Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, April 18, 1990, pg. 6

Many of the interesting anecdotes about early Albion history come from the writings of Dr. Elmore Palmer (1839-1909), a Buffalo, New York physician who was born and raised here in the Albion area. The experiences he encountered here while growing up became embedded in his memory, and he kept a diary of notes about various people and events during his youth.

Elmore attended Albion College during the 1850s and married Hannah C. Borden, an 1862 graduate. Elmore was present with his father Layton, in Jackson on July 6, 1854 "Under the Oaks" at the founding of the Republican Party. While a teenager, Elmore worked in the drug store of Dr. Samuel Tuttle, an early Albion druggist and physician.

He enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1864 as a surgeon. Dr. Palmer moved to Buffalo, New York in 1886, and was associated with Dr. Ray V. Pierce, a homepathic who specialized in womanís ailments.

In June, 1907, Elmore returned to Michigan for a reunion of the medical class of 1864 in Ann Arbor. He also visited his boyhood home, and proceeded to interview the remaining pioneers, friends, and acquaintances from his boyhood years who were still living. Elmore fortunately realized the importance of gathering this valuable biographical data, as he realistically sensed the march of time upon himself and upon others he grew up with.

A lengthy series entitled "Biographical Sketches" written by Dr. Palmer, appeared in the Albion Mirror newspaper in 41 installments from April 24, 1908 to January 22, 1909. The Mirror was Albionís long-time weekly begun in 1855 by Lawrence Cole. It ceased publication in January, 1910.

The Biographical Sketches is must reading for the serious student of Albion history. As a person who grew up in Albion during the mid-19th century, Palmer relates first-hand about life in Albion during these years, and about the people who helped build our community. Several of the interesting stories which have been related in this column have their sources in Dr. Palmerís writings.

Dr. Palmerís Sketches give numerous stories of how various families made their way across the wilderness and came to settle at "The Forks." He relates such historical details as: the Indians in the area and how they were gathered together at Rice Creek to be herded westward by the U.S. Government, the coming of the railroad to Albion in 1844, the origins of Albionís "Alert" fire department, the Albion Hermit, and the founding of the Republican Party in which numerous Albionites participated, to name a few.

The Biographical Sketches were reprinted in the Journal of Albion during Albionís sesquicentennial year, from May 25, 1985 to March 22, 1986. Numerous persons saved copies of this historic series. Over 130 photographs of Albion-area pioneers were added in the 1985-86 reprint.

A limited number of reprints of Dr. Palmerís Biographical Sketches are available in book form to interested persons. This book contains a master name index listing every name in the series. These are available [under "books and materials" on this authorís web site first page] at the Albion Chamber of Commerce.

The Biographical Sketches series was well received, and generated letters from across the country during the time it was originally printed. Levi S. Wild (Albionís Wild Street is named after the family) of Butte, Montana, wrote November 19, 1908:

"To Dr. Palmer, who is now with the rest of us, descending the shadow of the Great Divide, I wish to express my appreciation and tender grateful thanks for the sketches that carry us back fifty years. And return thanks to the Mirror, the pioneer newspaper of Albion, that gave us boys our first real impressions of cold type and the printing press for publishing them."

Dr. Palmer concluded his Sketches with these words, writing to Albionís pioneers: "The records you have made will stand forever on the tablets of the infinite, for they cannot be fully described by the power of the pen. Your records are engraved on the hearts of your kindred and friends who cannot forget." Presented here is a photograph of Dr. Elmore Palmer (1839-1909).

Dr. Elmore Palmer


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