"...Lieutenant Palmer has been the subaltern of the
detachment, but upon one or two occasions he has conducted
exploring trips through the colony with great credit to
himself, and has done good service in fixing points and
distances in the upper country."
--His Excellency, Governor Douglas, 1863
Much of the
following information comes from
Higuchi's excellent website at
Jiro is a
grandson of Henry Spencer Palmer, and we are most grateful for the
use of his research.
Mary Jane Pearson
Wright, 1861 (the future Mrs Palmer)
Below: Henry Spencer
Photo courtesy of BC Archives
Call Number G-03067
||Henry Spencer Palmer
was born on April 30, 1838, at Bangalore, East India, son of
Colonel John Freke Palmer, of Madras Staff Corps, and Jane
James, daughter of John James, Esquire of Truro, Cornwall, and
sister of Lieutenant General, Sir Henry James, R.E.
was the third son, loosing his mother one month after his
Photo courtesy of BC Archives
Call Number A-01702
He was educated at a
private school in Bath, where his father lived after retiring
from the East India Company's service, and was educated by
private tutors at Woolwich and Plumstead.
In January 1856,
Palmer successfully competed his studies for admission to the
Practical Class of the
Royal Military Academy in
Palmer's maternal uncle,
Henry James, RE
He gained the
7th place among the 40 successful candidates. He was the
youngest in the class, being just under the prescribed age of 18 (an
exception having been made in his case by the authorities).
from the RMA at the end of 1856, he took second place, owing to his
proficiency in mathematics and surveying.
Palmer was gazetted a
Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on December 20, 1856, and
immediately stationed at Chatham, the headquarters of the Corps of
the year of 1857 studying at the School of Military Engineering.
Completing his studies he was posted to the Isle of Wight at a
|As a Lieutenant,
Palmer's Regimental Pay would have been 125 Pounds per Annum plus a Colonial Allowance
of 250 Pounds
In September 1858
he received his appointment to join Colonel Moody and Columbia
Detachment in the Colony of British Columbia.
The Columbia Detachment
of the Royal Engineers consisted of 2 officers, 1 staff
Assistant Surgeon, 118 non-commissioned officers and men, 31
women, and 34 children, the whole under the command of Captain
H.R. Luard, R.E.
They sailed from
Gravesend, England, on the clipper ship Thames City--commanded
by Captain Glover--on Sunday, 10 November, but were wind-bound
in the Downs until 10 p.m., Sunday, 17 October.
Corporal Sinnett, R.E., had planned to publish a weekly journal on
the ship during the voyage. Their senior officer, Captain
March, R.E., approved and furnished the necessary materials.
Eventually, Captain Luard, R.E., read the handwritten journal to
those on the quarter-deck every Saturday afternoon. The
journal, called The Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette and Cape Horn
Chronicle, was published every week, except twice, from No. 1
dated November 6, 1858 to No. 17 dated April 2, 1859.
occasionally wrote the editorial of the Journal and regularly
contributed the articles on the Natural History of the voyage under
the name of "Naturalist".
all of us, that of our duties to one another, the chief is at all
times, and never more so in our own cases than now, a constant
feeling of brotherly love and kindness, a resolution to avoid
offence, a desire to please and be pleased, and a readiness to
contribute, each in his ability, to the common fund of content and
means towards this desired end, a thoughtful friend on shore,
whose name should be held in honour, among us, has provided us
with the means of establishing a small Newspaper, to be kept by
our own contributions.
set about it with good will and heartiness.
little amusement and instruction will be sure to follow.
trifling matter recorded now it will be a pleasure to refer to
hereafter as a memorial of the peaceful and happy days of our
voyage, contrasted with the turmoil and excitement, that await us
in the Colony of British Columbia.
conclusion, we earnestly appeal to all interested in our success
to give their hearty support to this interesting publication, and
feel sure that provided each does his best the production of the
rare talent hitherto lying dormant on board the Thames City cannot
fail to ensure a long life and glorious success to the Emigrant
Soldiers' Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle.
The Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette
and Cape Horn Chronicle,
Editorial, Issue No. 1, 6 November 1858
Natural History of the Voyage was very popular. In his
foreword he writes:
The study of
Nature is one which ought to interest the most listless of observers at
all times, but if there is one time more calculated than another to
inspire man with reflections on the wonders and beauties of the world we
live in, and fill his mind with feelings of gratitude towards the
Architect of the Universe for his bountiful goodness in arranging all
things for the good of his creatures, it is when like ourselves, he is
on a long voyage traversing the vast and boundless ocean, where at times
nothing is discernible around him but the wide circumference of water
and the vast canopy of Heaven apparently meeting the waters at the
boundary commonly known as the horizon.
exception of the ship beneath our feet, we are entirely surrounded by
We have beneath
and around us the briny deep calm, and unruffled at one moment,
boisterous, foaming, and angry at another, we have over our heads the
spacious firmament at times presenting one beautiful rich blue even
curtain, and at others displaying the most dismal looking black clouds,
forewarning us of the heavy rains, furious winds and tempestuous seas.
Then again we
cannot help feeling interested in the animated creatures which
constantly present themselves to our view.
Scarcely a day
passes without our attention being called to some poor little wandering
bird whose appearance is as unexpected as it is mysterious, or to some
one of the numerous finny tribes which frequently follow vessels for
several hours at a time in the hope of picking up scraps of food for
their subsistence, and which in the clear waters of the southern seas
are visible many feet below the ship's keel.
Now, though we
all of us more or less see and observe these objects, still how few
there are who think of enquiring into their nature and habits, and who
ask themselves why and wherefore the winds blow, the waves rise, the
clouds form, the rain falls, &c.
The object of
our paper being to afford us all amusement, instruction, and useful
information as will tend to illustrate the nature and habit of such fish
and birds as may happen to come across us during the week, and the
causes and effects of the various natural phenomena which will
constantly present themselves in the course of our voyage, constituting
in fact a Journal of the Natural History of the Voyage.
Some of his
topics of discussion were:
The phosphorescence or
luminosity of the sea medusae
General character of the
Ocean, its saltness, temperature, depth, pressure, formation of
Huge whale to the luminous
Stormy petrel, sea swallow
Majestic albatross, penguins
Bonitos, pilot fish, flying
fish, porpoises, and whales
The classifications of animals
into species, classes, and orders.
