Palmer Melander Wood
Heather’s 2nd great grandfather
When Palmer Melander Wood was born on January 18, 1839, in New York, his father, Tillinghast, was 36 and his mother, Jemima, was 39. He married Jennie Mary Ward in 1867 in Herkimer, New York. They had seven children in 15 years. He died on December 18, 1900, in Herkimer, New York, at the age of 61, and was buried in Jordanville, New York. He was a member of the Freemasons, Herkimer Lodge No. 423. He invented and patented a type of bookbinding. He was involved in politics and a number of scandals throughout his life. His innocence or guilt in all of the said scandals was never definitively proven.
There was a Federal census taken in 1840, a year after Palmer was born. But that census only named heads of households. So the first time I find him named with his family is in 1850. In this census he appears by his middle name Melander. The family is living in Warren, Herkimer County, New York.
The family also appears together in the 1855 New York State census, though it’s very faded and hard to read. That census asked for birth counties, and that’s how we know Palmer was born in Herkimer County. In that census he is listed with his first name, Palmer.
In the 1860 Federal census he is still living with the family in Warren. Again he is listed as Melander.
And in the 1865 New York state census, he is Palmer again. Still living in Warren with his parents. In 1865 he is 26 years old, and his occupation is “farmer”.
I don’t have an original source marriage record, but we have an estimate from what he reported in the 1900 census, as well as the fact that oldest son Rinaldo was born in April 1868. It appears that Palmer married Jennie Ward in 1867.
In 1868 he appears as “P.M. Wood” next door to “T. Wood” (his father) in a really cool land ownership map from Warren, Herkimer County, New York. Look for where I circled in red. Also of note are the 2 properties belonging to “A. Ward” who is “2 doors down” so to speak. This is Artemas Ward, who is Jennie Ward’s father. I know this for sure because the names are all spelled out in the 1870 census, only 2 years after this map was published.
I didn’t copy the 1870 population census, but here is the agricultural census also taken in 1870.
You can see Tillinghast Wood’s info on the first row, followed by Palmer Wood. Artemas Ward is at the bottom.
Reading the fine print, we learn that Palmer owns 55 acres of land, 10 of which is woodland. His land is worth $4000, his tools are worth $200, and he earned $200 in wages the previous year. He owns 2 horses, 13 milch cows, 1 “other cattle”, 8 sheep, and 2 swine. All of his livestock is valued at $1000. For produce, he grows oats, barley, and buckwheat.
Here is his family in the 1875 New York state census.
He now has 2 daughters in addition to his son Rinaldo Roscoe. His mother lives with him now, because his father Tillinghast passed away, actually only about a week before this census was recorded.
In 1879 he is nominated to be county clerk. He is reported as (still) living in Warren. This is from the New York Times.
Here is the family in 1880. Palmer’s occupation is “county clerk”. Another daughter has been born. The census location is no longer Warren, but now Herkimer proper, within Herkimer County.
Though I don’t know the address, a distant cousin (Eric Gloo) shared this incredible photo which is probably the home they lived in in 1880. The family is standing on the porch. Could this be 124 Prospect Street where son Ward lived for so many years? This building is certainly large enough to be converted to a duplex. See 2 separate entrances on the front of the building.
And since Palmer is working as a county clerk, I was able to find his signature on a court document. He wrote his title as “clerk of the Supreme Court”, I think.
This photo was probably taken around 1880 as well. (This one was sent to me by cousin Lisa Villiere.)
In 1881 Palmer and Jennie have a daughter Bessie, who dies that same year.
In 1884, son Ward Palmer is born.
In 1885, there is a reference to his farm back in Warren. This news article from The New York Sun indicates that a human skull had been found in the woods on Palmer’s property, presumably those 10 acres of woodland in Warren.
The New York Times explains that Mr. Druse was murdered in 1884 and that Menzo Elwood lived on the farm at the time. So that seems to indicate that Palmer Wood still owns the property, but is now acting as a landlord.
25 Nov 1887 – The New York Times
In this article we learn that Palmer served as county clerk for 2 terms (roughly 1880-1886). And that after he left this position, he was accused of possibly pocketing up to $5000 in excess fees, which I’m not clear if it was expense report fraud or a sort of embezzlement. This issue would persist for several years. I found a news article referencing this case in 1891, which we will see later.
