Name and location of repository
Level of description
- 1848-1869 (Creation)
Name of creator
Joel Palmer, pioneer leader and author, was born October 4, 1810 in Ontario, Canada. The son of Quaker parents who moved to New York at the start of the War of 1812, Palmer moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania at the age of sixteen. In 1830 he married Catherine Coffee and following her death married again to Sarah Ann Derbyshire (1836). Shortly after marrying Sarah, he moved to Indiana and worked on the canals. In 1843 and 1845, he served as a representative in the Indiana legislature.
During the spring of 1845, Palmer started overland to Oregon. During his journey he kept a diary of his experiences, which was published in 1847 as Journal of Travels over the Rocky Mountains.This publication served as a guidebook to immigrants for information on equipment and route details. The next year he returned to Indiana and made a second trip back to Oregon.
Palmer served as commissary-general of volunteer forces in the Cayuse War, and as peace emissary to persuade neigboring tribes not to join the Cayuse Indians. After the war, Palmer left for California and upon his return laid out the town of Dayton, Oregon, in Yamhill County, where he filed his donation land claim and built a sawmill. In 1853, he became superintendent of Indian affairs for the Oregon Territory. Serving with distinction, Palmer had the difficult task of securing Oregon lands from warring Indian tribes while preventing the outbreak of hostilities. During his tenure, he negotiated 9 treaties of cessation. He was removed as superintendent in 1857 for pursuing too lenient an Indian policy.
Palmer served as speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives in 1862 and state senator, 1864-1868. In 1870 he was defeated as the Republican candidate for governor. He died June 9, 1881 in Dayton, Oregon.
Content and structure elements
Scope and content
Consists of correspondence (1848-1869) concerning the conduct of Indian affairs in Oregon, enlistment of a state militia, and efforts to establish a Union League Council. Correspondents include Benjamin Alvord, Jesse Applegate, Benjamin Bonneville, Samuel Culver, Addison C. Gibbs, and Joseph Lane. Also included is a diary (1857) kept by Palmer while on a voyage from Oregon City to Washington, D.C. via Panama; typescript copies of diaries (1854, 1856, 1860-1861) recording his travels throughout the Pacific Northwest; hand written copy of an agreement (1854) between the United States, represented by superintendent of Indian Affairs, Joel Palmer, and the Calipooia Indian tribe; and articles of incorporation (1862) of the Columbia River Railroad Company.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
The collection is open to the public.
Conditions governing reproduction
Languages of the material
Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
Acquisition and appraisal elements
Immediate source of acquisition
The collection was assembled by the Oregon Historical Society from a variety of sources.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Related materials elements
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Portions of the collection are available on Mss Microfilm 114, Oregon Historical Society Research Library
Related archival materials
Digitization of this collection was provided by the University of Oregon Libraries.
- Citation: Joel Palmer papers, Mss 114, Oregon Historical Society Research Library
- Processing information: Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Finding aid prepared by Tod Welch and Geoffrey B. Wexler - 2006 July 27
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
- Palmer, Joel, 1810-1881 (Subject)