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Daniel Palmer, M. D.

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Daniel Palmer, M. D.

Posted: 18 Oct 2008 8:19PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Palmer, Plotner, Riggs, Purviance, Conley, Jones, Hagler
From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 427-431

To the man whose life has been devoted to the amelioration of the conditions of humanity, administering to the sick in body and mind, and whose efforts have been potential in the lengthening of human life, much credit and praise is due, and it is to such a man that we wish to direct the attention of the reader of this volume for a brief and modest review of the principle incidents of his life. Daniel Palmer, than whom no man is more widely or favorably known within the precincts of Huntington county, was born in the extreme northeastern corner of the state, now known as West Virginia, near the old Potomac river, and not far from the important town of Berkeley Springs, on the 19th of October, 1823. Although he has now entered his seventy-eighth year his mind is as clear and his physique as erect as forty years ago. His parents were Martin and Sarah Ann (Plotner) Palmer, both of whom were born in the Old Dominion—the “Mother of Presidents.” The Palmer family are supposed to be of German origin, the early records of Pennsylvania referring frequently to the name, though the first of whom we are able to secure anything definite was Jacob, the grandfather of Daniel, and of him we learn that he was active at the time of the Revolutionary war. A continental fifty-five mill dollar, bearing date of 1775, which he received for horse feeding, has been handed down through generations as a heritage from early in the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, and is now in the possession of the subject of this review.

Martin Palmer removed his small family to Perry county, Ohio, in the year 1835, making his home at the village of Thornville, where he followed the trade of shoemaking until his death, at the age of sixty-eight, having survived his companion for twenty years. Daniel, a boy of twelve upon coming to Ohio, was given the advantages of the schools of that state, being sent to the old Greenfield academy, a school which had a high reputation and, as shown in his memoirs, the place where John Sherman received the foundation of his wide education. The Claypool family had established this school and, many of them being thoroughly educated, gave the old academy a fine standing. New Lancaster, Ohio, at that time was noted for the many very able men who were practicing at its bar. Tom Ewing, Bill Allen and others, whose names have become as familiar as household words in Ohio, were the patrons of that school, the greater number of its students being representatives of the oldest and ablest families of the state.

Among the classmates of Daniel was he who became the renowned Colonel John Connel, of New Lancaster; another was George L. Seitz, later of Fort Wayne, one of the brightest men Indiana has ever known. Daniel had received some business training in the store of R. H. Peters & Company, the meeting with the world there creating a greater desire than ever to acquire an education. He was almost wholly dependent upon his own exertions, and continued to work for that firm at various times for about five years, attending the academy whenever he could in the meantime. His need for a more complete education was thoroughly aroused, and he determined to persevere till he was able to occupy a responsible position in life. Making sufficient progress in his studies, his preceptor, a Mr. Williams, encouraged him to attempt to teach, which he did when in his eighteenth year. Ever feeling some inclination toward the practice of medicine, and realizing that no man could engage in anything that would give him wider scope for doing good in the world, he entered upon its study in the office of Dr. Philip Harvey, who later attained well merited fame as the founder and president of the Keokuk Medical College. He made very satisfactory progress in his studies, but learning much of the newer country of Indiana and having a friend, Joseph F. Good, at Warren, he decided to come to this place, which he did in the summer of 1846. He was without means and scarcely knew which way to turn upon his arrival. Good fortune threw him into the way of John Alexander, with whom his former friend was boarding, and placing his case before him there was no hesitancy on the part of Alexander, who at once agreed to board him and take his chances of getting his pay. There was then a demand for a teacher, and in a very short time he was given charge of the village school, located where the first artesian well now stands. He had about thirty pupils, the subscriptions from whom placed him in an easy and independent position. He taught the succeeding fall term, and in the meantime his circle of acquaintances was spreading. About this time his grandfather’s estate was settled, and he came in for a share, which he received and invested in land. Deciding to resume the study of medicine as soon as conditions would permit, he became associated with Dr. J. R. Mills, with whom he read until he took a course of lectures in the Indiana Medical College, then located at LaPorte, with such strong men as Drs. Meers, Knapp, Niles, Meeker and Deming as its professors. He began practice in company with Dr. Mills, going to Mt. Aetna, though he remained there but a few weeks. Dr. Mills removed later to Huntington, from whence he went into the service as surgeon of the Forty-seventh Regiment. When he decided to remove the field became broader for Daniel, who entered immediately into a very satisfactory and remunerative practice. During all this time he had remained in the family of John Alexander, and the time was approaching when he could repay him for the confidence he had reposed in the young stranger when he first came to the town.

It was conceded that Warren should have a certain number of the county officials, and those who were the political leaders decided that the young doctor would be an available candidate for auditor of the county, and so approached him, assuring him of election if he would make the race. His heart was set upon his profession, however, and he knew the disaster which might ensue of (sic) he were to leave its practice to engage in politics, so, after carefully weighing the matter, he decided to refuse, but in so doing asked the privilege to suggest a suitable man, which he did in the person of this same John Alexander. The idea was acceptable, and as the result Alexander was placed in office, a position that he retained some connection with, either as principal or deputy, so long as he lived, the income enabling him to clear off a heavy indebtedness and to save the property, so that his latter years were passed in comparative ease and freedom from financial worry. Alexander was a big-hearted, whole-souled man, whose little acts of kindness were innumerable, and whose circle of friends was as wide as the borders of Huntington county.

