Walter Palmer

From The History of
Stonington, CT  1690 - 1900
by Richard Anson Wheeler
Press of the Day Publishing company 1900

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WALTER PALMER, the progenitor of the family of his name, who first settled in Stonington, Conn., came to New England as early as 1628, with his brother, Abraham Palmer, a merchant of London, England, and nine associates. They went from Salem, Mass., through a pathless wilderness to a place called by the Indians Mishawam, where they found a man by the name of Thomas Walford, a smith. Here they remained until the next year, when they were joined by nearly one hundred people, who came with Thomas Graves, from Salem and laid the foundation of the town, which they named Charlestown, in honor of King Charles the First, June 2q., 1629. It is claimed that Walter Palmer built the first dwelling house in Charlestown after it was organized as a township, on the two acres of land that were assigned and set to him by the authority of the new town. Walter Palmer's inclinations tended to stock raising and farming, but he soon found his land was inadequate to his business, notwithstanding which he continued to reside in Charlestown until 1643. During his residence there he purchased additional real estate, which he improved in his line of business as best he could. While thus engaged he became acquainted with William Chesebrough, who lived at the time in Boston and Braintree, whose business pursuits were similar to those of Mr. Palmer, and after repeated interviews and consultations, they both decided to remove to the Plymouth Colony, and did so remove their families and with others, joined in the organization of the town of Rehoboth, as an independent township, which was continued as such until they should subject themselves to some other government. Such an organization, largely composed of strangers and situated in a remote part of the colony, was not very well calculated to secure their approval. It does not appear that they intended to establish this new township wholly as an independent organization, for as soon as the preliminary steps necessary for its formation were taken, and after its organization was effected, they elected deputies to the General Court of Plymouth. Walter Palmer was a prominent man when he lived in Massachusetts, and was admitted a freeman there May 18, 1631, and held several local offices in that colony, and such was the estimation in which he was held by the first planters of Rehoboth and the confidence that they reposed in him, that his fellow townsmen elected him as their first representative to the General Court of Plymouth, and subsequently re-elected him to that office and also conferred upon him repeatedly the office of selectman and other local offices. His friend Chesebrough, not relishing the way and manner in which he was treated by the General Court of the Plymouth Colony decided to look farther westward for a permanent place of abode. He visited the then new settlement of New London, by the advice of Mr. John Winthrop, which after a thorough examination thereof, it did not answer his expectations, so he concluded to return homeward, and on his way came through the town of Stonington, Conn., where he visited the beautiful valley of Wequetequock, with which he was so well pleased that he decided to make it his future place of abode. When he reached home and described to his wife and family the situation and advantages of this valley, they all approved of it as a desirable place for their home. Mr. Chesebrough and sons immediately commenced operations for the erection of a dwelling house, fixing its site on the west bank of Wequetequock Cove. The salt marsh lands adjoining the cove furnished hay for the stock, and Mr. Chesebrough and Palmer and all the early settlers until they could clear up land and reduce it to cultivation by English grasses for their cattle. Mr. Chesebrough so far finished his house that he occupied it with his family during the year 1649, and so became the pioneer English planter of the new town now called Stonington.

The Connecticut General Court were not satisfied with his locating himself in the wilderness so far away from any English settlement, so they ordered him to report his proceedings to Maj. John Mason, which resulted in a compromise later on between him and said court, wherein and by which he was to remain in his new habitation on condition that he would induce a reasonable number of creditable persons to unite with him in organizing a new township as hereinbefore stated more at large.

Thomas Stanton, the interpreter general of New England, was the first to join Mr. Chesebrough in the new settlement, and obtained a grant from the General Court in March, 1650, of six acres of planting ground on Pawcatuck River, with liberty to erect a trading house thereon, with feed and mowing of marsh land, according to his present occasions, giving him the exclusive trade of the river for three years next ensuing. Mr. Stanton located his six-acre grant on the west bank of Pawcatuck River, .around a place known as Pawcatuck rock, upon which grant he erected his trading house; and subsequently built him a dwelling house thereon, to which he moved his family in 1651, establishing it as his permanent place of abode, where he lived the remainder of his days. (For further particulars see Stanton family). William Chesebrough, in pursuance of his arrangement with the General Court, invited his friend Walter Palmer, then living in Rehoboth, to come and join him here in the organization of another new township. While Mr. Palmer was considering this proposition, Thomas Miner, who had married his daughter Grace, and was then a resident of New London, was also invited to join the new settlement, which he did, by obtaining a limited grant of land of the town of New London, which he located on the east bank of Wequetequock Cove, and built him a dwelling house thereon, to which he moved his family in the year 1652. The town of New London at the time claimed jurisdiction of the town of Stonington and had granted large tracts of land to William Chesebrough and Thomas Miner, and being anxious to assist Mr. Chesebrough in his efforts to induce a suitable number of prominent men to unite with him in settling a new township here, induced Gov. Haynes to accept of a grant of land of three hundred acres, for a farm lying east and southeast of Chesebrough's land, on the east side of Wequetequock Cove. This grant bore date April 5, 1652. Walter Palmer, who was then prospecting for a tract of land suitable for farming, with salt marsh grass land for his stock, ascertained that Gov. Haynes's grant covered the land he wished to obtain, and so visited the governor, with his sonin-law, Thomas Miner, and his eldest son, John Miner, who had previously learned that the Haynes grant of land embraced in its boundaries his son-in-law's land. But after a friendly interview with the governor, Walter Palmer purchased his grant of land in Stonington, by a contract deed which was witnessed by Thomas and John Miner, agreeing to pay the governor one hundred pounds for the place, with such cattle as Mr. Haynes should select out of Walter Palmer's stock. If any disagreement should arise, as to the price of the stock, it should be decided by indifferent persons. Their contract recognized the title to the house and lands occupied by Mr. Miner, and was dated July 15, 1653. Thomas Miner, Sr., was selected to put Mr. Palmer in possession of the land purchased of Gov. Haynes, and did so by a written instrument, embodying therein a conveyance of his own land, and dwelling house, included in the boundaries of the Haynes land (to Mr. Palmer), reserving the right, however, to occupy his said house until he could build another at Mistuxet, now known as Quiambaug, in Stonington. So 1653 marks the time when Walter Palmer came to Stonington to reside. He and his friend Chesebrough lived within a stone's throw of each other, and after life's fitful fever was ended, departed this life, and both lie buried in the old Wequetequock burial place, with Thomas Stanton, the interpreter general of New England. Walter Palmer was a man well advanced in life when he came to Stonington to reside with his family. He was born in London, England, as early as 1585, and at the time of his settlement here had reached the rugged steep of life's decline. The rough exposure of pioneer life, with its deprivations, seriously affected his health, which was so much impaired that as the chill November days had come, "the saddest of the year," he was gathered not to his fathers, but laid to rest in the old Wequetequock burial place, dying Nov. l0, 1661. Of his family, it may be said that he married in England, long before he came to this country. The name of his first wife has never been recorded. He m. 2d, Rebecca Short, who came to this country in 1632. They were joined in marriage June 1, 1633.


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