His birth in Callington, Cornwall was registered in Liskeard district civil records as “Frederick Orlando Palmer” in June 1844, the fifth child of Walter Palmer and Mary Blaney, daughter of Pearce Blaney.1 The 1851 English census found his family living at 82 Fore Street in Callington, his father listed as a butcher.
Emigration to North America
An aunt had emigrated to Canada in the 1830s, followed by his older brother Walter in 1848. A few years later his father Walter Palmer left Cornwall and brought his family to North America. It isn’t known where they landed initially, but they arrived in the U.S. in 1854.2 By 1855 Frederick’s father and stepmother were settled near High Point in Guilford County, North Carolina where his older brother managed a gold mine. Frederick, who was barely more than ten years old at the time, must have lived in North Carolina for a while but where he was educated is unknown. The 1860 census found his teenage sister Louise attending school in New York City and we know that she later attended college in New York as well; it’s possible that Frederick was also educated there. Unfortunately, there is no sign of him or his parents in the 1860 United States census.
Settlement in Zacatecas, Mexico
He may have been in Mexico when the 1860 census was taken. His older brother Walter Palmer was living in Zacatecas, Mexico by 1856 and remained there for several years before leaving for California in the mid-1860s. When Frederick Palmer arrived in Mexico is uncertain but he married there, perhaps in Guerrero, about 1865 and the birth of his second child was recorded in Zacatecas in September 1867.
Frederick probably left Mexico temporarily about that time . His brother Walter and sister Louise were both living in San Francisco and his sister Ellen, who had just been widowed, was living in Dayton, Nevada just south of Virginia City.
A single record suggests that he was either in California or Nevada in 1868. A book about the early days of the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company, which was founded in mid-1868, mentions an early decision when “Frederick O. Palmer ‘and his friend’ each insured for $5,000 requested that they might be allowed to reside in the city of Zacatecas, Mexico”3 The request was granted in exchange for an additional premium of $25 per year. At that time the company had fewer than a half-dozen agents but one was in Virginia, Nevada and another in San Francisco, both locations near Frederick’s siblings. Incidentally, the Pacific Life company was founded by Leland Stanford whose wealth would later establish and endow the university in Palo Alto named for his son.
The same source mentions that about 1873 Pacific Mutual attempted unsuccessfully to establish a presence in Mexico, only managing to obtain a few insurance applications secured by their agent Frederick O. Palmer in Zacatecas.4
Wherever he was in 1868, Frederick and his sister Louise had both returned to Zacatecas by early 1869 perhaps traveling together. Frederick Palmer’s third child was born in Zacatecas in April 1869 and a few months later Louise Palmer married there to Samuel Heaven.
Mining in Zacatecas
Zacatecas had been an important mining center for centuries after fabulously rich veins of silver were discovered in 1546 by Juan de Tolosa. Zacatecas city, the highest point between El Paso and Mexico City, was founded near the silver mines in 1548 and grew quickly enough to be declared a city in 1586 by the Spanish king. By the turn of the nineteenth century its annual silver production was estimated to be between 150 and 200 tons. The nineteenth century insurrections that led to Mexican independence caused mining production to fluctuate with the rise and fall of nearby military activity. In 1859 when Jesús González Ortega seized control the political climate stabilized somewhat and Zacatecas was under the control of various strongmen for the next few decades, making it a bit more attractive for ambitious miners. Around 1875, though, silver production began a slow decline due to reduced ore quality and exacerbated by a lengthy drought that thinned the equine labor force. By the 1890s most of its mines had shut down and the population of Zacatecas had dropped by nearly two-thirds.
Frederick Palmer was associated with the silver mines there, although very little was uncovered of his life in Zacatecas owing to the difficulty of researching Mexican records. Only a few mentions of him were found in old books and periodicals. They refer to him as both a mining engineer and a mine owner.
