Palmer, Dennis Clark & Phebe Edwards

Dennis Clark Palmer: Surveyor, Pioneer, Farmer, Township Clerk

Birth: March 16, 1775, Litchfield County, Connecticut

Phebe Edwards Palmer: Pioneer, Farmer

Death: 1810

Dennis Clark Palmer, Vienna's first resident and township clerk, was born in Litchfield County, Connecticut, on March 16, 1775. This first son of Ambrose Palmer (1744-1801) and Susannah Clark (1752-1814) was baptized on June 13, 1775. He married Phebe Edwards in Hartland, Connecticut, on September 5, 1796. The date and place of his death are unknown. According to records of the Vienna Presbyterian Church, Phebe Edwards Palmer died in 1810.

Dennis Clark Palmer traveled with his wife Phebe Edwards and one or two of their children[1] from Connecticut to settle in Town 4, Range 2 (Vienna) of the Connecticut Western Reserve in 1800. It was Palmer's second trip, for he had been a member of a Connecticut Land Company surveying party, headed by Raphael Cook (or Cooke), in 1798.

Ambrose and Susannah Clark Palmer, with four of their six children[2], traveled to the Western Reserve from Connecticut via Philadelphia, across Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, in June 1799. They settled in Vernon Township, Trumbull County, Ohio. Ambrose and Susannah Clark Palmer are buried in the Vernon Center Cemetery (now referred to as Pioneer Cemetery).

First Settlers in Vienna Township

The Palmer family were the first permanent residents in the Township. Their first dwelling, a cabin that had been erected by the 1798 surveying party, burned in 1800. Reverend Joseph Badger, sent to the Western Reserve by the Connecticut Missionary Society, recalled in the same volume two different stories of the Palmers in his Memoir:

January, 1801. The frequent snows and rains rendered it difficult passing from one settlement to another. This was the last opening toward the lake. Here I tarried two weeks; in which time Mr. Palmer of Vienna, was taken sick. I was requested to go and see him. There was no doctor in the country. I found him very sick, and stayed and nursed him about eight days, when he got better.

In Vienna there was one family. The man, some time in February, 1801, was taken sick with a fever: no physician in the country. I was informed of his situation, and requested to visit him. I found the family, consisting of the sick man, his wife, and one child, in a pitiable condition, situated six or seven miles from any other family, in a cold log cabin, wood enough, when cut, for the fire; but with a scanty supply of bread. Here I tarried, as nurse and doctor, nearly two weeks, when he began to convalesce, and I returned to Vernon, where I had left my horse.[3]

The Palmer cabin was located on 100 acres on Vienna Lot #27.[4] This is southwest of Vienna Center, along Niles-Vienna Road. Dennis Clark Palmer's name appears on the 1804 Ohio Tax List.

Township Clerk

Dennis Clark Palmer served as Vienna's first township clerk. His duties were varied, and included the creation of a map of land sales of Vienna Township.[5] On it one may see the various sections of the Township and the quality of soil as rated by the land surveyors. Various types of trees are also listed.

Palmer also created, in 1806, the Animal's Artificial Mark Register for Vienna Township, a record of the various shapes used to crop the ears of livestock in order to identify ownership.

Dennis Clark Palmer's Religious Beliefs and Later Life

Sometime between 1818 and 1820, Dennis Clark Palmer, his sons, and his brother Ambrose left Vienna for lands in Portage and Medina counties. By this time, Palmer had experienced visions that he described in a book he published in 1828. Entitled Palmer's Theology, or Book of Visions, the 127-page book contained drawings, testimony, and interpretation of visions he saw in Vienna. He recalled riding home from a religious meeting to see a vision of a sword hanging over the Vienna Presbyterian Church. (Given this early date--before a permanent church building was constructed--Palmer's vision may have referred to the building that housed Vienna School Number 1.) He took this as a sign of the falseness of Presbyterian doctrine. His warning to the Presbyterian minister, according to his later testimony, went unheeded, and both the minister and his wife became very ill. Convinced his vision was true, Palmer traveled to Warren and began preaching in the public square.

