William Hamlin Palmer
Esther would have been ten years old at the time of her father's death. Revolutionary War pension records reveal that her oldest brother, Luman Jr., had already left his parents' home; and the 1830 Federal Census for Niagara Co., NY, shows him as head of his own household there. It is not clear whether Esther ever lived in her brother's home, but she was likely nearby. Their mother, Clarissa Pingra Bronson, seems to have lived with him in both New York and Michigan: An older woman appears in his household in that 1830 Census and again in the 1845 Michigan Census for Oakland Co., MI. Luman Jr. and his mother, Clarissa, are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Pontiac, Oakland Co., MI. He was one of three assessors elected at the first town meeting of Waterford Township, in Oakland County, in 1835 (18). Since Esther had remained in New York until her marriage to William in 1836, it appears likely that her mother and three younger sisters, Hannah, Mahala and Charlotte, came to Michigan at the same time as, or after, she did. Hannah and Mahala apparently lived in Manchester Township for a time. Jane said that the small house was built on the Palmer property for Aunt Mahala, who was a Bronson and who had "made a home for a nephew Will Abbey." The 1870 Federal Census shows Hannah Abbey with a son, William, E., age 12.
William's son, Samuel, told the following story from their early childhood on section 5: When the circus came through, moving from Adrian to Jackson on what is now Austin Road, it went past the William Palmer family's log house. William told his five small boys that he would have the circus stop in front of the house, that they might have a little longer look. The elephants led the procession. Just before they reached the house, William scattered a bushel of new potatoes before them in the road. Nothing could persuade them to move until they had eaten the last potato.
In 1852, perhaps because it was clear that Elba had lost the competition with the village of Manchester (its post office closed in 1853 (19) or because the settlement of Samuel's estate in 1850 had made it possible to break up the homestead, the Palmers sold their land on section 5. That same year, Jerusha's family moved to a farm on section 4 and Dolly Ann's family moved to the village of Manchester. Clarissa probably moved in with one of them or with William. In 1853, William, moved his family to a farm with a house and barn on section 16 of Manchester Township. William and Esther lived on this farm for the rest of their lives.
Transactions regarding the farm on section 16 are complicated by laws governing that section. Ichabod Freeman and S.M. Gilbert (who had purchased the shares of Ichabod's sons, Thomas and Frank) are listed as grantors, William as grantee, in the record in the Register of Deeds. According to Jane, Ichabod had bought it from the State in 1837. The Land Ordinance of 1785, which laid out the townships and sections of the Old Northwest, reserved section 16 in every township in the Northwest Territory "for the maintenance of public schools within the said township."
Esther BRONSON PALMER
Clarissa, his mother, helped William to have the original mortgage on section 16 "discharged"; but in later years he remortgaged various parcels, at more than one point having to go through foreclosure proceedings and, in the case of the southwest 40 acres, loss of the property. Deeds show that the northeast quarter of section 16 was not entirely back in the Palmer name until two years after he died.
The farm on section 16 merged into the sub-marginal land of a terminal moraine on the south and was mostly covered with stones. Sheep thrived on these hills and the land was said to be productive enough. A neighbor, William Rushton, said that his son wore out two pair of boots growing a corn crop in one field. The corn was all right, however. Next to these rock piles were beautiful oak openings. They were like natural parks with hardly a stone to throw, ready for the plow. The Palmers' first farming was done with two oxen, Buck and Bright. This must be the oxen team that William's son, Samuel, told of using to break up the new land. Around the same time the trees on the southwest forty acres were felled and burned in windrows.
The house and barn the Palmers took over were of hand-hewn timbers. The house had one large room with a fireplace, and what they called the buttery, with shelves for the milk, and one room for sleeping. The Palmers enlarged the house at both ends in order to make room for their family. On the west end, William added an upright section, using the old building as a wing. There was a carpenter shop over the wing and big closets with wide shelves and small doors underneath. A small boy could creep across the joists in the dark and appear in another room-a wonderful place to play Indian. William also enlarged the barn and moved it to the east. It was placed on a stone wall; a basement was built and a horse barn and sheep shed added. The barn on its stone foundation, still stands next to Herman Road.
The water supply was a well with a sweep in the front yard. William set a fine orchard, and the house stood in the corner of it, surrounded by a split rail fence. Raspberries grew on every fence corner. There was a row of cherry trees, currants, concord grapes, crab apples, sugar pears and peaches. In the yard were apple trees-Russet, Fall Pippin, Seek No Further, and many other varieties. A leach stood in the back yard under the Russet tree and William used the hardwood ashes to make lye for soft soap. In the front yard were lilacs, a big patch of flowering almond, wild roses and little dwarf purple iris. Kate Palmer told Jane that she and her brother, William Jr., made a cobblestone walk to the front door.
The road to the village was an old Indian trail. William's son, Samuel, said that it was still easy to see in Walkowes' woods. It was a one-way road, narrow and winding, and on a cloudy night, perfectly dark. "One does not forget the sound of the horse's feet as he follows the track without guidance."
Samuel also told of the last flight of the carrier pigeons through Michigan. He said they were like a cloud in the sky and broke the branches of trees by their sheer weight when they lit. They disappeared as mysteriously as they had come.
Sharon Hollow Road was the outlet to what is now Austin Road. There was a great pole swing at the corner. It was a place where the boys and girls met for recreation. If a boy was socially inclined, he kept a driving horse and took pride in its looks. The boys washed their horses with soap and water and polished them.
