We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

Lieutenant Henry Spencer Palmer

During his 56 years, H. Spencer Palmer was a military officer, engineer, surveyor, and author. Born in India in 1838, he became a Royal Engineer in 1856, and three years later he arrived in Victoria as a member of Colonel R. C. Moody's British Columbia detachment.

In B.C., Palmer laid out trails, supervised the construction of roads and other lands and works projects, inspected roadworks, and participated in several exploratory surveys. Prior to exploring the Bentinck Arm Route in 1862, he was commissioned to explore and report on other trails to the Cariboo goldfields in the area between Fort Hope and Fort Colville. The two reports written by Palmer on his findings at Bentinck Arm described the route as largely unsuitable for the construction of a wagonroad to the Cariboo which gave impetus to Alfred Waddington's claim that the Bute Inlet Route was superior. During his time in B.C., Palmer established himself as a competent and hardworking engineer and drew the praise of Governor Douglas and A. J. Blackwood, senior clerk for the North American department of the British Colonial Office.

In 1863, only one month after his marriage to Mary Wright, the B.C. detachment of Royal Engineers was disbanded and the newlyweds returned to England. After serving in New Zealand, Barbados, and Hong Kong, Palmer retired from the Royal Engineers in 1887 and settled in Japan where he established a successful engineering firm that was responsible for the country's first waterworks projects. He died of complications related to typhoid fever in 1893. As a tribute to the well-liked engineer, Japanese officials unveiled a bronze bust of Palmer in 1987 to commemorate the Water Works centenary.

Secondary Sources

Higuchi, Jiro. "The Biography of Major-General Henry Spencer Palmer, R.E. F.R.A.S. (1838-1893)". Henry Spencer Palmer Museum 29 May 2003. homepage3.nifty.com/yhiguchi/biography%20of%20h.s.%20palmer.pdf

Woodward, Frances M. "Henry Spencer Palmer." In Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. XII.Toronto: University of Toronto, 1990, 77-81.

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