The History of Palmer, Texas
by Mrs. Frances Anne Blocker
from The History of Palmer
With some additions by Susie Toal
The earliest land grants in Ellis County were of Mexican origin as Texas was still a partial state of the Republic of Mexico under the name of the State of Coahuila and Texas. Among the earliest of land grants was the grant to citizen Raphael de la Pena on October 22, 1834. Senor de la Pena was given title by the government of Mexico to this immense area being about 50,000 acres, there being 4,428.4 acres in a league of land . He was supposed to settle and colonize this land with a certain number of occupants, but likely never saw it, as he immediately assigned the vast domain to Nathaniel Townsend. This land grant takes in the town of Palmer and extends eastward to the Trinity River, including Crisp, Bristol and India. It ends just east of Trumbull but includes almost all of the land located between Palmer and Ferris on Highway 75.
Early Settlers of Palmer
In 1846 there were few newcomers in the Palmer area. Peter Stout had a settlement on Grove Creek; later built a gristmill, probably the second in this county.
Hans Smith settled on the south side of Red Oak Creek, and opened a small store of dry goods and groceries. He came with his wife, Nancy Owen Smith, and three sons, Robert, Sidney and William, and one daughter Leila. Mr. Smith was slain on a return trip from Houston where he sold cotton. He was robbed and killed. His wife Nancy, her son Robert went to Houston and brought him back home to be buried. This burial ground was later given by Nancy Owen Smith as a cemetery for her family and friends and is known as the Smith Cemetery. Each year memorial services are held with a speaker who is a direct descendent of this pioneer family who are buried atop this beautiful hill overlooking the valley beneath.
In 1850 Alfred Anthony came with his wife and small son, Felix. He later built one of the finest houses in Palmer being recognized as one of the outstanding builders and carpenters in the area.
The J. W. Stacks family settled in Palmer in 1855. John Bunker came from Arkansas and became on of the most successful farmers and merchants. They had come with the Anthonys from Arkansas.
In 1869 when the Houston and Texas Railroad came through this section of Ellis County, Alfred Anthony, who owned all of the land on which Palmer is now built, gave the right of way in exchange for one dollar. When finalization of the transportation route was complete in 1872, Judge Palmer of Houston, who owned some stock in the railroad company, came to the site that is now downtown Palmer and made a most inspiring speech about what this railroad line would do for the town. In his honor, the town was so named PALMER. In 1874 a depot was established and according to the courthouse records, J. J. Crawford, in 1874, built the first house which later became a boarding house.
In 1876 Jacob M. Blocker, with his wife Lourana Lightsey of Pike County, Arkansas, came to Palmer. With Mr. & Mrs. Blocker wee their son Asberry, and daughters, Martha and Della. In 1879 J. A. NeSmith came by train from Alabama to Palmer. He brought his wife and nine children. Across Cottonwood creek had already come the Columbus Tolleson Family. Mr. Tolleson was married to Sarah A. Blocker, sister of Jacob M. Blocker.
Churches of Palmer
Religious life in this part of the country was led by unsung heroes who were great soldiers of the cross and held services under trees, in pioneer cabins or in whatever space was provided.
There was no organized Protestant Church until 1845, when the Methodist Settlers took the lead for a divine service in Ellis County. This service was in a cabin belonging to a Mr. Bellows with Pastor Welch, preaching. In 1846 Cumberland Presbyterians organized a church. In 1869, the Baptist Church was organized with Brother E. A. Fuqua and Brother Sewell.
On June 14, 1880, The Articles of Agreement of the Palmer Union Church were drawn up and signed by representatives of the churches. According to the Agreement each church was to have charge of services on specific Sundays each month. The trustees, P. R. Johnson, J. G. Wadley, and Robert Smith, signed the agreement and named the building committee as follows: F. Smith, John A. Payne, T. G. May, R. B. White, A. E. Haswill, Thomas Turner, and E. H. Parks. The History of Ellis Countypublished in 1892 speaks of the Union Building thusly; The church is a handsome edifice and would do credit to a more pretentious town than Palmer. There was a time when camp meetings were the prime source of social and religious life in Palmer prior to the building of the churches, many still standing to attest the early beginnings of Palmer. Today both the First Christian Church and the First Baptist Church, are marked with Texas Historical Markers proudly declaring their vital link to religious heritage in Palmer.
Town of Palmer
The town of Palmer was established in 1872, and many settlers bought their business expertise. Records indicate that in 1881, P. R. Johnson, T. H. Andrews and Son, J. A. Payne, Robert Smith and Son, Hearn and Johnson, A. H. Rowe, White and Jeffers, all had businesses in Palmer. In 1874, the town was incorporated. John A. Payne was Mayor.
Medical Doctors in Palmer
Medical doctors practicing in Palmer and nearby were, Dr. Robert White, Dr. May, Dr. Everett, Dr. Daly, Dr. Moore, Dr. J. A. Jones, Dr. C. W. McBurnett, and Dr. S. L. Wadley.
In 1882, in the rear of Robert Smiths general merchandise store, a private bank, the Citizens Bank was established by Jacob Blocker and Robert Smith. The Guaranty State Bank was established at the corner of Jefferson and Main Street, later merging with the Citizens Bank in 1930 to form Commercial State Bank, still in operation in Palmer with a branch in Ferris.
Other Businesses in Palmer
Robert Smith established the Palmer Press Brick Company in 1902. In 1929 this brick company purchased the Standard Brick Company and the company was renamed Barron Brick Company. Barron Brick Company was a major supplier of the building brick in Ellis County. At one time there were two cotton gins in Palmer. Ellis County has long been an area known for its production of cotton and its excellent black land farming and Palmer boasted 2 cotton gins, Ellis County Gin & Merchants and Planters Gin. There was even a hotel in Palmer once, the Palmer Hotel, located at the corner of Main & Marshall Streets. The Schwartz brothers had a Blacksmith Shop. There was a lumberyard, hardware stores, general mercantile stores, and in the 1920s a newspaper called the Palmer Rustler with Mr. Greenwood Maddux as Editor. There was the City Garage, The Ice House, McKeever Chevrolet Company, The Interurban (tracks still exist in Palmer), Stacks Livery Stable, Barron Brothers Store, Barron-Davis Funeral Home, J. B. Elgan & Sons Mercantile, Sunshine Cleaners, McIntosh Drug Store, Collins Dry Goods, Reddell & Sons, The Post Office (and Miss Hattie); and who could ever forget, Jack Oates Mobil Station.
*Many people and businesses have come and gone to Palmer over the years. These were not famous people, they were not wealthy people; but they worked, lived, raised families and died, in Palmer.
I still remember when we moved to Palmer in 1950. I thought we had moved to the big city. At that time Palmer had a population of 647. But, downtown, Palmer had a movie theatre (admission on Saturday afternoon was 10 cents) a drugstore, 3 grocery stores, an appliance store, a feed store; a café, a post office, a school, a depot (with train service), a carnival every fall; And, all of this was in walking distance.
This is just a part of the History of Palmer, much of the history still exists in its buildings, and in its citizens. Palmer was and still is a great place.
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