Susan Ann Palmer Mason Rice, 1845-1926 [RG5042.AM]


RG5042.AM:  Susan Ann Palmer Mason Rice, 1845-1926

Papers:  1861-1907, n.d.

Paxton, Keith County, Neb.:  Businesswoman, rancher

Size:  0.75 cu.ft.; 2 boxes


Susan Ann Palmer was born on June 25, 1845 in Newport, Rhode Island. She was the only daughter of John Clark Palmer and Almira Louisa Brown Palmer (called Louisa). Susan married John Andrew Mason and lived in Franklin, Connecticut. Three children were born to the couple: Elmer Palmer, Kittie Louise, and Julia May. John Mason died on May 22, 1871. Through her brother, Susan met a widower named Elisha Chapin Rice, whom she married at Norwich, Connecticut on April 22, 1874. Following the marriage the newspaper where Elisha worked was sold, and Susan and Elisha moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. He became an accountant for Colt Revolvers. While in Springfield the couple had two children, Leon Clark and Grace Maud.

Susan’s father, John C. Palmer, decided to take a tree claim in Nebraska. Louisa Palmer was blind and made John promise to build her an exact replica of the Connecticut house when they reached Nebraska, so she would know her way around in it. Susan and her family also moved west. The families went to the area near Paxton, Keith County, Nebraska and purchased 2,000 acres (3 miles long and 1 mile wide) from the Union Pacific Railroad on 22 June 1884 for $1886.25. Susan’s father and husband were partners in The Lone Tree Ranch. The ranch house, costing about $10,000, was located on the North Platte River about 30 miles west of the junction of North and South Platte rivers and 6 miles northwest of Paxton, Nebraska. It was built according to Louisa’s wishes and was the talk of the district, with a furnace and “over 100 feet of heating pipes.”

Excerpts from the Ogallala and Paxton newspapers indicate that in 1887, J.C. Palmer and L.K. Hutton started a meat market, and in 1888, the same partners established a bank in Paxton. According to family lore, the deposits from the bank were hidden in a specially constructed double foundation at the ranch house. Kittie and Elmer Mason worked as assistant cashiers.

In 1892 Susan’s son Elmer married Lillian Agnes Armstrong, a girl hired to work in the ranch kitchen. Julia May Mason was also married in 1892, to Frank B. Cyr. Kittie Louise soon followed in 1894, marrying Charles Frederick Clarke. Both daughters went back east to live. The children of Susan’s second marriage, Leon C. Rice and Grace Rice, stayed in the west. Grace married Paxton businessman, George P. Boardman in 1902, and Leon married Margaret Allen in 1908. Only Leon would stay in Nebraska.

Elisha Rice died in January of 1897, John C. Palmer died December 28, 1898, and Louisa Palmer in 1899, leaving Susan to run the ranch. She met the challenge by selling off the extensive cattle herds, and replacing them with purebred Shorthorn cattle. She was one of the first ranch owners in the area to begin raising registered stock for market.

Elmer and Lillian had at least nine children, some of whom died soon after birth. The surviving children included five boys and two girls. Lillian had contracted tuberculosis, and for her health, Elmer moved his family to Raton, New Mexico in 1907. Susan went with them on the trip, traveling on horseback and in wagons, and helped them settle in Raton. She returned to the ranch in Paxton on New Years Eve, 1907, and in 1908 she began preparations for retirement from the cattle business. The ranch was divided into parcels and sold for farming. Susan moved to Malden, Massachusetts to live with her son-in-law. Daughter Julia May had died in 1906 [see the Josie letter], and Susan went to help with the children. When Lillian died in 1911, Susan traveled back to New Mexico for her granddaughters, Kittie Josephine and Esperance Susan Mason, whom she brought back to Malden. Elmer took the boys, who were older and more self-sufficient, and moved to Francitas, Texas. Susan lived in Malden the rest of her life and raised her grandchildren there. She died on November 29, 1926.


This collection relates to the history of the Mason Family and related families. The central figure tying the family lines together is Susan Ann Palmer Mason Rice. The materials have been arranged into two series: 1) Diaries and letter; and 2) Genealogical Materials. Both series are further divided into subseries.

Series 1, Subseries 1 consists of original manuscript documents, two diaries and a letter. The diaries were written by Susan Rice and her son Elmer P. Mason during the course of a two month journey from Paxton, Nebraska to Raton, New Mexico. The course of the trip followed a path through southwestern Nebraska and eastern Colorado, to Denver and south through the mountains to New Mexico. Both diaries contain daily entries describing the passing scene, travelers and settlers met on the trail, towns and cities visited (with very good descriptions of turn-of-the-century Denver), and family adventures. Susan’s writing is especially descriptive. Together the diaries form a unique resource, as they chronicle the same overland journey through the differing perspectives of two participants.

