History - Palmer

I owe my church heritage to a very strong woman named Phebe Draper Palmer Brown. She was born in Rome, Oneida County, New York on October 9, 1797. Phebe received her education in New York.

When Phebe was ten years old she went with her family to visit her grandmother, Lydia Rogers Draper, who resided in Canada, and was very ill. The family traveled by sleigh. An Indian guided them on frozen Lake Erie. Her grandmother died just a few days after they arrived. They stayed in Canada.

George Palmer and his family lived on a land grant from the King. George and Phebe were married about the time that he served for Britain in the War of 1812.  By 1832 they had six children, but tragedy struck and her 8 year old daughter was killed in a fire.

In 1833, Eleazar Miller and Brigham Young came to Ontario Canada preaching the gospel. Most of the Drapers accepted the gospel, but her husband apparently did not. When Phebe was baptized by Brigham Young, George remarked, "So you had to get your backside wet, did you?"

George died shortly thereafter leaving her a widow with five children and another soon to be born. After the birth of Rhoda Ann in March of 1834, she moved with the Drapers to be with the rest of the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio.  While there she received a blessing from Joseph Smith Sr. who promised her that she would be blessed with a companion who would be a man of God, and that she would be able to bring up her family and that she would have "many good and happy days."

Phebe took her family and moved with her brother William, to Missouri where they suffered through the persecutions and eventually the extermination of the Saints from the state. They located near Nauvoo, Illinois. Even with the help William and his family gave to her, she was the sole caretaker of her family.

Ebenezer Brown had settled in Illinois with the Drapers. Ebenezer's wife, Ann died. Phebe and her children were very close to the Browns and Phebe had taken care of Ann. On August 28, 1842, Ebenezer and Phebe were married. The two families together now included 7 children.

Phebe lived through the days of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and during the "EXODUS," when they were forced out of their homes and began their westward journey to the new "Promise Land."

The Browns were camped just outside of Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they heard that the lead wagons, with Brigham Young, had stopped. One night, a carriage drove into camp with Brigham Young aboard. He stayed the night with them and told them that US soldiers had just arrived at Council Bluffs and had requested five hundred men to fight in the War with Mexico in California. 

Brigham was on his way to ask as many men as possible to volunteer.  Ebenezer volunteered and Phebe refused to stay behind, so she signed up as a laundress and cook. They made arrangements for relatives to take care of their children.

Zemira, Phebe's son, was determined to go along even though he was only 14 years old. When Colonel Allen was selecting those who he felt were qualified to go out of a line of men, he came upon Zemira and told him he was too short and too young. So Zemira went down the line a ways and got up on a log to appear bigger. The Colonel was not fooled, but was impressed with him and said he could go as his personal aide.

When the Battalion left Council Bluffs in July of 1846, there were 435 men, 34 Women, 55 children and 7 officers aides. The Battalions route was across hot deserts with thick sand and high, very rugged and rocky mountains, sometimes very cold.

The Battalion first headed south to Fort Leavenworth near Independence Missouri, then west towards Santa Fe, New Mexico.  From there they headed south towards what is now the Southeast corner of Arizona. Then they went Northwest to about where the Salt river meets the Gila river just South of Phoenix. Next they followed the river west to Yuma and crossed the Colorado river. Then they headed over the deserts and mountains that are east of Los Angeles and San Diego.

The trials they encountered, comparatively speaking, were much worse than those of the Saints that crossed the plains. Near the beginning of the journey, a conspiring medical officer of the army, from Missouri, literally tried to poison the men by giving them calomel with arsenic.

Some times for lack of water, men would sip from mud puddles full of buffalo chips and urine. Their extreme hunger was such that when an ox or mule would give out, nearly every part of it was consumed, including the hide, eyeballs and other organs.

By the end of the trip, even their clothes had become very sparse. Most of their shoes had given out and many were using anything they could find to wrap around their feet for protection, including sticks, bark and rawhide from dead animals.

Though they made decent time on their 2000 mile journey to the coast, much of it was hard labor, carving roads as they went. The roads built by the Battalion were used for years by settlers of the West. Many of those roads are still used today by modern day railroads, highways and freeways.

Though the Battalion can not, as tradition has it, take claim to the longest march in US history,  this 2000 mile foot march stands out as an incredible accomplishment on its own merits.

There were many who got sick along the way and the new Captain (Colonel Allen had died a month after the trek began) became dissatisfied with the speed of the Battalion. So he sent several "detachments" of sick men along with most of the women, children and aids to Pueblo Colorado, near the existing Fort Bent, to stay there until other arrangements could be made.

