||William Palmer migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).|
Join: Puritan Great Migration Project
William Palmer first appears in the records Plymouth Colony on January 7, 1639. At a Court of Assistants he appears within a list of 13 men that were granted land at “Mattacheeset” now called Yarmouth where they would “take up their freedom” . William Palmer did not wait until the winter was over before taking up residence in Yarmouth and was active in civic affairs from the start. On March 5, 1639 the Court at Plymouth ordered that William Palmer “of the towne of Yarmouth” be added to a committee for the purpose of making an equal division of the planting land “to eich man according to his estate and quallitie” (Records of the Colony, Vol. 1, p. 117). Yarmouth is located Cape Cod, about the center of the lower neck, just east of Barnstable.
At Plymouth Court, on September 3, 1639, William Palmer appears on a list of eight men “proposed to be Freeman at the next Court” (Records of the Colony, Vol. 1, p 132). The term “Freeman” as used in Plymouth Colony, has fallen out of modern speech. Black's Law Dictionarydefines “Freeman” as “A person who enjoys all civil and political rights belonging to the people under a free government.” In colonial Plymouth, men had to be elected to this privilege by the General Court. Being a freeman carried with it the right to vote, and by 1632 only freemen could vote in Plymouth. .
At Plymouth Court, on June 2, 1640, William Palmer appears on a list of nine men who served as part of “The Grand Inquest.” (Records of the Colony, Vol. I, p. 155) In Plymouth there was a strong counterbalance to arbitrary government in that institution known as the “Grand Inquest” or “Grand Jury.” That body first appears in Plymouth records in 1636 when a law provided that a “Great Quest” be appointed by the governor and assistants for “inquiring into the abuses & breaches of laws and ordinances.” That responsibility was later defined to inquire into all wrong actions of any person or persons tending to hurt “society, civility, peace & neighborhoods” and present such disturbers to the Court for punishment (Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, p 147).
At the General Court at Plymouth on September 1, 1640, Gabriel Fallowell and “Willm Palmer” were “admitted freeman & were sworne”(Records of the Colony, Vol. 1, p. 161). Here William Palmer took his oath of a freeman and swore “allegiance to the sovereign lord King Charles, his heires & successors” . In addition he promised to defend the settlements and to do nothing that may tend to the “destruccon or overthrow of plantacons, Colonies, or Corporacon of New Plymouth.” He also agreed to faithfully submit unto “such good & wholesome laws & ordanc” (Oaths of allegiance, p. 10). The 1922 book “Oaths of allegiance in colonial New England” states on page 10 that in 1638 “with the outbreak of civil war, the oath was modified to loyalty “to the State and Government of England as it now stands.” However, this may be mistaken as the English Civil War is commonly said to have begun in 1642.
On June 17, 1641 Governor Bradford held a court in Yarmouth. William Palmer served on a jury of 12 that day and heard six cases, all regarding trespassing. The crime of trespassing is mentioned repeatedly within the written laws of Plymouth Colony. The various laws specifically mention horses, cattle or swine trespassing into someone else’s property and causing damage (The Compact with the Charter and Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth, 1836, p. 274). That same day at court public taxation would come to Yarmouth. Governor Bradford ordered that the residents of that town to “make a rate the defraying of all the public charges which have been laid forth for the good of the whole.” However, William Palmer was listed as exempt from certain taxes related to his public service in Yarmouth (Records of the Colony, Vol. II, p. 20). On June 7, 1642 the court ordered William Palmer be appointed surveyor of Yarmouth along with Gabriell Wheilden (Records of the Colony, Vol. II, p. 41). In addition, he was a committeeman, serving as a representative of Yarmouth to the Plymouth Colony General Court from 1643-1644 and 1648-1650 (Records of the Colony, Vol. II pp. 60, 72, 123, 130, 144, 154). Note, “Palmer Families in America, Vol. I” on page nine names William Palmer as a representative in 1642. His source may have been “Peirce’s Colonial Lists” which, on page 14, says William was a representative that year. A close examination of the original records reveals this not to be the case.
