Dr. Friend Palmer, Pioneer Railroad Physician


The bloodstain on the floor of Doctor Palmer’s office, located on the second floor of the Palace Hotel in Cerrillos, was for nearly 70 years one of the most sought-after attractions for visitors touring the town. As the story went the notorious outlaw, Thomas “Black Jack” Ketchum, had a slight accident while attempting to make a cash withdrawal from a moving train. The definitive version of what happened was recorded by longtime Cerrillos school teacher, Fannie McNulty McCraw.


Dr. F. Palmer of Cerrillos who, in those days, was the physician and surgeon for the A. T. & S. F. told the writer that late one night, he was awakened by a caller who needed immediate treatment; who said that he had been in Pat Hogan’s Place [a saloon], and his head got to hurting so badly that he just had to waken the Doctor, and get relief from pain. Doctor asked the visitor to remove his hat, and proceeded to examine the patient’s head. On finding a deep gash on the top of the man’s head, Doctor said that he would have to cut off some of the hair. The patient promptly demanded that the hair be left as it was; so Doctor proceeded to take several stitches in the scalp, and when he finished, dismissed his patient. But the visitor insisted that Doctor comb the hair to cover the wound, and without asking the fee, handed the Doctor a good big bill and left to catch the first train out of town. The next day, officers from Santa Fe arrived in Cerrillos searching for “Black” Jack, the train robber. The story is told that he cached his loot among the rocks about 1/4 mile east of Cerrillos. [McNulty papers, courtesy P.McCraw]


Doubtless, the bloodstain would still be on the Cerrillos must-see list had not the Palace Hotel burned down in 1968.


In another version of this story the bloodstain on the second floor of the Palace Hotel is that of Billy the Kid, but The Kid died in 1881 and the hotel wasn’t even built until 1888.


And there’s yet another variant:


Auntie Mabel told me this story. She heard a noise in the night, got up + looked in the office window. There were two men there. One was on the table being treated, the other one had a gun on grandpa. They came back the next night, then left. [Enid Hulsey (granddaughter), 2013]


Around the time he married Lucy (1892), Dr. Palmer moved from the Palace Hotel to his new house, which also contained his medical office, on the north side of the Cerrillos tracks, near San Marcos Arroyo. The building was lost to a flood many decades ago. Mabel (born late 1894), living in the house, certainly witnessed Dr. Palmer treating Black Jack Ketchum, accompanied by one of his band. The chronology fits – Black Jack’s outlaw career began in 1892 and he died in a botched hanging at Clayton in 1901.


But if Dr. Palmer’s moment of celebrity took place at his house, then whose blood was it that stained the floor of his former office in the Palace?




From 1888, when he first set foot in Cerrillos, to his death in at the AT&SF Railroad Hospital in Albuquerque on September 24, 1935, Dr. Friend Palmer was THE DOCTOR in Cerrillos. Sometimes other medical doctors came and went, but Dr. Palmer stayed. In every sense of the phrase he was the pillar of the community.


Friend Palmer was born in Newdale, West Virginia, October 15, 1861. His grave marker in the Cerrillos Protestant cemetery reads the correct month and day, but 1862, which is incorrect.


According to the 1900 census his father was born in Maryland and his mother in England. The next census ten years later lists his father from West Virginia, but in the 1920 census his father is again listed as born in Maryland. The census records for the place of birth of Palmer (WV) and his mother (England) are consistent.


Dr. Palmer’s arrival in Cerrillos was little noticed. His granddaughter Enid relates that he suffered from tuberculosis and was en route in search of the cure in the warm, dry deserts of Arizona, when he became so sick he had to get off the train – at Cerrillos. He liked it here, and stayed.


The date he first set up his practice remains unknown – save for the ad (below) which ran for several years in the weekly newspaper, Los Cerrillos Rustler. From early on it appears that he was employed by the AT&SF to provide medical services to the railroad, but he also served the medical needs of the larger community.


Dr. F. Palmer, Having Permanently Located at Cerrillos, Offers his services to the surrounding country. Office at Green’s Stone Building.


Richard Green’s [see R. Green article] stone building was the freshly built Palace Hotel.


