FRANCIS E. PALMER, veteran Iowa educator, has since 1918
been superintendent of the Iowa State School for the Blind at Vinton. He
comes of a family of educators, both his parents having been school
teachers. His son, Eber L. Palmer, by an interesting coincidence, is
superintendent of the public schools at Vinton.
Francis E. Palmer has devoted forty-two years of his life to school
work. For two years he conducted a small private school near Grinnell.
This was a school attended by pupils from the rural neighborhoods and
his salary was twenty-six dollars a month. Mr. Palmer was superintendent
of schools at Spirit Lake, Guthrie Center, Greenfield, Villisea,
Jefferson, LeMars and Mason City, and then was called by the state board
of education to the duties and
responsibilities of the Iowa State School for the blind.
He is a native of Iowa, born September 24, 1863, on a farm located half
way between Cascade and Monticello, in Jones County. His parents,
Stephen A. and Angeline (BEnnett) Palmer, were Iowa pioneers. Stephen A.
Palmer was born in New York State, thirty miles from Rochester, and his
wife, Angeline Bennett, was a native of Ohio. They first met while both
were students in Oberlin College of Ohio. Angeline Bennett taught school
near Wadsworth in her native
state. Before his marriage Mr. Palmer's father moved to Janesville,
Wisconsin, and a year later, in 1853, came to Iowa, with his bride,
locating in Jones County. At that time there were no railroads west of
the Mississippi, and for his first home in Jones County Stephen Palmer
hauled lumber thirty miles from Dubuque. That was a tremendous
undertaking when the condition of the roads and highways are considered.
At the present time over the modern Iowa highway system a truckload of
lumber could be run out from Dubuque, thirty miles, in an hour's time,
whereas seventy-five years ago a team of horses or oxen in the most
favorable season of the year could accomplish such a trip in not less
than ten hours. Stephen A. Palmer after coming to Iowa volunteered his
service in the Union army, but was rejected, though he satisfied his
patriotism by serving as jamor in a regiment of Home Guards.
From Jones County the family subsequently moved to a farm two and a half
miles east of Grinnell, this move being made to give the children better
school advantages. There were eleven children in the family. Stephen
Palmer was an Iowa farmer when corn sold for from fifteen to twenty
cents a bushel and hogs were taken to the market and brought only two
dollars a hundred. He lived to be eighty years of age, passing away in
1917, and his wife died in 1894. The family were Methodists.
Francis E. Palmer while a boy came under the influence of a noted Iowa
pioneer educator, Barrett Whittemore. He attended school in Grinnell and
after graduating from Grinnell College received some special training in
the Soper School in Chicago. As a young man he majored in the classical
languages. Along with his practical work as an educator he has filled
various offices in educational organizations, having been president of
both the Southwest and the Northwest Iowa Teachers Association, is a
former vice president of the Iowa State Teachers Association and for
three years was on its executive committee. Mr. Palmer during the World
war was a member of the Speakers Bureau, active in the Y. M. C. A., and
Red Cross drives. He is a Republican and for many years has been active
in the Methodist Church, serving on the board of stewards and as a
leader in Sunday School.
Mr. Palmer married, in 1893, Miss May Lenon, daughter of Capt. P. H. and
Emma (Baxley) Lenon. She was born at Panora, Guthrie County, was
educated at Guthrie Center and taught school there. Her father came from
Indiana and her mother from Illinois. Mr. and Mrs. Palmer have had two
children, Lorna and Eber L. Both graduated from Grinnell College, and at
the time of her death, in October, 1918, Lorna was instructor of piano
at the School for the Blind.
~ source: A Narrative History of The People
of Iowa, Edgar Rubey
Harlan, LL. B., A. M.,
Chicago and New York, 1931
~ transcribed and contributed by: Debbie Clough
Gerischer, Iowa History