JOHN MCCAULEY PALMER, Illinois’ 15th governor, was born in Eagle Creek, Kentucky, on September 13, 1817. His early education was limited and attained in the common schools of Illinois. He attended Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois, for two years, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1839, and established a legal career in Carlinville, Illinois. Palmer entered public service in 1845 as probate judge of Macoupin County, a position he held again in 1847. He served as a delegate to the 1847 Constitutional Convention, was a county judge from 1849 to 1852, and served as a member of the Illinois State Senate from 1852 to 1854, and again in 1856. He also served as a delegate to the 1856 Republican National Convention, was a presidential elector on the Republican ticket in 1860, and was a member of the 1861 peace convention that was held in Washington, D.C. During the Civil War, he served as colonel of the 14th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and rose to the rank of major general by the time he was honorably discharged in 1866. Palmer won election as Illinois governor on November 3, 1868, and he was sworn into office on January 11, 1869. During his tenure, he supported reverting back to “states rights”; and he endorsed the new state constitution that was sanctioned in 1870. The Chicago Lake Front Bill was enacted; and the great Chicago Fire hit that city in October 1871, causing substantial devastation and loss of life. After leaving office on January 13, 1873, Palmer served as a delegate to the 1884 Democratic National Convention, and was a member of the U.S. Senate, serving from 1891 to 1897. He also ran unsuccessfully as a Gold Democrat candidate for President in 1896. Governor John M. Palmer died on September 19, 1900, and he was buried at the Carlinville City Cemetery.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.