On Jan. 28, 1899 Daniel Perry was appointed Plain City’s postmaster. On Jan. 19, 1903 his son Rolla became postmaster, a position he held for the next eight years. Although there were several Bigelows who served as postmasters, the Perry’s were our only father and son in that position. Their former homes are directly across from each other on Maple Street, just north of the present post office.
Daniel Perry was born on Jan. 2, 1847 in Delaware County to Ezra and Phoebe (Gardner) Perry, one of six children. Ezra was a shoemaker who later moved his family to the village of Jerome. When the Civil War began, Daniel tried twice to enlist, but was turned down both times because of his age. Finally, on Aug. 13, 1862, at the age of 15, he was accepted into Company E, 30th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
The company saw service in Maryland at the battle of Antietam in September 1862. In January 1863, the 30th became part of General Grant’s western Army, serving in the Third Brigade, Second Division of the Fifteenth Army Corps. It took part in the march to and the siege of Vicksburg from May to July 4, 1863. In May of 1864, the 30th joined General Sherman’s forces at Kingston, Georgia and was almost constantly in battle through the summer. On July 22, near Atlanta, the regiment came under attack, and it was during this engagement that Daniel Perry was taken prisoner. He was sent to the nearest Confederate prison, the infamous Andersonville.
Camp Sumter (its official name) had opened in February of 1864, and by the time that 17-year-old Daniel Perry arrived, its conditions were almost beyond description. Most of the men had little or no clothing, and their only shelters were what they could improvise from their blankets. The wagon that hauled the dead away each morning was also the wagon that brought in the day’s rations in the afternoon. The only source of drinking water was a stream that ran through the middle of the camp and also served as its latrine.
When Sherman began his “march to the sea” from Atlanta, the Confederates began to move prisoners from Andersonville to other sites. Daniel Perry was among those taken by train to Savannah on Sept. 19, 1864. He was held in Savannah for some time, then sent north to a new camp that had been constructed near Florence, South Carolina.
The prison camp at Florence held between 15,000 and 18,000 men; some 2,800 of whom died before the camp closed in February of 1865. Daniel Perry had to be carried out on a stretcher and spent some time in a hospital in Washington, D.C. before recovering enough to be sent home to Ohio.
In 1867 the Perry family moved from Jerome to Pleasant Valley. Daniel Perry became a carpenter and later a contractor, and was an extremely successful businessman. He was one of the founders of the Plain City Home Savings Company and served as a director and member of its appraisal board until his death. He was very active in Republican politics in Madison County and was for many years a member of the party’s executive committee. He served as Plain City’s 12th postmaster from 1899 till 1903, when his son Rolla was appointed to the position.
Daniel Perry married Lucina Elizabeth Allen on Jan. 13, 1870. They had two children: Nellie, who died as a child in 1876, and Rolla A., who was born on Aug. 6, 1872. Rolla spent his entire life in Plain City, graduating from Plain City High School in 1893. On Oct. 4, 1904, he married Estella M. Zimmer. They had three daughters, Frances, Dorothy Jane and Marcella.
Rolla Perry was postmaster from 1903 to 1911. Later he served as assistant State Fire Marshall, and was also a guard at the London prison farm. Like his father, he was an active member of the Republican party.
Daniel Perry died at the age of 90 in 1937, the last Civil War veteran in Madison County. Rolla Perry was 73 when he died after a fall at his home in 1945. Rolla’s wife Estella played the organ and directed the choir at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church from 1900 till 1967. She died in 1968 at the age of 86.
Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.