On the second floor [of the Palace Hotel], the room directly over the office was known as the guest room or bridal chamber. A second bedroom was in back of this suite. Over the tailor shop were two rooms, occupied by Dr. F. Palmer, who was Los Cerrillos’ only physician. He also held the post of company doctor for the AT&SF Railway Company. [Nancy Green McCleary 17July1947]


The earliest print reference to Dr. Palmer actually practicing medicine in Cerrillos is this item from 1890:


Sonjino Padilla, a foreman on Mr. Pino’s ranch, was accidently shot yesterday. A pistol in the hands of his boy and an accidental discharge sent a bullet though his shoulder. Dr. Palmer is treating him and he is reported as doing well. [September 5, 1890 The Cerrillos Rustler Vol.III No.8]


From that date onward Dr. Palmer appears regularly in the news.


Wm. Apgar, of Wallace, had a finger mashed Tuesday. Dr. Palmer amputated it. On the following day Geo. McCloud was brushed from the engine by the coal schute (sic) and severely injured. Dr. Palmer accompanied him to the hospital at Las Vegas. [October 10, 1890, The Cerrillos Rustler Vol.III No.13]


Dr. Palmer, the popular and successful railroad physician of Cerrillos, was a patron of the Rustler’s job department this week. [November 14, 1890, The Cerrillos Rustler Vol.III No.18]


Jack Gallagher, of the Cash Entry force while working in the Central shaft Sunday morning, had a rock fall on his head and cut a deep gash, however under the skillful treatment of Doctor Palmer he is doing well. [May 8, 1891, The Cerrillos Rustler, v.III no.44]


On Wednesday the 27th of May, an eight-pound, bouncing baby boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. Charles V. Fraley, of Turquesa. This was their first born, and attended by Dr. Palmer, mother and child are doing well. Mr. D. Knight Carter, of Chicago, father of Mrs. Fraley, was a visitor to his daughter on the eventual occasion. He is on his way to California for pleasure and recreation. [June 5, 1891, The Rustler v.III n.48]


Turquesa, formerly Carbonateville, was 2.5 miles north of Cerrillos Station, in the center of the Cerrillos Mining District. The Central shaft on the Cash Entry mine is a half mile from Turquesa. Though in 1891 it was but a shadow of what it had been, Turquesa was at the moment this item was written on the verge of its second boom, as the center of the coming frenzy related to Tiffany turquoise.


Cerrillos was maturing too. At the corner of First and South Railroad Streets Sam Sing opened the town’s first Chinese restaurant, adjacent to Honorable Sing’s laundry.


Rev. and Mrs. J.M. Crutchfield, Dr. Palmer and the Rustler family accepted an invitation to dine at the new California Chop House, at 4 o’clock, p.m., on Sunday. The bill of fare was very elaborate and the guests did ample justice to the good things provided. [July 10, 1891, The Cerrillos Rustler, v.IV no.1]


That they all “did ample justice to the good things provided” is highly unlikely to relate to the following item – July 31 was a Friday and Dr. Palmer was ill only a few days during the first of that week – but still one must wonder if overindulgence of exotic food had contributed to this bout of indisposition.


Dr. Palmer was quite ill the first of the week, but is again up and able to attend to his practice. [July 31, 1891, The Rustler v.IV n.4]


A fine boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Howel, on Sunday last. Mother and child are doing well, so reports Dr. Palmer, the attending physician. [August 7, 1891, The Rustler v.IV n.5]


Brakeman W.H. Mellinger got his hand caught between the bumpers, in the Cerrillos yards Tuesday, losing one finger and part of another. Dr. Palmer dressed the hand and he proceeded to Las Vegas that night. [September 11, 1891, The Rustler v.IV n.10]


Ben Brown got a leg and foot injured at the Central, by falling rock Wednesday evening. He is getting on nicely under the care of Dr. Palmer. [September 25, 1891, The Rustler, v.IV no.21]


The Central mine again! Railroading and mining were hazardous professions and Dr. Palmer did not lack for business.


Cerrillos had two fraternal lodges, the Masons and the Knights of Pythias, which were open to all good God-fearing citizens of the male persuasion. As well, there were women’s and juvenile’s auxiliaries for both. Curiously, in the case of the K. of P., professional gamblers were specifically excluded from membership. But as the ceremonies in both were conducted in English a significant number old New Mexicans, Spanish speaking, along with a number of Italian speakers, chose not participate. In addition to these fraternal lodges, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Cerrillos, whose membership regularly overlapped with that of the lodges, provided by itself a whole range of community services.


