Thomas Palmer History

(The author of the following narrative is unknown. Robert C. Neel found it in 2001 among some papers he had earlier collected)

Thomas Palmer was born 10 Jan, 1820, in Slough Berkshire, Parish of Windsor, England. He was one of eleven sons born to William and Sarah (Bannister) Palmer. He was reared and trained in the Church of his father.

While a young man, he heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Mormon Elders and being a God fearing young man he believed and was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church 29 April 1847 by Elder Thomas Smith in Leamington, Worchester, England. For this he was driven from his home, disowned by his family and ridiculed by his friends. His mother was instrumental in driving him out of town and he never saw any of his people again.

He was marred to Ann Smith, who was also a convert, in England. They moved to Cheltenham, (Gloustershire?) England, where their only child Ann Eliza was born 10 April 1848.

The spirit of gathering was very strong among the converts and especially in Thomas & Ann’s humble little home. He began saving for that purpose and in the year 1855 their desire was granted. They sailed from Liverpool, England on the ship “Charles Buck, under the direction of Richard Ballintyne, on Wednesday 17 January 1855 with 403 other saints. They arrived in New Orleans about 14 March and in Saint Louis, 17 March.

Mormon Grove near Atchins, Kansas was selected for the outfitting of the Saints that year and eight companies with 337 wagons began their journey to the Great Salt Lake Valley and a home.

They had a long, hard journey before them but their faith was strong as they walked beside their wagon they were happy and grateful for the blessings which were in store for them. A short distance from Fort Laramie an Indian attack took place and orders were given to corral and get fire arms. While obeying orders, a gun was accidently discharged and the wife and mother Ann (Smith) Palmer was fatally wounded. Being unable to travel with his dying wife, he and his little daughter, Ann Eliza were forced to go to Fort Laramie for aid and protection. They were treated badly by the soldiers. The doctor would render no assistance and would not give the dying woman a cup of tea., because they were only damned Mormons. She died and Thomas and his little girl, Ann, were forced to bury their loved one alone. He wove a basket of willows and after wrapping her in their only blanket placed her in the basket. He dug the shallow grave and the little girl helped by pushing the basket in. He dedicated the grave and covered it in. This was their first sad experience in the new land of freedom.

Thomas Palmer had a dream or a vision before leaving England in which he was privileged to see this very accident and hear the very words that were spoken to him at the Fort. At the time of the shooting he was some distance away from the wagon helping care for the animals and when he heard the shot and a scream he knew what had happened and went at once to his wagon.

He remained at Fort Laramie that winter, continuing his journey to Salt Lake the following year. Before leaving the Fort he became a very good friend to the soldiers and they desired him to remain with them. Some of them visited him later in his home, and when they met him years later in Salt Lake City they were so glad to see him that they actually embraced him.

At the time of Johnson Army siege, Thomas was one of the men left in Salt Lake to destroy it if Johnson’s army came.

He was married to Frances Stockings or Starkings in Salt Lake in 1856. She was a widow of Mr. Roberts who was killed doing some finishing work on the Salt Lake Temple and the Endowment House.

They were blessed with four children: William Charles (born 30 Nov 1857), Thomas (born 5 Jun 1859), Francis born [not given in article], John (born 1May 1862-died Oct 1931).

While living in Salt he was an ardent Church worker. President John Taylor whom he visited as a ward teacher gave him the name of "The son of the benevolent."

In 1859, he was asked by President Young to accompany Brother Jessie Haven into Morgan county and to help colonize that part of the state. He willingly did this, taking his little family and what modest household furniture they possessed in a wagon drawn by an ox team. He located in Enterprise; building a log house without windows and a dirt floor and roof, between the Weber River and where the Union Pacific railroad have their tracks. Later moved upon the highway for protection.

He cleared the sage brush away and made a small clearing so he could raise food for his family. For several weeks at a time he did not have anything made of flour, but lived on weeds, meat, and anything he was able to raise.

Excerpts from Diary of Richard Ballantyne

Leader of the Ballantyne Pioneer Company, 1855

(Ballantyne, Richard, Diaries and reminiscences, 1852-1896, box 1, fd. 3, vol. 6.)

