Walter Palmer (16 April 1800 – 22 August 1882)

Walter Palmer’s birth on 16 April 1800 and baptism on 4 May 1800 were recorded in the register of the country parish of Dalwood (then in Dorset but later in east Devon) with his parents identified as William and Mary Palmer.1  The parish register contains the record of only one other child, a daughter named Meriah Palmer born on 28 August 1802, and does not record their marriage, making it difficult to trace Walter Palmer’s genealogy. However, Walter Palmer’s 1850 marriage identifies his father as “William Palmer, Malster” (meaning a person who produces malt from barley, and/or a brewer of beer.)

Move to Bridestowe and marriage to Mary Blaney

As a young man he somehow made his way some 60 miles west to the small village and parish of Bridestowe in west Devon, where he worked as a butcher. The parish register of the somewhat larger adjacent parish of Lewtrenchard contains an entry for the marriage of Walter Palmer of Bridestowe to Mary Blaney of Lewtrenchard on 27 October 1824.2 Mary Blaney had been baptized in Lewtrenchard on 2 June 1805, the daughter of Pearce Blaney and his wife Mary Searle.3

Oddly, a butcher named William Palmer had earlier lived in Bridestowe.  Parish records include the marriage of William Palmer and Margaret Peard on 3 October 1826 and the subsequent baptisms of three children named Margaret Peard Palmer (1827), John Peard Palmer (1829), and Izet Palmer (1831). 4

A number of children were born over the next dozen years. Lewtrenchard parish registers record the baptism of three of the first four children below to Walter Palmer, butcher, and his wife Mary. The baptism of the second child and eldest son, Walter Jr., was recorded in Stoke Climsland parish, a dozen miles away, along with three children who died as infants.

The 1841 English census found Walter Palmer, 40, a butcher, and his wife Mary, 35, still living in Bridestowe. The household included three children: Harriet, 15, Ellen, 6, and Pearce, 4, all of whom but Walter were recorded as having been born in Devon. Their eldest son, Walter Palmer Jr., identified as a clerk, was living with his 70-year old grandfather Pearce Blaney, identified as a miner, in a boarding house 20-odd miles to the southeast in Fore Street, Callington, Cornwall, an important mining town.5 The whole family would move to Fore Street in Callington within a year or two.

Excursis:  For those unfamiliar with English record-keeping, the only records of births, deaths, and marriages prior to 1837 were those maintained in local parish registers.   Beginning in 1837 these records were registered in civil district books.   Thus the earliest of this family’s vital records are found in the local parish books while later records are found among civil district volumes.

A move to Cornwall

The family moved the 20 or so miles to Callington, Cornwall sometime between the 1841 census and the 1844 birth of their son Frederick. They may temporarily have been in the area earlier, as the baptism in 1828 of Walter William Palmer had been recorded in the parish register of Stoke Climsland, Cornwall. just a brisk walk from Callington. The births of the last two children were recorded in Callington parish records as well as in Liskeard civil district records.

It isn’t clear why they moved, though the presence of their son and Mary’s father may account for it.  Mines in Cornwall and Devon had supplied the nation and Europe with minerals for centuries, but the 19th century saw Cornwall mining reach its zenith, particularly in the production of tin and copper.  Callington was a small, but important mining town of Cornwall, with silver mines nearby and at one time in the 19th century its copper mines were also the world’s premier producer of arsenic.

Mary’s death and a remarriage to Harriet Blaney

Walter Palmer’s wife Mary died sometime after the birth of their daughter Louise in 1846 and 1850.  There were two deaths of persons named Mary Palmer during that period that were registered about six months apart in the civil district of Liskeard, in which Callington lay.  One was recorded in the third quarter of 1849 and the other in the first quarter of 1850.6

Walter remarried to Mary’s younger sister Harriet Blaney (1810 – 1889) on 18 August 1850 in St. Olave, Southwark Parish, Surry.  The record identifies him as a resident of Fore Street in Callington, and a son of William Palmer, malster, and her as the spinster daughter of Pearce Blaney, farmer.  Presumably the marriage took place so far from Cornwall because Harriet was living in Surrey at the time.