By 1892, if not long before, he was the owner of the Parroquia mine, which was located just two miles northwest of Zacatecas city along the Magistral-Parroquia silver vein. 5 A series of articles in 1907-1908 regarding that mine confirms his longtime ownership. 6 The Magistral-Parroquia vein, along which were several mines, was unusual in that it contained a useful amount of copper as well as silver. In 1908 the Magistral-Parroquia mines were said to be producing nearly 1500 tons of copper ore per month while the entire district was shipping fewer than 600 tons of silver ore. Frederick Palmer’s 1901 letter (see below) commented that his Parroquia copper mine was “going along nicely and about as usual.”
In 1890 he founded a mining and mercantile company called Palmer Brothers, perhaps referring to his sons, two of whom were adults by then.7
One article quotes a nineteenth century worker’s representative named Don Francisco Torres,: “…A hacienda had been named San Bernabé [where] there was activity and bustle; a hundred workers… I knew the staff that provided those services; People in general, far removed from vices, willingly and diligently worked, and therefore, provided effective cooperation to the patron Don Federico Palmer, of English origin, who was soon rich from that hacienda.”8
After his death, a mining journal mentioned the Parroquia mine : “belonging to the estate of the late Frederick Palmer, now managed by Captain Barrett, is making good production. The estate has also acquired the Magistral group and other adjacent properties.” 9
Marriage to Rosa Maria Julia Bodmer (c1847-1904) about 1865
Frederick Palmer probably married Rosa Bodmer about 1865, when he was 21 and she was barely 16; their first child Walter Carlos Palmer was born about 1865 or 1866. No birth record for that child was uncovered, so it isn’t clear whether he was born in Guerrero or Zacatecas or elsewhere. The first record of Frederick and Rosa in Zacatecas is the birth of their second child on 29 September 1867 to “Don Federico Palmer” and his wife “Rosa Bodmer”.10 Later records give her full name as Rosa Maria Julia Bodmer.11
Rosa’s father was Edward Bodmer, the British Vice Consul at Taxco in the state of Guerrero who was assassinated on the balcony of his home by a member of Vicario’s rebel troops on 11 January 1861 as he was attempting to protect a Mexican neighbor. 12 One source wrote that he “held a very lucrative appointment in the mine of the Pedrogal and has left a widow and three children totally unprovided for.”13 His widow, according to later records, was Rosa Maria Valenzuela.14
It appears that Edward Bodmer’s wife was newly pregnant when he died and that there were actually four children, as a son Eduardo de Jesus Bodmer (c1861-?) was baptized on 7 September 1861 in the the Catholic Church at Irapuato eight months after his father’s death.15 Rosa Bodmer, born about 1849, was the oldest of the children and was born in Durango prior to her parents’ arrival in Taxco. The next oldest was a daughter named Josefa Felipa de Jesus Bodmer (c1854-?) who was baptized on 14 May 1854 at San José y Santiago, Marfil, Guanajuato and who later lived in Zacatecas.16 The fourth child was a daughter named Juana Enriqueta Bodmer (c1858 – 1951) baptized in 1858 in the Santa Prisca church in Tasco; she was 22 when she married Leon Alberti in Zacatecas on 10 November 1880, the record identifying her parents as Eduardo Bodmer and Rosa Valenzuela.17
Edward Bodmer’s position in the Pedregal silver mine near Taxco explains Frederick Palmer’s connection to the family. Palmer was probably working at that mine or one nearby when he met the Bodmer family. The oldest of the children, Rosa, was only 13 when her father died and married Frederick Palmer within the next two or three years. Unfortunately, Guerrero civil records are almost nonexistent for that period.