The very next summer, these detachments left Pueblo to "catch up" with the main body of Saints crossing the plains along the Oregon trail. When they got to the trail, they discovered that not only were they ahead of most of the Saints, but literally only a few days behind Brigham Young's first wagon train. They followed them right into the Salt Lake Valley, arriving only 3 days behind Brigham, even though their route took them more than twice the distance over much worse terrain. 

The women who went with their husbands were very strong, determined, and noble. There is no doubt that they were hand-picked by our Heavenly Father to fulfill this special assignment.

Phebe was 1 of only 4 women allowed to continue on and eventually make the entire trek. Zemira also, was 1 of only 2 of the aides to go all the way. These 4 remaining women, now played a more significant role in the success of the Battalion. 

Not only did these 4 women experience the same hardships and trials as the men, but some of them also had their families to care for. Two of them were pregnant for much of the march and gave birth later while in California. Lydia Hunter died in San Diego, from complications due to childbearing.

These women were needed to be strong fortresses to their families and to the men. Many referred to them as "Special Angels" who nursed sick men back to health and displayed great love to the many brave men who died all along their way. The sick and dying men often thanked them for their kindness. The women often remarked that they in turn, were treated with the utmost respect.

Phebe, being 49 years old, was by far the oldest women to make the trek. Melissa Coray was 18, Lydia Hunter 19, and Susan Davis 22. Phebe was the mother figure of the Battalion. She was known as a kind-hearted woman who lightened the burdens of many of the soldiers by her sympathies.

As a cook, Phebe worried about her young, growing boy. She would burn the bread baked for the officers and then remove the burnt crusts and give them to her son. Zemira often said that they tasted better than pie.

After their arrival in San Diego, the Battalion was dismissed. Phebe and Ebenezer re-enlisted along with about a hundred other Battalion members. This was a one year extension that was requested by the US.

Zemira went north, around the present day Sacramento area with a group of Battalion boys to go work for a Mr. Sutter who was building a fort and a mill. While working there, 6 of the other Battalion boys participated in the original, famous "discovery" of gold. Zemira, as well as the other Battalion boys kept working, even though they did do their own panning on the side after hours. All of them collected some fair amounts of gold dust, but nothing of any great consequence.

After their one year extension was up, Phebe and Ebenezer headed North with the Levi Hancock Company to Sutter's Fort where he was hired on as a laborer. Ebenezer also tried his luck at panning and did collect some gold. Then the call came from Brigham Young for all the Battalion members to return to Salt Lake, and this they did.

Phebe's was one of the Battalion groups that made their way up over the high California mountains near present day Tahoe. They were the first to discover the remains of the famous, disaster-struck, Donner-Reed party.  Since the rescue of those that did survive happened in the middle of a very harsh winter, nothing was ever done with dead bodies that were left behind. The Mormons stopped and buried all the bodies they could find before continuing on towards Salt Lake.

Phebe, Ebenezer and Zemira arrived in Salt Lake, completing their 3000 mile journey in the fall of 1848. Phebe rode a mule by the name of Ginny, from California all the way to Utah. 

When they arrived, they found that Ebenezer's children had been there just one week. Ebenezer joined with a few of his sons and headed south of Salt Lake and settled along Willow Creek. This place later became known as "Draper", in honor of Phebe and her brother William, who was the first Presiding Elder of that branch.

Ebenezer was asked to be the first Postmaster, but he could not read or write very well, so Phebe, who was well educated for those days, ended up running things. She was given the title of Postmistress.

Phebe also ran a school for the younger children, worked in the Relief Society, and was active in all pioneer activities. She was a familiar figure at church meetings in her cape with a little cap on her head. She always brought a cushion to soften her bench.

In 1853, her husband married Samantha Pulsipher, and a year later Mary Elizabeth Wright. In 1870, Mary died, leaving a family of small children, which Phebe took care of, making three families she had reared; her own and two of Ebenezer's wives. Phebe died in February of 1879, at the age of 82, ending 32 happy years in Salt Lake.  She had outlived two husbands, and all three of Ebenezer's other wives.

Phebe was one of the stalwart "ORDINARIES" who we owe so much respect to.  So many of us have ancestors just like her. Great people who did what was right and never sought any recognition. I truly believe that its time to give them the respect they deserve by simply telling their stories. Phebe  is definitely one of my heroes, though  she ---

"Never made history  

Yet she lived decently

She'd never falter or give out

From lack of willingness to serve

And those know famously

View her with jealousy

And wish that they could someday be

Just like that Common One"

Please join with me in honoring the heroism of ordinary people. TELL THEIR STORIES!

              Kevin Palmer, Phebe's G,G,G,G Grandson

              Harmony Park ward

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