In an 1875 history of Wadsworth, Ohio, author Edward Brown noted the Palmers were early settlers:

Dennis Palmer was once a Methodist preacher. He lived on the town line north of Western Star. Was for many years before his death deranged. During that time he prepared a book, sold by subscription, entitled "The Book of Visions, or Palmer's Theology." His sons were Franklin, George, Dennis, Ambrose, and Asahel. Of the later history of Mr. Palmer and his sons it has been impossible to obtain any particulars, except of George Palmer. He was an active and worthy member of the Methodist Church. Married Jemina Lampson. Died in Sharon, May 6th, 1865, aged 54.

Col. Ambrose Palmer, brother of Dennis, was one of the original proprietors of New Portage, once well known in Medina and Portage counties. Resided at New Portage and Wadsworth. In 1833, he became a Mormon and followed the fortunes of Joe Smith. Was one of the head men of that sect. Died In Missouri.[6]

Updated 8/13/2020
The article is based on Vienna, Ohio, "Where We Live and Let Live": Town 4, Range 2 of the Connecticut Western Reserve (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1999), pp. xviii, 22-25, and further research by Shirley T. Wajda, February 2012.
[1] It has proved difficult to ascertain the particulars of the children of Dennis Clark Palmer and Phebe Edwards. Their six children were:
Franklin Palmer, born circa 1796 (probably in Connecticut), married Hannah Hampton, February 24, 1820, in Portage County, Ohio;Ambrose Palmer, born circa 1800, married Anna Shoreless, December 8, 1830, in Stark County, Ohio;Ashael [or Asahel] Palmer married Eliza Lynn, March 1, 1837, in Medina County, Ohio;George Palmer, born about 1804, marred Jemina Lampson, in Ohio;Dennis Palmer;One daughter, died young; andGenet Palmer, a daughter.
[2] The children of Ambrose Palmer and Susannah Clark Palmer were:
Dennis Clark Palmer;Warren Palmer (July 4, 1776-November 3, 1866) married Eunice Spencer (July 29, 1779-April 3, 1866), both buried in Vernon Center Cemetery;Ambrose Palmer, Jr. (September 15, 1784-1836-1838), married Loly Bartholomew, January 8, 1806, and then Lettice Corking;Calvin Palmer, married Ruth Humphrey, December 25, 1808;Job Dudley Palmer (born 1788);Minerva Palmer (1778-1876), married William Titus Brockway; andSusannah Palmer (born 1781), married Enos Cook.
Ambrose Palmer had earlier wed Sibyl (Cybel) Long, on January 14, 1766. That marriage produced one son, Horace Palmer.
[3] A Memoir of Rev. Joseph Badger; Containing an Autobiography and Selections from his Private Journal and Correspondence (Hudson, Ohio: Sawyer, Ingersoll and Company, 1851), pp. 25 and 132.
[4] Trumbull County Recorder's Office, Warren, Ohio.
[5] This map is housed in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.
[6] Edward Brown, Wadsworth Memorial: Containing an Account of the Proceedings of the Celebration of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the First Settlement of the Township of Wadsworth, Ohio. With the Addresses, Historical Maps, and Poems Presented on That Occasion. Also, a Brief Sketch of the History to the Present Time, with Sketches of the Early History of the Adjoining Townships, to which is Annexed Biographical Sketches of the More Prominent Pioneer Settlers and the Families (Wadsworth: Steam Printing House, 1875), p. 215.Ambrose Palmer was indeed an important member of the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He was a member of the council of High Priests and Elders and involved with the Kirtland Temple. He ceded some of his land in New Portage, Ohio, to the township and headed westward to the Mormon settlement of Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. He died there between 1836 and 1838.