Monday, April 21, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 16 - Luther Morris Palmer - Fact and Fiction

Shortly after I started researching family history - I ran across Luther Moses Palmer - my 3x great grandfather.  .    At first - I was all excited - look at the stories!  He was a Dr. who attended Brigham Young!   Wow!!

Then - I started to realize that you should not believe everything you read!  I learned about documenting things.   And I learned that almost all families have stories that are just that stories!  

Periodically - I'd revisit Luther Palmer or find another bit in his story.   It helps that he is closely aligned to my biggest brick wall - so when I actively research Mr. Brick Wall - I find out more about Luther Palmer as he is my brick wall's father in law!

So first - here are the "facts".   I feel pretty good about the facts in this timeline as I have things like census records, marriage certificates, death certificates and newspaper articles to support this list.    Also there are several "facts" from this list that also show up in the stories.  This is important - because some of the stories are pretty unbelievable - so sometimes I think there are 2 Luther Moses Palmer's running around.   But then I think.   The odds of there being 2 Luther Moses Palmers, living in Chicken Creek at the same time, and later living in Ouray Colorado at the same time, and both having daughters named Lola Mae are pretty slim.   So slim, that it's all but impossible.

  • 1827 - Born July 5 in Oswegatchie, New York
  • 1850 - Census - Potawattamie, Iowa - Stock  Driver
  • 1851 - Iowa Census - Potawattamie, Iowa
  • 1860 - Living in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • 1860 - Married to Mary Elizabeth Veach
  • 1870 - Census - Chicken Creek, Utah - Farmer
  • 1872 - Married Dora Elizabeth Bosch
  • 1880 - Census 2 of them - Fayette, Sanpete, Utah.  Farmer/Stock and Chicken Creek, Sevier County  - Stock Dealer (diff wives)
  • 1885 - Divorced from Mary Elizabeth Veach - Restraining order filed to prevent him from disposing of property
  • 1891 - March 15 in Richfield, Utah-Son murdered
  • 1894 - Daughter involved in "fornication" with Mr. Elliot Hudson from Annabella who is convicted and serves 30 days in jail.
  • 1900 - Census - Ouray, Colorado - Farm Laborer
  • 1903 - Living in Colorado - Ridgeway - Daughter moves in after her husband is killed.
  • 1910 - Census - Salt Lake City, Utah - Occupation = "Home"
  • 1915 - Died - Salt Lake City, Utah - 250 1/2 West 4th North

Now the stories

  • 1847 Crossed the plains
  • Went to California at the time of the gold rush and studied medicine
  • 1851 Returned to Salt Lake City to practice medicine.   At some point became one of Brigham's physicians.
  • 1864 - 1875 Lived in Chicken Creek
  • 1872 - Married 2nd Wife (Polygamist) Dora Bosch
  • 1875-1882 Lived in Spring City, Sanpete County, Utah and a ranch south of Juab
  • 1877 Attended Brigham Young at his death
  • 1882 Moved to Fayette, Sanpete County, Utah
  • 1884 Goes to Mexico with 2nd wife and children.
  • 1885 Luther Palmer and Mary Veach are divorced
  • Sometime before 1900 - goes to Colorado after Mexico - practices medicine until 1900
  • 1901 Wife dies of Cancer - moves to Salt Lake City
  • 1915 Dies in Salt Lake City after being cared for by daughter from first marriage - Sarah Ann.