One letter, written by Susan Ann Rice in 1906 to her cousin, Josephine Brown Cole, is also included in this series. Beautifully written, the letter conveys the depth of Susan’s grief at the death of her daughter, Julia May. Other parts of the letter, containing descriptions of the development of Keith County, the railroad in the area, and an adventuresome five-day trip from Paxton to Ash Grove are also notable. The original documents in Series 1, Subseries 1 have been restricted to minimize damage through over-use. Researchers must use photocopies and transcripts of the diaries and letter to be found in Series 1, Subseries 2.

Series 1, Subseries 2 contains photocopies of the original diaries and letters, along with transcripts, and some notes by Esperance Mason Cyr (Eppie). Series 2, Subseries 1 includes general genealogical information (tables, news articles, census, etc.) about the Mason, Rice, Palmer and related families, and a wedding invitation for Elmer Mason and Lillian Armstrong. Photocopies of some family photographs are present.

Series 2, Subseries 2 contains materials from a “Compendium of History, Writings, and Genealogy of the Mason Family,” compiled by Alan Bruce Clarke with the assistance of Phyllis M. McPheeters and Jean Buddington Philbrick. The Compendium includes second copies of the two travel diaries and the Josie letter [see Series 1, Subseries 2], as well as family histories, genealogy tables, other correspondence, newspaper articles, reminiscences, etc. of the Mason Family and related families. Of special note are transcripts of an autograph album belonging to Susan Ann Palmer, 1865-1869, and a “continuation” of Elmer Mason’s travel diary, from Raton, New Mexico to Francitas, Texas in 1912. For this diary, as in the first, he made daily entries and wrote in a descriptive style. The Compendium was incomplete at the time of donation; pagination sequences vary.

Note: See the photo component [RG5042.PH] for portraits and photographs of family members, the trip to Raton, and the Lone Tree Ranch house near Paxton, Nebraska.


Series 1 – Diaries and letter

Subseries 1: Original Documents



    1. Letter to Josie, August 10, 1906

    1. Diary of the Trip to Raton, NM, 1907 by Susan Ann Palmer Mason Rice

    1. The Long Long Trail, Diary of the Trip to Raton, NM, 1907 by Elmer Palmer Mason

Subseries 2: Photocopies and Transcripts

Box 2


    1. Photocopy, Letter to Josie, August 10, 1906

    1. Transcript, Letter to Josie, August 10, 1906 [transcript and notes by Eppie (Esperance) Mason Cyr]

    1. Photocopy, Diary of the Trip to Raton, NM, 1907 by Susan Ann Palmer Mason Rice

    1. Transcript, Diary of the Trip to Raton, NM, 1907 by Susan Ann Palmer Mason Rice [Notes by Eppie (Esperance) Mason Cyr]

    1. Photocopy, The Long Long Trail, Diary of the Trip to Raton, NM, 1907 by Elmer Palmer Mason

    1. Transcript, The Long Long Trail, Diary of the Trip to Raton, NM, 1907 by Elmer Palmer Mason

Series 2 – Genealogical materials

Subseries 1: General

    1. Wedding Invitation, Elmer P. Mason and Lillian A. Armstrong, Sept. 6, 1892

    1. Miscellaneous family charts, census, newspaper clippings, obituaries, and photocopies of photographs, etc.

    1. Genealogy CD

Subseries 2: “Compendium of History, Writings and Genealogy of the Mason Family”

    1. Introductory materials and relationship table [pp. 1-4a]

    1. Mason Family History and Genealogical tables [pp. 5-18]

    1. News accounts and anecdotes relating to the Mason-Rice Families [pp.19-22]

    1. The Josie letter, by Susan Ann Rice, 1906 [pp. 23-27]

    1. The Long Long Trail by Elmer P. Mason [pp. 28-48]

    1. Diary of the Trip from Paxton, Neb. To Raton, NM by Susan Ann Palmer Mason Rice [pp. 49-77]

    1. Biographical materials relating to Elisha Rice and George Boardman [pp. 78-82]

    1. Diary of a Trip from Raton, NM to Francitas, TX, by Elmer P. Mason [pp. 83-99]

    1. Speeches delivered at Deutschburg, Texas by Elmer P. Mason [pp. 100-104]

    1. Album of Remembrance, 1861-1869, Susan Ann Palmer [pp. 105-112, 2 copies]

    1. Armstrong Family Genealogy, letters poem, notes [pp. 113-120]

    1. Clark, Irons, Palmer, Rice Family materials. Includes Clark, Rice Palmer and Irons genealogies; letters from Douglas Mason Clarke to his mother Kittie and his grandmother Susan during World War I, etc. [pagination differs, pp. 1-39]

    1. Genealogical Index [pagination differs, pp. 237-244]



Ash Grove (Neb.) — History

Baptists — Nebraska

Cole, Josie (Josephine Brown)

Colorado — Description and travel

Denver (Colo.) — Description and travel

Keith County (Neb.) — History

Mason, Elmer P. (Elmer Palmer)

Mason family

Palmer family

Paxton (Neb.) — History

Railroads — Nebraska — Keith County

Rice family

Rice, Susan Ann Palmer Mason, 1845-1926


KFK   06-22-1998

Encoded TMM   06-10-2011

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