Presbyterian Church membership
Frederick Palmer was an active Presbyterian. A letter written on 4 November 1889 by a Presbyterian minister discussing his missionary work in Mexico mentioned Frederick Palmer. Reporting on a visit to El Carro, about fifty miles south of Zacatecas, Rev. T. F. Wallace wrote: “...I was accompanied by our good friend Mr. F. O. Palmer. Although he has been long here and interested in work, he acknowledged his surprise and pleasure at what he saw of work in El Carro.” 18 In December 1902 Rev. Wallace and his son William Wallace arrived back in Zacatecas and enjoyed “a generous breakfast given by Don Federico Palmer, a fine old English miner, brought up in the Anglican Church, for forty years a resident of Zacatecas, and now an elder-pillar in our Church. His cultured daughters served with their own hands the seventeen of us the majority being persons of much humbler origins than themselves.” 19
Travels out of Mexico
Rosa B. Palmer and children are listed as follows on the manifest of the steamship City of Merida arriving in New York City on 20 December 1877 from “Havana & Mexican ports”: Rosa B. de Palmer, age 30, Frederico de Palmer, age 12, Louisa de Palmer, age 10, Rosa de Palmer, age 8, Angelita de Palmer, age 5, Enriqueta de Pamer, age 4.
Frederick Palmer visited England at least once. He is listed as a 36-year old mining engineer on the manifest of a passenger liner called the Gallia arriving in New York from Liverpool on 25 February 1880. He probably left Mexico more than once, but passenger and border crossing records are scarce.
Two letters by Frederick Palmer
The book about his sister Louise Palmer Heaven (q.v.) reproduces two letters written by Frederick Palmer. The first was addressed to his brother Walter Palmer in Greensboro, North Carolina and dated 12 September 1901, just two months before Walter’s death. The family news was limited to the comment that “my wife got an attack of Neumonia (sic) in Aguascalientes on both lungs and for a couple days was in a very critical state but she got over it and is gradually regaining strength.” He seemed to be complaining that he had not heard from sister Louise in a long time and his only news of Walter was a letter from Walter’s daughter Mary. He wrote that “My Copper mine going along nicely and about as usual” and commented on politics a bit before ending with “My wife and all my family join with me in love to you and in hoping that this may find you considerably better.” The letter was 13 days in transit between Zacatecas and Greensboro. It probably ended up in the effects of Louise Heaven when she went to Greensboro to bury Walter in November that year.
The second letter was dated twelve years later on 22 April 1913 and addressed to his his niece Alice, daughter of Louise Heaven, responding to Louise’s telegram and Alice’s letter informing him of his sister Ellen’s death in Florida. The letter took nearly a month to reach Washington, D.C. He wrote “I am writing you this letter but have no idea how it will go or when, within a few miles of us on all sides we are surrounded by the Constitutionalistas as the parties in arms against the Govt call themselves and a very large section of the country is already in their power; every body here that has anything to lose are in great alarm even their friends.” He further noted that “Edward is with me and very sick all brought about by a brute of a horse” and that “I believe all members of my family are well and on Saturday I understand that my granddaughter Juanita Huttick is to be married – people say we shall have some fighting here within a few day[s]… I’ll have to stay right here as I can’t remove Ed just now.”
Both letters carried a return address of Apatardo (P.O. Box) 62 in Zacatecas.
A brief biographical statement
The following helpful statement appeared in a Spanish-language journal article about the Bank of Zacatecas, drawn from a 1904 statement of Rosa Bodmer Palmer.20 21 My translation is this:
Federico O. Palmer, miner, merchant and financial entrepreneur, had some estates located in the San Bernabé estate and shares of the Bank of Zacatecas. Married to Rosa Bodmer de Palmer, born in 1849 in Guanacevi, Durango, settled in Zacatecas, daughter of Eduardo Bodmer and Rosa Valenzuela de Bodmer. Of this marriage had thirteen children, of which three died: Josefina, Enriqueta and Alfredo; The others were: Walter Carlos; Federico Enrique; Luisa Palmer de Overton; Rosa Palmer de Hütich; Juana, wife of Miguel Mercadillo; Ethel, wife of Thomas Petterson; Victoria Palmer de Petzol; Angela; Eduardo, and Enriqueta.
Frederick Palmer’s death of heart disease was recorded in Mexico City records. 22 Rosa had died in Zacatecas years earlier on 29 November 1904.
