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Biography of Walter Palmer

FarmHouse.jpg (51739 bytes)Walter Palmer, probably the son of Walter and Elizabeth (Carter) Palmer was likely born in the village of Yetminster, Dorsetshire, England sometime around 1585. Although he was married in England and fathered five children, the name of his first wife is unknown.

As a Separatist Puritan, in an effort to seek religious freedom, on April 5, 1629 he sailed from Gravesend England on a boat called "Four Sisters" - one of six ships; the others being the Talbot, Lyons Whelp, George Bonaventure, Lyon, and The Mayflower.

Walter arrived in Salem, Massachusetts on June of 1629 and settled in Charlestown Massachusetts with his five children and Abraham Palmer, possibly his brother.

On September 28, 1630 there was recorded a "Jury called to hold an inquest on the body of Austine Bratcher." It found "that the strokes given by Walter Palmer, were occasionally the means of the death of Austin Bratcher, and so to be manslaughter. Mr. Palmer made his psonall appearance this day (October 19, 1630) & stands bound, hee & his sureties, till the nexte court." At a court session of "a court of assistants, holden att Boston, November 9th 1630" numerous matters were taken up and disposed of, including the trial of Walter Palmer and one other item of interest: "it is ordered, that Rich. Diffy, servt. To Sr. Richard Saltonstall, shal be whipped for his misdemeanr toward his maister." "A Jury impannell for the tryall of Walter Palmer, concerning the death of Austin Bratcher: Mr. Edmond Lockwood, Rich: Morris, Willm Rockewell, Willm Balston, Christopher Conant, Willm Cheesebrough, Willm Phelpes, John Page, Willm Gallard, John Balshe, John Hoskins, Laurence Leach, /The jury findes Walter Palmer not quilty of manslaughter, whereof hee stoode indicted, & soe the court acquitts him." The above is the first discovered reference to William Chesebrough, one of Walter's closest friends.

Walter became very prominent in the affairs of Charlestown, holding public office and is listed among the first group of men who took the Oath of Freemen on May 18, 1631. The original list included, "Mr. Roger Conant, John Balche, Ralfe Sprage, Simon Hoyte, Rick: Sprage, Walt (Walter) Palmer, Abraham Palmer, Mr Rich: Saltonstall, Rich: Stower, Czekiell Richardson, Wm Cheesebrough.

Walter was married for a second time to Rebecca Short of Roxbury on June 1, 1633. They were married in Roxbury Church, of which she was a member and Rev. John Eliot its Minister. She was one of the first members of his church upon her arrival in America in 1632. Roxbury was generally settled by the people from Essex and Hertfordshire under the leadership of the Rev. John Eliot who had been the Vicar of Nazeing. Reverend Eliot's records of the Roxbury First Church state: "Rebeckah Short, a maide srvant, she came in the yeare 1632 and was married to Walter Palmer a Godly man of Charlestown Church." Rebecca was to give birth to seven additional children giving Walter a total of twelve.

In 1635 Walter was elected a Selectman of Charlestown, and in 1636 Constable. On March 26, 1638 he received an additional land grant "a true record of all such houses and lands as are possesed by the inhabitants of Charlestown" - - prepared by Abraham Palmer listed the possessions of Walter Palmer as follows: "Two acres of land in the east field, 'butting south on the back street,' with a dwelling house and another aptinances "five acres of arable land, milch cow commons six and a quarter, "four acres, more or less in the life field, "eight acres of meadow lying in the Mystic Marshes, "Four acres of woodland in the Mystic Field, "Five acres of meadow on the west of Mount Prospect, "Thirty acres of woodland. "Eighty-six acres of land scituate in the waterfield." On May 13, 1640 a committee was required to be appointed in every town to appraise all livestock. The committee for Charlestown was comprised of "Czechi: Rich'dson, & Walter Palmer.."

On August 24, 1643, Walter Palmer and his good friend William Chesebrough, whose fortunes closely coincided during their lives left Charlestown along with other planters and started a new settlement at a place known as "Seacuncke" (Black Goose). His home was located along the 10 Mile River in an area called Sowams. The area was to become independent of other organizations until they could decide on a government. At a meeting in 1643, before a division of land had been made other than for house-lots, those attending were required individually to give the value of their estates, in order that the allotments of land might be made accordingly. Will. Cheesebrough was listed 450 pounds and Walter Palmer at 419 pounds.