As said earlier, the first appearance of William Palmer within the existing records of Plymouth colony was on January 7, 1639. However “Peirce’s Colonial Lists” published in 1881, on page 69, states that in June 1638 William Palmer was made an ensign within Plymouth Colony militia. While this reference may be correct, no original records have been located to document this. Horace Palmer, compiler of “Palmer Families in America,” who died in 1953, also says on page nine of his book “there seems to be no record of this in Plymouth records.” On May 10, 1639, William Palmer was referred to as “Sergeant” within legal documents related to his wife’s family (below). On September 3, 1639 the Court granted William Palmer the right to “exorcise the inhabitants of Yarmouth in the use of arms.” (Records of the Colony, Vol. I, p. 130). This was the same court that nominated him to receive his full political rights as a freeman.
In 1642 the English of Plymouth Colony looked at their Indian neighbors with alarm “fynding the danger to be so great, and every man’s life in such hassard.” On September 27th of that year, the court “was occationed by the Indians to pvide forces against them for an offensive and defensive warr.” A force of 27 men, representatives from every town, was raised for the effort. “It is agreed & concluded that Captaine Miles Standish… shall lead those forces that shalbe set forth…and that Willm Palmer shalbe lieftennant.” William Palmer was the only representative of Yarmouth and the townspeople of Yarmouth were taxed two pounds and ten shillings for this effort. (Records of the Colony, Vol, II, pp. 45-7).
In 1643 war broke out between the Dutch at New Netherland and the Indians. Known as Keift’s war, hostilities began when William Kieft, Director-General of New Netherland attacked the Indians. The English settlers took notice. An August 1643 list of those up to 60 years of age, who were able to bear arms in the Plymouth Colony, included William Palmer of Yarmouth (Records of the Colony, Vol. VIII, p. 194). Furthermore, at court, in New Plymouth, before Governor Bradford, on October 10, 1643 the record specifically mentions the “insurrection of the Indians against the Dutch.” It was concluded that 30 men shall be prepared for war. William Palmer was again named Lieutenant (Records of the Colony, Vol. II, p 63). On June 4, 1645 the court “doth order that Leiftennant Wm Palmer shall continue in his place to exercise the townsmen of Yarmouth in armes” (Records of the Colony Vol. II, p. 86.
On March 6, 1649 the action of Thomas Dexter against Lieutenant William Palmer for 30 shillings came up in the Court at Plymouth. William Palmer did not appear in court and Dexter, with his own consent, withdrew the suit (Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, Vol. VII, p. 44).
Lt. William Palmer appears connected with three different incidents before the court at Plymouth on Oct 2, 1650. First, he lodged a complaint against Thomas Starr for defamation and claimed 50 pounds damages. The court ruled that “injuries had been put up against both sides” as so the case was put to rest. (Vol. VII, p. 50). The records make clear the next the two hearings that day were related to a piece of disputed property at Sasuett Neck in Yarmouth. First, a long list of Yarmouth townspeople charged William Palmer with trespassing and claimed 60 pounds damages. Next, William Palmer lodged a counter complaint against Thomas Boardman and John Wing, claiming 30 pounds damages. Both Boardman and Wing were among the 18 men who brought the trespassing charges against William Palmer. The court ruled “in the controversy” between Lieutenant Palmer and the town of Yarmouth, about land at Sasuett Neck, in reference to the two actions above, that Palmer be allowed to “peaceably enjoy the land granted him on the said neck” or at any other place or farm to be purchased, spoken of in court, belonging to John Wing on Sasuett (Vol. VII, p 50-51). Sasuett Neck, now spelled Sesuit Neck, is located on the bay side of Cape Cod, on the west side of Sesuit Creek.