The 1851 English census enumerated Walter Palmer, butcher, and his second wife Harriet living at 82 Fore Street in the village of Callington.  Four children (Harriet, Ellen, Frederick, and “Lousy”?) were in the household along with his father-in-law Pearce Blaney. The 1851 census conveniently listed each person’s birthplace: Walter (Dalwood, Dorset), his wife Harriet and daughter Harriet (both Lewtranchard, Devon), Ellen (Bridestowe, Devon), Frederick and Louise (both Callington, Cornwall). His father-in-law Pearce Blaney’s birthplace was Plymton, Devon.

The son Walter Jr. was not in the household, having immigrated to North America eight years earlier. According to a paper he wrote in 1893, he “[landed] at Quebec from England June 1st 1843” and was immediately engaged as a surveyor for the Quebec Mining Company.7  His move may have been influenced by his aunt Margaret Blaney, a third daughter of Pearce Blaney, who had emigrated to Quebec several years earlier.8

Immigration to North Carolina

The rest of the family immigrated to the US not long after the 1851 census.  Although it would seem likely that they immigrated after the death of Pearce Blaney in 1854, at least one record suggests the possibility of an immigration about 1853.  Walter Palmer appears on a list of naturalizations in Guilford County, North Carolina in 1858, an act that required five years of residence.9  The 1920 census record of Louise Palmer indicates her arrival in the U.S. in 1854.  While their initial landing place is unknown, we know from a fortuitously preserved letter that Walter Palmer, both father and son, were in Guilford County in June 1855.  That requires a brief explanation.

The Lindsay Gold Mine

The son Walter William Palmer was in Guilford County, North Carolina by the mid 1850s. In 1853 the McCullock Copper and Gold Mining Company of New York City purchased a failing gold and copper mine near Jamestown, Guilford County, North Carolina and in 1854 employed Walter William Palmer as General Superintendent.10 The Lindsay Gold Company was formed in 1854 to operate the mine, with Palmer a director.11 In 1855 Palmer was made a director and Vice-President of the McCullock Gold Company.12 A collection of several fortuitously preserved mine-related documents suggest that Walter William Palmer was managing both the Lindsay mine and the nearby McCullock processing mill.13 The mine did not recover profitability and was sold a year later, but Palmer continued to serve as Superintendent through at least 1856. The deed of sale describes the Lindsay mine as encompassing 200 acres near the Deep River.

One of the documents in the collection is a letter dated 7 June 1855 from Walter W. Palmer to a company director in New York named Thomas C. Durant. In a postscript, Palmer writes “My father will call on you next week. Powell[?] returns with him to visit the Lake Superior mines.” I interpret this to mean that Walter’s father was traveling from North Carolina to New York accompanied by someone named Powell who would continue to Lake Superior. (“Powell” may have been William Powell, identified in the 1860 Guilford County census as a 30-year old miner.)

Walter Palmer apparently decided to settle in Guilford County.   His son Walter Palmer Jr. bought a farm near Jamestown in December 1855.

Walter Palmer and Harriet write their wills

Walter Palmer, identifying himself as a resident of Guilford County, wrote a brief will on 22 October 1868 leaving his entire estate to “my beloved wife Harriet Palmer” and naming “my daughter Harriet Palmer” as executrix.14 He lived for another fourteen years. Despite the simplicity of the will the estate was not settled until 1889; Ellen M. Hill acting as next of kin to the deceased executor Harriet Palmer.15

His wife Harriet wrote a detailed will on 28 September 1885 that was probated four years later.16 She left the lifetime use of her house and 200-acre farm “in the forks of Deep River” to her stepdaughter Harriet B. Palmer who, however, predeceased her — after which the estate was to be divided between “my four stepchildren, namely Walter W. Palmer, Frederick O. Palmer, Ellen M. Hill, and Louise P. Heaven or their heirs”.  Specific bequests of jewelry and personal effects were made to each of the four stepchildren and to step-grandchildren only two of whom were named: Walter Chas. Palmer and Angela Palmer. Walter W. Palmer was left two silver teaspoons “owned by his late grandfather”. The will also bequeathed a “portrait of my uncle William Blaney” to Ellen M. Hill. She named Louise P. Heaven executrix, and she settled the estate in 1891. After the individual bequests, $2,319 was left from sales of land and personal property and distributed among the four children.