Thunder and lightning,
object of these articles on the Natural History of the Voyage has
been to direct the attention of the student of Nature to the
consideration of a few of the many objects of interest more or
less directly connected with the sea, and, by describing the
causes and effects of those phenomena which from time to time come
under our notice, to lead the mind to contemplate the beauty and
grandeur of the world in which we live, and to impress us with the
infinite power and wisdom displayed in the miracles of nature by
the Creator of the Universe.
It is to
be hoped that the subject has proved worthy of interest, and that
not a few will be found prosecuting their researches in Natural
History in the new Colony to which we are bound, and which by all
accounts teems with objects for the study of the Naturalist, who
will undoubtedly be amply repaid for any exertions which he may
deem fit to make towards acquiring a knowledge of Nature, and an
acquaintance with God's creatures.
Emigrant Soldiers' Gazette
and Cape Horn Chronicle,
No. 17, April 2, 1859
there a young chap-Lieutenant Palmer, I think his name was.
He was a regular swell. They said he was the Assistant
Editor of the Gazette and I think he must have been, for there
were many interesting scientific articles in the paper which I
think must have been written by him, for he was a clever fellow.
I have heard it said that he was a wonderful man at figures, could
add up pounds, shillings and pence all at once, just run his
fingers up the three columns of figures and tell you the total, in
Reminiscences by Wolfenden
The journal was so
popular amongst the passengers of the Thames City that, in 1863, the
NCOs and the Men got together a subscription and paid Mr. John Robson,
editor of the British Columbian, to print up a copies of their
handwritten Gazette as souveniers.
After a six month
voyage, the Thames City arrived at Esquimalt on the April 12, 1859, and
the main body immediately proceeded to New Westminster.
STEAMER Eliza Anderson left yesterday for Queenborough.
She took up a detachment of Royal Engineers, twenty men in charge of
Lt. Palmer, with about 50 tons of government stores from the Thames City,
- and also about fifty tons merchandise and forty passengers . She is
expected here this morning and will leave again today for Queenborough,
returning so as to depart on her regular day, on Tuesday morning.
--16th April, 1859
The British Colonist
assigned to the Surveying Unit under command of Captain Parsons, R.E.,
spending most of his time in Surveys and explorations.
As the first Christmas in
the Colony neared, the Camp was filled with activity.
FESTIVITIES AT NEW WESTMINSTER
We have had a gay time during Christmas here. Out Lt. Gov.
Col. Moody, gave a dinner on Friday last, to which a large party
were invited. On Saturday, many private parties were given in
camp, and the Men employed in cutting various trails came into the
city; these, joined the Men employed on the wharves, formed
themselves into a band, each armed with a candle, and gave a
serenade at nearly every home. A Christmas Carol in a noisy
way. All the inhabitants received them well, with scarcely any
exception, and were only too glad to see the bones and sinew of the
country enjoying themselves, and received the honor that was done
them in the best of spirit, paying all largesse required.
Christmas Day being Sunday, was of course devoted to its proper use,
without festivities. On Monday, the Non-commissioned officers
gave a Ball at the theatre, that they have erected by private
subscription amongst themselves, which went off very well, to which
most of the inhabitants received an invitation, and on Tuesday the
festivities were ended by the Officers giving a grand dinner at
their Mess-room, to which several ladies received invitations, and
every thing passed off pleasantly.
--7th January, 1860
The Weekly British Colonist
Palmer worked under Grant on the Harrison River
during the Spring of 1860. While in Temporary Command, Palmer wrote the
following letter to Colonel Moody.
RE Camp, Harrison River,
I deeply regret to have
to report that Sappers “Elliot”, “Manstree” and “Roe” of this
Detachment were accidentally drowned last evening, while attempting
to return in a canoe from the mouth of the Harrison River, during a
From the evidence of
Sapper Brown, the only one of the Canoe’s Crew who was saved, it
would appear that after spending an hour or so at Mr. William’s
house at Carnarvon, they started on their return in opposition to
his (William’s) advice about 6:30 pm, being anxious to get back to
camp by dark.
On rounding a point a
mile below this camp the canoe became exposed to a heavy sea and
swamped, but being in shallow water, they got out – hauled her on
the beach and emptied her.
They then tracked her
along the shore for 300 or 400 yards and again attempted to cross
the river – The violence of the gale however precluded the
possibility of steering, and driving before it, she gradually filled
and soon upset in deep water.
Brown, who had light
boots on, swam to the canoe, and got astride her, and, having kept
hold of his paddle, managed to reach the shore, and crawl nearly
dead into camp. Of the other three poor fellows who had Gum boots
on, Brown says that One (Sapper Roe) held on to him for a short time
but soon sank exhausted – of the other two he saw no more.
Immediately on Sapper
Brown’s arrival in camp, I took every means in my power by sending
boats and men to the spot, to rescue any that might still be
floating or have been thrown on the beach, but I regret to say all
my efforts were unsuccessful - The Storm was one of the most
terrific I ever witnessed.
Could I possibly have
foreseen that men would have been rash enough to venture out in a
light canoe in such weather, I would have sent down to stop them if
possible, and deeply as I lament the melancholy loss of 3 fine young
fellows I cannot but remark on the recklessness of the second
attempt to cross the river, when the canoe had already been swamped
with them in shallow water.
Brown assures me that the
men were all quite sober and kept their presence of mind till the
last minute, and I think the loss of at least one, viz: “Manstree”,
who was the most powerful swimmer in the Detachment, was owing to
his having long boots on, which must have utterly incapacitated him
I have not yet succeeded
in recovering the bodies, as the wind has been too strong to cause
any extensive search to be made: but when it lulls, I trust that the
clearness of the water will admit of their being found.
I should remark that the
canoe, which was a long, light, frail affair, belonged to Sapper
Roe, one of the poor fellows we have lost.
Feeling as I do the
responsibility of the charge of so many men, I trust you will allow
me to observe that an occurrence of this nature could not possibly
have been foreseen. The weather, when the men went down from this
camp, was nearly calm. The Storm came on without any warning, and as
but an hour elapsed between its commencement and the occurrence of
the accident there would hardly have been time to stop the men even
if I had sent a messenger down immediately. – Again expressing my
deep regret that I should have to report the loss of so many men of
a Detachment under my temporary command.
