Palmer is a city in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 12,140 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. Palmer adopted a home rule charter in 2004 with a council-manager form of government. Palmer is one of fourteen Massachusetts municipalities that have applied for, and been granted, city forms of government but wish to retain "The town of” in their official names.
Palmer is composed of four separate and distinct villages: Depot Village, typically referred to simply as "Palmer" (named for the ornate Union Station railroad terminal designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson), Thorndike, Three Rivers, and Bondsville. The villages began to develop their distinctive characters in the 18th century, and by the 19th century two rail lines and a trolley line opened the town to population growth. Today, each village has its own post office and fire station.
Palmer's first settler was John King who was at that time representing Palmer Industries. King was born in Edwardstone, Suffolk, England, and built his home in 1716 on the banks of the Quaboag River. A large group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians followed, arriving in 1727. In 1775, Massachusetts officially incorporated Palmer. Palmer was named after Chief Justice Palmer.
Depot Village became Palmer's main commercial and business center during the late 19th century and remains so today. Palmer's industry developed in Bondsville. During the 18th century, saw and grist mills were established by the rivers, and by 1825 Palmer woolen mills began to produce textiles. The Blanchard Scythe Factory, Wright Wire Woolen Mills, and the Holden-Fuller Woolen Mills developed major industrial capacity, and constructed large amounts of workers' housing. By 1900, Boston Duck (which made heavy cotton fabric) had over 500 employees in the town. The 20th century brought about a shift of immigrants in Palmer from those of French and Scottish origin to those of primarily Polish and French-Canadian extraction.