Thirteen (or fourteen?) children
This list of the children was gleaned mainly from Zacatecas civil registrations of births and marriages, which typically provide the names of parents and sometimes grandparents, and from a handful of other records as noted below.
It matches the statement by their mother Rosa with two exceptions: A daughter named Rosa was omitted from the list of dead children and no record was found for the deceased daughter named Josefina. Is it possible they were the same person?
- Walter Carlos Palmer (August 1865 – 27 March 1941) When he married on 7 June 1908 to Lucy Lisle, the record described him as the 43-year old son of Frederick Palmer and Rosa Bodmer.23 His name in that record was Carlos Gualterio but he appears in later records as either Gualterio Carlos Palmer or the Anglicized Walter Carlos Palmer. He claimed British citizenship when he crossed the border at Laredo in 1911 and again in 1919.24 He and his wife both claimed British citizenship when they arrived at New York City in 1920.25 His age in these records consistently suggests a birth in 1865; his age was listed more precisely as 56 years and 4 months on a manifest dated 21 December 1921 for the SS Aquitania, sailing from Southampton to New York.26 He was one of the step-grandchildren, and the only child of Frederick, named in the will of his step-grandmother Harriet Palmer. He and Lucy embarked on the Holland America ship Volendam at Southampton in 1930, the manifest giving their home at that time as Tlalpan.27 His death was registered in Tlalpan, Distrito Federal, Mexico in 1941, the record giving his age as 76.28
- Federico Enrique Palmer29 His birth to Federico Palmer and Rosa Bodmer was recorded in Zacatecas civil records.30 He was also one of only two children for whom I found a baptismal record — As Federico Enrique Palmer he married Anna Winther on 2 February 1889. He appears in a number of records with his Anglicized name “Frederick Henry B. Palmer”. His death was recorded on 11 March 1937.31
- Rosa Enriqueta Palmer (4 April 1869 – ca1870?) Her birth was recorded in Zacatecas.32 Although not listed as one of the children in the above statement she must have died in infancy as there is no further sign of her; there was a second daughter named “Rosa” born about 1871 and a daughter named “Enriqueta” whose birth was recorded in 1875. Is it possible that she was the “Josefina” listed among the deceased children, perhaps to differentiate her from the living children named Rosa and Enriqueta?
Maria Luisa Guadalupe Palmer ( 4 April 1871 – 5 September 1941) No birth record was found, but she was baptized in Zacatecas on 26 April 1870.33 Her death certificate gives her birth date as above and place as Zacatecas, and lists her parents as Fred Palmer and Rosa Botmer (sic). She first married Karl Seifert (1850-1896), by whom she had six children. He died suddenly in 1896 and in 1900 Louise married Dr. John W. Overton, by whom she had one more child. The Overtons moved to the U. S., settling in Sweetwater, Nolan County, Texas where Louise died of a heart attack in 1941.
For more detail of her marriages and family see the paper on Karl Seifert and family.
