James Albert
(M) Patience Delila
(M) William Moroni
(M) Hyrum Smith
2. Noah, born 9 February 1756 at Armenia, New York. Died September 1840 at Kingsbury, New York. Married Tirzah WHITNEY 18 September 1787
Children: (F) Submit
(M) Reuben W.
(F) Sarah Ann
3. Abraham, born 21 February 1723 at Armenia, New York. Died 1775 ti 1779. Married Abigail BULL or BUEHL 24 December 1747
Children: (M) Ebenezer
4. William, born 6 November 1694 at Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. Died about 1786. Married Rachel FOWLER of Providence, Rhode Island about 1718
Children: (F) Rachel
William, born about 1654 at Newton, Massachusetts. Died about 1724. Married Mary TYLER of Greenwich, Connecticut about 1693.
Children: (M) William
6. Lieutenant William Palmer, born about 1616. Died about 1660. Married Judith FEAKE about 1688.
NOTE: Lieutenant William Palmer’s birthplace or progenitors have not been found.