Now some analysis - - -

  • Crossed the plains in 1847 - doubtful.   Depending on your definition of crossing the plains - if you mean to Utah - no.     Another unverified story is what is reported as his mother's journal (Patience Delila Pierce) - the family left NY in 1838.   The family did not head for Utah until 1848.   The LDS History web site shows Luther Palmer in the Frederick A Mitchell company arriving in 1858.
  • Went to California during the Gold Rush - doubtful.   According to Wikipedia the gold rush was from 1848 to 1855.   Given the information above about when he likely came to Utah.   In conjunction with 1850 and 51 Federal and State census' showing him in Iowa - this is doubtful. 
  • Luther Palmer was a Physician - this is the strangest of all the tales, and doubtful.    A doctor?  He's doing some awfully strange things for a doctor, and there is a odd lack of evidence for this. 
    • He almost certainly, based on the information in the previous 2 sections,  did not go to medical school in California  prior to 1851 and return to Utah and become one of Brigham Young's physicians.
    • Nowhere on any of the records listing occupation does he show up as a doctor.    
    • Newspapers covered almost anything - and if he was a physician attending Brigham Young - you would think that would make the news.    He and/or his family are showing up in the newspaper for other items - but not this?
    • Brigham Young didn't like doctors and stayed away from them as much as possible.  This was one of the more interesting things I learned in researching this.     
    • He wasn't living in Salt Lake City during the period of time he was Brigham Young's physician.  He was in Sanpete and Sevier counties.   That is a 2 hour + drive today on modern highways.    It is very unlikely he was commuting from Chicken Creek to Salt Lake on any sort of regular basis.
    • He's oddly absent in the AMA documentation.  I did find 2 references (links below) to him as a Dr - never is a specialty, schooling or other details listed - as they seem to be with most of the doctors in the records.   One did note that he was an Allopath.   In reading about Allopath's on Wikipedia - particularly in the 19th century - this was an unflattering reference to people who practiced alternative forms of medicine.
    • In her reported journal, his mother is considered a nurse, and one of his wives was a nurse - so perhaps he picked up some things?
    • He supposedly practiced medicine until 1900 while living in Colorado - but in the Colorado census he is listed as a farm laborer.   Much closer to the Stock driving farming occupations listed in other census records.   If he is a physician - he's doing his best to keep it from appearing in any records.
  • Goes to Mexico - then Colorado - Possible.  Not sure when this move to Mexico happened - but he's testifying at his son's murder trial in 1891, and his daughter is fornicating with Mr. Hudson in 1894 (or at least that is when he was convicted!) so it must have been sometime after 1894.
  • 1901 Wife dies of Cancer, moves to Salt Lake City.  Perhaps - but timeline is off.  His wife died in 1899 - though I don't have what I call good documentation on that date.  However - there is documentation refuting the 1901 date and the move to Salt Lake City.      She is not listed on the 1900 census, and he is present in Ouray Colorado when my brick wall, his son in law, John McGovern is killed in 1903.    An article in the Ouray newspaper in 1904 mentions that he is moving with his daughter to a fruit farm in Montrose Colorado to help her out after losing her husband in 1903.
  • While it does not appear he moved to Salt Lake City in 1901, he is listed in the 1910 Census in Salt Lake City living with a "friend" and his occupation listed as "home" 

More than almost any other ancestor I have researched, I have a picture of Luther Moses Palmer in my mind.   I realize that a lot of it is based on some stories that may not be completely accurrate, coupled with some pretty interesting documented stories about he and his children, as well as the paper trail that exists, mixed in with a healthy does does of assumption.  

So - that being said........

I think that Luther Moses Palmer was probably a character.  I think he made decisions without always thinking too far in advance.  I think he kept an eye out for the next big thing, or the next scheme.   He seems to be restless - moving all over, trying new things.  I have an impression that he may have had quite an ego and enjoyed and maybe even encouraged some of the stories about him.   He kept his family close - and the moved around in a group so I think his children must have loved him.    I can almost picture him telling some of the wilder stories to his grand kids.   I think he would have been an interesting person to know!

Improvement ERA, November 1914  - click  
The Lancet Clinic, January - June 1915 - click.  
Evening Dispatch (Provo Newspaper) - July 13, 1894 click
The Daily Enquirer Newspaper April 30, 1891 - click click
Ouray Herald, March 11, 1904


  1. Luther was also my 3x great grandfather

    1. John McGovern -->Claude-->Calvin-->Kate-->Me :)

      I have a large book of information my grandfather Calvin gave me that you might find useful. send me an email