Family History I: Relatives

A Family History


The Palmers:

Dr. Palmer’s grandparents were Edward and Sally.  His father Leon had eleven siblings, some of whom Dr. Palmer would come to know as he grew up.

The Palmer Family. Father Leon seated left, Grandparents Edward and Sally seated center; courtesy of Ed Palmer

Here is Dr. Palmer, referring to the above picture, on his grandfather:

Referring to Sally, his grandmother: “I did know her some, but I did not remember a whole lot about her.  She came to live with us in Hagerstown in her later years.”

“Grandma spoiled me rotten.”

Young Ed with Grandmother Sally; photo courtesy of Ed Palmer

Edward and Sally had a lot of children, leaving Dr. Palmer with a lot of relatives.

“My dad’s family… fourteen were born, and twelve lived to adulthood”

“Of those twelve… there were four that I grew up around, because they came to Hagerstown and lived in Hagerstown.  And we visited them often so I got to know them pretty well.”

The Palmer Aunts and Uncles; courtesy of Ed Palmer

One of the themes that arises in many of Dr. Palmer’s discussions of his father’s family is that of education.  He often mentions how intelligent his relatives were despite lacking opportunities.  Additionally , each relationship hints at a depth to these relatives about which Dr. Palmer admits that he knew little when he was young enough to know them.

“None of them had education…. they didn’t have the opportunity”.

“Several in that group were bright.”

About Velma, seated second row, center: “She was with People’s Drug Stores and went wherever they set up a new drugstore.   They sent her to do it…  They always said that she could have been the CEO if she had had an education, but she didn’t have that.”

“Velma had had an unfortunate marriage, which she never spoke about.  She was pretty secretive about some of that, and about her age.  She didn’t look her age.  She stayed in the hospice with sister Sarah and sister Edith [the nuns pictured above] for several years.  They were so special to her that they often came and were a part of our gathering.”

“She really was quite attractive.  She knew how to dress and did it well, and she was very successful with People’s Drugs.”

“Throughout the time that I knew Velma, Mac [her boyfriend] was a part of the scene.”

About another uncle, Mac (not Velma’s boyfriend) who is not pictured above: “He was kind of an entertainer – a pretty effective entertainer.  We loved to have him tell us “Uncle Josh” tales at the reunion; that was one of the high spots.”

About Ethel, seated first row, second from right: “Ethel was a single lady when I knew her.  She worked at a flower shop in Hagerstown – worked really hard, walked around a lot, never owned a car.”

About Bill (also called Aldine), standing left: “He was inventive.  He had a lot of clocks, for one thing.  He loved clocks, and so he had clocks all over his house.  Whenever it got to be the hour, it was kind of a fascinating place there.  Everything was going off, the cuckoos, the chimes.  He was very good at anything mechanical and anything having to do with cars.  And when he needed a tool, he made it.  He would just put things together that would work to make the tool he needed.  He was inventive.”

“He was a bright guy… he was a reader.  He’d read a lot.  And then he’d talk about some of those things he’d been reading.  He was a scholar.”

“I always said that if anything happened to my dad, I would want him to be my dad.  That’s the way I felt about him.”

 Bill’s life was a source of joy for Dr. Palmer as a child and adolescent.  However, all things come to an end, and Bill’s death tragically came while Dr. Palmer was still young.  Here is Dr. Palmer with the story:

Obviously, a big family only gets bigger.

“As you can imagine, twelve Palmers that get married and have children, it [the family] gets larger.”

“So when the Palmers got together, it looked a little bit like this:”

The Palmer Family Reunion at South Mountain; courtesy of Ed Palmer

“Don’t ask me who all those people are.  I can’t tell you all of them, but they are all Palmers.”

The Palmer family reunions stopped at one point, however.

“The Palmer family sort of split up a little bit later on, and there was a problem.”

“It was a sad situation.  But it was years ago, and somebody in the family died of AIDS.  And mother and dad went to the funeral, and maybe a couple others did, but it split the family because of that incident.  It’s crazy.  It’s the kind of thing that just divides people.  It shouldn’t divide them, but it did.”

Accordingly, Dr. Palmer understands his role as one of the oldest remaining members of the family.

“I realize I’m the connection.  I mean I’m the only connection to a lot of this, because the children wouldn’t know who these [relatives] were.”

“I’ve thought about trying to pull back together the people that are still living, but I haven’t addressed that yet… it’s a little bit tough to do that.”

One of the lines from his sermons, “Oaks in the Shadows,” which can be found on the Beliefs and Values page, is especially appropriate here, considering both the imagery of the tree and the theme of staying connected to what is past:

“So, as you come to know me, you come to know the tree which you never saw.”

The Brandenburgs:

Dr. Palmer’s maternal grandparents were William “Bill” Hanson Brandenburg and Rohann Pryor Brandenburg.  His mother Eva had seven siblings, some of whom Dr. Palmer spent some time with.  In fact, Dr. Palmer has created a Brandenburg family tree which can be found here.

Bill and Rohann Brandenburg, Ed's maternal Grandparents; courtesy of Ed Palmer

“1867 was when she was born.  That was my grandma, Rohann Brandenburg.”

About his grandfather, Bill: “He came to our home, and lived with us awhile, and I do remember that time.”

Here is Dr. Palmer on one of the stories he remembers from that time:

“There were eight [children] in their family, and two of them were men.  The others were women.”

Dr. Palmer was relatively close to one of the men, his uncle Oscar, who had a daughter named Sarah.

Leon's Family with uncle Oscar Brandenburg, left, and his daughter Sara, bottom right; courtesy of Ed Palmer

He and his family also visited some relatives in the nearby “country.”  One of the families was that of Eva’s sister Amanda, known as “Manny.”

“We would go over to visit Sunday afternoon.  That usually was a ritual.  We’d go visit somebody in the country… usually Ralph and Ruth. [Manny's son and daughter-in-law]“.

Ed with friend Dale Seburn in the back row. Mayme, Leon Palmer, and great uncle Charles Brandenburg at the Palmer home; courtesy of Ed Palmer

Unlike the Palmers, the Brandenburgs still have annual reunions.

“Every August I go to a family reunion on my mother’s side – the Brandenburg reunion.”

A Recent Brandenburg Family Reunion; courtesy of Ed Palmer


Continue to Part II

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