(July) Monday 30th

During the afternoon there was a Lame Ox brought into camp belonging to bro Buchadner [Buckwalter] [of] Capt Hindleys Company but being unable to travel he [the ox] was shot and Butcherd by Elder W[illia]m Kent and served out for the benefit of the camp Died and Buried this Day Joseph Hutchinson [Hutchison] ag[e]d 10 Days son of David and [Agnes Nish Hutchison.] (NB. Interesting that the Ballantyne company with the Palmers traveled near the Hindley company, in which future in-laws, the Neels, emigrated to Utah)

Thursday August 16

Met for Prayer and Sung the first hymn[.] Prayer by Elder William Kent[.] Camp Moved out at a 1/4 before 9 A.M. Met with President Ballentyne [Ballantyne] at Laramie & encamped at Noon[.] about 2 Mile[s] above Laramie the Captain of the Guard ordered all the spare men who were not driving and had Gun[s] to take them and walk before the Camp[.] a Little after we had Carrelled [corraled] about 1 hundred Lodgers of the Ch[e]yen[n]e Indians who were on there way to Laramie to Receive presents from the Indians Agent pass'd by our Camp But Most of the Males Came in to Camp[.] at the time the Indians where at one Camp the Brethren Stood Guard round these Waggons Mostly With there guns Loaded, Josiah Knowlden , was standing Beside Bro [Thomas] Palmer's Waggon But I would here Remark that at Se[e]ing the Indians he half Cock'd his Gun, but afterwards Trying to Put down the Hammer his thumb being Wet at the time the Hammer Slip'd and the Gun Went off shooting Sister [Ann] Palmer in the knee[.] she was immediately Taken to Laramie in President Ballantyne['s] Waggon in order to obtain Surgical Aid[.] this unfortunate Accident causd the Camp to Tarry the Remainder of the day[.] about 10 P.M. Bro Palmer returned from Laramie informing us that he had made arrangements with the Colonel of the Garrison for Sister Palmer to Remain there for the time being and attain the Assistance of the Surgeon.

Sunday Aug 26th

Morning Prayer Being offer'd up by elder Gardner and the Saints [.ower] Sung Praise Yea [Ye] the Lord[.] [Camp] Mov'd out and commenced to Cross the River at the Upper ford about 1/2 p[ast] 8 A.M. and at 10 A.M. all our Waggons were Safely across and travel'd untill 5 P.M. Over Very long Steep hills the Road being very bad and Very Sandy in Places[.] Encamp'd for the Night on the Platt[e] River about a Y mile above Elder Thirsten's [Moses Thurston's] Company[.] about 8 P.M. Camp Met to Partake of the Sacrament after Which Some good instructions were Given by Elder [William] Glover [and] Thirstin [Thurston.] Previous to dismissing and when the Saints Were Singing Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, the Mail from the States on its way to Salt Lake Pass'd by our Camp and Stopt for the Night about 1/2 a Mile above us Bearing the sad News that Sister Palmer whom we had left at was dead [sic]

Tuesday Septr 25th

Met for Morning prayer. Sung Come let us anew our Journey Pursue[.] Prayer by elder Ballantyne after Which Presidants Snow and Ballantyne address'd the Saints for a Short time[.] the Camp then Moved out at a 1/2 before 9 Came over the Little Mountain and Encamp'd on the Public Square Great S[al]t Lake City at 6 P. M. In good health and first rate Spirits


Excerpts from "Our Pioneer Heritage, In Their Own Words"

Page 266-7 (Another description of the death of Ann Palmer from a member of the Ballantyne company)

"There were eleven accidents on the trip. Eight run over, 3 shot, 5 died. Feed was very poor on the plains that year. Lots of cattle lay down and died for lack of feed and when we came to Fort Laramie, we met about 500 Cheyenne Indians. Captain [Richard Ballantyne Company of 1855] Ballentine called every man to show us his gun and keep along side of the wagons as guards to the company. When we camped for noon, they came in crowds as it were, begging for sugar, flour, and trading." While they was all around camp one of the brethren, a young man, was standing with a gun in his hand, playing with it. The gun went off and shot sister Palmer in the knee, shattering her knee all to pieces. This caused a great excitement both with our people and with the Indians. They got on their horses and prepared for battle in a moment, but when they got to understand what was the matter, they came into camp and seemed to feel sorry at the accident. The poor woman was taken back to Laramie and she suffered terrible. They cut her leg off above the knee but they had to cut above again and again and she finally died. This caused a sad feeling in the company as she was a beautiful singer and the life of the camp. Some of the company had the cholera, buried 32 in 2 days. Those were days of trial to some while others came singing songs of everlasting joy and this was the travels in those days. After we came to Sweet Water, we had a stampede in the day time. sixteen wagons all running, breaking wheels, tongues and however in about half day all was repaired and we moved along..."