At the next court at Plymouth on March 4, 1651, regarding the disputed piece of land at Sasuett Neck, William Lumkin, Thomas Boardman and Francis Baker lodged a complaint against William Palmer for forty pounds of damages. The Court ordered that Mr. Prence and Captain (Miles) Standish should meet together at Yarmouth as soon as they conveniently can, and settle the case. If it could not be settled then Captain Standish was granted the right to call summons for a trial, issue subpoenas for witnesses for a Court in June. As no record appears in the June court, it appears the issue was settled (Vol. VII p. 52-53).
The residence or home lot of William Palmer in Yarmouth has not with certainty been located as the early records of that town were destroyed years ago, but the will of William Chase, who went to Yarmouth in 1639, and which is dated May 4, 1659 recites “halfe of my lott of land at the Basse pond which I bought of William Palmer.” . There is a Bass River, which is an not truly a river but is an estuary in South Yarmouth, which is connected to number of small ponds. It is possible the 1659 deed is referring to the estuary. Perhaps at some point in the distant past, one of the ponds connected to the Bass River was named Bass Pond. The 1659 deed does not make clear, to the modern reader, to what body of water is being referred.
It is quite possible William Palmer lost his case regarding the land at Sasuett Neck, because soon after, in 1652, a group of English was granted permission by Peter Stuyvesant, Director of New Netherland to begin a settlement under his jurisdiction. They settled in the fertile land called Mespat, which lies between the Kill of Mespat (Newtown Creek) and Vlissingen (Flushing). The small hamlet, named Middleburgh, was begun upon the street (now known as Queens Blvd.) where the Presbyterian Church of Newtown now stands. This neighborhood is now known as Elmhurst, Queens, New York. Lots were laid out on both sides of the ancient road . A deposition dated May 3, 1653 at Middleburgh recites that Lieut. William Palmer has taken up residence there and was formerly of Yarmouth in Plymouth colony (Acts of the commissioners of the United Colonies of N. Y. Vol II, p. 49, edited by David Pulsifer.)
William Palmer and the other early settlers of Middleburgh had just barely settled into their new lives when the first Anglo-Dutch War erupted. Director Peter Stuyvesant, in pursuance of instructions from his superiors and from a sense of his own weakness when compared with his powerful neighbors of New England agreed with the adjacent Indian tribes for assistance in case his worst fears should be realized. Word of this defensive pact burst like wildfire through the small English settlements on Western Long Island and in Southeast Connecticut who now lived under a very uncertain Dutch rule. (Annals of Newtown, p.30)
As the fear spread, the rumor transformed and some of the English on Long Island became convinced Stuyvesant had formed a league with the Indians in order to destroy all of them. In particular, panic gripped the settlement of Hempstead. A certain man, named Robert Brokham, testified at Stamford, Connecticut on May 9, 1653 that Director Stuyvesant had told the Manhattoes Indians to fall upon their town of Hempstead and cut them off first and then moving on to the other towns as easily as they pleased. Brokham states that he, his family and neighbors fled, with their goods, to Flushing. There they ferried across the Long Island Sound, to the English settlement at Stamford, to safety. This would allow them to bypass the Dutch in New Amsterdam. Brokham further testifies that he told his neighbors they should stop at Middleburgh, on route, to alert them. “We went and came to Lieutenant Palmer’s and informed him what we heard” (Records of the Colony, Vol. 10, p 49). Thereupon most of the town was hastily called together, to whom the messengers repeated their incredible story. Some of the villagers gave credit to the evil report others were incredulous. There was no mass exodus from Middleburgh (Annals of Newtown, pp. 30-1).
The lack of alarm at Middleburgh may have stemmed from the friendly and benign treatment under Dutch rule. There was a waiver of rent and taxation for ten years. They were allowed to worship freely as Protestants and they were allowed to elect their own local magistrates (Annals of Newtown, p. 27).
