John Charles Palmer

JOHN CHARLES PALMER is the popular superintendent of schools of Harper County. He is the only county superintendent to hold the office three consecutive terms, and also has the distinction of being the only candidate for that office who succeeded in carrying every precinct in the county. That honor was given him at the last two elections. Mr. Palmer has made education his life work and his activities in Harper County have been a source of influence and upbuilding to every school with which he has been individually connected or over which his supervision extends.

Superintendent Palmer was born in Clark County, Kentucky, July 11, 1883. He comes of a pioneer family of the old Blue Grass state, his ancestors having settled there about the time of Daniel Boone. His grandfather, William Palmer, who was born in Kentucky in 1832 and died at Rago, Kansas, in 1897, was a Confederate soldier during the Civil war. By trade he was a blacksmith. In 1885 he removed to Kansas, following his trade at Harper and in 1887 removing to Kearney County, where he was a farmer for several years. After 1892 he lived at Rago and worked at his trade. He married Sarah Thomas, who was born in Kentucky in 1831 and died at Harper, Kansas, in 1910.

Robert Schuyler Palmer, father of John C., was born in Clark County, Kentucky, May 15, 1855, and was reared and married in his native county. He became a stone mason, and followed his trade at Harper, Kansas, after going there in 1885, and in Kearney County from 1887 was a farmer until his death at Lakin on July 9, 1897. Politically he was a democrat and for several years was deputy sheriff of the county. Robert S. Palmer married Julia Elkin, who was born December 29, 1853, in Clark County, Kentucky, and died at Lakin, Kansas, September 19, 1895. They had three children: Anna, who died at Harper in February, 1916, wife of Ervin Shepherd, a farmer at Harper; John Charles, the second in age; and Benjamin Franklin, a farmer at Harper.

John C. Palmer received most of his education in the public schools of Lakin, and gained the equivalent of a high school training in Harper County. For several years he was a farmer, was a student of Cooper College for two years, and began work as a teacher in 1904 in the rural schools of Harper County. He continued active in country school work until the fall of 1912, when he was elected to the office of county superintendent. He has been reelected in 1914 and 1916. It is especially significant and a tribute to his abilities as an educator that Mr. Palmer was chosen on the democratic ticket in a strong republican county, and at the present time he and the probate judge are the only democratic county officials. As superintendent of schools Mr. Palmer has under his supervision eighty-five schools, a staff of 106 teachers, and 4,500 scholars enrolled.

In 1917 he was president of the Southern Kansas Teachers' Association, and is also active in the Harper County Association and Kansas State Teachers' Association. Mr. Palmer owns a farm of 160 acres six miles north of Harper, and a residence at 424 North Lincoln Street in Anthony. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and is affiliated with Anthony Lodge No. 237, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Harper Lodge of Ancient Order United Workmen.

In 1906 at Harper he married Elizabeth Schoeneman, daughter of Charles and Mary (White) Schoeneman, retired farmers living at Harper, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer have four bright and interesting children, the two older being in school. Their names and dates of birth are: Floyd Robert, October 16, 1907; Mary, November 16, 1909; Margaret, September 19, 1912; and Helen Ruth, August 14, 1913.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 28, 2000.

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