Emerson’s 1886 Directory of landowners had listed Mrs. Walter Palmer with 1,017 acres of land and Harriet Palmer with 175 acres. (Oddly, a James Palmer was listed as the agent for the Lindsay Mine. Whether he was a relative in unclear.)   After the daughter Harriet’s death, the widow Harriet advertised two adjacent farms near Jamestown for sale but apparently died before a sale could be executed.

Burials in the Oakwood Municipal Cemetery

Walter Palmer, along with his second wife and his two eldest children, is buried in the Oakwood Municipal Cemetery in High Point, Guilford County, North Carolina.  His gravestone inscription reads” Sacred to the memory of Walter Palmer Born in Dalwood Dorsetshite England April 16, 1800 Died near Jamestown N. C. August 22, 1882.”  His death was reported in the Greensboro North State newspaper.17 The death of his wife Harriet on 28 July 1889 was noted in the Greensboro North State newspaper as well18  Her stone reads: “Harriet daughter of Pearce Blaney and second wife of Walter Palmer Born Lew Trenchard, Devonshire, England August 3, 1810 Died near Jamestown N.C. July 28, 1889.” The two stones, along with the daughter Harriet’s stone, appear to have been made at the same time — I suspect that Louise Heaven procured all three gravestones.


An excellent book with a mountain of information about Louise Palmer Heaven, her literary career, and her siblings is Wayward Letters: Clues to the Disappearance of Louise Palmer Heaven – A Canadian Literary Coldcase, by Nick Drumbolis (Opensource, 2017)  Unfortunately, I discovered it after most of this page was produced.  The book is readily available (and free) online at this link and is highly recommended to anyone interested in the Palmer family.

  1. Harriet Blaney Palmer (15 August 1826 – 15 April 1887)  The 4 September 1826 baptism of “Harriet Blaney Palmer” was recorded in the parish register of Lewtrenchard, Devon with her father identified as a butcher and a resident of Lew Down.19   She never married and apparently lived her entire life with her parents.   She is buried in the Oakwood Municipal Cemetery in High Point, Guilford County, North Carolina.  The inscription on her gravestone, which appears to be more or less contemporary, reads: “Harriet Blaney eldest daughter of Walter & Mary Palmer Born at Lewtrenchard, Devonshire, Eng. Aug 15, 1826. Died April 15, 1887.”
  2. Walter William Palmer (27 December 1827 – 13 November 1901) He was enumerated in the 1841 English census in Callington, listed as a clerk, living with his grandfather, listed as a miner. He followed at least one of his Blaney aunts to Canada. His 1893 paper mentioned above included a note by the Director of Mines in Ontario: “Mr. Palmer is a native of Devon, England and received an education there to qualify him for a mining engineer; and since leaving Canada more than forty years ago, he has been devoting his life successfully to that profession in the United States and Mexico.”20 Palmer wrote in this paper that he landed in Quebec in 1 June 1848, was employed by the Quebec Mining Company for a year as a surveyor at the Mica Bay copper mines on Lake Superior and then as superintendent of the Bruce Mines on Lake Huron.  He subsequently was associated with the Wheal Kate mine in Houghton County, Michigan in 1851, though no copper was found and the mine closed in 1853, and with other ventures in the area.  Walter left the Great Lakes area in early 1854, though it isn’t clear where he went.

    He was in North Carolina later that year (see above) and for the next couple of years.  After leaving North Carolina he must have gone to Mexico, though no specific record of his employment there was uncovered.  He must have married Francesca Dolores Jenkins about 1856 as the 1870 census lists a son born circa 1857.   Zacatecas civil records registered the the birth on 12 July 1858 of a daughter named Mary Margaret Palmer (1858-?) to Walter William Palmer and his wife Francesca Dolores Jenkins.  And Mexico City civil records note the birth of Fanny Georgiana Palmer (1861-1869) on 18 October 1861 to the same couple.

