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Painting of Martin Parmer by Charles Shaw. Commissioned by Frances B. Vick for the Center for East Texas Studies at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches. Martin Parmer: Some History and Some Stones about the Ring-Tailed Panther by Frances B. Vick* It is ironic that we are gathered here in the Palmer Events Center and that I am speaking to you about a man named Martin Parmer, or Palmer, as some of his descendants use. I may be related to the man for whom this center was named. If so, he may have been a character like Martin. They say that the early surname, Palmer, was originally derived from pilgrimages to the Holy Land. When a pilgrim returned, he brought palm branches as symbols of his journey, much as we now use palm branches on Palm Sunday, depictingjesus'sjourney intoJerusalem. The pilgrim to the Holy Land was called a palm bearer or a palmer.1 If there is truth in this origin of the surname, this might explain the adventurous man who would eventually find his way to Texas in 1825, marry several times (as you will see) populate Texas with his descendants, and become a legend in his own time. Old Creed Taylor in Tall Men with Long Rifles has this to say about our subject for the evening—Martin Parmer—at the Battle of Gonzales: One man in the throng was especially conspicuous ... he seemed more eager for the fray than any other. This was old Martin Parmer, 'the ring-tailed panther'— a soubriquet he acquired while serving as a member of the territorial legislature of Missouri, during a free-for-all fight among members. . . . The Panther" . . . was a Virginian . . . who had spent most of his life along the frontiers of Kentucky, Ten- ?President ofthe Texas State Historical Association for 2008-09, Frances Brannen Vick is retired director and co-founder of the University of North Texas Press and founder of ?-Heart Press, Inc. She holds BA. and MA. degrees in English from the University ofTexas at Austin and Stephen F. Austin State University , respectively, and a Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa) from the University ofNorth Texas. She edited Literary Dallas (TCU Press, 2008) and co-authored Petra's Legacy: The South Texas Ranching Empire ofPetra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy (Texas A&M, 2007) withJane Monday, which won the Coral Horton Tullís Award for the best book on Texas history in 2007. She is past president of the Texas Institute of Letters; a Fellow of the Texas Folklore Society; member ofThe Philosophical Society ofTexas; anda Life Member of the Texas State Historical Association and the East Texas Historical Association. This article has been adapted from Dr. Vick's presidential address delivered March 27, 2009, at the TSHA Annual Meeting at the Palmer Events Center in Austin. 1 Joe E. Ericson and Carolyn R. Ericson, Martin Parmer: The Man and the Legend (Nacogdoches, Tex.: Ericson Books, 1999), 1. Vol. CXII, No. 2 Southwestern Historical Quarterly October 2009 152Southwestern Historical QuarterlyOctober nessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas, and had much notoriety throughout the southwest as a fighter and a hunter. But some of his wonderful exploits must have been exaggerated, if not pure fabrications. . . . Though illiterate and rough mannered , Parmer was a man of . . . most extraordinary strength of mind and body and brave as a lion. He was of large stature and bronzed offeature, always dressed in buckskin hunting shirt and leather trousers, with a panther skin cap, wore his hair long and platted in Indian style, ... a most extraordinary character. On this occasion the "Panther" was well mounted and armed, and in high glee, eager for a brush with the enemy.2 Charles Shaw had probably read Creed Taylor's account of Martin Parmer when he painted the picture that is hanging at the Center for East Texas Studies at Stephen F. Austin State University. It is all lovely and romantic, and I do hope most ofit is true. Maybe Martin was at the Batde of Gonzales. He was reportedly at Gonzales at some time, but that may have been when he was on the run after the Fredonian Rebellion fell apart and he was a hunted man. One...


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