- Rosa Maria Palmer34 I did not find a birth record for this daughter but the first daughter named Rosa probably died in infancy, for later records of Rosa put her year of birth about 1871 or 1872. The 1880 census lists her as age 8, two years younger than her sister Louisa and lists her name as Rosa M. Palmer. When she married in 1891 her age was listed as 19. (I note that the 1877 ship’s manifest listed a Rosa Pamer, age 8, while the 1880 census and her marriage record suggest a birth in 1872. That manifest also lists Angelita Palmer, age 5. It is possible that the first Rosa died between 1877 and 1880 and Angelita was renamed “Rosa”.) She married a native of Germany named Carlos Huttich at her brother Federico’s home in Zacatecas on 2 January 1891.35 Her death record lists her parents as Federico Orlando Palmer and Rosa Bodmer, and her husband as Carlos Huttich.36
- Maria Angela Valeriana Palmer (ca1874 – ?) A girl named Angelita Palmer, age 5, was listed on the 1877 ship’s manifest between Rosa and Enriqueta. No birth record was found in Zacatecas, but under the above name she was baptized as a converted adult in the Catholic Church at Santo Tomás (La Palma), Distrito Federal, Mexico on 14 April 1898.37 Her parents were named in this record. As Angela Palmer she married Guillermo Lumos on 26 October 1907 in Zacatecas. That was her second marriage; the birth of a child named Rosa Maria was recorded in Chihuahua on 11 July 1907 to Angela Palmer and Francisco Olivas.38
- Enriqueta Blaney Palmer (4 February 1875 – 6 August 1886) Her birth to Frederick and Rosa (without the middle name) was recorded in Zacatecas.39 That record also lists her grandparents as Gualtiero (Walter) Palmer and Maria Blaney, and Eduardo Bodmer and Rosa Valenzuela. Her death at the age of 11, as Enriqueta Blaney Palmer, was recorded in Zacatecas.40
- Elena Juana Palmer (16 June 1877 – ?) Her birth to Federico and Rosa was recorded in Zacatecas.41 This particular record identifies her paternal grandparents as Walter Palmer and Mary Blaney and her maternal grandparents as Eduardo Bodmer and Rosa Valenzuela. She was not among the family that traveled to the US in 1880 but she did enter the U.S. at El Paso in 1918 with two children “to put children in school” at El Paso.42 She had married in Zacatecas on 17 July 1900 to Miguel Mercadillo.
- Ethel Bodmer Palmer (7 July 1881 – 8 April 1950) Her birth registration in Zacatecas identifies her parents. She married Tomas Eduardo Peterson on 23 March 1903 in Zacatecas. Her death was recorded in Cuauhtemoc, Federal District on 8 April 1950.43
- Victoria Leonor Palmer (ca1882 – ) She married Robert Maximilian Petrold on 30 December 1903 in Zacatecas. The birth record of her son Federico Orlando Petrold on 15 January 1908 identifies her as the 24-year old daughter of Federico Orlando Palmer and Rosa Bodmer. 44
- Eduardo Pearce Blaney Palmer (29 August 1885 – ) His birth to Frederick and Rosa was recorded in Zacatecas.45 As Eduardo P. Palmer he married Maria Soledad Morillo, daughter of Jesus Morillo and Adelaida Aguado de Morillo, in Aguascaliente 46 They were still in Zacatecas for the 1930 Mexican census, with a daughter named Rosa.
- Enriqueta Beatriz Palmer (7 August 1887 – 27 April 1966) Her birth to Frederick and Rosa was recorded in Zacatecas.47 That record also lists her grandparents as Walter Palmer and Maria Blaney, and Eduardo Bodmer and Rosa Valenzuela. On 17 November 1907, as Enriqueta Beatriz Palmer, she married Juan Henrique Bahnsen in Zacatecas. They registered the birth of a child in 1909 in San Luis Potosi. She died on 27 April 1966 in Saltillo, Coahuila.48
- Alfredo Palmer (November 1892 – November 1892) He died a week after his birth of pulmonary atelectasis according to the registration of his death on 27 November 1892.49
- England & Wales Civil Registrations, Birth Index, 1837-1915, online database referencing Liskeard Volume 9, page 161. [↩]
- 1920 census entry for Louise Palmer Heaven. The 1920 census happened to ask for the year of immigration to the U.S. and Louise was the last of the Palmer family still alive. [↩]
- Charles Irwin Douglas Moore, The Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company of California (Times-Mirror Publishing, 1928), page 39. [↩]
- Ibid., page 47. [↩]
- Boletin de agricultura, minería é industrias, Issues 1-3 (1892), pages 257, 259. [↩]
- Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 83 (1908), pages 403-406. See also The Mexican Mining Journal, Volume 7 (1908), page 16. [↩]