I have etc., etc.,
P.S. Brown I am happy to
say is quite recovered this morning.
To Colonel R.C. Moody RE
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Balls appeared to be part
of the fabric of the Camp.
|"As a birthday
"treat" I must try and give you a full line and particular account
of the rise, progress and termination of the ball at the
Camp. I told you that we were intending to have a little
party. Dr. Seddall took the entire management and arranged
everything. We now have the whole house to ourselves, so we
have plenty of room, the Drawing Room, Library and Dining Room are
all down-stairs, the Library is the only one we have furnished and
we use it as a Drawing Room. The Dining Room was the Doctor's,
the Drawing Room was Captain Luard's. The Doctor fixed to
have the Dancing in the empty drawing room, and he had it all
decorated for the occasion, the large recess of the bow window was
fitted as an orchestra, the windows curtained with Scarlet blankets,
relieved with golden Chinese banners. The Ceiling was
festooned with evergreens and faded leaves, the walls decorated with
bayonets festooned, lamps and garlands, Scarlet, blue and white
bunting plaited in hanging loops all 'round the ceiling, a J.B. over
the mantle piece. You have no idea how nice the room looked,
how I wish you could have seen it! The library drawing room
was used as a Tea room, the dining room decorated as a supper room,
flags and banners etc. We mustered 10 ladies all dressed in
ball costume, Mrs. Grant in pink beige with flowers, Mrs. Bacon pink
Moire Antique, Mrs. Homer in white, Mrs. Spalding in blue Moire,
Mrs. Pritchard in black net, Mrs. Moody in black net decorated with
pink ribbons. I apprise you I felt quite respectable, once
They all came at 8, soon after dancing began which was kept up till 3 A.M!
Richard allowed me to dance all night and I assure you I thouroughly
We sat down 26 to supper, and about 8 were left without seats. I took very
little trouble in the party, the Doctor did it all his own way. He laid
the Supper, cut the sandwiches etc. Mr. Sheepshanks cut the bread and butter for
tea, and superintended the final arrangements for supper. Everybody in the
Camp helped. 3 of the Men performed the music, the officer's Servants
helped to wait, we borrowed the Mess table, tablecloth, Napkins, Candle-sticks,
Cups, Plates, etc. glasses and candlesticks from Mrs. Grant. Tea tray from
one of the women. You have no idea how well it all went off, everybody
enjoyed themselves. Certainly the Doctor deserves great credit for all his
trouble. We thought you would all have enjoyed to have taken a peep at our
new mode of "roughing it in the bush". I really was not very very tired
after so much dancing. I feared I should be as stiff as an old horse the
next day, however, tho' I was obliged to get up at 6 the next morning I did not
feel too tired. I had not danced since I married before. Captain
Parsons and the Doctor wanted to persuade me to allow Zeffie and Dick to sit up,
however I would not listed to that and packed them all off to bed before I went
--15th October, 1860
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody
In the summer of
1862, Palmer was ordered to survey of the Cariboo district and at the
same time examine and report on the proposed Bentinck Arm Road.
(1) To proceed by the first opportunity to North Bentinck Arm and
after laying out a townsite, and Indian reserve and mapping the
location of all buildings
(2) To travel as soon as possible along the proposed road to the Junction of
Swift River and the Fraser, altering the line as he may think
(3) To examine and report on the lines of communication in the Cariboo
district and lay out reserves for several townsites
(4) To return to New Westminster by way of the proposed line of the Cariboo
Waggon Road and map it and report thereon.
Palmer and his
Sappers' lives were saved at North Bentinck Arm,
by his coolness and knowledge of
the Indian character.
He also took his
share at different times in superintending the construction of roads,
bridges, and waggon road through the formidable canyon of the Fraser
River, between Lytton and Yale.
The reports and
maps prepared by him, in connection with these surveys were published
from time to time in the Parliamentary and Colonial Blue Books, etc.
Among them, the
four progress reports forwarded personally from Palmer en route to Col.
Moody clearly reveal their mutual resentment of interference by
outsiders in anything relating to the survey of the Colony.
between Moody and Governor James Douglas, had deteriorated to the point
where communication existed only through the Colonial Secretary at home.
Mr. T. K. Fleming
of Vancouver writes as follows:
Governor Douglas was very fortunate that Lord Lytton had dispatched
the Royal Engineers to the Colony so promptly.
He was less
fortunate in the appointment of Colonel Moody as commanding officer
and Lieutenant Governor.
Governor Douglas was of a strong character and would not brook Moody's
interference nor Moody's attempts to by-pass Douglas when reporting
matters to London.
disrespect for the non-elitist Governor culminated in the Governor
declining to communicate directly with Moody.
disdain for Moody was not matched by Palmer's apparent affection for
his commanding officer, judging by Palmer's correspondence.
Or was this
further evidence of Palmer's astuteness and discipline?
purposes, the writer would like to quote on the comment on Palmer by
Douglas as follows;
|Lt. Palmer is an
exceedingly clever young officer who, being on the spot and faut de
mieux, might make a good successor to Colonel Moody in the office
of Chief Commissioner of Lands.
As to Palmer's
activities, Mr. Fleming writes as follows:
out his Harrison-Lillooet survey in summer of 1859 and his Fort Hope
to Fort Colville survey in autumn of 1859, Lieutenant Palmer became
active in superintending road building locally until Governor Douglas
decided to commence construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road in the
summer of 1861.
interruption was caused by Palmer's North Bentinck Arm to Fort
Alexandria survey in the summer of 1862 and its continuation to the
Cariboo gold fields in the autumn of 1862.
actively participated in various cultural activities; such as drama
played by the Royal Engineers. Palmer played "Mr. Cox" in the
farce, "Box and Cox" with Captain Luard and Dr. Seddall.
He took part
actively as the preparatory committee for British Columbia to exhibit
their products to the Industrial Exhibition in London in 1862.
|"Sleighing" was the
general amusement. Mr. Palmer had a very nice one, and the children
have had sundry drives in it, one day I went with the Doctor, for a
drive and enjoyed it very much."
--3rd January 1862, Mary S. Moody
21st June, 1862 - Fine. Got a letter from Lieut.