Walter was one of the nine members of the First Board of Selectmen chosen December 9 1644. On the second and ninth day of June, 1645 Walter Palmer and William Cheseborough were on lists concerning lots to be drawn for divisions of land. Walter's name seemed to appear in every group selected for any purpose, which seems to indicate his high standing in the community.

May 26, 1647 Chosen committee for the Court

May 19, 1651 Chosen Grand Juryman

May 24, 1652 Chosen Constable

On June 4, 1645 Seacuncke was renamed Antient Rehoboth (a town by the river) and assigned itself to The Plymouth Colony. Richard Wright was the first Deputy to be elected to represent Rehoboth to the Court at Plymouth, however he had been a strong advocate of the Massachusetts Bay Colony rather than the Plymouth Colony, and refused to acknowledge that the final decision was in favor of the Plymouth Colony. Admitted a Freeman on October 28, 1645, Walter Palmer was immediately sworn in as a Deputy in Wright's place.

Walter along with several others were also dissatisfied over the townspeople voting to consolidate with Plymouth Colony. He was in favor of an alliance with The Massachusetts Bay Colony. Prior to 1653 John Winthrop Jr. who had been granted land in that part of Connecticut known as The Pequot Country by The Massachusetts Bay Colony urged William Chesebrough, also one of those dissatisfied with The Plymouth Colony to settle in New London. Upon examination, William Chesebrough preferred that part of the country known by the Indians as Wequetequoc. He applied for a grant of 300 acres which was soon increased to 2300 acres. He then induced Walter Palmer and Walter's son in law Thomas Minor to join him there. Walter bought land on the East Bank of Wequetequoc Cove. It would appear that the land was originally placed in the name of Thomas Minor and later vested in the name of Walter Palmer.

In August of 1652 Thomas Minor built a house for his father-in-law Walter Palmer on the opposite side of Wequetequoc Cove from William Chesebrough. In 1653 Walter, Rebecca and children Elizabeth, Hannah, Elihu, Nahemiah, Moses, Benjamin, Gershom and Rebecca moved from Antient Rehoboth to their new home. Thomas Minor and his wife (Walter's oldest daughter) Grace with eight children of their own settled nearby in a house built by Thomas in Mistuxet (Quiambaug).

In the following years, Walter acquired additional land south of his location and on the eastern slope of Togwank, and on both sides of Anguilla Brook totaling about 1200 acres. On February 25, 1654 Walter was granted 100 acres of upland and also 100 acres in and about "Porkatush" (Pawcatuck). This land later became that of his sons.

During the first four years in Wequetequock Cove, Walter and his family had to travel 15 miles and across two large rivers to New London to attend church. On September 1, 1654 the first petition of the Stonington settlers for a separate town and church was refused by the General Court of Connecticut. On March 22, 1657 the first religious service was held in Stonington in the home of Walter Palmer with the Reverend William Thompson being the minister. Religious services were continued in various homes until May 13, 1661 when a meeting house was erected.

After a lengthy struggle with both the Connecticut and Massachusetts General Courts, the settlers succeeded in achieving local government. Their first efforts were then devoted to electing town officers and to the erection of a meeting house which was first used in September of 1661, just two months before Walter's death.

Walter was one of the first settlers to serve as Constable and on October 19, 1658 was appointed "to a committee to conduct the prudential affairs" along with five others. The 300-year Stonington Cronology by Haynes aptly describes Walter Palmer as the "Patriarach of the early Stonington settlers...(who) had been prominent in the establishment of Boston, Charlestown and Rehoboth, ...a vigorous giant, 6 feet 5 inches tall. When he settled at Southertown (Stonington) he was sixty-eight years old, older than most of the other settlers."

Walter Palmer died in Stonington on November 20, 1661 and is buried in the Wequetequock burying ground. A rough wolf stone about 9 feet in length covers his grave. The inscription probably added later reads "W. Palmer 1585-1661". The stone lies in the midst of a long line of graves of his children and grandchildren. Nearby is a large monument erected in the memory of the four founders of the area - William Chesebrough, Thomas Minor, Thomas Stanton and Walter Palmer. Rebecca Palmer probably died shortly before June 5 1684. The only known record is the division by sons Nehemiah, Moses and Benjamin of land on that date which "our father left for our mother to divide".

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