LEVI PERRYMAN. The memory of statesmen may fade and perish, the victories of soldiers may be forgotten and the song of authors may grow dull and stale, but interest in the lives and deeds of the pioneers will never lag but grow in intensity until the last frontier has been obliterated and the last forerunner of civilization has gone to his long home. In every American age they have always been with us and for nearly four hundred years they have accomplished their missions and told stories to the delight, the interest and to the profit of an appreciative posterity. The red man of the forest and plain is invariably associated with the memory of the pioneer and the scenes of the frontier and it is the story of the bouts between savagery and civilization that enlists our interest in and sympathy for the pioneer.
In the subject of this sketch we have one of those rugged types of the Texas frontier of the days preceding and during the Civil war. It was from choice—deliberate choice—that his lot was cast almost without the sphere of the red face. On approaching manhood he announced to his uncle who had reared him that he would seek the wilds of the west, where land could be had for the taking, and go into the stock business when he should begin life. His uncle proposed a partnership with him on the halves, the latter furnishing the cattle and our subject seeing to their care. In preparation for his change of locations he selected his future home in Montague county in 1859, and the following year his uncle accompanied him hither, with one hundred head of cattle and under an oak tree about three miles west of Forestburg his solicitous relative handed him a bill of fifty head of cattle, presented him with a saddle horse equipped and a ten dollar gold piece and said to him: “Now, my son, roots hog or die.”
From that eventful day Levi Perryman’s independent career began. He selected the site for his future home, erected a log shelter for himself, and in that lonely and dangerous spot pursued the vocation of his choice. During the Civil war period he permitted his business to rather take care of itself while he spent three years in the ranks of the Confederate Army.
He enlisted at Gainesville in Capt. Gilbert’s company which was ordered into the Indian Territory for some particular service and there broke up. He then joined Marshall’s squadron of cavalry, which was dismounted over in Arkansas, and after helping fight the battle of Prairie Grove he again returned to Texas and, at Kiawitchia, became a member of the Thirty-first Infantry which was in Polignac’s Brigade. The army followed General Banks and intercepted his progress at Fordosche and harassed him all the way back to the Mississippi river where the federal commander again assumed the offensive and the battles of Pleasant Hill and Mansfield followed, in both of which Mr. Perryman took part. [During the compilation of this book, the printers inadvertently transposed and spliced sentences. The following italicized text is likely the correct sequence.] In the spring of 1865, he was ordered to report at Galveston, but at Houston he applied for and received a furlough home and before he reached his destination Lee had surrendered and the war was over. During those three years of army life, no Yankee prison cell knew him and no federal bullet ever bruised his body. No absence without leave and no hospital record were charged against him. Mr. Perryman was ever subject to duty’s call. He was in the service for the sake of the cause itself and believed he was right then and thinks so still, yet he has no sentiment of hostility to utter against our common country but is proud of our national progress and achievement under the flag and rejoices in being a citizen of the greatest nation and the grandest government on earth.
While raising cattle and horses and protecting his stock, as best he could, against the red and white thieves that infested his frontier community, Mr. Perryman found some time to devote to matters outside of his dominions. He was in the ranging service for a time and spent a few months among the Texas boys whose duty it was to clear the border counties of Indians, and when he was again at home he was trading horses, buying yearlings and doing any other legitimate work in which there was a profit and which tended to lift him another round up the ladder of success.
The first real estate he purchased in the county was the one hundred and sixty acre tract upon which stands the historic oak under whose boughs he received his uncle’s parting admonition, “root hog or die.” While the range was opened he prospered well with his stock but as the advance of civilization reached out and gathered in the grass land the cattle industry began to fade and it finally died out altogether. Selling off his stuff and reducing his cattle and horses to a small bunch, Mr. Perryman invested extensively in farm lands and accumulated some twenty-five hundred acres. To his children he has deeded some thirteen hundred acres, fixing them comfortably and encouraging them to successful careers, and the old homestead, where he lives alone, with its twelve hundred broad acres, he clings to for its sacred memories and as a protector in his declining years.
