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N E W E N G L A N DE R.
GEN. Joseph PALMER was born March 31st, 17—, at Higher Abbotsrow, in the parish of Shaugh, in the county of Devon, in Great Britain. His mother's maiden name was Pearse, of the Pearses of Fardell Mill in the parish of Cornwood, in the same county. Both families were of unblemished reputation, and though not opulent, were independent. He was a man of good education and fine manners, and emigrated to America in the year 1746, bringing with him the late venerable and highly respected Judge Richard Cranch, then a youth of twenty years old. Mr. Palmer had married the sister of Mr. Cranch, (Mary Cranch, of Brood, in the parish of Ermington, Devonshire.) Mrs. Palmer was a woman of distinguished excellence, with a richly cultivated mind; and when the young couple embarked for this western world, she was as blooming and lovely, as she was intelligent. Mr. Palmer was wealthy when he emigrated, and he purchased a large tract of land in the town of Braintree, which he named Germantown, because he found a number of Germans settled on it, whom he took
* A large part of the materials of this memoir were collected by Mr. Charles S. Palmer, a fo grandson of Gen. P. - - 1
into his employ. He expended large sums in an attempt to erect this town, where he established several manufactories; chocolate mills, spermaceti works, glass works, and a salt manufactory, in which were made common salt, medicinal salts, and saltpetre. He erected a noble house for his own residence, but just as it was finished, and the cellars stored with provisions, a vicious boy whom he had punished for theft and lying, set it on fire. It was night; nothing effectual could be done, and before the dawn of next day, this fine structure was in ruins. This was his first pecuniary loss. He soon erected another large and commodious dwelling upon the site of the first one, and surrounded it with all the comforts that make a country residence delightful. A beautiful orchard of his own planting, stretched from the back of his house to the shores of a little bay on which his farm was located. This orchard contained two or three acres, which, with a fruit garden, a nursery of trees, a large poultry yard, and an exquisite flower garden, successively caught and charmed the eye, as it ranged over the cultivated grounds, which the enterprising owner hoped to see enlarged into a settlement of free and independent artisans and
manufacturers. Subsequent events defeated his projects with respect to this settlement. He lived here, however, before and after the revolutionary troubles commenced, more like an old fashioned English country gentleman, than any one beside has ever done amongst us. For his enterprise and activity were even surpassed by his philanthropy and benevolence. While he was surrounding his handsome residence with all the comforts and beauties which his easy fortune and refined taste enabled him to do with facility; furnishing a well chosen and somewhat extensive library, and enjoying the pleasant neighborhood of the Quincys, Cranches and Adamses, he threw wide open the door of a general hospitality. This place in the course of time came to be known under the name of Friendship Hall, and it well deserved the title. Six maiden ladies found a home in his house, cherished as sisters. Two by the name of Leffington were utterly poor. One by the name of Ferno, afterwards married a respectable Boston merchant. Miss Eunice Paine, sister of Robert Treat Paine, distinguished then, and by many remembered now, for uncommon worth, a vigorous intellect and cultivated mind, when she first became a member of his family, had an income of her own, which enabled her to live independently, and she chose this home, where she found congeniality of taste and feeling, in preference to her brother's house. In subsequent years, public and private events, fraud and injustice, left her destitute of money, and wholly dependent on Gen. Palmer. But it continued to her the same happy home. The same handsome apartment, tender nursing, (for she was an invalid,) and devoted attention were hers, as when she had wealth at command; until the persecuted family of her friends was, in its turn thrown houseless on the charities of the world.