Dr. Palmer was the Chancellor of the Vesper Lodge No. 15, K. of P., of Cerrillos, in notices appearing in The Rustler for the meetings from May to July 1891. For reasons unknown this is the only mention of his participation in this lodge.


Late in 1891 [October 16, 1891, The Rustler v.IV n.24] Dr. Palmer took guests into his new residence, W.S. Jennings, the new minister for the Cerrillos Methodist Episcopal church, and his wife and month-old child. Jennings had first come to Cerrillos the same time as Dr. Palmer, but in the interim had served a term as the Methodist minister at El Paso. His sojourn as minister in Cerrillos and as Dr. Palmer’s houseguest lasted barely two months.


The editor of this paper had a pleasant ride out among the coal mines one day last week, in company with Dr. Palmer, the resident and company [AT&SF RR] physician of Cerrillos. [October 16, 1891, The Rustler v.IV n.24]


The coal mines south of Cerrillos, known as Cerrillos Coal Bank, were at this time a warren of small and not so small opportunistic and trespass coal miners. Richard Green ran one of the biggest operations there. As neither Rustler Editor F.C. Buell nor Dr. Palmer could have known, the scheme to sell all of Coal Bank to the AT&SF was less than two months from consummation. That sale led immediately and directly to the creation of the company town of Madrid, New Mexico. But that’s another story.


A party of Nimrods [hunters] went up to Galisteo last Saturday, taking an extra wagon along to carry home the ducks, quail and other game. Dr. Palmer, Prof. Griggs, professional sports, and Tony Neis, an amateur shot, and marshal Crutchfield [see Zed Crutchfield article], were of the party. Tony got a jack-rabbit – the others got – left! [October 23, 1891, The Rustler v.IV n.25]


Two men came near smothering in the Cunningham mine Sunday afternoon by going in too soon after a blast. Dr. Palmer was called and straightened them out. [October 30, 1891, The Rustler, v.IV no.26]


The Cunningham mine, seven miles south of Cerrillos, was at the time among the largest hard-rock lode gold mines in the Ortiz Mountains. Eight years later Thomas Edison’s gold mill would be built adjacent to it, and eighty years after Edison, Gold Fields Ltd. would extract a quarter million ounces of gold from their Cunningham open pit mine.


Louis, the Galisteo merchant who had his hand so badly torn the first of last July by the explosion of a giant fire-cracker which he was holding, has again been unfortunate. On Wednesday night of this week he was called out by a Mexican named Pina, who beat him nearly to death with a club, on account of some old grudge. Dr. Palmer, who was called from Cerrillos to dress the man’s wounds, relates that his head and body were badly bruised, both eyes closed and his jaw broken so that a piece the width of three teeth, had to be taken out, and that he was altogether in a precarious condition. Pina was under arrest, and it was thought if not taken to Santa Fe, might be lynched, so great was the indignation against him. Louis appears particularly unfortunate. Not long since he had his store robbed, only recovering a part of the goods. [November 20, 1891, The Rustler, v.IV no.29]


Mike O’Neal, at the coal mines, got mixed up in a free fight Tuesday and had his lip bitten off. He came to town and Dr. Palmer patched his face up. Hope the Dr. didn’t make the same mistake the army surgeon did. [November 20, 1891, The Rustler, v.IV no.29]


A longtime Cerrillos resident and ex-US Army trooper, Mike O’Neil enjoyed digging the earth for riches, drinking, and testing your gullibility, not necessarily in that order. He is the source of the disinformation that Cerrillos turquoise was to be found in the Spanish Crown jewels, among a few other cherished regional canards.


Geo. Brown, a miner at Miller’s bank [the coal deposit in Miller’s Gulch, north of the Cerrillos Bank], when about to leave the cabin at Laird’s, picked up an old can in one corner of the room which he supposed contained slack coal, and dumped six or seven pounds of blasting powder into the grate. The explosion which followed tore out one entire side of the cabin and sent Brown out with it, but by some sort of miracle he escaped with his life, the injuries sustained being a few bruises and a badly burned arm and face. The face was so badly burned that the skin was removed entire by Dr. Palmer in dressing the burn. [December 25, 1891, The Rustler, v.IV no.34]


In 1892 twenty-year-old Lucy Catherine Wadley entered the picture; Dr. Friend Palmer got married!