Palmer copied it in my Memorandum book in it it gives authority to the
Contractor to go down the Pavillion Mountain at a grade of one in ten, at
the same time it tells me that the points are in discussion spoken of in
notes of the 5th June.
--From the Journal of Serjeant John
While on reconaissance on the North Bentink Arm in
1862, Palmer had an adventure. It is told many years later by his wife to
the local Vancouver, BC paper: "Palmer with
Indians in his Pocket".
"I have not written since the 9th when we had grand
rejoicings in honour of the Prince of Wales. It was a very stormy night
however they sent a waggon round for the Company so we got there dry, we
had a nice little party of our own I mean from the Camp, 3 young ladies,
the Archdeacon's family, the Officers and ourselves, so we got on very
nicely. We intended to have left early, but we really enjoyed it very
much, and were much surprised to find it 5 minutes past 4 when we reached
The ball was on the 11th, on the 10th the Officers
dined with us and the Archdeacon and his daughter, so we were quite gay
--24th November, 1862
From the Letters of Mary S. Moody
|"We have had a very quiet
Christmas time. The Children spent one day at the Grant's, on New
year's day we had the Officers, Grants and Mr. Sheepshanks to lunch - 16
--7th January, 1863
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody
"Mr. Palmer too has gone away with 50 Men to make
--12th May, 1863
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody
have been very gay lately. Captain Luard and Doctor
Seddall are engaged to two sisters, Miss Leggatts, and the
ladies have just paid us a visit, nearly 3 weeks. You
can fancy that two such visitors have made the place quite
gay -- a dinner party here and at the Mess, Concerts,
Theatricals, Riding parties, and a Ball in the Mess Room --
Picnics, &c &c &c The Ball was quite a success
-- five young ladies, four to engaged to be married -- I
enjoyed it very much and danced until 5 am.
Richard got very tired but we were obliged to stay till the
end. The RE Band played beautifully, the room was
prettily decorated and the Supper first rate - Mrs. Bonson.
Ball did us all good, fancy there being want of gentlemen!!!
We were much vexed that Captain Luard would not send down to
Victoria for some. The Ladies were very nicely
dressed. The Miss Leggatts wore white silk plain,
with cherry coloured sashes, broad rushings of the same at
the top of the lace berthe, and one rose in their hair --
they looked so nice, we all felt quite proud of them, for
now of course we feel that they belong to us (the
--12 May 1863, Mary S Moody
|July 23rd, 1863.
...Then descending the hill I came to the RE camp
on the Thompson River, 18 miles from Cornwall's. Here are about 60
men employed in making the road under command of Lieutenant Palmer, RE.
With him is Doctor Oliver, and here I shall sleep tonight. It is
quite refreshing to come upon this piece of civilization in this rugged
country. The officer's tents are pitched in a lovely little
thicket through which murmurs a little brook which supplies them with
water for every purpose; while in another place the branches are cut
away and twined over head to make a sitting room impervious to the sun's
rays. It is a lovely and romantic spot.
The men have a tough bit of road making to do here
where the road is to wind round a steep bluff on the side of the river.
July 24th, 1863.
I left with regret the RE camp.
--From The Letters of Edmund Verney,
Obviously, the two young
lieutenants made some sort of friendship because as Lt. Palmer's wedding
approached, Lt. Verney wrote the following to his father.
I am now living on board,
and a chimney will be built at the bower (his cottage at Esquimalt),
after which I shall lend it to Mr. Palmer of the Engineers and the
Archdeacon's daughter: they are to be married on the sixth of the next
month, and to spend their honeymoon at my house.
Verney, Lt., RN
Lieutenant Palmer was married
on October 7, 1863, to Mary Jane Pearson Wright.
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer did not
spend their honeymoon at the Bower, because they thought it too small: I
was rather disappointed at this, as I had taken some trouble in
preparing it for them, but after all, of course I only wanted them to do
what they liked best.
Verney, Lt., RN
Vancouver, British Columbia, the initial site of Palmer's achievements
throughout his life and Yokohama, Japan, the site of his last
achievements, are related to each other today as sister cities.
In November 1863,
the British Columbian Expedition Forces of Royal Engineers were
disbanded on completion of their terms of five years' service.
The men were
allowed the option of either returning to Headquarters in England or
taking the discharge in the Colony and receiving a free grant of 150
acres of land.
Most of the men
decided to remain and become residents in the new Colony, but the
majority of the officers left for the mother country.
He and his
newly-wed bride, Mary, left New Westminster on November 11 for Esquimalt
on Vancouver Island, and on the 18th left for England via San Francisco
and Panama with other officers and families, including Col. Moody and
They arrived at
Southampton on December 30.
reported on the 31st to the Headquarters of Ordnance Survey and received
appointment to the Ordnance Survey Office at Tunbridge, Kent from March
Leave, he and his bride went to Bath, and visited his mother-in-law,
step-sisters, and other relatives and came back to their new residence in
Southborough near Tunbridge.
On March 1st, he
reported to the Ordnance Survey office at Tunbridge, and from which
place as headquarters, he conducted the survey of the greater parts of
Kent and East Essex and parts of Berks and Bucks for about two years.
He received his
Captain's commission on March 4, 1866.
In the autumn of
1867, he was appointed one of the Assistant Commissioners in the
Parliamentary Boundaries Commission, under Mr. Disraeli's Reform Act,
having for his legal colleague, Joseph Kay, Esq. of the Middle Temple.
embraced the Parliamentary Borough in Kent and East Sussex, and the
sub-division of West Kent and East Surrey for county representation.
In June 1867,
Palmer was consulted by his friend, Rev. Piere Butler of Ulcombe
Rectory, on setting foot the project of a survey of the Sinaitic
Rev. Butler, an
Orientalist, had accompanied his brother, Captain Henry T. Butler, in
the expedition to that country in 1853, and had keenly felt that it was
most desirable that it should be resurveyed in full scale as he says
that there is a great need of such Survey must be manifest to all
students of Old Testament history; among the most important and
interesting questions which are now subjects of inquiry, and on which it
may be hoped that much additional light would be thrown by the proposed
Survey, may be specified
of the Red Sea.
The Route and
encampment of the Israelites.
identification of the Mountain of the Law-giving.
