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home : millennium edition : area town histories October 19, 2019

Village of Palmer once had its own high school and newspaper

The Village of Palmer, located in Bear Creek Township, is between Taylorville and Morrisonville on Illinois Route 48. The town was laid out in 1869 by J.H. Boyd and J.M. Simpson. They also erected the first store which was stocked and managed by Starke and Hailey. J.H. Boyd built a hotel, and his residence was included within the town limits. The post office was established in 1870 with G.E. Starke as the first postmaster. The village was incorporated in 1873, at a town meeting called for that purpose. Forty-one votes were cast in favor of incorporation, and one vote was cast against. The no vote was cast by Mr. Hailey, his reason being that he wanted to keep saloons out of the town.

The business and professional men of Palmer in 1880 were as follows: J.H. Boyd, elevator; W.A. Crowder & Co., flour-mill and elevator; Drs. J.J. Connor and J.W. Petrie, physicians; T.J. Hailey, J.C. Dodson and R.O. Suiter, grocers and hardware dealers; L.D. Potter, restaurant; T.J. Lantz, restaurant and barber shop; W.L. Long and D.T. Price, dry goods merchants; G.H. Vanarsdale and I.N. Tice, druggists; J.H. Boyd, lumber dealer; J.M. Potter, harness shop; C.N. Peterson, shoe shop; Mrs. S.J. Higgins, milliner; Benjamin Pearch and William Bock, butchers; J.R. Fitch, W.M. Stam, Fred Wucherpfennig, blacksmiths; J.R. and J.M. Fitch, coffin shop; Philip Stadler and P.J. Cunningham, saloons; and J.H. Bowlsby, proprietor of the Bowlsby House, and D.A. Kauerauf, proprietor of the Palmer House.

The town continued to be a busy place, and by the year of 1918 there was a new brick schoolhouse consisting of four rooms. Two years of high school work was done there. Business and professional men at this time were as follows: physicians, Dr. J.F. Miller, Dr. J.P. Simpson; stores, Blanchard and Priest, Bradley and Tedrow, A.L. Shrout; meat markets, Buck Brothers; lumber, J.L. Boyd; grain, Farmers Grain Co.; livery, W.F. Grauer; bank, Palmer State Bank; blacksmith, W.H. Darner; restaurant, O.S. Truax.

In 1920, a weekly newspaper, The Palmer Tribune, was being published by J. Will Schaefer. The front page headline in The Palmer Tribune for Thursday, July 8, 1920 was, "Dave G. and Clara Leigh Killed." The brother and sister (both unmarried) were together in Palmer with horse and buggy when a bad storm was seen approaching. Miss Leigh remembered she had left windows raised at home, and little chickens needed to be housed. Her brother, on his way to two important board meetings, one at the Farmers Grain Company and the other at the Palmer State Bank, decided to take his sister home. In his haste, they were hit by a train and killed instantly. The paper stated that "They were of the old-fashioned, plain, hardworking, saving, carefree country folk and carried the respect and the esteem of all who know them. That they had prospered in life is evidenced by the fact that they own great tracts of land and town properties." David G. was born in 1846, and his sister Clara Leigh was born in 1849, both on the homeplace where they had lived all their lives. They were survived by the following brothers and sisters, James and John H. Leigh and Mrs. Wm. Clark of Taylorville, Mrs. Martha R. Boyd of Kincaid and Mrs. D.W. Starr of Raymond.

An issue of the Palmer Tribune dated Thursday, July 8, 1920, listed the following merchants advertising in that issue. They were J.W. Schaefer, insurance; The Palmer State Bank; Wm. F. Grauer, livery, transfer line, auto service, feed and the highest market price paid for hay; B.E. Lehmann, restaurant and confectionery; Durbin and Eilers, auto tires; Ramsey and Kerns, dry goods; J.P. Simpson M.D.; A.D. Balsley, veterinarian; J.M. Bradley, Maytag Washers; L.I. Smith, horse collar pads; and remedies for various ailments.

In the winter of 1879, a revival meeting was held in the Maple Grove School, six miles northwest of Palmer. Elder Kalkans preached, and a church was organized. In 1881 the Advent Christian Church was moved into Palmer, using the public school building until a church building was erected the following year.

Progress, many times, takes businesses away from the small towns, and so it is with the village of Palmer. The Palmer State Bank and the two large elevators remained the most of the business conducted in Palmer during the past several decades.

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