Gen. Palmer, with all his sentiment and imagination, was an eminently practical man. Never closing his heart against those whom Providence saw fit to subject to the heavy trial of poverty and the misconception of society, he saw that many worthy persons were driven to despair, by the absolute impossibility, which occurs often in the midst of flourishing society, to obtain employment; unless aided by the countenance and purse of some respectable friend. By becoming that friend, at the moment when hope and despair were contending for victory in the sensitive and inexperienced but honest and noble heart, he established many young people in useful and lucrative employments. From the time of Mr. Palmer's arrival in America, till the year 1770, he lived with his family in the successful prosecution of his business, in Boston and Germantown, and in the quiet enjoyment of all those conveniences and elegances with which his ample means had surrounded him. During this period of his life, nothing occurred of sufficient interest to the public to justify any extended notice. In the fall of 1770, Mr. Palmer went to England, for the benefit of his health, worn down by his excessive activity. With his English relations he had always kept up a lively correspondence, which continued even through the revolutionary times, many of them ardently sympathizing with his political views. While in London his portrait, a steel engraving of which embellishes this number, was taken by the celebrated Copley, and sent to his family at Germantown. An anecdote, illustrating the perfection of this painting and the exactness of the likeness, and which has been made to garnish a tale in one of our annuals, where it is told as pertaining to a fictitious personage, deserves to be repeated here, as it is characteristic of the man to whom it relates. The portrait arrived at the family mansion while he was yet absent, and was placed on the floor in the hall, and the workmen engaged in the several manufactories, to whom he was a father and friend rather than a master, were summoned by his family to contemplate the excellent likeness. While his family were contemplating the honest delight of the men, a favorite cat, which Gen. Palmer was in the habit of letting sit on his shoulder in domestic hours, came into the room. She walked directly to the picture and attempted to climb upon the shoulder. Being reflected by the glass, (it was a crayon painting,) she went behind the frame, in order as it would seem, to get up on his back, as she often did on that of the original. This trifling circumstance touched every heart, and in a moment, wife, children, friends and servants, were bathed in tears, a tribute alike to the excellence of the artist, and the loveliness of the man he had caused to live by his pencil.
In the letters of Gen. Palmer to his friends in England, there was a constant expression of interest in the political questions of the day, during several years. The first allusion to the subject which we find in his own hand, appears in a note to his wife, dated Boston, 1773.
Dear Madam—I have only time to send the paper of the day, and to say that Palfrey has sent word from Philadelphia, that a tea ship has arrived there with a consignee on board, and that the people would not suffer him to land, and have allowed him only six hours to prepare for his return to London. The above I suppose is true; but I have not had time to enquire more particularly. All well; adieu,
When the tea arrived in Boston, Mr. Palmer was for the most summary measures, and his son, Mr. Joseph Pearse Palmer, was among
the Indians who threw the tea into Boston harbor. The following account of the affair was taken down from the lips of the widow of the latter by a friend, a few years before her death, which occurred in 1838. “In the month of November, 1773, one evening about 10 o'clock, I was sitting rocking my baby in the cradle, when I heard the gate and door open. I supposed my husband was just returning from his club, and so I opened the parlor door, and there stood three stout looking Indians! I screamed, and should have fainted of very fright, had I not recognized my husband's voice, saying, “don’t be frightened, Betsey, it is I. We have only been making a little salt water tea.” His two companions were Foster Candy and Stephen Bruce. Soon after this secretary Flucher called upon my husband and said to him, “Joe, you are so obnoxious to the British government, that you had better leave town. You can take your personal property, but none of your goods.” Accordingly we left town, and went to live in part of my father's house in Watertown.” From the same source we gather the following incidents connected with the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill. “On the night of the 18th of April, 1775, I heard the drum beat. I awoke Mr. Palmer and said, ‘My dear, I hear the drum.” He was out of bed with the rapidity of a bullet from a gun, and while he was dressing, his father entered and said, “My son, we must ride. I have received an express. Three men lie dead at Lexington.” My husband was off in an instant. I entreated the old gentleman not to go; but he would not stay. He told me, that probably there would be another brigade along soon, and that I had better remove out of the way. They had their horses ready saddled and their pistols loaded in the barn; for they expected some sudden alarm. They were off immediately,