Those who have
given careful attention to these and many other points of interest
connected with the Desert of Sinai must be aware how far from complete
and how seriously the testimony of even the best maps tends to embarrass
the student of this section of Biblical History by its imperfectness.
with him, Palmer approached Major-General, Sir Henry James,
Director-General of Ordnance Survey, and sent him a written application
for the plan.
Sir Henry had also
been deeply interested in the project of Survey of Sinai, knowing from
the concurrent testimony of many travellers in Sinai, how imperfect the
existing maps were, and the diversity of opinion which prevailed in
consequence, even as to the true place of the Mount Sinai in the Bible.
Henry accepted the application and obtained the sanction of the
Secretary of State for War, to his undertaking this Survey on the same
condition as that which had been formerly prescribed for the Survey of
Jerusalem, viz., that the entire cost of the Survey should be paid by
contributions from those individuals through the Royal Society and Royal
Geographical Society who were desirous to have it done.
However, when Mr.
Butler decided to go out to Egypt, to make preliminary inquiries and
arrangements for the surveying party, after only several days of a
sudden illness, he died at his home in Kent, on the very day on which he
had proposed to leave England. He was only 42 years old.
This was a sad
blow to the undertaking, but every one who had had the good fortune to
make Mr. Butler's acquaintance, and knew his energy of character and
sweetness of disposition, felt that the best tribute of respect to his
memory would be the completion of the work to which he had devoted the
best energies of his latest days.
As it was, without
breaking down this project, Sir Henry immediately proceeded to organize
and equip the party for the survey.
It had been
intended that the Survey should be made under the immediate direction of
one officer, Captain H.S. Palmer, R.E., and had so arranged it.
But, on hearing of
the proposed Expedition, Captain C.W. Wilson, R.E., who was at that time
employed on the Ordnance Survey of Scotland, and had previously given
clear proof of his abilities when carrying out the Ordnance Survey of
Jerusalem, volunteered, to join the Sinai Party.
though junior to Captain Wilson, recognizing the advantage of having two
officers instead of one, very liberally waived all considerations of
seniority, and at once expressed his willingness to agree for his part
to Captain Wilson's proposal.
appeared to be a good one, and the Survey has accordingly been made
under the joint direction of those two officers.
George Williams of King's College, Cambridge, the well-known author of
the Holy City, kindly undertook as far as possible to supply the
place of Mr. Butler, and to become one of the Honorary Secretaries of
the Sinai Survey Fund.
enough, valuable cooperation of the Reverend F.W. Holland, M.A., who had
been travelling in Sinai at the time of Mr. Butler's death was also
obtained and he now, not only consented to act as an Honorary Secretary
in conjunction with Mr. Williams, but also promised to accompany the
party whilst engaged upon the Survey, affording them valuable aid in
nearly every branch of the work.
In considering the
arrangements to be made in order to produce as perfect a Survey as
possible, the importance of having the correct orthography and meaning
of the names of places was fully recognized; and, on the suggestions of
Mr. Williams, Mr. E. H. Palmer, Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge,
an eminent Orientalist, was invited to join the Expedition.
Captain Palmer and Company at Sinai Peninsula
|The Surveys of
Palestine ran from 1865 to 1883. They followed a series of
phases from the original survey of Jerusalem through a separate
Sinai expedition under Charles Wilson to the main Western Palestine
survey that ran from 1872 to 1878. Eastern Palestine was
covered in 1881 and Kitchener himself returned in 1883 to clear up
the last section of Sinai. The original Jerusalem survey had
been financed by Miss (later Baroness) Burdett Coutts, the remainder
by the Palestine Exploration Society whose aim was principally to
identify sites mentioned in the Bible. The 1870 Sinai survey
party is illustrated in two groups that respectfully separate
officers from other ranks. Fortunately Colour Sergeant
MacDonald, whose brilliant photographs demonstrate both artistic and
technical skill of a high order, must have entrusted his precious
camera to one of the officers from the second shot. The 1870
expedition comprised Captain Charles Wilson (leader, third from
right with pipe), Captain Henry Palmer (who had worked in Canada
under Moody (see page 102), Mr. E. H. Palmer (Arabic scholar), Mr.
Wyatt (naturalist), the Rev N. W. Holland, Colour Sergeant James
MacDonald, Corporals Brigley and Goodwin, Lance Corporal Malings
from Ordnance Survey and guides Jemma, Hassan, and Salem.
the Sapper, by Gerald Napier
Going by certain
details in the above two pictures, we feel it is same to presume
that the below picture is also the work of Colour Sergeant James
MacDonald. Click on either of the above two
pictures to see larger versions.
Mr. Palmer has
rendered the most important services as a linguist and philologist, his
mastery of Arabic greatly facilitating all those branches of the work
which needed assistance or information from the natives, and enabling
him to furnish them with a copious and valuable catalogue of the
Bedouin's nomenclature, and a most interesting account of the people and
He has, besides,
successfully deciphered and translated the Sinaitic Rock inscriptions
and also copied a large number of the Egyptian hieroglyphic
inscriptions, from which, together with photographs taken on the spot,
Dr. Birch of the British Museum, one of the ablest Egyptologists, has
kindly consented to describe the interesting ancient remains.
Director General gave to the officers were as follows:
|| Special Survey to
be made of Jebel Musa and Jebel Serbal, the "rival" mountains as they were
called, for the honour of being the Mount Sinai of the Bible.
||The surveys to be
carried out with scrupulous care, and in such detail that accurate models
of both mountains could be made from them.
|| After the special
surveys, a geographical survey should be made in the first place, of the
district between Suez and Jebel Musa, including all main routes to Jebel
Serbal and Jebel Musa, and then of as much of the remainder of the
Peninsula as time would admit of.
|| A special survey to
be made also of the Convent of St. Katherins.
As it was
considered necessary that the Expedition should set out from this
country no later than the end of October so that the Survey might be
completed before the return of the hot weather in spring, the surveying
party, including Mr. Holland, embarked for Alexandria in the Peninsular
and Oriental Company's steamer Ripon on October 24, 1868, and
arrived in Suez on November 8 and at Ayun Musa (the wells of
Moses) on the 12th.
party suffered very much from the country which was so extremely rugged
and confused, as well as from the rigour of a cold winter.
their four and half months surveying and investigations in Sinai, they
confirmed the locations where the Israelites, during their escape from
Egypt guided by Moses,
|| the passage of the Red Sea
|| the routes and encampments of
the Israelites in Sinai
|| the identifications of the
Mountain of the Law-Giving, all mentioned in the Old Testament history
And all members
returned safely homeland in May 1869.
