Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 116 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 116 Summary

Irene’s daughter, Cynthia, ecstatically proclaims that a young man named Will Palmer asked to walk her home. Cynthia confides this mostly to Irene; Tom tends to be particular about who dates his daughters. Irene mentions that Will Palmer has had his eyes on Cynthia for two years, glancing at her during church services. The oblivious Tom, however, has not noticed this and immediately inquires about the quality of Will Palmer’s character. Cynthia again asks if Will Palmer can walk her home from church, and Tom says he will consider it. Cynthia is heartbroken at not receiving immediate approval.

Irene knows that for Tom, nobody is good enough for his daughters. Although Tom knows this already, Irene explains again that Will Palmer is one of the most upstanding businessmen in Henning. Even though Mr. James legally owns the lumber company, Will Palmer runs it because Mr. James is always drunk. Will Palmer unloads the lumber off the train cars, sells and ships it to neighboring towns, writes out bills, collects payments, and deposits money into the back. He never utters a harsh word against his drunk boss.

Tom says his main concern is that so many other girls are interested in Will Palmer. Irene points out that Will Palmer is the biggest catch in Henning. Tom also remembers that a year ago, Will Palmer gave flowers to a girl named Lula Carter, became interested in her, and then dropped her. Irene is surprised; it shows Tom has been paying keen attention. 

Tom has had his eye on Will Palmer for a potential mate for Cynthia for a long time and wishes his own sons would be as accomplished. Will Palmer reminds Tom of himself.

Will and Cynthia begin courting. Less than a year later, Will Palmer proposes and they marry in the church. Will begins building the family’s new home in 1894 while still working at the lumber company, proving himself again. One day Will rides his horse in the rain to deliver a payment to the bank on time. The banker, impressed, mentions Will Palmer’s name when the owner declares bankruptcy. All the white businessmen agree that Henning still needs a lumber company and that Will Palmer is the perfect man to run it. They agree “to cosign a note to pay off the company’s debts for [Will] to take over as new owner.” Further proving his strength of character, Will asks that half his savings be sent to Mr. James.

The W. E. Palmer Lumber Company thrives.