    He was back in the U.S. as general superintendent of the Ophir Mine and Mill silver mining complex near Comstock from 1862 to 1864.21   He then removed to California where he was listed in San Francisco city directories in 1865 and 1869.  Walter Palmer was naturalized in San Francisco on 30 October 1868 and registered to vote there shortly thereafter.22  However, the 1870 census found him several miles south in Redwood, Santa Clara County, listed with his wife Fanny D. Palmer (36) and three children: Louis Palmer (c1857 – ?), Mary M. Palmer (1858-?), and Anita Palmer (c1860) all of whom were born in Mexico.  Tragically, the 1870 Mortality Census recorded the deaths of five of his children.  Walter W. Palmer (1859-1869), Fanny G. Palmer (1861-1869), Harriet Palmer (1864-1870)  and a baby named Anna Palmer (1869-1869) all died of diphtheria in December 1869 or January 1870.  A fifth child, Anna’s twin, Agnes C. Palmer had died in October.

    His wife and the three remaining children seemed to disappear after the 1870 census (although the oldest daughter Mary M. Palmer was living with Louise Heaven in Philadelphia in 1880.)   They may have died or returned to Mexico while Walter remained in the area.  He was living in a San Francisco hotel in 1877, listed in the city directory in 1879, and was enumerated as a boarder — and an unmarried man — in a hotel in the 1880 census of San Francisco. Contemporary newspapers reported his continuing involvement in mining ventures during this period.

    It isn’t clear when he left California, but his 1893 paper (see above) give his address as his sister Louise P. Heaven’s residence in Washington, D.C. and a newspaper report of the marriage of his niece Sophia Heaven two years later describes him as a resident of that city as well.23  The 1900 census found him living in the household of Mrs. C. J. Peck in Greensboro, North Carolina. That census also reported that he had been married 44 years and had immigrated (presumably from Mexico) in 1870.  The Greensboro newspaper reported his death at Mrs. Peck’s home on 18 November 1901.24 He did not leave a will in North Carolina, nor was an estate probated there. He is buried along with his father and sister in the Oakwood Municipal Cemetery where the inscription on his gravestone reads: “Walter William Palmer eldest son of Walter & Mary Palmer Born in Stoke-Climsland, Cornwall, England December 27, 1827 Died in Greensboro, N. C. November 18, 1901.”

  3. Ellen Mary Palmer (10 March 1835 – 2 April 1913) She was baptized on 12 April 1835 in Bridestowe.25 Her birth was later registered in Liskeard records as “Ellen Mary Palmer.”26 About 1863 she married a first cousin named Cornelius Augustus Blaney Hill (1837-1867) whose mother was her aunt Margaret, another daughter of Pearce Blaney, who had immigrated to Canada many years earlier. Hill was a foreman at the Ophir Mill in the mid 1860s at the same time her brother Walter was superintendent of the mine.

    In April 1867 Cornelius Hill was part owner of one mine and superintendent of another near Silver City, Nevada when he was robbed and murdered just a mile or two from home as he was returning from a mine with payroll cash.27 The 1870 and 1880 censuses found Ellen M. Hill living near Silver City, Lyon County, Nevada with her two sons Walter Palmer Hill (1864-1914) and George A. Hill (1865-1944) and not far from her aunt and mother-in-law Margaret Blaney Hill Page (who had been twice widowed.) She was living in the household of her son Walter in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1900 and in Conway, Orange County, Florida in 1910.  In between, she was enumerated in the 1901 Toronto, Ontario census in the household of her sister Louise Palmer Heaven.  She and her son Walter Palmer Hill share a stone in the Conway Cemetery in Orlando, Orange County, Florida whose inscription reads “Ellen M. Hill 1835-1913 Walter P. Hill 1864-1914”

  4. Pearce Blaney Palmer (1837 – 3 September 1849) He died as a child. He was baptized in Bridestowe parish on 20 August 1837, the son of Walter and Mary Palmer, and died twelve years later. His death was recorded in the third quarter of 1849 in the Liskeard disctrict register.28
  5. Frederick Orlando Palmer (29 February 1844 – 7 February 1919) His birth in Callington was registered in Liskeard district of Cornwall as “Frederick Orlando Palmer” in June 1844. (England & Wales Civil Registrations, Birth Index, 1837-1915, online database referencing Liskeard Volume 9, page 161.))  He must have been barely ten when his parents immigrated, so he probably spent the remainder of his childhood somewhere in the U.S, perhaps in North Carolina.  At some point he settled in the silver mining districts of Mexico where he married Rosa Bodmer and had thirteen children, one of whom was Louise Seifert Overton.

