Diary reveals the human side of General Palmer
A diary by a British friend of the Palmer family sheds some light on their lives at the general's Glen Eyrie mansion in 1902-03.
Susan Fletcher, historian for the Navigators organization that currently owns Glen Eyrie (north of the Garden of the Gods, off 30th Street), gave a presentation on the nine-month visit of Dorothy Comyns Carr March 23. Part of the continuing “A Look at the Garden” series at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center, the talk focused on observations in Dorothy Carr's diary, providing some rare views of the human and informal side of General William Palmer.
According to Fletcher, the three children of William and Queen Palmer had become acquainted with the Carr family while living in England. Queen and her girls had moved there in the 1880s because her heart condition no longer allowed her to live in Colorado. Queen died in 1894.
In 1902, it was agreed that one of Palmer's daughters, Dorothy (nicknamed “Doss”) would accompany Dorothy Carr to Glen Eyrie for a visit. Both were in their early 20s at the time.
The diary tells about Dorothy, Doss, Palmer and his sister-in-law Charlotte Sclater taking a boat to New York. Dorothy mentions the many places he took them there. She also adds a human-touch observation of the time Palmer went out with an umbrella in bad weather, and when he returned “it was frozen stiff. He couldn't close it.”
Taking a train from New York to Colorado, Dorothy was not too impressed by the American Midwest, whose towns looked as if they'd been “flung down on the plain.”
Arriving in Colorado Springs in a blizzard a short time before Christmas, Dorothy described her new surroundings as “unutterably lonely, vast and wild” [with] “not a vestige of green anywhere.”
At first somewhat scared, Dorothy gradually came to like the region, partly as a result of the Palmer regimen of frequent hikes into the hills above Glen Eyrie, and she eventually started going on hikes by herself. As for her host, even though he was 66 at the time, “one of the best things about General Palmer was that he was still adventurous,” Fletcher said. “He wanted to take hikes every day.”
One diary entry notes that after hiking with Palmer in the morning, “he wanted to go out again. He said we hadn't walked enough for the day.” Elsewhere, Dorothy notes that on the hikes they were generally accompanied by Palmer's servants and numerous dogs. In their eagerness, the dogs came close one time to bumping her off the trail, she adds.
Having company on hikes was in keeping with Palmer's style. “Life at Glen Eyrie involved people constantly coming in and going out,” Fletcher explained, with visitors frequently staying overnight in one of the mansion's many spare bedrooms.
Another of Dorothy's diary entries tells about the general using an early telephone to call authorities about a forest fire that he'd spotted; elsewhere, she tells about President Theodore Roosevelt coming to Colorado Springs May 4, 1903. “He seemed to be very popular,” Dorothy writes, but adds that he “looked fat, ordinary and coarse.”
Fletcher will reprise her talk (titled “Two Twenty-something Girls Talking about Glen Eyrie”) April 13 and May 11 at noon at the Visitor Center. The other three presentations in the center's “Look at the Garden” series (which started this month) will also come back twice: Betty Lamore (“Jewels in Flight - Hummingbirds at the Garden”), April 6 and May 4; Paul DeBerjeois (“Photo Locations You Have Never Seen”), April 20 and May 18; and Bret Tennis (“Wildlife at the Garden”), March 30, April 27 and May 25.
By offering the “Look” talks multiple times, more people will have a chance to hear them, explained the Visitor Center's Jeanne McElderry.
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