Numerous sources confirm this, but the records of the Cerrillos Methodist Episcopal Church show, enigmatically, “Lucy C. Palmer” as the 118th member of the Cerrillos congregation, in 1889!  This is certainly an error. Given the birthdates of the children, Lucy Catherine Wadley was probably in Cerrillos in 1889, and she married fellow church member Friend Palmer on April 2, 1891. No record of their marriage – which took place not at St. John’s Church, across the street from the Palace Hotel, but at the Palace itself – has been located in the Cerrillos records.


Lucy C. Palmer continued as an active member of St. John’s church in Cerrillos to around 1915, when the diminished congregation forced its closing. She lived in Cerrillos and Santa Fe until her death on December 21, 1940, and is buried along with her husband and all of her daughters, save one, in the Palmer plot of the Cerrillos Protestant Cemetery. The missing one, daughter Maud, is nearby.


Lucy Catherine was a Missouri girl. Both her parents were born there, as was she. She was ten years Friend’s junior, and died in Santa Fe five years after his passing. They had three children: Minnie Maud born February 1893, Mabel Inez born September 1894, and Genevieve born in February 1898 or 1899. Genevieve died very young.


After the two surviving girls graduated from grammar school in late19-aughts, Lucy moved with them to Santa Fe – she took the milk cow too – so the girls could attend a better high school.


The oldest girl, Maud, was married in 1913 to Simeon Exter, who in 1920 deserted her and their three children (Zoe, Forbes Palmer, and Enid). For five years Maud served as dietician at the Santa Fe Indian Hospital. She died suddenly in 1926, at thirty-three years of age, and is buried in the Cerrillos Protestant Cemetery next to Milton E. Newhouse, not far from the Palmer plot.


Maud, after divorcing the absent Simeon, then fell in love with Milton Edward Newhouse of Cerrillos, the telegraph operator, the postmaster, and three times Master of the Cerrillos Masonic lodge. Milton died before they could marry, and Maud died two years afterward. At her request she was interred next to him.


The younger Palmer girl, Mabel Inez, married Oswald Digneo of Santa Fe. Both Mabel and Oswald were teachers (sewing, painting) at the Indian School. She died in Santa Fe in 1980 and is buried in the Palmer plot in Cerrillos.


During these years Friend continued to be mentioned in the press. The Rustler’s archives for the later years have been lost, so the source now is the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican. Luckily, the New Mexican regularly reprinted items that had first appeared in the Rustler.


The 1892 school year in Cerrillos began with the opening of the new two-story masonry schoolhouse in Otro Lado, across the river. The teachers were John M. Barnhardt for English instruction, and principal, and Flavio Silva for Spanish instruction. Charlotte Gilday taught the youngest students. And Dr. Friend Palmer was president of the school board. [Cerrillos Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, J.E. Lawson]


Hon. Ambrosio Pino is in from Galisteo to-day, and in regard to the report copied in these columns yesterday from the Cerrillos Rustler, touching the alleged brutal treatment Jose Luiz, the Portuguese merchant, accorded his wife prior to her death. Mr. Pino says it is all a grievous error and does injustice to a good citizen. …It is possible that Dr. Palmer, of Cerrillos, discovered bruises upon her body after death, but these she sustained from a fall brought on by her fits of epilepsy. [September 27, 1892, SFDNM]


These were the prosperous years for Cerrillos, which led to thoughts of the town eclipsing Santa Fe as the premier city of the state. A committee of Cerrillos’ most important citizens,  …consisting of H.C. Kinsel, Chas. F. Easley, W.P. Cunningham, C.P. Hammond, Wm. Matthews, Dr. F. Palmer and James Lucas… was formed to consider Cerrillos’ future, including moving one of the most lucrative institutions, the state penitentiary, to Cerrillos. [February 1, 1893, SFDNM]  Though nothing came of this effort, the committee members above might appreciate the irony of the location of the State Pen today; nearer Cerrillos than to Santa Fe’s Plaza.


