CEDAR PARK — It’s one of those simple mistakes anyone could make while writing: transposing a letter or leaving one out or simply misspelling a word altogether. But could it be possible that a road, a school and a number of businesses were all victims of a simple misspelling?
County documents reveal Parmer Lane started out many decades ago as Palmer Lane, not Parmer. And as late as 1960, the City of Austin said the road was Palmer. Since this time Pflugerville ISD’s Parmer Lane elementary, The Parmer Lane Tavern, Parmer Lane Baptist Church and several others have all been named after the road.
For about 100 years, Austin was the home to many families by the name Palmer. It was not until recent years that anyone named Parmer even lived in Travis County.
By 1880 there were six Palmer families in Travis County. Documents show 1900 and 1910 had five Palmer families. That number grew to 13 families by 1920, and increased to 15 by 1930. Still no Parmer family in sight.
One early noted Palmer was four stars Gen. Bruce Palmer Jr. who was born in Austin in 1913 to parents Brigadier General Bruce and Madeline Palmer. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1936.When he was head of the U.S. Readiness Command, a portion of Bergstrom Air Force 87th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was under his command.
Both the Charles Palmer and Edward Palmer families farmed in the area where Palmer Lane originated. It is believed that the road name was derived from either of these families. One of the most common ways a road got named was the road leading to the home or farm of a well-known family. Either of these farming families fit that situation.
In 1940, Vernon Scofield began buying land in that area for Scofield’s Ranch. According to Vernon and Audrey Scofield, “everyone knew the road name was Palmer, and somehow in recent years it was misspelled to Parmer.”
Lester Palmer was mayor of Austin from 1961 to 1963. Palmer Auditorium is named in his honor. Palmer Lane was still known as Palmer, not Parmer, at that time.
According to records at the Austin History Center, and the Austin and Travis County map collections, the road name was Palmer as late as 1960. A large, official map, created on linen by the City of Austin Planning Department in September 1960, show the road name as Palmer. At that time the road was about five miles long and ran between IH 35 and FM 1325, between Kramer and Howard lanes.
The City of Austin says the road was always Palmer in their records and any change to the name as Parmer was done without their knowledge. Travis County has no information to provide about this situation.
Marcus Cooper at the Austin District office of the Texas Department of Transportation said as far as TxDOT is concerned, that road is officially Farm to Market 734. Cooper said if the City of Austin or Travis County wanted to name the road, they were responsible for doing that.
In Williamson County the road is named Parmer Lane, most likely a case of Williamson imitating Travis County.