Chiro-Picker’s Fresh Pick — Finding Frank Palmer

Updated Picker Imageby  Todd Waters, aka “The Chiro-Picker” – SpinalColumnRadio featured blogger

Documenting the life of DD Palmer, the founder of Chiropractic, has become an exciting endeavor for me.

I knew very little of the man before I began researching him. Actually, if anything, I knew more about the mysteries and myths surrounding his life then that of the truth.

Oakdale Cemeter Frank PalmerAnd to find that truth, I found myself searching beyond the perspective of other Chiropractic historians — beyond what we “already knew”… or thought we knew.

While their writings were often a good starting point in which to become familiar with the general biography of Old Dad Chiro, many inconsistencies existed between them. Instead, I found old newspaper articles to be the narrative I needed, unveiling the life of Palmer as a healer. We are fortunate the papers covered Palmer as much as they did, because now we are privy to some of the missing pieces his biography has been lacking.

One of my discoveries that nearly had me jumping out of my seat was an obituary of Frank Palmer.

Frank was the supposed step child to DD and has since remained a mysterious figure in Chiropractic history. No one knew what became of him.  BJ stated in a recorded lecture that his half-brother Frank had died at age 21 and was buried in Oakdale Cemetery, Davenport, Iowa. However, it appears this lead was never verified.

Vern Geilow’s “Old Dad Chiro” confirms that Frank Palmer was BJ’s half-brother — sharing Louvenia as their bilogical mother. Louvenia had married DD in 1874 and was said to have brought with her a child from a previous marriage.  Together DD and Louvenia parented two daughters, May and Jessie, and then finally BJ in 1882 (although BJ claimed it was 1881).

During my research I came across the census for the Palmer household for the years 1880 and 1884.  Curiously, Frank was listed as having the SAME parent information as his three siblings: “father from Canada, mother from Mississippi.”  Dave Palmer, BJ’s son, had written that Louvenia had been DD’s live-in housekeeper before the two were married.  This means — and it is entirely possible, but would have certainly been kept silent due to the public shame a child born out-of-wedlock would have brought to a family in that era — that Frank may have actually been a full brother to BJ. [01/22/2015 Update: we are now privy to a letter written by DD stating that, in fact, he was NOT Frank’s biological father].

The obituary from The Davenport Daily Republican stated that Frank Palmer after suffering a few weeks from Typhoid fever, died in the Palmer’s rented top floor occupancy of the Ryan Block Building. The article indicated that he died at 14 years of age and was to be buried at Oakdale Cemetery.

Frank Palmer Obituary

The mystery of Frank Palmer had finally been solved!! And I was all too excited to print his obituary in my Chasing DD book. But it was the email I received from Dr. Stephen Zins on November 14, 2013, that made me feel the “POWER OF THE PODCAST” that Dr. Lamar talks about here on Spinal Column Radio.  This small passage, in my book of nearly 500 pages, caught his attention and inspired him to investigate further… finding Frank Palmer’s grave in Davenport’s Oakdale Cemetery.

Oakdale Cemetery entranceIt humbles me to know that this discovery (or “recovery”) of Palmer History, now allows those who may wish to visit the modest stone that sits at Oakdale, the opportunity to pay respects to the brother of BJ Palmer. This cemetery is also the final resting place of Mabel and Dave Palmer, who lie in a large mausoleum near its front entrance.

‘Til next time.  — CP

The DC Angle:

Stephen Zins, DC

Stephen Zins, DC

“F. Palmer”

F Palmer marker cropIn late October 2013, I received a copy of Chasing DD by Todd Waters and began reading with great interest.

On page 21 was the death notice for Frank Palmer, son of DD, which was taken from the September 25, 1888, Davenport Daily Republican. I had been searching for some time for Frank. Not only was I thrilled to read this notice, but I was excited to find out he was buried at Oakdale Cemetery in Davenport, Iowa.

I immediately contacted Oakdale and spoke with a Deb Williams. She was able to locate Frank’s record in the Scott County Register of Deaths, as well as — after accessing the special collections at the Davenport Public Library — the Record of Burial Permits. She then found the area in the cemetery that Frank was buried.  Along with Palmer College of Chiropractic Historian, Dr. Alana Callender, the two were able to locate Frank’s marker. It had been partially buried under five inches of ground. With the assistance of the groundskeepers, the marker was cleaned up and repositioned for proper display.

The humble stone simply read “F. Palmer.”

I would have loved to have been present when the marker was found but was unable being in Minneapolis. On November 29, 2013, however, I made the trip to Davenport.  And on that day, visited the gravesite to pay my respects to the brother of our Developer, F. Palmer.  SZ

(As a side note, If you would like to see Frank’s marker when in Davenport, I strongly recommend contacting Deb Williams at Oakdale beforehand, as Frank’s marker is very difficult to find).

Dr. Stephen Zins is a 1995 graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic and practice chiropractic with an emphasis on wellness in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oh, and he’s into chiropractic history.

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