Asa Palmer - Born About 1758
The Methuen, Massachusetts, Vital Records to the End of the Year 1849 does not list an Asa Palmer born to Samuel Palmer and his wife Anne. Asa and his descendants would have truly been lost from history were it not for a deed of conveyance of a parcel of land in Methuen in 1787.1
The life story of Asa Palmer is like the complete opposite of his brother James Palmer who was born in 1749. Where James was apparently reclusive and uninvolved in his community, Asa was very involved and seemingly materially successful. But like his brother, suffered an untimely death and with that the beginning of the disappearance of his descendants from our family record.
Asa was born sometime around 1758 or 1759. There is no record of his birth in any of the vital records of Methuen, Massachusetts. Sometime around 1763 the Selectmen of Methuen ordered a census of the families at that time living in Methuen. Samuel Palmer complied with this order but reasons known only to him, he neglected to inform the town clerk of Asaís birth. This is strange because Samuel provided the names and birthdates of two other children born after Asa.2
Asa was apparently not baptized, at least not as a child. His name does not appear in the baptismal records of the First Church in Methuen. This author believing that Samuel was a very orthodox Calvinist and where Samuel had joined some of his neighbors in 1757 to separate from the First Church in Methuen, he did not have Asa baptized.
We first learn of Asa from the town of Methuen tax list of September 20th, 1779.3 When a young man turned twenty-one, he became eligible to vote in town affairs and was required to pay a Poll Tax and other taxes as were necessary thereafter. This is primarily the reason that we can propose that that he was born in 1758.
Backing up a few years it is now known that he joined his brother James and served in the same company commanded by Capt. David Whittier, a neighbor of his, in a regiment commanded by a Major Benjamin Gage. The regiment marched on October 2, 1777 to join and reinforce the Northern Army. He served for 40 days.4
On August 24, 1781 Asa enlisted as a private in a company commanded by another neighbor, Capt. James Mallon. This company was under the regimental command of a Lt. Col. Putnam. This regiment was made up of companies raised in Essex and Plymouth Counties for the purpose of reinforcing the Continental Army for three months. Asa served for three months and twenty-two days. This included 12 days and 240 miles travel home. He was discharged on December 4th, 1781.5
His first recorded involvement with the town of Methuen came on March 8, 1786 when the town voted to give him payment for 300 oak plank that he provided for the repair and maintenance of one of the bridges in town.6
On April 5, 1787 Asa married Pricilla (sic) Parker of Dracut, Massachusetts in Dracut.7 On April 10th, 1789, Asa and Priscilla Palmer of Methuen conveyed a parcel of land in Methuen to a William Farnum also of Methuen.8 Asa and Priscilla lived together on their farm in Methuen but with no issue known at this time. It is thought that she died sometime during 1805.
On February 24, 1790 Asa conveyed a parcel of land to the same William Farnum with an encumbrance of "the right of dower and power of thirds belonging to my honored mother Anne Palmer of said Methuen widow during her natural life" This is the first indication that his father Samuel had died earlier.9
It is thought that his brother James died around 1797 or 1798. Jamesís death and the way the town treated him at or near the end of his life must have had a profound impact on Asa. Beginning in 1801 we find that Asa became enthusiastically involved in community service.
The town of Methuen had, almost from the time of its inception, been very supportive of educating the young people in town both male and female. In 1800 the town reorganized the structure of its education system creating eight school districts supervised by committees of three men each.
At the annual town meetings of March 1801 and 1802, Asa was chosen and sworn a town officer in the capacity of Field Driver. In November of 1802, he served on a committee that was to inspect a road, which was considered for annexation. At another annual meeting in March of 1803 he was chosen and sworn to be a committeeman of the 7th school district in which he resided.10
At the annual meeting in March 1804 Asa was chosen and sworn to the office of Fence Viewer, Field Driver and he was one of eight men chosen "to detect thieves in his district."11 We could say he was one of the first police detectives in Methuen. In 1805 he was again chosen and sworn Fence Viewer and Field Driver. In 1806 he was chosen and sworn Fence Viewer and to School District #7 Committeeman.
