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Vernon Parish Profiles: Martha Palmer

BILLY CRAWFORD
Guest Contributor

“I get excited when I find something historical—I’ve even stopped people on the street telling them about what I’ve found. When I was called, I never said no to anyone—It kept me young and I met so many wonderful people who had a lot of knowledge. I spent time sharing history and working with another Vernon Parish historian, Jack Hadnot.”

Often historical stories are learned in conversations with “old timers”, in records kept in file cabinets, on microfilm, or in books sitting on shelves. Fortunately, Mrs. Martha Palmer never keeps her enthusiasm for Vernon Parish history a secret.

Mrs. Palmer has been in so many community projects, including the formation of the Museum of West Louisiana, located at the South end of 3rd street on the grounds of the historic Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railroad Depot.  “I was a railroader’s daughter and knew it would make a good museum.” 

Another museum she mentioned was the Museum of the New Llano Colony located at 211 Stanton Street in New Llano. “Well, that’s my heart. Growing up I remember going with my mother to buy food—they grew a lot of fresh vegetables, along with a very good baseball team.”

This overt enthusiasm led to Martha Palmer’s appointment as the “OfficialVernon Parish Historian” by the Vernon Parish Police Jury in 1979.

Seventeen years later, after so many community projects–too many to list--the community celebrated Martha Palmer Day on March 13, 1996.  

Area residents paid tribute to the woman known as the “Official Historian of Vernon Parish.”  Representative John Smith, a life-long friend stated, “Martha is the most valuable person in the parish as far as her contribution to tourism.”

Vernon Parish Police Jury President Ray Pynes presented her with a plaque of appreciation and described her as a “walking encyclopedia.” 

Martha attended the celebration with her husband Raymond, daughter Pud’n, and granddaughter, Tiffany.  When introduced, Pud’n told the attendees, “ Now I understand why she felt so needed to volunteer, because everyone loves her and she loves everyone.”

Mike Elliott, president of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce, presenting a plaque of appreciation stated, “I have had the pleasure of working with Martha for four years on the Chamber and she has worked tirelessly for Chamber activities.” Mr. Elliott credited her with contributing to the harmony that exists between the Chamber and Tourism Commission.

Tourism officials from Natchitoches were also in attendance. Executive Director Betty Jones credited Palmer and Bill Bailey with the increase in tourism, stating, “They have played a big role in tourism.”

She was recognized by other organizations for help, most especially the Mayor’s Women’s’ Commission and the Clean City Campaign.

Former chamber president Gene Haymon presented her with a dozen roses.

In her closing remarks to the large audience, Martha, in typical style, did not talk about herself, but rather about history and about another historian, Don Marler, who was doing research on a book on Vernon Parish.

“I have recently been swapping historical information with Don, and that is an example of how I have gotten so much information through the years--by swapping information with other people. I don’t ever intend to stop promoting Vernon Parish.”

Well said, and well done, Martha!

Special thanks to Pudn’ Palmer Waller