Most Eminent Sir Knight Henry L. Palmer was born on October 18, 1819, in Pleasant Mount, Wayne County, Pennsylvania, the son of Thaddeus Palmer (1788 - 1875) and Martha (Tracy) Palmer (1792 - 1877). He was the third child of four born to Thaddeus and Martha. He received a common-school education, studied law, and was admitted to the bar. In 1836 he went to West Troy, New York, to live and practice law, and it was here that he became a member of the Masonic fraternity, as we shall see later in this article. While in West Troy, he met Miss Mary Loveland (1823-1854), whom he married on May 18, 1843. To this union was born three children: Jessie (Palmer) Kasson (1844-1909), Horace Loveland Palmer (1849-1889), and Frank T. Palmer (1853-1898).
While living in West Troy, he was troubled by recurrent bouts of asthma, and upon the advice of his physician, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1849. Here the climate proved beneficial, and soon after his arrival, he formed a law partnership with a prominent lawyer, Abram D. Smith, and the firm was quite successful until dissolved in 1853 upon the election of Mr. Smith to the state supreme court. Brother Palmer then practiced alone for a few years after which he partnered with various other local attorneys.
After his first wife passed away, he married Mary Jane Hayes (1832-1915) on May 28, 1857, and their children were Charles Harvey Palmer (1864- 1954), Grace Palmer (1860-Unknown), Mary Palmer (1866-Unknown), and Gertrude Palmer (1872-1872). In 1858 he became an attorney for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of the State of Wisconsin (the name was changed in 1864 to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insur- ance Company), served on its Executive Committee, and in 1874, became its President, which office he held almost until the time he died.
Politically, he was a democrat, was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for four terms (1853, 1860, 1862, and 1873) and served as speaker in 1853 and 1862. He was a member of the state Senate from 1867 to 1868. In 1863, he was a candidate for governor of Wisconsin but did not win. Palmer was later a county judge for Milwaukee County, from 1873 to 1874. In 1874 he resigned from the bench to become president of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. He served as president of the School Board of Milwaukee from 1865- 1868 as well as city attorney. Besides his Masonic affiliations, he was a member of the Milwaukee Club, the Craftsman's Club of New York, the Iroquois Club of Chicago, and the University Club of Madison, Wisconsin. On June 21, 1898, the University of Wisconsin conferred on him the honorary LL.D. degree.
While a young lawyer in West Troy, New York, Brother Palmer was raised a Mason in Evening Star Lodge 75 in the year 1841, in which lodge he retained honorary membership until the time of his death. He also affiliated with Tracy Lodge 13 of Milwaukee (now Wisconsin Lodge 13) on August 18, 1849. He was its worshipful master in the years 1851, 1852, 1857, 1858, 1865 and 1867. He was grand master of masons in Wisconsin in 1852 and 1853, also in 1871 and 1872. He received the capitular degrees in Apollo Chapter of Troy, New York, in 1846. He was a charter member of Wisconsin Chapter 7, in Milwaukee and was its excellent high priest for several years. He was most excellent grand high priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Wisconsin during 1858 and 1859. In Cryptic Masonry, Companion Palmer was thrice illustrious master of Wisconsin Council for a number of years. He was grand master of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Wisconsin during 1863 and 1864. Sir Knight Palmer received the orders of christian knighthood in Apollo Commandery of Troy, New York, in 1847. He assisted in the organization of Wisconsin Commandery 1 in June of 1850, of which body he was eminent commander during the years 1853 to 1861, inclusive. He was grand commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Wisconsin for seven consecutive years, beginning in October of 1859.
Sir Knight Palmer was elected grand master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States in September of 1865, at Columbus, Ohio. As most eminent grand master, he called the seventeenth Triennial Conclave to order at St. Louis, Missouri, on September 11, 1868. Minnesota had in the meantime organized its Grand Com- mandery, and Kansas was preparing to do the same. There were now twenty- four Grand Commanderies sending representatives to the Grand Encampment. On every hand, where the Grand Encampment had previously been dealing with tens and hundreds, it was now beginning to have to deal with thousands and tens of thousands. This being the first time that a Triennial Conclave had crossed the Mississippi, the principal entertainment took on the shape of an excursion on the old "Father of Waters," the customary banquet being served aboard riverboat steamers. Not much was done by way of legislation, but that was because not much legislation was necessary. The deputy grand master, William Sewall Gardner, presented an extended report on the doings of the East, in which was contained the result of much valuable research into the life and deeds of Thomas Smith Webb.
He died at age eighty-nine, at his home in Milwaukee on May 7, 1909. The funeral of Most Eminent Sir Knight Palmer was solemnized by simple, yet impressive services, in the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Milwaukee, on Monday, May 10, 1909. The body of this distinguished Mason and Templar lay in state at the church for several hours preceding the services, with a guard of honor from the Wisconsin and Ivanhoe Commanderies of Knights Templar and was viewed by hundreds of sorrowing associates and friends. The church was filled to its capacity at the hour of the funeral, and there were present many prominent Masons from all parts of the country. The Reverend Paul G. Jenkins, pastor of the church, gave a brief address, stating Most Eminent Sir Knight Palmer's wish that no funeral eulogy should be pronounced. A templar burial service was
held at the Forest Home Cemetery, where the body of Past Grand Master Palm er was committed to its last resting place.
Sir Knight Marshall, PGC, KCT, ADC, 33o is a past grand commander of the Grand Commandery of Alabama and serves on the Editorial Board of the Knight Templar
magazine. He is a frequent contributor to that magazine as well as the Royal Arch Mason magazine. He also serves the Grand Encampment as the chairman, Grand Encampment Knights Templar History Committee and can be reached at email@example.com.
"Henry L. Palmer", The Successful American Magazine, Volume 3, Part 1 - Volume 4, Part 1, New York, 1900, pages 730-731 (available online at Google Books,
Wisconsin Historical Society Web Site, http://www.wisconsinhistory.org
Watrous, James A. (Editor), Memoirs of Milwaukee County from the earliest historical times down to the present, including a genealogical and biographical record of representative families in Milwaukee County, Volume 2, Madison, Wisconsin: Western Historical Association, 1909, Pages 731-734 (available online at
Published in September 2016 Edition of the Knight Templar Magazine, pages 23, 24 and 25