Having no time to
banish the fatigue of the Expedition, while Captain Palmer occupied
himself in preparing to draw the official Report, he was also, often
called upon to speak and lecture on the subject.
In the next
two/three years, he addressed several important meetings, such as those
at the University of Cambridge in 1870, the Church Congress in 1870, and
the Archaeological Congress in 1872.
When in April
1987, the writer visited the Municipal Library of Cambridge accompanied
by Mrs. Jean Walker, the wife of Bishop Walker of Ely Cathedral, and one
of the great-grand daughters of Henry Spencer Palmer, he was fortunate
enough to find, amid the bulk of old newspapers, the article quoted
The Great and Terrible Wilderness in the Cambridge Chronicle and
University Journal dated December 10, 1870, in which the joint
lectures by Mr. E.H. Palmer, Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge and
Captain H.S. Palmer, R.E., held on December 5, by Church of England
Young men's Society was found.
Please permit the
writer to quote the following remarks which Captain Palmer made quite
impressively in conclusion of his lecture.
I hope I said
enough to prove that sacred geography had an important function to
perform as an handmaid to Divine Truth, by confirming where necessary
and illustrating the narrative of Holy Scripture.
Peninsula in its physical character answered in a most remarkable
degree what they should expect to find from the accounts therein
contained, and the result of such inquiries, if conducted in an honest
and humble spirit, so far as they might go, serve to establish beyond
doubt the literal accuracy and fidelity of the Inspired Book of God.
To the magnificent
volumes, published by the Authority in 1872, under the title of
ORDNANCE SURVEY OF PENINSULA OF SINAI (1869), with the special
budget amounting to 500 pounds, which were the fruits of that
Expedition, Captain Palmer contributed largely some two-fifths of the
descriptive matter, together with the computation of the astronomical
and other works of the survey, the drawings of several of the maps and
the part editing of the whole work having fallen to his share.
consists of five massive folio volumes of which one contained the
letter-press accounts, while three are filled with photographs and the
fifth with maps and plans.
matter was enriched by articles, such as;
by Major-General Sir Henry James F.R.S.
by Rev. G. Williams, B.D., titled On the Exodus, and the necessity
which existed for having an accurate survey to elucidate and its
history & etc.,
Let the writer
introduce the portion of Captain Palmer's description in Volume 1,
Chapter IV as follows:
Our last march
across El Gaah was one which I am sure none of us will easily forget.
It was performed
at night, on one of those nights seldom seen except in the Desert,
calm and intensely still, the sky perfectly cloudless, with a moon of
surpassing brilliancy, paling the stars, illuminating hill and sea and
plain, and casting our shadows far back over the waste.
Men and animals
wound sleepily, almost noiselessly, along; before and around us
stretched the blank barren plain; beyond it the glittering sea;
beyond, the gaunt shadowy outlines of the mountains of Sinai, amid
which we had spent more than four months of hard, but pleasant, and,
as we hoped, useful work.
dated September 26, 1872, gave three columns for reviewing the
newly-published ORDNANCE SURVEY OF PENINSULA OF SINAI in which
The Times quoted three passages on the conclusive and scientific
evidence of Jebel Musa as the Mountain of Law Giving which Captain
Palmer wrote in the said Report.
Palmer was very
pleased with it (the fact that his writings were quoted in The Times
and he made a ballad titled A Virtue Rewarded as follows;
It was a great
On his Cathedral throne,
The Church hath ever known.
He read "The
And laughed aloud with glee,
to know who wrote it,
And p'haps they'll think it's me.
It was the Poet Laureate,
With laurels on his brow,
bring me here my "Times" he said,
I fain would read it now.
He read the "Sinai Survey"
Now by the Table Round
language like this article
Can in my works be found
call me sweetest songster.
They vote me quite divine,
I would give my Laurel Crown
Were those three columns mine.
It was the Duke of Cambridge,
A mighty man was he,
Salisbury Plain, amid the rain,
He fights right merrily
On Aide de Camp and General,
Who to my orders yield,
lay a copy of the "The Times"
Upon the tented field
read the "Sinai Survey,"
And tore his hair with rage,
did I think the Royal George,
The Phoenix of the age.
by far the War Department,
And by our autumn fight,
greatest man in England,
Is he who thus can write.
the Times Reviewer,
Was dining with the Queen,
ever since a knife and fork,
Have at his service been)
Now welcome bold Reviewer.
For by this Royal hand,
art the ablest writer,
In all our English land.
Thy welfare and
Shall be our Royal care,
Rise up Sir Times
Of Printing House its Square.
Survey of Peninsula of Sinai (1869), the official Report of the
Expedition, was so voluminous and costly that it was beyond the reach of
most readers. Hence, Captain Palmer hoped for the publication of its
popular edition, and obtained the permission of Major-General Sir Henry
James, Director-General of Ordnance Survey Office. And on March 1878,
this popular edition was published in 215 pages from the Society of
Promoting Christian Knowledge with the title of Sinai as one of
the series of Ancient History from the Monuments, while hewas
staying in London on his way from Barbados to Hongkong. In the edition,
he efficiently arranged the booklet in 6 chapters. viz.,
|| Description of the country
|| Climate of the country
|| The people
||Ancient Monument and Remains and
|| On the topography and other
circumstances of the Exodus
explained, after Captain Palmer returned to Ordnance Survey Office in
Tunbridge, from the Sinai Expedition in 1869, he occupied himself in
preparing the official report and lecturing on the Expedition for a
couple of years.
He also published
in 1873 from Messrs. Edward Stanford a booklet in 77 pages titled
Ordnance Survey of the Kingdom, the objects, mode of execution, history
and present condition after his many years' experiences of the
exhaustively and plainly to the general public the mission of the
Ordnance Survey and the contents of the work.
It is very
interesting to note that the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Japanese
Government had purchased five copies of the booklet in 1877 for the
study of the interested party and that they are today in the possession
of the National Archives in Tokyo.
of National Biography by Oxford University Press says that, in 1874,
Henry Spencer Palmer went to New Zealand as the chief of the New Zealand
Observation Party for the Transit of Venus.