    For more see the separate page Frederick Orlando Palmer

  6. Louise Maria Palmer (27 March 1846 – 5 January 1922) Her birth in Callington was registered in Liskeard district of Cornwall as “Louise Maria Palmer” in June 1846.29  She probably immigrated with her family — the 1920 census shows her immigration year as 1854.  The earliest record of her in the U.S. is the 1860 census, which found her living with the Brooklyn, NY family of a classics teacher named Silas Metclafe who operated Metcalfe’s Academy for Young Ladies.  She also attended Rutgers Female Institute in New York.30  Her books suggest that a few years later she visited her family in North Carolina and then, as an 18-year old traveled to live with her sister Ellen in Nevada.  By the age of 20 was living in San Francisco, perhaps with her brother Walter.  Her career as a writer was realized there; by the end of the 1860s she had five books published.  She was in Zacatecas, Mexico, apparently living with her brother Frederick, when she married Samuel Manuel Heaven on 20 September 1869.31 Her husband was the son of a British Consul and Vera Cruz businessman named Robert Heaven and his Spanish wife Dona Joaquina de las Cabos y da Alva.

    She remained in Mexico for a few years, as Zacatecas records note the births of three daughters:  Ethel Rosa Heaven (1870-1936), Alicia Maria Heaven (1871-1948), and Adela Louise Heaven (1873-aft1940).   Her writings suggest a brief return to New York City, but a fourth daughter, Sophia Langworthy Heaven (1875-c1940)  was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and her husband Samuel Heaven died there in July 1876 leaving her with four young daughters, the youngest barely a year old.  The 1880 census for Philadelphia found Louisa heading a household of her four daughters and her nieces Mary A. Palmer (Walter’s daughter?) and Frederick’s daughters Louisa G. Palmer and Rosa M. Palmer.  The household also included a governess and two servants.

    A summary of her life to this point appeared in The Morning Call (San Francisco) in 1890: 32

    Louise Palmer Heaven, who has written under the name of Lucia Norman and Laura Preston, was born In England In a suburb of Plymouth. She was educated in New York City and developed her literary taste at a very early age. She was an Insatiable reader almost from babyhood, and commenced to write for publication when but 15 years of age. She says that her taste has been greatly Influenced by the writings of Addison, Christopher North, Lew Wallace. Mrs. Browning arid the modem school of poets, and In an historical way by Motley and  Prescott.  After her graduation from school she went directly to the Pacific Coast, where she lived in Nevada and San Francisco until her marriage to Samuel L. Heaven In 1869. After that for about six years she lived In Zacatecas and the City of Mexico. Since the death of her husband in 1876 she has lived In Philadelphia and Washington, devoting herself particularly to her four daughters.  Sh« has traveled extensively abroad and also through the United States and Mexico. Her principal work Is “Chata and Chinita”, a novel, the scenes of which have been largely drawn from actual life In Mexico. She has not made literature a profession because, as she says, domestic duties have rendered It almost Impossible.

    Louise Palmer Heaven was in Washington, D.C. by January 1890 when she gave a tea at her home on R Street to introduce Ethel and Alice to society.33  On 23 January 1895 her daughter Sophia married in Washington to George Nathaniel Morang of Toronto, Canada.  Her three remaining daughters were all naturalized in Washington in June 1900 and the 1900 census found her still living in Washington with her three older daughters.  Just a year later the 1901 Canadian census enumerated her in Toronto with her daughter Adela and her sister Ellen Hill.  I did not find her in the 1910 census, but she was in Washington in 1920 living with Adela and Alicia.

