Clara Dell Waterman Palmer

Clara Waterman 1887 Clara was born on June 23, 1867  in Altorf, Kankakee, Illinois.  Her parents were Elisha Silas and Delia (Robinson) Waterman. Clara was the oldest of the four,  followed by Frank Dan, Fred Silas and Maud Olive born between 1867 and 1875.  Today Altorf is the location of the Kankakee State Park. Her parent's property  is now a part of the park and the house has been torn down.  She was living in Kankakee and teaching when she  married  Charles Washington Palmer on Oct 28, 1897.  Charles was a widower with a 6 yr old son Clifford, whom she raised with their son, Frank Waterman Palmer.  
405 Maqnolia Ave., Eustis residence

The photo on the left is Clara as A Swedish Maid in a play 1887, age 20 years.

She moved to Eustis in 1904 following the death of her husband in Kankakee on Dec. 2, 1902.  Her brother, Frank Dan built her a home at 425 E. Magnolia.  The house had pocket doors, a corner fireplace in the livingroom, half-wall wood paneling to the chair rail and a goldfish pond outside the kitchen window on the Center St. side of the house.  It was wood frame and a story and a half. There were newspapers put between the floor and the subfloor for insulation.  There was also a basement under part of the house with access through a door in the central hallway.  

 She rented out the upstairs as one apartment to Margaret McMillan and her family one year. Later Margaret was married to her son, Frank. Renters were allowed to use the Haviland China.  She had two sets. One blue flowers and the other pink.

She was active in the community.  She was a member of the Woman's Club of  Eustis, a charter member of the Eastern Star, and a charter member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter C.  She was on the Eustis Library board for a number of years.

Wisdom Hall float 1908Wisdom Hall float 1910Wisdom Hall float 1915Wisdom Hall float 1919

Clara was schoolmistress of Wisdom Hall catering  to northern children here for  the winter months.  They brought their books with them and she tutored them.  Some Eustis children also Wisdom Hall floatattended the school.  It was located on Citrus Ave. in the 500 block on the north side of the street.  It was the custom to have an entry in the George Washington's Birthday Celebration Parade held each February 22 in honor of our first president.  The parade was moved to Saturday when the 22nd fell on a Sunday.

The building in the background is Wisdom Hall. Pictured are her students.

She loved her church,  St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Eustis, and donated her school house to them located in the 500 block of Lemon Ave. A truck pulled it along while big logs were placed underneath for it to roll on.  The building became the Parish Hall for the church.  Now it houses their library and a meeting room with kitchen.  The last 2 rooms were added on later.

In her later years she resided in room 445 at Waterman Hospital.  The Fountain Inn Hotel had been given to the Lake County doctors group and they made the top two floors into a hospital retaining the lower two as hotel and stores as before.  The room was reserved for the family needs by her brother, Frank Dan Waterman.  She brought to the hospital her favorite chair, a desk and chair, and her bureau. plus other keepsakes.  The room was a large corner room with lots of space.  After her death it became a four bed ward.

She wrote an autobiography before her death in 1961 which is reproduced here
from p. 10
Clara Dell Waterman, 1867, after the death of her father in 1883 went back to Altorff and taught in the school during the two fall months of November and December of 1884, with payment of $28.00 per month, and the three winter months of January, February, and March of 1885, with payment of $100 per season.

    Upon her return to Kankakee on April 1, 1885, she was asked by the school board to substitute for a teacher who was sick for the rest of the school year.  At this time, June 15, the board engaged her to teach another year, which lengthened into 10 years more in the Kankakee Public Schools.

    On October 28, 1897, she married Charles Palmer, who died on September 2, 1902, leaving her with Frank, an eight month old son to care for, and also Clifford Palmer, a 14 year old stepson.

     In September, 1906, Mrs. Clara Palmer, and her son Frank, now four years old, moved to Eustis.  There Mrs. Palmer opened the first kindergarten in Eustis, on October 6, 1906, in Wisdom Hall, built by her brother Frank Dan Waterman.  This Wisdom Hall was to be used by Mrs. Palmer's Pupils.  In October, 1907, Mrs. Palmer added to the kindergarten a Tutoring School, where pupils could continue using the text books of their home school, and when they returned in the spring to their own school, they could resume studies with their own classes.  These two schools were in operation until June 15, 1927.

Her life on earth ended on March 30, 1961 at Waterman Memorial Hospital.  She is buried at Greenwood Cemetery, Eustis.

Comments and suggestions will be welcomed.

Last Updated  2 August, 2010

Copyright 2008-2010 Fran Smith