- Sandra Kuntz Ficker, Empresa extranjera y mercado interno: el Ferrocarril Central Mexicano, 1880-1907 (Colegio de México,1995) page 323. [↩]
- Sergio Candelas Villalba, writing at https://mercadointerno.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/cartas-edificantes-2/ Poorly translated by me and Google. [↩]
- Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 110, No. 11 (1920), page 541. [↩]
- Zacatecas Civil Registrations, Births, 1867, images online at Family Search [↩]
- For instance, see Chihuahua Civil Registrations, Births, 1906-7, image 635. [↩]
- Many publications contained a snippet mentioning the incident, for instance, the New York Times issue of 29 March 1862. Also see Manuel Payno, Mexico and Her Financial Questions with England, Spain and France (1862), page 295. [↩]
- Annals of British Legislation, Vol. 13 (1864), page 122. [↩]
- See statement by Rosa Bodmer Palmer below. And also the baptism of their son Eduardo in 1861 and the birth record of Enriqueta Palmer below, which lists her maternal grandparents. [↩]
- México, Guanajuato, registros parroquiales, 1519-1984, database with images, FamilySearch [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- México, Zacatecas, Registro Civil, Nacimientos, 1885–1930. Digital images. Her death record, in the Federal District, repeats the same information. [↩]
- Henry Addison Nelson & Albert B. Robinson, The Church at Home and Abroad, Volume 7, (Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath School Work, 1890), page 79. [↩]
- The Presbyterian Banner, Vol. 89 (January 1902), page 12. [↩]
- The volume quotes “Testamento de Rosa Bodmen (sic) de Palmer”, Zacatecas, 2 de mayo de 1904, en AHEZ, Notarios, Luis D. Hernández, prot. 1904, t. I, i 60, f. 135. [↩]
- Moisés Gámez, “Estrategias de asociación empresarial financiera. El Banco de Zacatecas, 1890–1897”, América Latina en la historia económica, no.31 México ene./jun. 2009 [↩]
- Ciudad de Mexico Civil Death Registrations 1920, database with images, FamilySearch, page 239, Item #874. [↩]
- Zacaatecas Civil Registration Marriages 1906-1909, database with images, FamilySearch, image 444-5. [↩]
- “Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1964” database on-line at ancestry.com [↩]
- Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line] [↩]
- Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line] [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Federal District, Mexico, Civil Registration Deaths, 1861-1987, database with images, FamilySearch [↩]
- 29 September 1867 – March 1937 [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Births 1863-1867, database with images, FamilySearch. [↩]
- Federal District, Mexico, Civil Registration Deaths, 1861-1987, database online. [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Births 1869-70 database with images, FamilySearch. [↩]
- Ancestry.com. Mexico, Select Baptisms, 1560-1950 [database on-line] [↩]
- ca1871 – 27 February 1956 [↩]
- Zacatecas Civil Registration Marriages 1890-1891, database with images, FamilySearch [↩]
- Mexico, Federal District Civil Registration Deaths 1956, database with images, FamilySearch [↩]
- “México, Distrito Federal, registros parroquiales y diocesanos, 1514-1970”, database with images, FamilySearch. [↩]
- Chihuahua Civil Registration Births 1906-1907, database with images, FamilySearch, image 635. [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Births 1872-1879, image 258. [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Deaths 1886, database with images, FamilySearch, image 464. [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Births 1872-1879, database with images, FamilySearch [↩]
- Ancestry.com. Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1964, database with images, FamilySearch [↩]
- Federal District, Mexico, Civil Registration Deaths, Cuahuhtemoc, 1950, database with images, FamilySearch, image 1537 [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Births 1908-1909, database with images, FamilySearch, page 20. [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Births 1872-1879, page 25. [↩]
- Aguascaliente Civil Registrations, Marriages 1918, database with images, FamilySearch, image 556. [↩]
- Zacatecas, Mexico, Civil Registration Births 1887-1888, database online, FamilySearch, image 187. [↩]
- Coahuila Civil Registrations, Deaths 1966-1969, database with images, FamilySearch, image 211. [↩]
- Zacatecas Civil Registrations, Deaths 1892-1893, database with images, FamilySearch, image 458. [↩]