Mr. L. C. de Baca came in from Cochiti last night and brings word that Nicolas and Antonio Sandoval were blown up at their mines on Saturday. It is the same old story of thawing out frozen giant powder. Antonio is blind and Nicolas is minus a left hand and his upper lip. The latter is the 18 year old son of Hon. Zenon Sandoval; Antonio is the husband of Pabla Garcia of Santa Fe. The men are now at Cerrillos under the care of Dr. Palmer. [April 10, 1894, SFDNM]


The Cerrillos Rustler indulges in this suggestive paragraph: Will Coleman held the hat and Harry Long fired the shot from a 22-Flobert rifle. The ball hit Coleman’s middle finger of the left hand at bout the first joint and took out a small piece of the bone. Dr. Palmer dressed the wound, which is not serious. All this happened Wednesday afternoon. [September 2, 1895, SFDNM]


Dr. J.H. Sloan has been appointed surgeon of the A.,T.&S.F. railroad at Santa Fe and Dr. Palmer holds the same position at Cerrillos. [October 14, 1895, SFDNM]


While crossing the Galisteo railroad bridge at Waldo station yesterday, Mrs. Sullivan, of Madrid, was run down by a coal train and so badly injured as to require the amputation of her leg. Drs. Palmer and Bradley performed the operation at Madrid last night. Mrs. Sullivan’s two daughters, who are attending Loretto convent, were hurriedly summoned to her bedside by telegram yesterday afternoon. [October 7, 1896, SFDNM]


Lost Two Legs. A Cook of the Bridge Building Gang the Victim. Charles Cole, cook for the bridge-building gang of B. Lantry & Sons, who are rebuilding the bridges on the Santa Fe railroad, had both of his legs cut off below the knees by a train passing over him, two miles below Waldo, near Cerrillos. Cole was also hurt internally, his face shows scratches, and his teeth were knocked out. The accident happened between 9 and 10 o’clock this morning. A special train was at once sent out and the man brought to this city at 1 o’clock this afternoon by J.H. O’Connel, foreman of the bridge-building gang. He was taken to St. Vincent’s hospital, where Dr. Massie amputated both limbs. The surgeon has no hope for Cole’s recovery. The man was conscious when brought here, but was unable to tell whether he has family or where is his home. Dr. Palmer, at Waldo, dressed his wounds temporarily. [August 24, 1899, SFNM]


The next article is a footnote to the saga of Tiffany turquoise in the Cerrillos Hills, which will be examined in a future paper. Suffice it to say that “M. O’Neill” is the Mike O’Neil mentioned above. His famous Blue Bell turquoise mine was located several miles from Julian Padilla’s mine, but the American Turquoise Company’s (Tiffany) Blue Bell mine was right there, and O’Neil’s unregistered claim of the same Blue Bell name was close by as well. There was money at stake and O’Neil strove mightily to maintain the confusion over the two (or three) Blue Bell claims.


That Turquois Strike. Three miles out from Cerrillos, on his claim a short distance south of M. O’Neill’s famous Blue Bell, Julian Padilla, of Santa Fe, last week made a fresh find of “turk” that really proves to be a very good thing. The new strike was made at a deposit of 30 feet from the surface, and it is believed by the owner that he has encountered the same great ledge that has made the Tiffany and O’Neill properties such profitable things to have in the family. From the new find about 15 pounds of turquois in the rough has been extracted in the past six days. The New Mexican missionary examined the product, and believes that from 3 to 5 pounds of it may be classed as of good quality, suitable for gems. The bulk of it, however, is of the chalky or green color, which will go to the Navajos and other Indians in exchange for blankets. At all events, the discovery is the most important made in turquois in the past three years. Padilla and his wife were at work in the mine on Friday, when a cave-in of rock came very near killing them. Both were injured, Padilla having his head and shoulder badly bruised and his right leg and foot crushed. Dr. Palmer was called from Cerrillos to attend them, and they were sent to-day to their home at Santa Fe. [January 30, 1900, SFNM]


Antonio Nieto has opened a strong vein of gold quartz, worth $16 to the ton, not far from Lopez’s “quarry.” His partners are Dr. Palmer, of Cerrillos; Ambrosio Peno and Antonio Ortiz, of Galisteo. [February 7, 1900, SFNM]


Dr. Palmer’s partnership with Nieto, Pino and Ortiz in this unnamed gold quartz claim in the San Pedro Mountains did not go as well as he probably expected. Nieto was the only experienced miner of the group, and this “strong vein” appears to have marked the end of his career as a miner. Dr. Palmer might have learned from this experience that miners tended to exaggerate, even mislead, but he persisted in putting his money into various holes in the ground anyway.