However, the settlers of Middleburgh were not given an official patent to their town by Director Stuyvesant. There are no clear reasons why this was denied as patents were given to the English towns Hempstead, Gravesend, and Flushing. This lack of a patent, a legal definition, meant the lands of Middleburgh were open to continual encroachment by adjacent settlements. With no movement from the Dutch, the people of Middleburgh, who did not have clear title of their land, took matters into their own hands and approached the local Indians, the genuine proprietors of the soil. A negotiation to gain title was entered into with Rowerowestco and Pomwaukon, Indian sachems claiming propriety in the Middelburg lands. The agreement was reached on April, 12, 1656 and the price fixed at one shilling per acre of land. William Palmer appears on the 1656 list of new landowners, with his 30 acre farm purchased directly from the Indians for one pound and ten shillings (Annals of Newtown, p. 43).
William Palmer was one of the leading men of Middleburgh. According to Annals of Newtown, appendix F, p. 418, in 1657 he was elected magistrate, along with his in-law Henry Feek (Feake) and Richard Betts. On July 30, 1658, Director Stuyvesant, at New Amsterdam, approved a new annual trio of magistrates, nominated by the people of Middleburgh, renewing the term of William Palmer (Documents relative to the colonial history of New York, p. 424). Furthermore, on December 5, 1659 William Palmer served as a magistrate at a court. (Records of Newtown, Court Book, p. 6).
Listed on page 132 of the Town Minutes of Newtown, and dated August 1, 1659 is a transaction where William Palmer sold, to Samuel Salles and Richard Fidoe, a house and lot between “Dowty” and Richard Gildersleeve and a right in Smith’s meadow, which William acquired earlier from Matthew Edwards. It appears William Palmer could not write as he signed this deed with an “X” his mark. Note, on page 136 of those Town Minutes, and dated August 1659, appears “a true copy of the sale” of William Palmer to Samuel Salles and Thomas Robards. The name Richard Fidoe is specifically crossed off, and replaced with Robards at the top and his name is substituted for Fidoe throughout the deed to the identical property.
Although the settlement at Middleburg prospered and the calendar turned to 1660, stretches of western Long Island remained unsettled and untamed. Wolves remained in the wild and were a constant nemesis to the local farmers and their livestock. At town meeting on March 9, 1660, a bounty was offered for the killing of wolves within boundaries of Middleburgh. The attendees of this meeting formed a subscription to fund this project. “A voluntary agreement of the town of Middleborough about the killing of wolves being met together upon ye 9 March, 1660” Signed by 33 men, William Palmer paid five shillings (Town Minutes of Newtown, p. 41). The local Indians proved valuable agents in the destruction of these public enemies (Annals of Newtown, p. 49).
Although the specific date of William Palmer’s death is unknown, on November 29, 1661, “Judah Palmer of Middleborough” completed a real estate transaction with no mention of her husband. She assigned a deed to James Cristie for a house and land, with a good crop of corn and tobacco, for which Cristie agreed to satisfy all her creditors. William Palmer not being listed in the transaction, must having died previously. It appears “Judah” Palmer could not write as the deed is signed with her mark, an “X” (Town Minutes of Newtown, vol. 1, p.22).
Although the March 16, 1662 tax list does include William Palmer it appears this is in reference his estate. (Town Minutes of Newtown, p. 47). The 1666 and 1667 tax lists do not show any Palmers (Book of Town Records, pp. 78, 79). The final mention of this Palmer family in Newtown occurs on March 10, 1667. The Court Records of Newtown (Vol. 1, P. 81) record an action of Humphrey Way against John Gorham makes mention of the deed between the widow Palmer and James Cristie.
There are no records, at least yet located, that reveal what ship and when William Palmer took to America. However, it is known that on May 10, 1639, Sergeant William Palmer of Yarmouth and Judith, his wife, along with Lt. Robert Feake, of Watertown, Massachusetts, guardian of Tobias Feake, age 17, executed a power of attorney. This was regarding property on Lombard Street in London, belonging to the recently deceased James Feake, a goldsmith. Judith Feake Palmer and Tobias Feake were the “sonne & daughter”of James Feake (Lechford’s Manuscript Notebook, 1885, pp 228-9). Since there is no question the Feake family was from London, at the time, it is quite possible Lt. William Palmer was as well.