Levi Perryman was born in Lamar county, Texas, March 29, 1839. His father, Alex. G. Perryman, came to Texas from Alabama and secured a headright from the republic, which our subject laid in Montague county after the war. On his way to the Lone Star republic he stopped in Arkansas and there married Elizabeth Farmer. They soon afterward established themselves in Lamar county, Texas, and there, a few months subsequent to the birth of their only child, they both passed away. Mr. Perryman left two surviving brothers, Jack and Austin Perryman. The former took our subject into his home, when he was left an orphan, and reared and educated him just as earnestly and concernedly as if he had been his own child.
The primitive country school environment of the early time confronted Levi Perryman as he came to maturity and a few months in the school in Paris when he was about grown completed his education. The knowledge he acquired then and the training that a varied experience gave him in after years amply equipped him for any position he would be likely to accept and has made life easier and happier to live.
September 13, 1866, Mr. Perryman married Mrs. Josephine Price, widow of Pleasant Price and a daughter of William Milam. Mr. Milam was a Virginian, reared in humble circumstances and married Betsy French whose family was one of the aristocratic ones of the county. The Frenches made their wealth a sort of social barrier to young Milam and his high and independent spirit rebelled and he left Virginia for Texas and never advised his wife’s people of his whereabouts. En route to Texas Mrs. Milam died, somewhere in the Indian Territory, leaving four children: Mrs. Perryman, who was born in Mercer county, Virginia, August 1, 1843, and passed away at her home in Montague county July 4, 1884; Mrs. Electra Harper, of Fannin county, Texas; Napoleon who died at Red River Station leaving a family; and Victoria, who married Emsy Harris and died in Lamar county, leaving a daughter, who is married and living in the Nation; and a son in Missouri.
Mrs. Perryman was quiet, industrious Christian woman, which qualities attracted Mr. Perryman and he took her to his home to be his wife. She had a son, Pleasant Price, Jr., whom Mr. Perryman reared and educated just as carefully as he did his own children and who has shared of his step-father’s property just as liberally as the younger children. He remained with the family home till past his majority, and after his mother’s death instructed his little sisters in conducting and caring for the home. In 1885 he sought the far northwest and married, and is rearing his family at Hinsdale, Montana.
The children of Levi and Josephine Perryman were: Napoleon, who died young; William J., who died at Seymour, Texas, in 1894, unmarried; Elbert W., who married Lucy Grant, resides on a part of the Perryman ranch and has children, Josephine, Charles, William, Baylor and Margaret; Kate, who is the wife of Henry Caldwell, of Denton, Texas, and has a son, Henry; Linnie, who married Ed Stallworth, and resides in Montague county and has children, Levi, Adda Jo and Bob; Charley and Sarah Perryman, who died in infancy; and Bob, the youngest child, who resides at Hagerman, New Mexico, where for the sake of his health he is forced to abide.
Levi Perryman was reared a Democrat and with his passage through life he has not deserted its time-honored principles. Early in his career the citizenship of Montague county recognized his worth and they proposed him for a public office. He possessed a ripe and safe judgment, was always fair and was honest, and his frontier training had inspired him with a courage that knew no fear. All these traits were essential for an efficient sheriff in the early time and, in 1873, he was elected to that office for a term of four years. Before his term expired the legislature changed the law so that he served three years instead of four. He declined a re-election, but, in 1878, he was petitioned by more than three hundred voters to become a candidate for the office and he consented, made the race and was elected. During his five years as peace officer of the county he made a record for captures of horse thieves and other “bad men” and cleared the locality of many characters whose services became useful at Huntsville. He despised a horse thief more than any other criminal, because he believed many of the horses which were taken from him and charged to the Indians was really the work of white men and he vowed vengeance on this class if he ever got to be sheriff of the county. His heavy and avenging hand was laid on “Wild Bill” McPherson and it brought Bob Simmons back from Kansas and lodged him in prison and it reached out after Ike Stowe and made his suffer for his crimes.
In the discharge of his duty he was in the saddle all the time. While his official office was at the county seat he maintained his home on his farm and his private affairs were left to his faithful wife and his young sons. When he turned the office over to his successor it was with a consciousness of having contributed something toward the peace and well-being of his county. He set a pace that was difficult to surpass, as he has done in his private affairs, and above all he entrenched himself in the hearts of the people so that only time will efface his memory.
Mr. Perryman joined the Odd Fellows at St. Jo, Texas, became a Mason in Gainesville and is a member of the Methodist church.
—Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 701-704.