Regarding another hole in the ground that didn’t pan out, Dr. Palmer was a party in a suit against the defaulted Gold Bullion Dredging Company of San Pedro. In 1910 he and the other plaintiffs won a modest settlement. None of these less-than-successful mines appear to have dampened Dr. Palmer’s interest in the possibility of one day striking it rich.


In a drunken fight at Galisteo last night Pedro Lopez and Dario Mora, both citizens of that town, were badly cut. Mora is now on the operating table in Dr. Palmer’s office at this place, having his wounds dressed. He will probably lose the use of one hand as the arm is cut half off just below the elbow. The other man was badly cut on different parts of the body but has not been brought in yet. [June 24, 1903, SFNM]


The New Mexico Business Directory for 1905-06 lists two physicians and surgeons in Los Cerrillos: Dr. Friend Palmer and Dr. Frank A. Yoakam. With the growth of the coal operations at Madrid (owned by various subsidiaries of the AT&SF) together with the continuing needs of the Railroad itself, a second company physician was needed. In 1905 Dr. Yoakam was transferred from Santa Fe to Cerrillos, where he practiced medicine alongside Dr. Palmer for the next eight years.


At Turquesa (the Tiffany mine) J.P. McNulty, to the consternation of his wife, Emma, preferred the doctor he was familiar with, Dr. Palmer. Emma, however, wrote J.P. a note complaining she had asked him…


…to go for Dr. Yoakam + you would not + never did so after all of my crying + begging of you and Fanny [Fannie McNulty] to please send or go for Dr Yoakam + not Dr Palmer for he did not know much about female trouble.  [July 21, 1905, McNulty papers book 12, P. McCraw]


One of the seminal documents of the Cerrillos Mining District was reproduced in the New Mexican in mid-1907. By the late 1880s the District had all but vanished from the news, and suddenly in 1907 it reappeared, this time with some familiar names.



Santa Fe County, N.M., May 29. – At a miner’s meeting of the miners engaged in and interested in mining in Los Cerrillos mining district, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, held at the house of Mike O’Neil at the hour of 2 p.m., on the 29th day of May, 1907, there being present at such meeting F. Palmer, Pennsylvania Mining Company, W.A. Brown, agent of the American Turquoise Company, James P. McNulty, M. O’Neil, Diego Mares, Edgar Andrews, J.F. Williams, H.S. Kaune, T.A. Yoakum, Fred Muller, A. Spiegelberg, W.H. Kennedy, being more than three-fourths of all its miners engaged in mining in said mining district among other things… [June 11, 1907, SFNM p.5]


It is unclear where and with whom Dr. Palmer had mining interests in the Cerrillos District, but it is clear he is one of only fifteen persons identified at this time as “interested in mining in Los Cerrillos mining district”.  McNulty and O’Neil are no surprise. And Dr. Yoakam hadn’t wasted any time becoming involved in the mines either.


On November 23, 1909, Dr. Palmer was in attendance at a delivery of great significance in Cerrillos. He received the first motorcar based in that town. The make of his new motorcar is unknown.


Neither Cerrillos nor Madrid came out of that first decade of the twentieth century in good shape. Dr. Yoakam left; the 1913-14 Business Directory again listed only Dr. Palmer. Up in Madrid, the Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. had sold out to a new local company, the Albuquerque & Cerrillos Coal Company. The resources of the A&CCC were limited and at first they were unable to develop the mines as they might have wanted.


Over the next decade things around Cerrillos gradually got better. And then, after 1929, they got much, much worse. The following item dates from the low point of the Great Depression.


Denies Mines Cause Poverty

In connection with destitution at Cerrillos, Santa Fe county, and the appeal made to the county welfare association here, officials of the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal company specifically deny the report that miners living in Cerrillos are compelled to rent houses in Madrid in addition to their own homes.

The mines are working about 75 per cent as many coal miners as were at work a year ago. “This is a very good showing compared to other mining camps, and better than a great many in eastern fields,” said this official. He says the conditions at Cerrillos are hardly due alone to the laying off of Madrid coal miners, as many railroad section men and road workers also are idle. It is also said that Cerrillos has quite a number of “permanently idle” inhabitants.