The date of William Palmer’s birth is unknown. Tobias Feake was 17 years of age in 1639, and he was in the care of his Uncle Robert Feake of Watertown, Massachusetts. Judith was therefore, somewhat older than Tobias, perhaps 8-10 years older, which would give her birth as about 1612-1615. Perhaps she was not born until 1620, which would make him 19 years old when she came to Yarmouth. William Palmer could have been born between 1610 and 1615 which we fully believe is approximately correct and Judith was probably born between 1617 and 1620. They were probably married in London and came to America at once, or else Judith was with her uncle in Watertown earlier and married there just before coming to Yarmouth. These facts will probably never be fully known (Palmer Families in America, Vol. 1, p11).
Sometime in late 1661 or early 1662 Judith moved to Greenwich or Stamford and soon married Jeffrey Ferris as his third wife. His second wife died December 23, 1661. Ferris died May 31, 1666 and his will is dated Jan 6, 1665 in which he mentioned wife Judah and gave ten pounds to each of the “four boies (boys) which I brought up of his wife to be put out when they reach 18 years of age and when 20 years old to receive it into their possession (Fairfield Probate Vol 2. pp. 17, 21). This would mean that the four boys of Judith were John, born about 1650-1, James, born about 1652-3, William, born about 1654-6 and Joseph, born about 1656-7. Also his will mentioned that if his wife should have a child while he lived or be with child when he died, he have to that child the other half of his farm. This would mean Judith was quite probably not older than 44 or 45 years old in early 1665 (the time of the Ferris will) and if so, then her birth would be between 1617 and 1620 (Palmer Families in America, Vol. 1, p. 11).
There are no known birth records for the children of Lt. William Palmer and Judith Feake. It is known that there were children by the names Ephraim, John, James, William, Joseph, Judith and Susannah as appears by deeds in Greenwich, Connecticut. There may have been others who died young, and we think there must have been a son named William who was the oldest child and died before 1654, otherwise a son would have been named William before Ephraim, John and James were named and also a daughter named Judith who died early. It seemed to be the custom in this family, in the early generations, to name the oldest son after the father and the oldest daughter after the mother. All of the children except the two youngest were born in Yarmouth, but the early records for Yarmouth for this period have been lost, so that we are unable to give dates. However the dates of birth of these children are given as nearly as we are able to reasonably ascertain those dates based on the dates of their acquisition of property in Greenwich, Connecticut and on such dates of the birth of their children as the records disclose. We feel we are not very far from the correct dates. The sons William and Joseph many have been born four or five years later than we have given them based on the births of their children or they may have lost several in infancy (Palmer Families in America, Vol, 1, p12). Note, there is a theory that "John" was actually Lt. William Palmer's brother and not his son. This is clearly not correct as Palmer Families in America, Vol. 1, points out on page 13, numerous subsequent real estate transactions state that John was son of Lt. William Palmer.
Now in Mead’s “Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich” Henry Palmer of Wethersfield has been called the first American ancestor of the Greenwich Palmers, a distinction to which he is in no way entitled and which conclusion is incorrect. This Henry first appears in Wethersfield as having a homestead on Broad Street in 1640, next to another William Palmer, at about which time he was married, his wife being named Katherine. Four children are given in the Wethersfield records for Henry, their births being from 1643 to 1650. This William Palmer of Wethersfield is of a different family from Lt. William, see “The genealogy of one line of descendants of William Palmer of Wethersfield, Conn. and Westchester, N.Y, 1994.” Henry appears in the Wethersfield records up to 1665/6, at the same time Lt. William appears in Middleburgh, Long Island. There is no mention of Henry Palmer in Greenwich records. However, the fact that both Henry Palmer of Wethersfield and Lt. William Palmer both had sons named Ephraim, means it is possible they were related and had a common ancestor, an Ephraim namesake (Palmer Families in America, vol. 1. p. 13).
