GRANT SIDNEY PALMER'S BOYHOOD IN THE CALIFORNIA GOLD-RUSH COUNTRY 1860's-1870's
Submitted by Erin Macdonald-Grimm 

Compiled for Tom Macdonald at Martha Macdonald's request. A special message to my dear little granddaughter Ruthie Gist for whom this family history was written from the suggestion of her dear mother. 

Message: You little angel you came into this beautiful world, a nice place for you, and you can make it nicer by having lived in it. Never mind what people may say or do, keep right on doing the best you know how. You will have your troubles and mother will help you to over ride them and Daddy will guide you too. I feel that you are going to be a joy to your mama and papa and you will make them happy by your presence and youthful gayety. When your mama was a little girl older than you, when we all went to church on Sundays we had to walk about a mile from where we lived, your uncle Alfred rode in the baby carriage because he was to young to walk. One day when we were halfway home your mama said to me, pa, my legs are breaking and of course I lifted her into my arms for awhile until she had her broken legs repaired by resting. Then agreeably walked for awhile and her legs to breaking again. This happened quite often when she wanted me to carry her which I was glad to do. She was a schemer.  Dear Ruthie, believe in god, for after all is said and done and when you are of the gray there is just one place left for you that is a heavenly abodes and all will be well with you if your life has been well spent.

Berkeley California
January 12, 1936
Grandfather Grant Sidney Palmer

 

A HISTORY OF MY ANCESTORS AND OF MYSELF
My name is Grant Sidney Palmer I was born February the 20Th 1863 in Lancha Plana, Amador County, California, on the Mokelumne River near the location of the Pardee Dam. I was named for General Grant for at that time he was winning great battles for Uncle Sam and saved the nation. Lancha Plana was a small village of half a dozen houses and a store.

My father settled there and was engaged in placer mining with sluice boxes. He had been established in Sacramento but malaria drove him out of the place and he went to Lancha Plana to mine. He was married there to my mother. In a few years he moved to a place called French Camp(?) a few miles from Lancha Plana. I will never forget the place as I lost a .50 cent piece in a well there and I expect it is still there covered up by this time. 

My brother and I, after dark used to raid our Spanish neighbor boys of pine burs which contained pine nuts. One night they nearly caught us too. I was about 4 years old then. Another thing happened there and was how my mother killed a very large snake in the cellar with a sledge hammer that father had used in mining. There was an old Frenchman, Carrie(?), that lived near by, he used to make reed rattles for us children and cook rabbits in vinegar. I tell you the rabbits tasted awful good.

One time grandmother was sick in Sacramento and my mother was called to take care of her during her sickness. My father took care of the house and us children. Father was a good cook as I well remember the large pan of cinnamon rolls that he made for us one time while mother was away. From this village the family moved to a town called Pine Grove, Amador County, California where my father was superintendent of a quartz mine. We lived in Pine Grove two or three years and then moved to Jackson, Amador County, California. Jackson is the county seat of Amador County. 

When we moved to Pine Grove and on the way from French Camp I was stricken with chills and fever. I remember of sitting in a corner of the room wrapped in heavy blankets and all the family trying to make it pleasant for me. I got well soon. We had out first Christmas in Pine Grove and Santa Claus brought a large tin pail of mixed nuts and candy. We enjoyed it immensely but had no tree. The first Christmas tree I ever saw was in Jackson. It was a large manzanito tree and it was loaded with presents for the children of the town.

In our mining town as Jackson was and Jackson had the deepest gold mine in the world, two or three times a year we had celebrations of some sort. The greatest time of the year was the 4Th of July, Independences Day and I remember getting up at day light to celebrate the day. My father had a livery stable and he could hardly accommodate the teams and saddle horses that came to town that day.

My greatest enjoyment while I lived in Jackson was in organizing a brass band. Our band was composed of about eight boys and we developed into the best band in the country. while other towns in the mountains gave celebrations and dances our band got the job. 

In the winter time after a hard rain made creeks and gullies roar with water washing down the hill sides to the creeks below and then into the rivers and finally into the ocean. At these rains I used to go out into the hill and gulches and look for gold and was successful. I did not find a great amount of gold but it paid me in two ways, financially and the joy of picking it out of the rock hid under the clear mountain water. Nothing looked more beautiful than a piece of bright yellow gold under the clear pure water. I went to school to a man named Gould a private teacher. I learned to read and write from him and knew the multiplication perfectly. I became a fair penman. I went to the public school after that and advanced to the Grammar grade and that was all the education I received, for in the mountain towns at that time if you could read and write that was sufficient as your parents needed your help in maintaining the family and of good size.

I was a hunter also and used to go hunting for quail and rabbits. The quail were too smart for me as I never got many and as for the rabbits I used to bring one home once in awhile. The shotgun I used was brought to California by my father when he came here from Boston. It did not use shells as they do now, you had to load the Gun with a ram rod, put the desired amount of powder in first, then paper for wadding to Separate the powder from the shot or bullets and then more wadding to hold the shot in form falling out and finally a copper cap on a little tube which led to the powder. The cap was exploded by a hammer attached to a spring and a trigger released the spring and gun went off.

My father had an old colt revolver that had a cylinder of six barrels in it,  and one time I thought I would load and try it out. The loading was the same as the shot gun only it had six barrels instead of one. I loaded it perfectly and put the caps on. I raised the hammer and pulled the trigger, the pistol made a load report, that was satisfactory but when I raised the hammer for the second shot and pulled the trigger again there was no report, upon examination I found the entire six barrels went off at once.

I was an expert marble player and used to have several hundred marbles that I had won from other boys. In the band I played the small drum and always played for shows that came to town. Jackson is a mining town of about 2000 population. The residents are nearly all Austrians and Italian. Some of them were regular brigands and some were decent. They were also American miners.

Back to gold again. James W Marshall was the discoverer of gold in California in January 1848 was an intimate friend of my father. He was a kindly man and helped other in need. I remember well when he came to Jackson to visit my father. I think it was 1875. They did not go into the house after greeting my mother but went into the front yard to talk. It was at this time that Mr. Marshall gave my brother and I his book of himself with his photograph and signature in his own handwriting. That was the last time I saw Mr. Marshall.

After leaving Jackson about 1886 we moved to Santa Cruz, California, my sister Adelaide having gone there first. After a few years in Santa Cruz I went to San Jose and secured a position as back driver. Soon I secured a better position with San Jose laundry Association and served them for 15 years or more. While with the laundry Association a nice young lady came to work for the association. and it was not long before we were keeping company and it was not long before we were married in January 1894.

From our marriage two sons and a daughter were born all in San Jose. The first born son was Wallace, the second child was Ruth and the third child was Alfred Wallace was born December 5Th 1895, Ruth on October 22nd 1900, Alfred on March 17Th 1906, they were about 5 years apart.

We moved from San Jose to Palo Alto about 1910 to assist Mrs. Palmer's father in the bakery business and from there into the hotel business. After a few years Mrs. Palmer went to Long Beach California and engaged in the steam counter business and was very successful while I stayed in Palo Alto and ran the hotel. I finally sold the place and went to my family at Long Beach. We were successful until the depression came on and we lost everything we had. I was taken down with the shingles in 1929 and have never recovered from them. It is now 1936.