    She is buried in Washington, D.C. in the Glenwood Cemetery where her gravestone reads: “In memory of our mother Louise Palmer Heaven Born in Callington England March 27, 1846 Died in Washington, D.C. January 5, 1922, widow of Samuel Manuel Heaven.” Her children were Ethel Rosa Heaven (1870-1936) and Alice M. Heaven (1872-1948).



  1. England & Wales Christening Records, 1530-1906, database online at Also in Dalwood Parish Register, online at []
  2. Lewtrenchard Parish Register, online images at []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. Bridestowe parish records, online at []
  5. Callington, Cornwall Census, page 32. []
  6. England & Wales Civil Registrations, Death Index, 1837-2007, online database referencing Volume 9, page 150 and Volume 9, page 116, respectively. []
  7. “A Pioneer’s Mining Experience on Lake Superior and Lake Huron”, Walter William Palmer, Washington D. C., Second Report of the Bureau of Mines 1892 (Warwick & Sons, Toronto, 1893), page 171. []
  8. She married in George Hill in Montreal in 1833. []
  9. “North Carolina Naturalization Index 1792-1862”, Betty S. Cumin (Typewritten manuscript, 1989), page 26.  The author notes that some items in her list may be merely declarations of intent to become citizens, which required only two years of residence.  If that describes Walter Palmer’s case then he may not have arrived in the U.S. until after 1853. []
  10. The Mining Magazine, Volume 4 (1855), pages 282-286. []
  11. The Mining Magazine, Volume 2 (1854), page 526. []
  12. The Mining Magazine, Volume 4 (1855), page 273. []
  13. “Correspondence regarding the Lindsay Mine in North Carolina, 1855-1868”, in the “Levi O. Leonard Railroadiana” digital document collection at the University of Iowa. The collection consists of business correspondence relating to the Lindsay Mining Company located near Jamestown, NC. []
  14. Guilford County Wills, Volume E, page 354, probated 1 February 1883. []
  15. Guilford County Settlements Book 1889-1898, page 14. []
  16. Guilford County Wills, Volume F, pages 12-15, probated 18 August 1889. []
  17. Greensboro North State issue of 24 August 1882, page 3. []
  18. Greensboro North State issue of 1 August 2889, page 8. []
  19. Lewtrenchard parish register. []
  20. “A Pioneer’s Mining Experience on Lake Superior and Lake Huron”, Walter William Palmer, Washington D. C., Second Report of the Bureau of Mines 1892 (Warwick & Sons, Toronto, 1893), page 171. []
  21. The Mining & Metallurgy of Gold and Silver, John Arthur Phillips (1867), page 358. []
  22. California Great Register 1872-1873, page 327. []
  23. Washington Evening Star issue of 24 January 1895. []
  24. The Greensboro Patriot issue of 20 November 1901, page 1. []
  25. Bridestowe parish records, online at []
  26. England & Wales Civil Registrations, Birth Index, 1837-1915, online database referencing Volume 9, page 157 dated in September 1838. []
  27. Reported in a number of newspapers, among them the Daily Union Vidette (Camp Douglas, Utah), issue of 19 April 1867, page 2; The Montana Post (Virginia City, Montana) issue of 4 May 1867, page 2; The Sacramento Union issue of 10 April 1867. A follow-up story appeared in the Nevada State Journal issue of 10 December 1870, page 2. []
  28. England & Wales Civil Registrations, Death Index, 1837-1915, online database referencing Liskeard Volume 9, page 145. []
  29. England & Wales Civil Registrations, Birth Index, 1837-1915, online database referencing Liskeard district Volume 9, page 162. []
  30. Biographical Index Card at California State Library, online at  Rutgers Institute offered a one-year course until 1867 when it began a four-year curriculum as Rutgers Female College. []
  31. Zacatecas, Mexico Civil Registration Marriages 1869, page 140. []
  32. The Morning Call (San Francisco) issue of 20 April 1890, page 12 as part of an article about “Pacific Coast Writers” []
  33. Evening Star (Washington, DC) issue of 21 January 1890, page 2 and 27 January, page 3. []