Whatever Happened to Joseph Palmer?

After the time of this story, Mr. Palmer and his family moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he became a butcher and ran a garden and market business.

In 1843 he joined The Fruitlands utopian community started by Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa May Alcott who later wrote Little Women. The Fruitlands members ate no meat and rejected the use of farm animals to help tend the fields. Not surprisingly, the venture failed in less than a year. It probably wouldn’t have lasted that long without Joseph Palmer’s skills as a farmer.

Mr. Palmer bought the property for $900 and renamed it Freelands. He and his wife lived there for 30 more years. He always kept a pot of beans by the fireplace for hungry strangers who might wander by.

You can see the Fruitlands house at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts, a complex that also includes a Shaker Museum, a Native American Gallery and a collection of Hudson River School landscape paintings. The website is

Here’s a photo of the farmhouse.


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