Solano County

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For nearly one hundred years Thomas L. Perry, one of Solano county's honored nonagenarians, a veteran of the Civil war and a veteran of the navy yard, now living retired at Vallejo, has been a witness to mundane events and he still declares that life and living are good. Though now in his ninety-eighth year, Mr. Perry is alert and efficient, physically and mentally, retains his interest in current events, continues his daily walks about town, meeting and greeting the friends of many years, and the heartiness of those greetings and the warmth of the smile which accompanies the same attest to the continued vitality of his affection for mankind and for the works of man under the sun. He has seen many changes in his time, has lived through periods of peace and through periods of war, has been a participant in some pretty stirring action along the way and in his goings in and comings out has met with all kinds of people, these ranging through all shades and grades of good and bad; has seen the works of some prosper and the works of others fail, has studied life and the activities of man from various angles, and is content in his fine old age to declare that after all things are pretty much all right, confirming the poet's conviction that "God's in his heaven; all's right with the world."

Mr. Perry was but a lad when he ran away from home and joined up with the United States navy, a service in which he was engaged up to and including the period of the Civil war. Mr. Perry has some stirring tales to tell of the old navy. He was a member of the crew of the gunboat Mohigan, said to be the first propeller vessel built for the navy, and his memories of the trial trip made by that historic old vessel from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to New York will ever remain with him. As the fortunes of the sea would have it, the vessel encountered a terrific storm accompanied by a blinding fall of snow. Everything movable on the deck was swept away and the night of storm and stress, spent by him in the rigging of the buffeted vessel, will never be forgotten. So far as he knows he is the only present survivor of that initial crew of the old Mohigan. He also was a member of the crew of this gunboat when in 1861 it overtook and captured Nathaniel Gordon's infamous slave ship, the Erie, with its human cargo of eight hundred and ninety-seven souls, and he recalls with satisfaction that Gordon was presently convicted of his sins of the sea and hanged in New York. Though the United States as early as the year 1820 had passed a law declaring the slave trade to be piracy, Gordon's conviction, in November, 1861, war then being in progress, was the first obtained under that statute and he thus has the dubious eminence of being the only slave trader ever hanged for his sins in this country. Mr. Perry had previously, in the gunboat Mohigan, made a trip to the African coast, and was quite familiar with the evil traditions of the slave trade. During the time of his service in the Civil war he served on the Mohigan and later on the Quaker City, was present on the former vessel during the time of the successful federal naval engagement off Hilton Head, South Carolina, and while serving on the latter during the siege of Charleston was severely wounded. His memory of events and incidents during that period of service is vivid and accurate and, as noted above, he can, when in a reminiscent mood, tell some stirring tales of that time.

Thomas L. Perry was born at Miramichi, Nova Scotia, July 11, 1829, and is a son of Thomas and Mary Ann (Curry) Perry, who were the parents of sixteen children. The Perrys of this line are of the same family as that so illustriously represented in his generation by Oliver Hazzard Perry, admiral of the United States navy and hero of the battle of Lake Erie during the time of the War of 1812, and had their beginning in this country with the coming of Edward Perry, born in Devonshire, England, in 1630, who in 1653 settled at Sandwich, in the Massachusetts colony. Genealogists have it that these Perrys are descendants in direct line from the Scottish hero, William Wallace, executed in London on August 23, 1305, and whose name and fame will live so long as Scots have tongue to voice them in song and story.

As noted above, Thomas L. Perry was but a boy when he ran away from his home in Boston. He was an adventurous lad and felt that the life of the sea was the life for him. This relation with the naval service continued satisfactory and he was thus serving when the Civil war broke out, he then being thirty-two years of age and with an experience behind him that gave a real value to his service in behalf of the Union cause. Upon the completion of his service he married and settled down in Boston, where he became employed as a carriage painter and where he remained until in 1868, when he and his wife came to California. Upon his arrival here Mr. Perry became engaged as principal keeper of the lighthouse at Point Concepcion, a position he occupied for twenty-seven years, at the end of which time he moved to San Francisco, where he became engaged in mercantile business. That form of activity, however, did not greatly appeal to him and he presently disposed of his store and came across the bay, taking service in the navy yard and making his home at Vallejo. For twenty years he continued this service at the navy yard and then retired, with a record of forty-seven years of government service in California besides his prior service in the navy along the Atlantic coast. Since his retirement he has continued to make his home at Vallejo, residing at 911 Sonoma street, where he and Mrs. Perry are very pleasantly situated, enjoying in the delightful "evening time" of their lives the affection of the whole community.

It was on February 22, 1865, at Boston, that Thomas L. Perry was united in marriage to Miss Mary Ann Carr, daughter of Henry and Ellen (Boyle) Carr, and a member of one of the old New England families, the Carrs of this line having had representation in America since early colonial days, and on that date in 1915 they celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage, their "golden wedding," an event that was made one of much congratulation and felicitation on the part of their many friends here and in other sections of the state. This venerable couple have a daughter, Ethel, wife of Albert W. Potts of San Francisco. Mr. and Mrs. Perry are republicans and have ever taken an interested part in the general civic affairs of the community. Mrs. Perry has for years been one of the active members of the local circle of the Ladies of the G. A. R. and of the local chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, and is likewise affiliated with the locally influential and useful House League. Mr. Perry is a member of the George Thomas post of the Grand Army of the Republic of San Francisco and of the Masonic fraternity, and is also affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and with the Order of the Eastern Star.

History of Solano County, California By Marguerite Hunt and Napa County, California By Harry Lawrence Gunn. From Their Earliest Settlement To The Present Time. Chicago. S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1926. 883 pages.

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This page was last updated 22 Oct 2007

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