Such an Ephraim has been located. At St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate church, in the city of London, christening records exist for the children of Ephraim Palmer can be found. The modern database “England Births and Christenings 1538-1975” contains transcriptions from digital copies of original records housed in repositories throughout England. The index is stored in an electronic database, which may be searched at Family Search.org. The christening dates of children of Ephraim Palmer of London were:
Interestingly, Horace Wilbur Palmer, in Palmer Families in America, Volume 1, on page 13, mentions the four sons of Ephraim Palmer of London, with no details on them. He speculates that such an Ephraim could have been a cousin of Henry of Wethersfield and Lt. William Palmer and all were descended from an earlier Ephraim Palmer. I would suggest that Horace Wilbur Palmer did not have access to the dates (he didn't list them) of these christenings, because their locations and time frame suggest, Lt. William and Henry Palmer of Wethersfield could have been brothers, and sons of Ephraim of London. Of course, there is no proof, none, other than speculation about the origin of the name “Ephraim” that ties Lt. William Palmer to Henry Palmer of Wethersfield. The London location and the years do make the match possible – but not proven.
Lt. William Palmer has also been confused with the William Palmers, father and son, who arrived in Plymouth in 1621 aboard “The Fortune.” This error can be traced to James Savage, and his monumental 1860 work, “A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England .” Savage says on page 343 of Vol. I, that William, son of the first comer (William Sr. of The Fortune) removed to Yarmouth and later Newtown, Long Island, died in 1661 and was “held in high esteem.” While William of Newtown was held in high esteem, this cannot be the same person as William Palmer, “the younger” who arrived on “The Fortune” with his father in 1621. William “the younger” clearly died before August 25, 1636, as this is the date of the inventory of his estate . William Sr. also known as “The Naylor” or simply William the Elder, died in Duxbury, between November 7 and 13, 1637 (Plymouth Colony Wills, Vol. 1, p 28 and Mayflower Descendant, Vol. 2, p. 147). Late in life, William “the elder” had another son, born posthumously, who was also named William. His will mentions this possibility. Florence Barclay, in “The American Genealogist”, Vol. 32, pp. 39-45, very nicely, using primary source documents, lays out the family relationship between the two William Palmers who traveled on “The Fortune” in 1621 and the second son of William “the elder” also named, William, later known as “the cooper” who was born posthumously in 1638 and later died in 1675 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
Compiled by Michael Palmer, Winterport, Maine - 2014
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Family Tree DNA.
On 4 Oct 2014 at 04:43 GMT Michael Palmer wrote:
On 3 Sep 2014 at 13:50 GMT Michael Palmer wrote:
On 1 Sep 2014 at 23:16 GMT Michael Palmer wrote:
On 1 Jun 2014 at 16:39 GMT Sandy Culver wrote:
I have removed Elizabeth Hodgkins-7 as spouse of this William Palmer and will pursue getting those profiles aligned.
On 1 Jun 2014 at 15:36 GMT Michael Palmer wrote:
Here is a correct bio of that William Palmer who sailed aboard the Fortune:
The William Palmer, husband of Judith Feake, whose descendants settled Greenwich, CT did not sail aboard "The Fotune" and he did not marry Elizabeth Hodgkins. That was a different person. The "Greenwich" William Palmer was born about 1610 and died about 1660/61
Very Nice research into the different William Palmers was done by Florence Barclay “Notes on the Palmer Family of Plymouth.” The American Genealogist 32: 39–45. 1956.
On 5 Sep 2013 at 02:23 GMT Tom Bredehoft wrote:
Your commment about his death confirms what is posted above. Thanks.
William is 12 degrees from Amelia Earhart, 16 degrees from Lance Martin, 25 degrees from Oscar Wilde and 16 degrees from Queen Elizabeth II Windsor on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.