In April 1887, Palmer applies for a patent for a new type of bookbinding. The patent is awarded in November 1888.
Full text of the patent is here:
In 1888, Palmer’s mother Jemima passes away.
Here’s a rerun of the family portrait that I first put in son Ward Palmer’s biography. Guessing it was taken around 1888 as well.
11 Oct 1891 – The New York Sun
This is an obituary for a lawyer, and just happens to mention The People vs. ex-County Clerk Palmer M. Wood.
The full case text can be found here:
And if I’m reading this case text correctly, this is an appeal which reverses a previous judgement against Palmer. In the original case he was found guilty, but it sounds like he did not get a jury trial. The appellate court determined that he should have either gotten a jury trial or that the state was at fault for paying him the money.
And here’s a repeat photo of the 1892 census (copied from son Ward Palmer’s biography):
Where Palmer’s occupation has changed again, to “coal dealer”.
So then in September 1893 that helps explain this New York Supreme Court case Ehrehart vs. Wood, which was an appeal by Palmer. He was appealing a judgement against him from January 1892 where Mr. Ehrehart says he sold Palmer some coal which I guess Palmer didn’t fully pay for. I think Palmer was arguing that the Herkimer Paper Company was supposed to pay for it. But the judgement went against Palmer and he lost the appeal as well.
There’s also an 1893 map of Mohawk, New York, that names Palmer M. Wood as a “Coal, Wood, and Pipe Dealer”. A copy of the map can be purchased here. http://www.worldmapsonline.com/historicalmaps/1W-NY-MO-1893.htm
Palmer’s business is #9 on the map, but I can’t make the image larger to be able to see it.
18 Nov 1893 – The World (New York) reports that Palmer is a candidate for clerk to the New York State Senate.
A few days later, here’s another report from the same newspaper.
2 Jan 1894, the New York Tribune prints that Palmer has gotten a job as deputy clerk of the Assembly, at a salary of $1600/year.
On 12 Sep 1895, the New York Times reported something about the Herkimer Republican Party, which I don’t really understand, but Palmer is a candidate or delegate that is mentioned.
On 9 Oct 1895 Palmer is in more political hot water. A very lengthy article is published on the front page of the New York Times. It indicates that there’s a place called “The Farm” that is few miles outside of Herkimer city limits. This place is run by a man named Tony Mackin, though Mr. Mackin does not own the property. The newspaper uses a lot of words and descriptions that imply that “The Farm” is a casino/bar/brothel. And evidently Palmer is the landlord. The property was originally owned by a Mr. Tower, and when he passed away the rights went to his son. But son Tower was determined to be insane, and so a “committee” to take over the property was appointed by the New York court system. The committee was only one person – our Palmer M. Wood. Here is an excerpt from the article.
Palmer’s involvement in politics while acting as landlord of the questionable establishment is labeled “disgusting” and “hypocrisy”.
Courtesy of cousin Eric Gloo, again.
As we saw in son Ward’s biography, in 1900 the family was living at 124 North Prospect Street in Herkimer. And remember we learned that in later years this address was a duplex that the family was renting. I wish I knew what happened between that wonderful 1880 photo, and 1900. I wish I knew if the building in the photo is actually 124 North Prospect Street. It’s certainly large enough to be converted to a duplex. Did they sell the building after Palmer died? Or is 124 North Prospect Street a different address altogether.
We can also see from this census that Palmer’s occupation is at a post office. This will be referenced later in his obituary. It happens to be the New York City post office, where he travels from his home in Herkimer. He got this job in March of 1900, as we learn in this news article. His name is in the last line, but I clipped the whole article because it talks about the cashier’s salary ($2600/year) and also the culture of why people preferred post offices over home delivery (in New York).
Early in December 1900, he is “knocked down by a team” (I’m guessing horses) while in New York city. This leads to his death on 18 December 1900.
17 Dec 1900 - The Evening World (New York)
From the Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York.
He was buried in the family plot in Jordanville, New York. (Photo by Lisa Villiere.)
Eric Gloo provided this wonderful letter that had been passed down in his family.
Lisa V. provided this obituary, which I think was printed in the Herkimer Telegram.
It seems Palmer did not leave a will. I found this probate record from July 1903 granting all of Palmer’s “goods” to his widow, Jennie.