After practicing for some time the young doctor completed his studies in the Indiana Central Medical College at Indianapolis, after which the practice was as extensive as he could possibly desire. The life of the practitioner of medicine in this section of the state fifty years ago was one of the greatest hardships, in fact, no one of the pioneers saw life at its hardest more than the physician, and were it not for the satisfaction that came from the benefits constantly being given to the distressed scarcely a man but would have abandoned the profession to assume some other line of business where the remuneration was more abundant. The paths, there being few roads, wound through the great forests, following as far as possible some old Indian trail, and often through water knee-deep for miles. The Doctor recalls that between Warren and Huntington he has waded his horse to the girth for more than half a mile, and that in crossing a pond south of the present village of Majenica fish, eighteen inches in length, would swim under the horse. He was called to see one family, the house being reached only by thus wading through water, sometimes almost deep enough to cause the horse to swim, the cabin being entirely surrounded in that way, the inmates keeping a canoe with which to get to higher ground. Small wonder was it that this region was said to be unhealthy, the greater wonder being that anybody could survive. Quinine was then an absolute necessity, and when the saddle bags were exhausted of this drug the principle and most important ammunition was drawn from the doctor’s guns. Once the supply was all gone, and the Doctor went to Marion, twenty miles, to replenish his stock. None could be had there for love or money, and he returned sorely distressed, there being many patients whose lives depended upon his securing quinine. The next day he went to Huntington, but found the condition the same. He then resolved to go on to Fort Wayne, as the drug must be had, and there found what he wanted, the price being eight dollars per ounce, and he could buy but one ounce, but for the time it sufficed. He had spent three days in the saddle, riding more than one hundred and twenty miles to get one ounce of quinine. His practice reached over a period of thirty-eight years, retiring from its active duties some seventeen years since, giving way to his son, who followed in the father’s footsteps. The relations borne by the Doctor toward others in the profession have ever been of the most cordial character, not only being a warm professional friend to the elder Dr. Lomax, of Marion, with whom he was often brought into consultation, but the same pleasant association has ever been held toward all the leading physicians of this region of the state. He has been a respected member of the Grant and the Huntington County Medical Societies, in whose gatherings and deliberations he has been a constant and influential laborer. The diseases of early days were principally of the malarial order, though the results were often as disastrous as the more scientific and academically named diseases of these later days. Though he often heard of “milk sickness,” it was generally over the line in some other county, though he did encounter it in one instance.

As has already been stated, he made investments in land, and during the years he has resided here has contributed materially to the improving of the country, having had at least three hundred acres transformed from the virgin forest to the most productive and profitable farms. He still has landed interests, owning eighty acres near the village and a half-section farm some distance north, all being well tiled and improved, and devoted to the grazing and feeding of cattle and other stock.

Casting his first ballot for Henry Clay, he has ever evinced a deep interest in public affairs, falling naturally into the rank of the Republican party, though for several years he has been identified with the Prohibition movement, fully realizing the curse that liquor is to the ablest and brightest of the young men of the country.

Fifty years ago the Doctor was made a Mason in Mystic Lodge, Huntington, and when King Lodge, No. 246, was established under dispensation at Warren he was named worshipful master, a position that he has retained for nearly fifteen years, sitting in the grand lodge repeatedly. Desiring to follow the work of the craft, he was sent to delve in the rubbish outside the walls, and was rewarded by the finding of a peculiarly shaped stone, which became the keystone of the arch, his connection in this line being in Huntington Chapter, No. 27.

April 18, 1852, he was united “for better for worse” to Miss Ruth Ann Riggs, with whom he traveled the pathway of life for twenty-seven years, when she was taken to “the shores beyond the waveless sea.” She was the mother of eight children, the eldest being Erastus Deming Palmer, a farmer of the county of Elbridge; Meigs Palmer, M. D., of Warren, is the second; Ella May is the wife of James Purviance of Huntington; Etta Meridian married Rev. George L. Conley and resides at Pipestone, Minnesota; Estelle Morton is the wife of Jefferson Jones, of this county; Daniel Grant is on the Doctor’s farm; Ann Mariah is the wife of Colonel Vannarsdale, of Huntington; and Mamie Adelia is at home.

The doctor was married a second time, October 27, 1883, this union being with Mrs. Marietta M. Hagler, who was born in Greene county, Ohio, her maiden name being Boots. She is the mother of two children, who have been reared in the Palmer home: George, who is still a member of the family; and Oscar E. Hagler, the present popular principal of the Warren public schools, and who came into the family at the age of fourteen. Mrs. Palmer had become the wife of John Milton Hagler in Greene county, Ohio, and came to Warren and settled on a farm in Salamonie township, where she resided until the death of her husband, September 28, 1877. Dr. Palmer had been the family physician for years, and knowing the womanly graces and tender sensibilities of the lady concluded, when his own heart had become saddened, that two lives would be made riper and richer if the diverging ways could be made to come together, and the remaining years be passed in that companionship which makes this earth a happy prelude to the beauties and joys of the world beyond.

Dr. Palmer has an abundance of those qualities which enable the visiting physician to arouse new life in the sick and the depressed when going into some sick chamber. The sometimes rugged exterior gives way to sympathies and emotions that would become the tenderest woman, and awaken in the mind of the afflicted a higher regard for the beauties of the world, and sets the blood to flowing with renewed vigor. With an unfaltering trust in the justness of the all-wise Creator he has not allowed his life to be shaped by the teachings of the orthodox, but, with the poet, holds that—

“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count the time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.

And he whose heart beats quickest, lives the longest;
Lives in one hour more than in years do some
Whose fat blood sleeps as it slips along their veins.
Life is but a means unto an end, that end
Beginning, mean, and end to all things—God,
The dead have all the glory of the world.”

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