GEORGE L. PALMER, partially retired, although still living on his farm in Big Grove township, was born in Ontario, Wayne county, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario, November 12, 1832. He is a son of Rensselaer and Mary (Miller) Palmer, the former born at Granville, New York. Rensselaer Palmer came with his parents to Walworth, Wayne county, New York, when that section was a forest. His parents lived and died there, and Rensselaer also married in Wayne county, where he lived until his death in 1881, at the age of seventy-eight years. He served in various local offices and was a successful farmer. Mrs. Palmer was born in Russia, Herkimer county New York, and in her youth she removed with her parents to Wayne county, New York; she was married there, and they located in Ontario township. Mrs. Palmer died in 1890, at the age of eighty-four years. Rensselaer Palmer and his wife reared nine children, namely: Mary, who married Edward Pomeroy, resided in New York and died at Kansas City, November 9, 1899; George L.; Permelia, who married George Davis, and died February 21, 1892, at Valley Center, Kansas; Jonathan, a soldier in the Ninety-seventh New York Infantry, Company D, and was killed at the battle of the Wilderness, leaving a widow; Lorenzo, who died July 8, 1907, at Lakeside, New York; Oliver II., who died July 21, 1891, at Lakeside, New York; Oscar, of Union Hill, New York, served in the Eighth New York Calvary, Company B; Addie died March 26, 1865, at the age of eighteen years, the first death among the children; and Frank, residing at Orange, California, is married and has a family. Oscar is a veteran of the Civil war, having served in the New York Cavalry, and was badly wounded at the evacuation of Richmond.
George L. Palmer was reared in the state of New York and received a liberal education. He taught school in New York and two terms in Benton county, Iowa. However, his life work has been farming, in which he has been very successful. He owns three hundred and sixty acres in sections 10, 11, 14 and 15, Big Grove township. He came to Benton county in the spring of 1855, and in the fall of that year brought his wife and began keeping house. He located first in sections 14 and 15, and first built a cabin home, a semi-dugout, with four feet under the ground, three logs high on the back and boarded in the front, with a shed roof, ten by fourteen feet. It was one of the first homes on the prairie, and was boarded up inside and floored. He and his wife had very meager fittings and furniture, and began life in true pioneer style. They had a little money and he made most of their first furniture. He bought out a claim holder, and secured a quarter-section of prairie and a timber lot, to which he added as he was able. Their first market was Iowa City, although Cedar Rapids was quite a trading point. Grain and produce were floated down the river from Vinton to Cedar Rapids. Later in 1865, he sold out his land in Iowa and returned to New York state for a visit, just after the Civil war. He started again for the west, spent some time in Michigan, and then went to Kansas, where he spent one summer. He then decided to return to Benton county, Iowa, and purchased his present home. He has made many improvements, and has substantial buildings and modern conveniences. He is well known in the community, where he has a good standing among his fellow-citizens.
Politically Mr. Palmer has always been a Republican; he was the first supervisor elected from Big Grove township, and served one term.
Mr. Palmer married, January 7, 1855, in Wayne county, New York, Mary M. Smith, who was born in that county September 10, 1833; she died at the home farm in Benton county, Iowa, January 26, 1885. She was a daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth (Herendean) Smith, old settlers at Walworth, where they died. She was of Quaker descent. During the winter of 1856-7 Mrs. Palmer taught a subscription school near their home, which was the second term, of school taught in Big Grove township; there had then been no public fund for schools. She taught in the same district during the winter of 1858-9. Mr. Palmer and his wife became the parents of five children, of whom three survive, namely: Byron S., Willis W. and Jessie. Rensellaer, who was born in Benton county, was accidentally killed in Michigan when nearly eight years old. Byron S., who was born in Benton county, resides in the state of New York, althought he has business interests in Chicago; he married Jennie Carman, and they have two children, George T. and Irene. Willis W. was born in Benton county and runs the home farm; he married Emma Huston, and they have one son living — Gerald, besides one son, Paul R., who died in infancy. W. W. Palmer owns a half-interest in the home farm in Big Grove township, where he makes his home. Jessie married Charles Sebern, for years a merchant of Vinton and now agent for a concert company; they reside in Vinton, and have three daughters, Mary Gail, Charlene and Jean Evelyn.
Picture of George Palmer