Biography of Theron H. Palmer

Theron H. Palmer, architect and builder, and a worthy representative of the business men of Southern California, was born February 14, 1849, in Joliet, Illinois, to which place his parents emigrated from New York State several years previous. In his early childhood they removed to the young city of Chicago, where young Palmer attended school, and upon entering his teens started in to learn the drug business. Soon after the war of the Rebellion broke out, though considerably under the required age, fired by youthful patriotism, he attempted to enter the army, and was twice thwarted in his purposes by paternal interference. But not discouraged by failures, he made the third trial, which resulted in his becoming a member of Company G, Nineteenth Illinois Infantry, which afterwards became Battery B, of the First Illinois Light Artillery, and upon the reorganization of the army formed a part of the Third Division of the Fourth Army Corps, General O. O. Howard commanding. Mr. Palmer participated in twenty battles, was once slightly wounded, and was honorably discharged in Chicago, July 8, 1865, having served over four years.

On retiring from the army he resumed the drug business for a few months, when, the mining excitement having attained its height in Montana, he and two room-mates, after reading the glowing accounts in the papers one evening, resolved to try their fortunes in the lottery of gold-seeking, and started for the mines the next morning, in May, 1866, and reached Salt Lake July 8. They spent about a year in Montana and Utah mines, then visited a number of different mining districts, and were the original discoverers of the since famous Little Cottonwood mine. Coming to California late in 1867, Mr. Palmer remained in Sacramento until 1869, and after stopping for a time in Red Bluff, Marysville, San Francisco and other points in the northern part of the State, located in San Bernardino in 1872.

Since coming to the Pacific coast he has devoted his attention chiefly to building and the study of architecture. He and his former partner, Mr. Jones, were the pioneer professional architects in San Bernardino, and many of the most elegant business blocks and dwellings of the city and vicinity owe their existence to Mr. Palmer’s architectural taste and skill. Among them are the Occidental block, the Orbit, Fairview, Rialto and Ontario school buildings, and the new hall of records for San Bernardino County, now (1890) in process of building, which will probably be the masterpiece of his constructive skill, being Romanistic in style, ornate in design, and one of the finest public buildings in California.

The entire structure, which is to be about 65 x 65 feet, and two stories in height, will be of stone, brick and iron, and will be strictly fire-proof. The Court street front is to be San Bernardino County sandstone, and the other fronts of brick, with stone trimmings. Mr. Palmer’s design was chosen in competition with plans by a number of the best architects of Southern California. The estimated cost of the building is about $40,000.

Mr. Palmer was one of the projectors of the Mentone and Bear Valley toll road, which is partly built, and he and his office partner, Mr. J. E. Mack, are among the principal owners of the enterprise. He also owns quite large land interests in Perris valley, and some improved city property.

In 1886 Mr. Palmer was joined in marriage with Miss Mabel E. Smith, a native of Michigan, but a resident of California from childhood.


The Lewis Publishing Company. An Illustrated History of Southern California embracing the counties of San Diego San Bernardino Los Angeles and Orange and the peninsula of lower California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. 1890.

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