In June 1985, letters
written by Palmer to Sir George Airy, Astronomer Royal, and Captain
Tupman, then chief of the British Observation Party for the Transit
of Venus in 1874, were discovered at the Airy Archives in the
compound of the Royal Observatory in Hurstmonceux in East Sussex,
England, that discussed the 1873/4 Transit of Venus.
Airy, Astronomer Royal
Transit of Venus, A.J. Meadows writes in the Greenwich Observatory
|Transit of Venus
across the solar disc occur in pairs spaced eight years apart, with
over a century elapsing between successive pairs. Though the
18th century pair, in 1761 and 1769, had proved disappointing for the
measurement of solar parallax, it was felt that the technical advances
in astronomy made since then should help ensure the success of
observations of the next pair in 1874 and 1882. All the leading
astronomical nations therefore began preparations for the first of
these transits; in the U.K., the organization of the expeditions
devolved on Airy, the Astronomer Royal of Royal Greenwich Observatory.
The first decision had to be where the expedition should be placed,
and this, in turn, depended on the observing technique adopted.
The 18th century
transit observations had used a method devised by Halley, which required
observations of Venus at ingress and egress. Airy, however, felt
that the transit of Venus of 1874 would best be observed by an
alternative method proposed by Delisle, which only required observations
of Venus at one limb of the Sun. When Airy announced his decision,
he came under heavy fire from some of his fellow astronomers in Britain,
especially R.A. Proctor, then a leading member of the Royal Astronomical
Society. Ultimately, and reluctantly, Airy gave way a little, and
allowed for both methods of observations to be attempted. The
overall result was that British parties were placed at strategic
intervals across the Pacific (The area of the world from which the
transit could best be seen).
In March 1873,
Palmer was recommended to the Astronomer Royal by Admiral G.H. Richards,
then hydrographer to the Admiralty for a chief astronomership in the
enterprise for observing the transit of Venus.
Sir George soon
afterwards nominated him as chief of the new Zealand party as Palmer by
then, well known to have many years of experiences in British Columbia
in Canada, in the Peninsula of Sinai, and in England in the field of
astronomy, and ordnance survey.
For this service,
Palmer, in August 1873, moved from the Ordnance Survey Office at
Tunbridge Wells to the officers' quarters in the Naval Academy at
Greenwich and received a course of practical preparations at the Royal
Observatory for about ten months.
He was nominated
Major, having been promoted to that rank in December 1873.
His appointment on
the Ordnance Survey was relinquished on May 31, 1874, after 10-1/4 years
At about this
time, in January 1874, he wrote a letter to Capt. Tupman, his best
friend, as follows:
The Times have
agreed with me to write an article on the Transit of Venus
preparations and I am going to ask you to be so kind as to give me a
little of your valuable help and advice.
It is a chance
people don't often get, and it should be a pity not to make the most
of it, and I am sure your help and advice will be of the utmost value.
I send you a
rough draft of what I have written which perhaps you will look
through, if you can make it out and if you have time, tomorrow
morning, I think I shall send 3 columns (4,800 words) which will allow
of about another page besides those already written.
Pray keep the
Times news a strict secret.
dated April 6, 1874 published the article written about the preparation
for the Observation of the Transit of Venus in 1874. (In Yokohama,
Japan, The Japan Weekly Mail dated December 6, 1874 reprinted it
in complete form.)
About two months
later, the Transit Observing Party under Major Palmer, arrived at New
Zealand, and with the hearty cooperation of the New Zealand Government,
Burnham, 18 miles from Christchurch was chosen as the best spot suitable
for the Transit of Venus Observatory and several other places were also
chosen as the subsidiary stations.
Major Palmer wrote
in the local newspaper The Lyttleton Times dated October 3, 1874
to encourage the amateur astronomers about the observation of the
Transit of Venus as follows:
astronomer competent to undertake independent observation at places
distant from Christchurch will have a great facility of personal
communication with the observatory party, so as to obtain hints as to
the surest mode of working, by which they can give substantial and
On November 18,
Major Palmer also distributed the bulletin titled The Transit of
Venus 1874 which he wrote for the convenience of the observers at
And the party and
amateur astronomers waited for the Big Day, December 9, after completion
of all the necessary preparations.
But Alas!!, as the
cable despatched by Major Palmer to Astronomer Royal, Sir George Airy
VALUABLE ANYWHERE CLOUDS AMERICANS GETS INGRESS AND PHOTOGRAPHS TILL
NEAR THIRD CONTACT EGRESS
The weather was so
cloudy in New Zealand at the critical phase of the Transit on December
9, that, though every phenomenon that could be seen was carefully
observed and noted by Major Palmer, he believed and reported that his
observations were valueless.
surprise, however, awaited him.
In 1877, after the
eye observations at all the stations had been reduced and compared, it
was found that Major Palmer has achieved a result of great value, being,
in fact, almost identical with the mean derived from the rest of the
observers at the other stations.
In short, as Sir
George Airy remarked, "The preliminary
phenomena which it was found were most to be relied upon, had been
very well observed by him."
Let the writer
introduce a portion of the letter sent by Palmer to Cap. Tupman on
December 21, 1874 as follows:
Many thanks for
your letter from which I am glad to hear that all was going well with
you and your party, and I only hope that on the 9th your exertions
were covered with perfect success.
We, alas, as you
may have heard, had a day of desperate weather and could do nothing at
I saw the sun
for a few seconds at a time in several glimpses while ingress was
going on, but so faintly that I could only just make out the Limb
without any covered shade.
was absolutely impossible, and at second contact everything was
There was a
finer interval about a quarter of an hour after ingress when Darwin
got about 20 photos and I some (probably useless) measures of Limbs.
Then the sun
wasn't seen again till 10 minutes after fourth contact.
The Jansen could
not be tried at ingress because no image of the sun could be got to
plant the instrument on.
It is a bitter
disappointment to us all, as you may suppose.
perfectly prepared and fit and only waited a decent day.
I am sorry for
Sir George Airy too, to whom each failure must be a source of worry
What made our
luck even worse, was that in my five stations, distributed over both
islands, and covering a range of 650 miles of country, were all as
unfortunate as myself and saw neither contact.