Dr. F. Palmer of Cerrillos has written Joseph Byrne of Santa Fe thanking him and Mrs. Byrne most warmly, in behalf of the people of Cerrillos for beans, potatoes, bacon and other provisions donated to the hungry families of that place. [June 1, 1932, SFNM]


Death came to Dr. Friend Palmer on Tuesday, September 24, 1935.


Dr. Palmer remained an “old time” country doctor until his death at 74 years of age, retaining his residence in Cerrillos after that town ceased to be of the importance that it was in the early days when he arrived there and the mining community was one of the flourishing communities of the state.

 “One of his stirring stories” says The New Mexican, “concerned Billy the Kid, whom he attended when Billy was reported to have been ‘greased up,’ in old Dr. Palmer’s own words. It was a scalp wound, according to reports although historians maintain that Billy never injured even a finger of his delicate hand. And ‘Doc’ Palmer, as he was known, also talked of his medical assistance to ‘Blackie Johnnie’, who said; ‘Doc, leave this window and door open so that I can watch them both’.”

Dr. Palmer was for decades the Santa Fe physician at Cerrillos and in the great flu epidemic during the World War he worked night and day, receiving a special citation from the Government for his excellent services.

The funeral of Dr. Palmer is being held Thursday in Santa Fe… [courtesy Schnepple scrapbooks]




What do we know about Dr. Palmer the man?


Julia Vergolio said “At the age of eight [about 1910], I would interpret for Dr. Palmer. His Spanish was very limited, so he often called on the neighborhood children to help him. Most of them spoke Spanish and English.” [Julia Vergolio Weeks, Stories Around the Fireplace, p.18]


Palmer, a burly and good-natured man, consumed whiskey in large quantity for his own ailments, while reserving patent medicines for the patients. A woman who had known the doctor when she was a girl told me that he had been especially fond of roasted burro meat. Outlaw Black Jack Ketchum once tried to hold up the railroad outside of town but was shot and wounded. Carried into Dr. Palmer’s office in the Palace, he bled on the floor, leaving a permanent stain… (that) was still being shown to visitors as late as 1968. [Marc Simmons, SF New Mexican, July 6, 2002]


After Richard Green’s death (1906), Joe and Anna Vergolio purchased (1911) the Palace Hotel from Mother Green. Their daughter Julia tells this story of Dr. Palmer.


Joe Gros, his wife and family moved into one of the apartments when we were living in the Palace Hotel.

They had four children and were expecting their fifth one. Doctor Palmer would make house calls and he would stop and visit with us for a few minutes. Mother told him there was something terribly wrong because Mrs. Gros was always sad and her eyes were red from crying. Dr. Palmer said he noticed that she was afraid of her husband. He told Mother to check on her and call the police if she saw anything suspicious.

Mr. Gros resented my mother’s interest in his wife. The family moved to Denver, Colorado. About a month later, Doctor saw an article in the Denver Post. Mr. Gros had poisoned his wife and was convicted of manslaughter. He told the judge that he had intended to poison our mother and Dr. Palmer because they were interfering with his plans. [Julia Vergolio Weeks, Stories Around the Fireplace, p.18]


Another well-known story relates how Dr. Palmer dealt with the repeated theft, the work it was surmised of some local youths, of the ‘medicinal’ bottle of whiskey which he habitually kept on the window sill in his office. He quietly substituted another bottle which he had filled with urine.


A number of informants the author has interviewed have corroborated that Dr. Palmer was quite adept at holding his liquor, a talent he demonstrated with remarkable frequency. At the same time I have found no instance of anyone complaining he was ever too inebriated to perform his duties.


One informant characterized him this way. “Dr. Palmer loved sauerkraut, which he made in barrels, and he made excellent salami. He liked to eat burro meat. He was a drunk but highly functional and everyone liked him.”


Regarding the burro meat, a reliable source reports that Dr. Palmer liked the taste, but never swallowed the meat. He would chew and chew and then spit it out. [Enid Hulsey, 2013]


All too often the western frontier towns were revolving doors for incompetent and sham medical pretenders. Cerrillos, because of Dr. Friend Palmer, was largely saved from all that. It is a measure of Dr. Palmer’s competence and dedication that he made his home here and spent his life here, and that he was as well liked when he breathed his last as he had been when he first came here over four decades earlier. We should all leave behind such a legacy.