This household on section 16 was apparently quite different from those in the settlement on section five, the probable birthplace of all of William and Esther's children. The first Samuel Palmer, Jane wrote, "had a Puritan background that made no compromises"; and the family were charter members of the Baptist church. William and Esther became members of the Free Will Baptist Church, and William was a Deacon there as well (20); but William's family revolted against the restrictions of that stern background, "except for certain conduct standards that they held to although they recognized their slightly comic value in a world of expediency." They kept horses for pleasure and peacocks; and Jane noted that Samuel, her father, was fond of fine clothes. But he would not go fishing on Sunday and said he once fell off a load of oats on Sunday and injured his knee, so he was laid up all summer. The neighbors, Jane said, claimed that the Palmers didn't like to work; but, in their defense, she said if that was so, it was only because they believed there were better things to do with their time.
Jane remembered her grandfather, William, as a gentle person. He liked children, pets and books. The old white cat followed him about inside and out and curled up beside him when he lay down on the old lounge to rest. He was also absent-minded. On one occasion he left his horse and buggy standing while he went to make ready to go to the village. His eye fell on St. Elmo, a best seller of the time, and he was lost to the world. Next morning his son found old Bill drooping at the hitching post after his all night vigil.
William died in 1884. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Manchester. Upon his death, his son, Samuel, took over the farm.
Esther, who outlived William by more than a decade, apparently continued to live at the farm for some time with Samuel's family, occupying her own apartment in the east end of the dwelling, under what had been William's workshop. In the workshop were carpenter tools (William had trained, and worked, as a carpenter as a young man (21), spare beehives and an old spinning wheel that was thought to have belonged to Clarissa, William's mother. Esther wore little black caps, except on Sunday, when she wore one of white lace with lavender ribbon. She smoked a tiny white clay pipe after dinner. There was an ancient Boston rocker in her room, the most comfortable chair in the house. It was said of Esther that she demanded consideration and received it.
At some point Esther went to live with her daughter, Clarissa (Kate) Palmer Reynolds, in Tecumseh in Lenawee County. It was there that she died. She is buried next to William in Oak Grove Cemetery in Manchester.
WILLIAM HAMLIN PALMER
William Palmer, b-13 Dec 1810, Cayuga Co., NY
d-1 Jul 1884, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
m-25 Aug 1836, Probably in Niagara Co., NY
Samuel Palmer, b-23 Jun 1785, Hillsdale, Columbia Co., NY
d-5 Sep 1844, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
m-2 Nov 1809, Unknown
Clarissa Shumway, b-21 Apr 1791, Charlestown, Sullivan Co., NH
d-14 May 1862, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
Esther S. Bronson b-9 Apr 1812 (22), Monkton, Addison Co., VT
d-28 May 1895 (23), Tecumseh, Lenawee, Co, MI
Luman Bronson (24), b-15 Nov 1756, Woodbury, Litchfield Co., CT or 1757
d-31 Aug 1822, Monkton, Addison Co., VT
m-5 Feb 1799, Monkton, Addison Co., VT
Clarissa Pingra, b-1774 or 1775 (25) Possibly New Hampshire (26) d-17 Feb 1847 (27), Oakland Co., MI
Children: of William H. Palmer and Esther Bronson:
Clarissa C., b-6 Oct 1837, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
d-15 May 1925 (28), Tecumseh, Lenawee Co., MI
m-12 Oct 1859 (29), Washtenaw Co., MI, to Benjamin Reynolds
Oscar M., b-7 Mar 1840, Manchester, Washtenaw Co. MI
d-2 Jul 1912 (30), Tecumseh, Lenawee Co., MI
m-28 Nov 1886 (31), Clinton, Lenawee Co., MI, to Margaret Obrien
Samuel L., b-21 Dec 1841, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
d-1 May 1917 (32), Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
m-16 Dec 1874 (33), Jackson, Jackson Co., MI, to Frances Van Winkle
Charles H., b-30 Oct 1843, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
d-1 Jul 1913 (34), Probably Paris, MI, county unknown
m-Unknown, Unknown, to Manerva Jenny Frost
DeForest, b-22 May 1845, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
d-13 Jun 1851, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
William H. Jr., b-12 May 1848, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
8 Feb 1883, Globe, Gila Co., CO-last letter home
Alice A. b-16 Dec 1861, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
d-2 Nov 1862, Manchester, Washtenaw Co., MI
17. Revolutionary War Military Service Records
18. History of Oakland County, Michigan
19. Michigan Place Names
20. History of Washtenaw County, Michigan
21. History of Washtenaw County, Michigan
22. History of Manchester Township
23. State of Michigan Record of Death
24. Bronson (Brownson, Brunson) Families
25. Date derived from date of death
26. 1880 Federal Census for Manchester Twp., Washtenaw Co., MI
27. Cemetery Records of Oakland County, Michigan
28. Record of Death, Lenawee County
29. Record of Marriage, Lenawee County
30. State of Michigan Record of Death
31. Tecumseh News, July 5, 1912
32. State of Michigan Record of Death
33. State of Michigan Record of Marriage
34. Obituary of Samuel L. Palmer, Tecumseh News, July 5, 1912
Unless otherwise noted, birth, marriage and death dates for William and Esther's children come from Old Bible and Other Pioneer Records. detail.