An intention of marriage dated June 25, 1806 was published for Asa Palmer and Lucy Bools both of Methuen.12 They were probably married in the Second Church of Methuen at a time when it had no ordained pastor. Another possibility is that they may have been married elsewhere especially in New Hampshire where record keeping was even more irregular. They had five children whose names, were not included in the vital records of Methuen and would have been unknown to us except that when Asa died intestate, he left a sizable estate. Their names and their birth years which were deduced from probate papers are: Asa, born about 1809, Manly, born about 1810, Charles, born about 1812, Jesse, born about 1814 and Lucy, born in 1815 a few months after her fatherís death.13
At the annual meeting in 1807 Asa was chosen and sworn to the positions of Fence Viewer, Field Driver and Hog Reeves. In 1808 he was chosen and sworn, Fence Viewer and Surveyor of Wood & Bark. It seems that he then took a few years off but in 1812 he was chosen and sworn Field Driver. In 1813 he was chosen Field Driver and Hog Reeves.14
A notice, witnessed by Jarvis Train, Jess Webster and Micah Emerson, brothers committee, certified "that James Gutterson, Jesse Heath and Asa Palmer are members of the religious society in the town of Haverhill called Universalists dated this day of April 3, 1815."15 This is the last record that exists for Asa Palmer while he was alive.
The next record of Asa is a request for the inventory of the estate of Asa Palmer, late of Methuen dated 17 Oct 1815 from the Probate Court of Essex County. After this an inventory is taken that includes his personal and household goods and land he owned. His real property holdings at the time of his death included:
Epilogue: Claims against the estate of Asa Palmer, late of Methuen equaled just over $900.00. His wife Lucy was initially awarded necessities equal to $200.00 dollars from his personal belongings to support her and her family. Subsequently, after a debilitating illness she was awarded an additional $100.00.
The children: Asa, apparently became a farmer. This was determined by data given in the 1840 and 1850 U.S. census. In the 1850 census, we find him living in someone elseís household with a group of other men. He is apparently unmarried and aged 41. He seems to go back and forth between Methuen and other nearby town or towns up until 1854. He is frequently found in Methuen Tax and Militia records to that time. So far nothing after that.18
Manly, there is no information on a Manly Palmer fitting the criteria to be included in this family until I discovered a death record from the volume called Massachusetts Deaths 1844, Vol. 9, page 112. A Manly Palmer died on August 18, 1843 at the US Marine Hospital in Chelsea, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. His marital status was single. His occupation was seaman and he was 33 years old when he died. His unusual name and his age at death give credence to being Asaís son.19
Jesse Palmer, being another uncommon name leads us to a Jesse B. Palmer residing in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts in the 1850 U.S. census. He is age 36, born in Massachusetts, married to a Susan E., age 27 and with a son named Goodwin, age 2. Again his name and age and birthplace are right to be Asaís son.
A Charles Palmer fitting the right criteria is found in the 1850 U.S. census residing in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts. He is age 39 and a farmer boarding in an unrelated personís home. He also was born in Massachusetts. Again the name, age and birthplace fit our necessary criteria.20
Alas, nothing is known about Lucy after the distribution of the proceeds of the last of her fatherís estate.
1 Deed on file, Essex County Courthouse, Salem, Massachusetts; Vol. 151, pg 57
2 Methuen, Massachusetts Ė Births, Vol. 1, page 57, LDS Film #760383
3 Methuen, Massachusetts, Tax and Valuation Lists, 1745-1860; LDS Film #0887747, It 2
4 Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution, 17 Vols.; Vol. 11, page 797
6 Methuen, Massachusetts, Town Records, Vol. 2, 1768-1831, pg 137; LDS Film #0887744, It 3
7 Methuen, Massachusetts Vital Records to the End of the Year 1849, pg 247
8 Deed on file, Essex County Courthouse, Salem, Massachusetts, Vol. 151, pg 59-60
9 Deed on file, Essex County Courthouse, Salem, Massachusetts, Vol. 150, pg 251
10 Methuen, Massachusetts, Town Records, Vol. 2, 1768-1831; LDS Film #0887744, It 3
12 Methuen, Massachusetts, Vital Records to the End of the Year 1849, pg 245
13 Essex County, Massachusetts Probate records, Case 20439, 1823-1825, Book 25, file 84 & 1826-1827, Book45, file 127
14 Methuen, Massachusetts, Town Records, Vol. 2, 1768-1831; LDS Film #0887744, It 3
15 Methuen, Massachusetts, Toll Books, Marks and Notices, 1725-1854; LDS Film #0886198, It 1
16 Essex County, Massachusetts Probate records, 1815-1817, Book 388, pg 436-440
17 Deed on file, Essex County Courthouse, Salem, Massachusetts, Vol. 248, pg 42-43
18 1840 U.S. census, Methuen, Mass.; 1850 U.S. census, Salem, Rockingham Co., New Hampshire; & Methuen, Massachusetts,
Book of Militia 1842-1873; LDS Film #0887748, It 2
19 1850 U.S. census; Ward 10, Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts; www.ancestry.com, image 157 of 358
20 1850 U.S. census; Lynn, Essex Co., Massachusetts; www.ancestry.com; image 7 of 342