This column begins with a man named Truman Fayette Palmer Sr. He was educated at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., in preparation for the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Truman Sr. was assigned to the Fort Wayne District. In 1850, after serving four years as a member of the Methodist Conference, he was transferred to the LaPorte District at Orland, in Steuben County.
Truman Sr. would die at Orland in 1851 at the age of 31. After the death of Truman Sr., the family unit consisted of mother Plumea, daughter Emma (only 1½) and 10-day-old Truman Jr.
Plumea (Perry) Palmer was born in Stansted, Canada, on Nov. 18, 1822. Her parents, Luke and Irene (Patrick) Perry, were both natives of Vermont and were of English and English-Irish extraction.
Plumea began teaching school in 1840 and later in Waterford N.Y. Plumea would teach at Meadville, Crawford Co., Pa., for seven years. She married Rev. Truman Palmer in Meadville in 1847. In the fall of 1847, she united with the Indiana Methodist Episcopal Conference in Allen County.
After the death of her husband, Plumea moved to South Bend, where she first taught in a private school, then for a year in the graded school as well as the local academy. In the fall of 1852, she moved with her son and daughter to Burnettsville, where she continued in her profession.
Plumea taught at various graded schools in White County. Plumea also taught in Clinton, Thorntown and other locations for 24 years while maintaining a home for her children. She also taught at Lockport in Carroll County.
Her final teaching assignment was at Burnettsville in 1879. Her goal was to educate and foster her children whereby they could become productive and good citizens within their community. Plumea never faltered in her duty.
Plumea, a gifted writer, was obviously very intelligent. She was a frequent contributor of articles appearing in The Ladies Repository, a monthly periodical devoted to literature, art and religion published from 1841 to 1876 by the Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference.
Plumea also belonged to the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society since its founding in 1877 and had served as president.
Plumea would die May 22, 1900, at her home in Burnetts Creek. She is noted as being one of the early pioneers of White County and, at the time, one of the oldest residents in the area. She had been an invalid for several months prior to her death.
Upon her death, the Burnettsville Methodist Church published the following record about Plumea: “She has woven her noble influence into the lives and character of more people in this community than anyone who has ever lived in it.”
Plumea is buried in the Davis Cemetery outside of Burnettsville.
Plumea’s daughter, Emma Jane, was born near Fort Wayne on July 8, 1849. Emma was educated at home, at the Burnettsville Academy, and academies at Thorntown and Clinton. Emma completed her schooling with three additional certificates of completion under the direction of the Chautauqua adult education movement in the United States. This was highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Emma was married in September 1866 to Samuel F. Ball. The marriage was severed in 1868. To this union was born a son, George F. Palmer, who moved to Deseronto, Canada, and became a grocer. George would retain his mother’s maiden name.
Emma’s career was a teacher in the schools of White County, both before and after her marriage. Her last nine years of teaching were at Monticello.
Emma was compelled to give up her teaching in the public schools due to her severe hearing loss. After leaving the teaching profession, she was engaged in musical instruction up until her death on July 29, 1919, from pernicious anemia. Her death was at the home of her brother, Truman, where she had been bedfast since June 3.
Emma was a voracious and thorough reader that covered the best of classic literature. Musically, she never attained the highest skill level but her musical technique and understanding of musical science brought her acclaim and she was able to impart this knowledge to her pupils through disciplined instruction. Her work with students was conscientious, thorough, and attested to by her many students.
Emma is buried in the Davis Cemetery outside of Burnettsville.
Our final family member that we will explore today is that of Truman Fayette Palmer Jr.
Truman was born April 7, 1851, in the town of Orland, which is located in Steuben County. As noted earlier, his father died 10 days after Truman Jr. was born. Truman was indebted to his mother for her nurturing and unrelenting quest for continued education which propelled Truman and his sister to become successful.
As a boy, Truman first attended the school taught by his mother; afterwards was a student for two years at the Battle Ground Collegiate Institute, and later spent nine months at the Farmer’s Institute at Clinton.
Truman also attended the Institute at Crown Point. He then completed the course of study in the Law Department at Indiana University, graduating in 1872.
After graduation, Truman did not practice law immediately. Rather, Truman would become a teacher in the local school. In 1875, Truman was appointed deputy county clerk at Monticello. It was as a clerk that he acquired a practical knowledge of court proceedings.
At a young age, he became skilled in keeping the records in trial court, where he gained considerable knowledge. It was in 1879 that he entered his own law practice and took his place among the practitioners at the White County Bar.
In March 1881, he formed a law partnership with attorney Milton M. Sill. In 1889, the legal firm of Palmer and Sill was dissolved.
Truman was well read in the principles of the law and was familiar with the statutes and report forms of pleading and the overall practice of judicial responsibilities.
Truman was known as a careful observer and student of law. He was alert and ambitious and wanted to succeed. Truman was known for making a client’s cause his own and fought for every right and interest.
For the next 15 years, he was retained in important litigation in the area. Truman was known for his honesty and courtesy to other members of the bar. He was not lured away from the practice of law by political pursuits.
Only once was he a candidate and this as elector for Republican James G. Blaine’s presidential run in 1884. Blaine lost and Grover Cleveland became President.
In November 1886, Truman married Bell Marsh, the daughter of Dillion Marsh, of Idaville. The marriage produced one child, Hilda, born in February 1888.
As a trial lawyer, you may recall the column detailing the 1884 infanticide murder charges against Mattie Small and Florence White. Palmer was the defense attorney.
Palmer also defended Ed Chamberlain’s murder of Ida Wittenberg in the 1888 Reynolds case where Palmer and Sill were the two lawyers.
In 1894, Truman was elected as the nominee for the Republican ticket as judge of the Thirty-Ninth Circuit, comprising of White and Carroll counties. In White County, the majority vote was larger than any previous candidate in the history of the court. It was a blowout!
He won with a 400 vote plurality. His opponent was White County Judge Alfred Reynolds. Prior to the election, Truman’s law partner was Charles C. Spencer.
On December 3, 1894, when Judge Palmer opened the court after the election, the Monticello Herald wrote the following:
“Court opened Monday morning with as little confusion as if there had been no such thing as an election during the vacation. Judge Palmer made no inaugural address but proceeded immediately to calling the docket and disposed of probate business. His manner did not indicate that he was new at the business or in any degree embarrassed by his new position. He seems anxious to show impartial courtesy to all members of the bar, and if we are not mistaken he will administer the business of the court in a way that will disarm criticism.”
Commenting upon service as a special judge outside his circuit, a local newspaper stated: “It is seldom that an outside judge has given such complete satisfaction to members of the bar, jurors and litigants, witnesses and the general public as Judge Palmer. His never failing patience and courtesy; the promptness, fairness and evident correctness of his rulings and decisions were subjects of universal commendation.”
Judge Palmer would serve two terms as judge of the Thirty-Ninth Judicial Circuit. The former judge would serve as president of the Indiana State Bar Association in 1904-05.
Judge Palmer would die July 16, 1922, at age 71, from malarial fever and other health issues.
What is a little unusual is that he has two tombstones. There is a stone in Riverview Cemetery where he was actually buried and another in the Davis Cemetery outside of Burnettsville. The inscription on the Davis Cemetery stone states: “Truman Palmer; 1851-1922; Resting at Monticello.”
I would agree with Judge Palmer’s assessment of his mother. It was Plumea’s guidance and undying energy while raising her two children under extreme conditions that resulted in stellar careers and citizens of White County.
This is truly an amazing historical family and a tribute to a wonderful mother.