Our History

When you call Bilmar Nurseries the owners answer the phone. We are family owned, family run, and dedicated to providing your family a quality product. We think that’s pretty important and we are proud of our 3 generations of history.

Looking east in 2011
across Traver Rd

Looking east in the 1940's
across Traver Rd

Bilmar Nurseries was founded by Dr. William B. Rawls and his wife of 53 years, Mary Palmer Rawls, in 1941.

Pond view in 2011

Pond view in the 1940's

Dr. Rawls was born William Bryant Rawls in Concord, Georgia in 1898. He was raised on the family farm which grew peaches and cotton. Young Bill was the champion cotton picker in the state of Georgia at the age of 13. His manual dexterity endured for years as evidenced by his ability to inject cortisone into the joints and rapidly make cuttings for the nursery.

The Colorado Spruce in
this picture is now over 100
Dr. Rawls attended Mercer University and received his medical degree from Emory University in Atlanta in 1922.

Mary Palmer was also from the south, North Carolina. She graduated from Walter Reed Army Hospital School of Nursing. She moved to Manhattan where she was hired by Dr. William B. Rawls to be a nurse in his private medical office.

Mur and Pop, as they were referred to by their 6 grandchildren, maintained a private medical practice in Manhattan from 1926-1979.

In 1934 Dr William Rawls and Mary Palmer were married. In 1935 the couple searched out a home outside of NYC. They purchased a home and land in Pleasant Valley NY which is now Bilmar Nurseries.

Dr and Mrs Rawls having a meal
in the farm house dining room
Dr. and Mrs. Rawls would spend weekends with their two children, cultivating the land laying the groundwork for what it is today.

Stories were told that the Doctor would spend hours on his Caterpillar D8 with a cable operated blade, building ponds around the property. Mrs. Rawls would drive the family Cadillac into the fields and bring Doc (non-family would refer to him as Doc) his afternoon Scotch.

They traveled the globe, whether fishing for Marlin off the coast of Maui, on safari in Africa, or in the bush down under in Australia. Life was quite the adventure visiting 6 continents, 30 United States, over 20 countries, and many cities.

On Safari in Africa

On Safari in Africa

On Safari in Africa

Dr Rawls was a very accomplished individual in the medical world. He was a founder of the United Medical Service in 1944, now known as Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. Some of his accomplishments include:

  • President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the NY Medical Society
  • The American Therapeutic Society
  • The Physician Equity Association
  • The NY Rheumatism Society
  • He was a founding member of the Arthritis Foundation in 1948
  • A member of the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association for 18 yrs
  • He won the Distinguished Service award of the American Academy of
    Compensation Medicine and the Arthritis Foundation.

Their first child Jan Elizabeth was born May 28th 1937. Growing up in NYC, Jan preferred to be there as opposed to weekends and summers in Pleasant Valley. Jan later attended Wellesly and met and dated William Ernest Arnold, her roommate’s brother. Bill was in the Navy and later transferred to San Diego for Destroyer Duty. Jan followed, transferring to USC. She majored in comparative religion and minored in shorthand and typing graduating in 1958. Bill and Jan spent their free time commuting between San Diego, LA, and San Francisco depending on which Naval base Bill was stationed at. This is quite possibly where their love of travel emerged. For their entire lives the couple would pull a travel trailer all over this nation.

View of pond in the 1930's
They had four children who have all become very successful in their careers. Each has married and between them there are 8 grandchildren. Jan passed on in July of 2006. To this day Bill, is still pulling that travel trailer around the country. His most frequented states are Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado and New York, as this is where his grandchildren are.

Their second child was William Bryant Jr., known by family and friends as "Bryant," loved coming to the farm on weekends and summer vacations. Farming became his passion, and he loved the tractors and the trucks! Bryant was never far from the farm, and no matter where he was, he would always return to meet Mur and Pop at the farm for the weekend.

Bryant and Barbara tagging
Christmas Trees in Canada 1985
After graduating from Brown University, Bryant served a two year tour of duty as a naval officer and received an MBA from Columbia. Bryant went to work designing ceramic armor for aircraft in Worcester, Massachusetts.

In 1977 he met Barbara Case and her two sons Scott and Thomas. They married in 1980. Like his father and mother before him, he would bring them to the family farm on weekends and vacations.

Deep Sea fishing in Hawaii in 1964
In 1985 Bryant, Barbara, Scott and Thomas moved to Pleasant Valley. What was once a hobby and a weekend getaway was to become the livelihood for Bryant and his family. For the years to come, Scott and Thomas would help Bryant after school, weekends, and summers learning the family business.

Following high school graduation in 1991, Thomas joined the US Marine Corp where he served for four years. After the Marine Corp, and his high school sweetheart Allison Bennet’s graduation from Syracuse University, the two were married in 1996.  It wasn’t long before the young couple rented a U-Haul trailer, hooked it to the family’s old Chevy Caprice Station Wagon and headed west. They now live in Los Angeles California with their two children, Kaleigh and Hudson. Thomas is a Los Angeles police officer. Allison is a teacher. They look forward to returning to the family farm one day.

Following high school and college, Scott came to work full-time at the family business in 1991 managing the re-wholesale yard.  Today, Scott tends to the three tree farms, and is also busy raising and caring for his new farm animals in our new animal pen on the Bilmar farm.  Come see our newest (animal) additions to our family next time you are here with your family!

In Loving Memory:

Dr. William B. Rawls
Mary Palmer Rawls
Meg Ellen Misove Case

© Bilmar Nurseries Inc., All Rights Reserved.