I had given a
great deal of time and trouble to these stations, as I found several
good instruments and observers in the country, and was glad to press
them into the service, and coach the men so as to multiply our chances
observation of the Transit of Venus in 1874, as far as Japan is
concerned, observing parties from various countries; viz., France,
United States of America and Mexico, arrived in Nagasaki, Kobe, and
Yokohama and busied themselves in the preparations for the Big Day.
Japan was in her
infancy in the field of the astronomical observations and Hydrographic
Bureau of the Japanese Navy was the only one government Office that
specialized in it.
Director of the Hydrographic Office of the Japanese Navy, utilizing this
opportunity, is said to have undertaken to let his officers accompany
the foreign experts who visited Japan so that they may learn the
observing techniques and obtain information on various brand-new
observing instruments, books, celestial maps and so forth.
observed the Transit of Venus at the naval Observatory in Iikura, Azabu
and Gotenyama in Tokyo and in Hakodate.
In Yokohama, five
experts of the Mexican party established the observing stations at
Iseyama and on the Bluff in the Foreign Settlement.
While Major Palmer
failed to observe the Transit of Venus in New Zealand due to bad
weather, the Mexican party was successful in the observation on December
9 thanks to very fine weather.
Palmer wrote a
memorandum concerning the recommendations in eleven clauses for the
coming Transit of Venus in 1882 and furnished (date unknown) it to the
Astronomer Royal of Greenwich Observatory, Sir George Airy.
In it, concerning
the weather, he suggested to immediately apply the New Zealand
Government to have observations made and recorded at a number of points
in the Colony on December 5, 6, 7, for seven years from 1875 to 1881, to
ascertain the amount of cloud at 6, 8, 10 am, or such other hours as may
be preferred; the registers of these observations to be sent to the
understands that Palmer furnished the memorandum from his own steady
character so that he may be successful in the observation on the second
Transit of Venus in 1882 which is the last chance left in his life.
In fact, he wrote
several letters to Sir Airy asking to volunteer for new Zealand Party in
Before leaving new
Zealand, Major Palmer, at the request of the Governor, the Marquis of
Normanby, undertook an investigation of the provincial surveys
throughout the Colony with the view of advising the Government as to the
best means of evolving order out of the chaos that then existed, and of
placing the whole future system on a uniform, intelligent, and
Between three and
four months were given to this work, at the end of which Major Palmer
submitted a Blue Book Report embodying his results and recommendations,
for which he was warmly thanked by the Government, and which was adopted
as the guide to subsequent reforms.
On his way back to
England, he called at Campbell Island, a French territory, and helped
its latitude determinations.
returned home on June 4, 1875.
worked for a few months under the Astronomer Royal, reducing his
observations and preparing his report.
Returning to Corps
duties, he found himself at the head of the roster for foreign service,
and he obtained furlough until November 1875.
Palmer, staying in
London during the furlough, wrote two letters to Captain Tupman.
In his letter of
September 14, he wrote as follows:
You spoke some
little time since of having a sum of 600 or 700 pounds which you
wished to invest at 5%, and I suggested to you that I might be glad to
borrow such a sum on those terms if I should go to New Zealand in
order to get an outfit & etc.
It is now
morally certain that I shall go out, and I am arranging with that
view, and I write to say that if the money is still disengaged, I
shall be very glad to borrow it for such period as may be most
agreeable to yourself.
My two half
brothers, Major-General Palmer and Captain Palmer, would, I know, be
perfectly willing to become my securities (executing a joint bond with
me for repayment) so that the money would be entirely safe; and as a
precaution in the event of my death, they would be protected by a life
policy securing the amount to them. Let me know what you think of
this. Can you come down next Saturday, or Saturday week? (p.s. If the
whole 700 pounds is not available, perhaps 500 pounds is.)
In his second
letter to Cap. Tupman, dated October 27, he wrote as follows:
after all is put off another year, and the War Office ordered me to
Barbados, which, in this beastly weather, seems less dreadful, than it
might do otherwise.
I write this to
ask you if you will kindly send to me at Barbados, West Indies, a
presis of the final results for longitude of our station at
Burnham, when they are known, as I promised the Colonial Society I
would get the information for them.
I am afraid I
shall not be able to run down to Greenwich before I start, so I will
say goodbye and goodluck to you.
I hope we may
meet again before very long.
After posting the
above letter of October 27, on his way to his new post in Barbados, he
called on Southborough to pick up his family.
With Mrs. Palmer
and their two younger children, they departed for Barbados.
Enderby, BC, 4th Nov. 1924
Dear Mr. Jackman,
Remembering you in the past and having seen
in the last Saturday's "Daily Province" with pleasure that you
are still living in BC and thinking that you may not have
forgotten an old friend -- my late husband then Lieut. H.S.
Palmer RE, who came out with you all round "Cape Horn" in the
I am remembering to write this letter hoping the address
will find you no doubt you may also remember having known
Archdeacon and Mrs. Wright's family who lived in Sapperton at
the Rectory -- well the writer of this letter is the Miss Wright
of old -- their eldest daughter -- who ever remembered the 7th
of October 1863 when one and all of the dear RE's did their very
best to make that happy wedding day the very brightest one for
the Bride and her dear husband. Which could be wished.
It would be a great pleasure to Mrs. Palmer to hear from
Mr. Jackman. She greatly enjoyed reading the account of
his life. Indeed a most interesting one she thought.
She only wishes she could have a chat with him one of
these good old days in New Westminster. The Rectory is
still standing and she went over it when last ion New
Westminster and a short time of there were two old trees of
olden days there! Mrs. Palmer believes she is the only one
living of the ex-officers and their wives!
She has been trying to get information of Mr. Edwards or
his family but all she can hear of them is that Emily, his
daughter, was school mistress for some time in the Royal City.
Mrs. Bushby, Gov. Douglas' daughter is living in
Cheltenham, England, doing good. church work.
The Mails are now being called for Mrs. Palmer.
Much said this letter
With her best wishes.
Addressee would like from Mr. Jackman in reply.
--From Mrs. Palmer to Philip
For more about
Henry Spencer Palmer, we strongly recommend:
The webmaster, Jiro
Higuchi, has done an amazing job creating an in-depth and
informative website about his grandfather, Henry Spencer Palmer,
who died in Tokyo 10 February 1893.
Thank you, Jiro, ありがとう