Palmer Park: The Name

Stop 2 of 14 in the Palmer Park tour

Hamilton Square, a public space created in 1833 in what is now the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans, was renamed Palmer Park through a city ordinance in July 1902. The name change was spearheaded by Adam Junker, a Carrollton business and civic leader. The president of the Carrollton Bank, Junker also served as a city councilman; he played a major role in the development of Carrollton, including the paving of Carrollton Avenue, the building of schools and a firehouse on Oak Street, and planning the creation of Palmer Park.

The city ordinance changed the name to Palmer Park as a "testimony to the honor of the late B. M. Palmer." Benjamin Palmer was the pastor for the New Orleans First Presbyterian Church. His 1860 Thanksgiving sermon has been cited as one of the main influences upon the state's decision to join the Confederacy. In the speech, delivered shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency, Palmer staunchly defended slavery and endorsed secession:

"If then the South is such a people, what, at this juncture, is their providential trust? I answer, that it is to conserve and to perpetuate the institution of domestic slavery as now existing...
Without, therefore, determining the question of duty for future generations, I simply say, that for us, as now situated, the duty is plain of conserving and transmitting the system of slavery, with the freest scope for its natural development and extension."

Palmer spent much of the ensuing war preaching to Confederate soldiers. Robert E. Lee reportedly said the following of Palmer: “I would rather have Dr. Benjamin Palmer in my camp than an entire regiment of troops” (Jackson 1984). Palmer died in New Orleans in 1902 after being struck by a streetcar on St. Charles Avenue.

In 1912 Father Francis Prim of Mater Dolorosa Church proposed to name the park after the recently deceased Francis Janssens, archbishop of New Orleans from 1888-1897. The commissioners for the park were willing to change the name but approval by the city council was needed. Prim withdrew the name after he found out the park had been named after Palmer; he told the city council he wished to avoid a "religious controversy."

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