Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Palmer mss., 1835-1888, consist of correspondence and papers of Joel Palmer, 1810-1881, superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon Territory, 1853-1857, and of his brother, Ephraim Palmer, captain of Company B, 1st regiment, Oregon Infantry.

Career of Joel Palmer: born, October 4, 1810, Ontario, Canada; family moved to New York state, 1812; Joel Palmer moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania at about sixteen years of age; moved to Laurel, Franklin County, Indiana, 1836; representative in Indiana legislature, 1843-1845; crossed plains to Oregon, 1845; commissary-general of volunteer forces in Cayuse War, 1847; led a company to California gold mines, 1848 and 1849; laid out Dayton, Oregon, in winter of 1848-1849; superintendent of Indian Affairs, Oregon Territory, 1853-1857; in gold fields of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and in the Similkameen Valley, British Columbia as a trader, 1858-1861; opened route from Priest Rapids through Oregon and Washington to gold diggings of Okanogan, Similkameen, Rock Creek, and Upper Columbia River in British Columbia, 1860; speaker, Oregon House of Representatives, 1862; organized Columbia River Road Company to open trail for pack trains and cattle through Oregon side of Columbia river gorge, 1862; appointed brigadier-general, Oregon Militia, 1862; member Oregon Senate, 1864-1866; defeated as Republican candidate for governor of Oregon, 1870; U.S. Indian agent at Siletz Indian Reservation, 1871- 1874; died, Dayton, Oregon, June 9, 1881.

Biographical information on Joel Palmer may be found in Stanley S. Spaid's "The Later Life and Activities of General Joel Palmer," Oregon Historical Quarterly, LV: 311-332, December 1954; and Edward Evans' History of the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon, 1889) II: 508. There is also biographical and genealogical material relating to Joel Palmer and his family in the first folder in the Palmer collection.

Most of the papers in the collection fall within the years 1853-1874. Those before 1853 consist of Joel Palmer's naturalization certificate as a U.S. citizen, October 8, 1832, and some personal papers, 1849-1852. For 1853-January 10, 1857, the manuscripts consist almost entirely of official correspondence and papers of Joel Palmer as Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Included are his diaries for 1854 and 1856, correspondence, financial and other reports and records, and a number of bills and receipts. There are also diaries for 1860 and 1861 at which time Joel Palmer was acting as a trader in the gold fields of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and in the Similkameen Valley, British Columbia. For 1871- 1874 the papers are those of Palmer as U.S. Indian agent at the Siletz Indian Reservation.

The manuscripts in the collection for 1864-1866 are almost entirely Ephraim Palmer's official letters and papers as captain of Company B, 1st regiment, Oregon Infantry.

Also included in the collection are an undated plat map of Dayton, Oregon; a map of a reconnaissance of the route of the Snake River expedition in 1855 by George Henry Mendell; a daguerreotype and a photograph of Joel Palmer; a daguerreotype of Joel Palmer and his second wife, Mrs. Sarah Ann (Derbyshire) Palmer; photograph of Mrs. Sarah Ann (Derbyshire) Palmer, George Abernethy, Andrew Smith, husband of Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth (Palmer) Smith, and of Joel Palmer's home built in 1852 in Dayton, Oregon; and a daguerreotype of Mrs. Polly Smith, wife of Andrew D. Smith.

Correspondents represented in this collection include George H. Ambrose, Joseph Conant Avery, Daniel F. Bradford, Robert Christie Buchanan, Benjamin Franklin Burch, Asahel Bush, Jacob Comegys, John Winchell Cullen, Anson Dart, Edwin P. Drew, Robert W. Dunbar, William H. Farrar, DeLancey Floyd- Jones, Philip Foster, Charles K. Gardiner, Joseph M. Garrison, Edward Rachford Geary, Joseph Cary Geer, Addison Crandall Gibbs, La Fayette Grover, Edward Hamilton, William Holmes, David S. Holton, Thomas Jefferson Hubbard, David C. Ingalls, Ralph Jacobs, Berryman Jennings, William Sargent Ladd, Joseph Lane, William Jennings Martin, Alfred B. Meacham, James Willis Nesmith, Robert Newell, William Holman Odell, Peter Skene Ogden, Cyrus Olney, Nathan Olney, Ephraim Palmer, Josiah L. Parrish, L. J. Powell, Orville Charles Pratt, John B. Preston, Gabriel James Rains, William W. Raymond, Cyrus Adams Reed, John Fulton Reynolds, Robert Valentine Short, Benjamin Simpson, Alonzo A. Skinner, Andrew Jackson Smith, Edward P. Smith, Henry Harmon Spalding, Charles Carroll Stratton, Christopher Taylor, Chester N. Terry, Robert R. Thompson, William Tichenor, Aaron E. Wait, Courtney M. Walker, Cyrus Hamlin Walker, Joseph Watt and Frederick Waymire.

Some manuscripts in this collection are in an oversize case.

Collection size: 1,182 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.