Palmer, like Archer, is one of the "young" towns of the county, being started in 1887, when the railroad was built from Central City to the northwest. By that time the area around Palmer was fairly well settled. There were rural schools and it had been served by post offices. One post office named Burlingame, had been on the George Burlingame farm northeast of Palmer. Another called Vickie, was said to have been located in a small building in the southeast part of the present town of Palmer, east across the road from the ball park.
When the railroad was first built it was called the Lincoln and Black Hills road. It was visioned then that Palmer would be the junction of two important lines running to the Black Hills and the great Northwest. Trains started running over the St. Paul branch in October 1887.
It was recorded at the time that several switch tracks, 2000 feet long, and a round house 1500 feet in circumference and with forty engine stalls were being built at Palmer. Big coal sheds, a depot, and "one of the largest water tanks west of the Mississippi river" were being built.
For the townsite, the railroad company bought 480 acres from W. Templin, Robert Lambert and Mrs. Samuel Lambert. The town was named in honor of Major H. E. Palmer of Plattsmouth, a Civil War Veteran and a high officer in the G. A. R.
The boom feeling and enthusiasm ran high in the community, as was reflected in the writings of the first editor and other residents. The following is quoted from the first issue of the PALMER SUN, dated October 7, 1887:
"On no published map of Nebraska is the name and location of our town printed. A half month ago it was unsurveyed. In the spring part of the town was planted to corn.
"The town is now filling up with enterprising and far seeing men . . . . The country back of the town is the richest in the county. The Elk and Loup Valleys . . . have never failed to bring forth splendid crops. Of railroad facilities, too much cannot be said . . . bright days in the future are assured.
"The townsite could not have been better chosen.
It commands a beautiful view of the valleys filled with well tilled farms, good farmhouses, and fine groves. We extend a welcome to all newcomers. There is a place here for the industrious, the enterprising, and the man of means."
Was the writer exaggerating? Or was he just showing a wise appreciation of surroundings?
The first business building was built by Joe A. Hayes of Hayes Bros. It was completed in September, 1887. Other buildings must have mushroomed almost overnight, for in the newspaper published on October 7, 1887, about ten local business places were advertised.
In seven years, 1895, Palmer had a population of 200. It reached its peak in about 1920 with nearly 600 residents.
Though the problems of the small town have been difficult, since the coming of the automobile, the spirit of Palmer has remained much the same as expressed in 1887. The results are seen in the progress of its schools and churches, and the large number of solid and enterprising business enterprises here at the present time.
PALMER IN THE HORSE AND BUGGY DAYS Arrow points to the first brick building built by Joe Hayes in the winter of 1887-1888. Still in good condition, it is the only original business still in town. It houses the east half of Palmer Furniture Store.
HOW ONE MAN "DISCOVERED" GAGE VALLEY
Gage Valley is that rich farming area south and southwest of Palmer. The grandparents of Lee Nicholas, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander S. Nicholas, and family, homesteaded in 1873 on the quarter section one mile southwest of what is now Palmer, on the farm that has been known as the Fitzpatrick place and is now occupied by the Alfred Meyer family.
In the spring of 1872, the family had come from LaFayette County, Wisconsin, to Howard County, Nebraska, where Mr. Nicholas pre-empted some land near St. Paul, south of the Loup River. As the nearest grist mill was at Lone Tree, they would haul their grain for flour on a trail down the Loup River Valley about fifteen miles then turn southward through the Fairview territory to Lone Tree. This was a long round-about way, so one time A. S. Nicholas decided to strike out across country directly toward Lone Tree. After crossing some sand hills he came upon the gently rolling land which was later named Gage Valley. He decided to homestead there and entered his application in the fall of 1873.
While the Nicholas family still lived in Howard County, their oldest son, Isaac, age about 12 years, and a neighbor boy, being saturated with the spirit of pioneer adventure, decided they wanted to go to South America. So without telling their folks, they started out afoot.
Later in the day the parents learned of the boys departure. Mr. Nicholas started after them on horseback. Late that night he caught up with the boys at the Gus Coolidge home northwest of Lone Tree. They all stayed at the Coolidge home until early the next morning, when Mr. Nicholas and the boys started the long journey back home. One of the boys was without shoes, so he was allowed to ride back of Mr. Nicholas' saddle, while the boy with shoes trudged along beside the horse.
There was a happy sequence to this adventure. In the Gus Coolidge home where the boys had been "guests" there was a nice little daughter named Cora. She later became Mrs. Isaac Nicholas. Children from this union include Mrs. Orlando Campbell and the late Arthur, Guy and Glen Nicholas.
Land was donated and dedicated for the cemetery west of Palmer, and a burial was made, long before the town of Palmer was established. A ten acre plot in the northwest corner of the southwest quarter of Section 32, Twp. 15, R. 8, was donated to the community for this purpose by the owner, Mr. Benjamin Alspaugh, one of the pioneer settlers.
The first burial in the cemetery was his own daughter, Sellissa M. Alspaugh, who died December 10, 1872, at the age of 15 years. A small marble stone, weathered by the passing of years, marks her grave in the northwest part of the cemetery, where most of the first burials were made. It is said that the parents had intended that this would be their burial place, but evidently they moved away and have long been forgotten to this community.
Rose Hill Cemetery is today one of the most beautiful to be found, thanks to its natural favorable location, and the care given it by local organizations and individuals.
NELSON MACHINE SHOP
Site Updated: 03 December 2015