Stories from the Past

OldPerry-Vintage 

A collection of stories from various sources

 

Benjamin Dudley Hansford

Was the son of John M. Hansford, a judge during the Republic of Texas. His mother was Polly Ann Prewitt, the daughter of Josiah Prewitt of Pickens County Alabama. His wife was Mary Sims. Benjamin and she had two children, a son named Benjamin D. and a daughter Lela who married Ben Kincannon of the Kincannon bunch there in Eddy and Bruceville Texas.

This Benjamin Dudley was born during the formation of Texas which was some turbulent times. He saw his own father get his brains blown out of his head in the year of 1844. His mother married a second and then a third time after only to see each of them lose their lives as well. This young lad was wagged from Harrison, Titus, Parker, and Bell County with his final resting place in Old Perry Cemetery. 

There is an old saying that says be careful who you hang with or you could get hung with them. In Benjamin's case he is the one that got hung! The story told by the family members is that while he was sitting on the front porch , a mob of men came looking for his brother-in-law who was rumored to have been a horse thief in the area. When Ben did not tell the mob where his brother-in-law was their anger flared and the mob decided to take Benjamin down near a tree in what is now Mother Neff Park and hung him till death and then burnt his house to ashes.

The irony of the story is that many of the laws that are still on the books during the formation of Texas are still there today and were in fact presented by his father Judge John M. Hansford. The one that comes to my mind at this time is this one "If a man steals a horse he should be hanged". 

The father-in-law of Ben had to drive to Waco for a casket for the burial. The Sims family tried for years to clear the name of their son-in-law and it cost them all they had. As for Ben, he was buried outside the concrete border of the Sims family plot.  It is said that a week later a stone was placed marking his grave. I am forever grateful to have found his stone. It was broken when we found it but we were happy to put the pieces back and help restore some of the dignity that was lost when Benjamin D. Hansford was hung without a valid cause. 

As told to you by Barbara LeMeilleur Hill, the great great grand-daughter of his sister Martha Hansford McGlothlin.

 

 

 

Perry School

The Moody Area Its History and People 1852-1981

By the time William Hancock, his wagon train  and band of hearty pioneers arrived at Perry in 1852, the people had planned a school for their children.  Even before the log cabin community house was finished, Mrs. Eliza McClain and her daughter, Miss Maggie, called the children together for a story hour, and taught them to write their names and numbers.

It was in 1854, two years after the arrival of the settlers , that a legal school opened.  The Perry School, District number thirteen, was establishes in 1854 and the first trustees were, Isaac McClain, George Stubblefield, and C.W. Moffat.  A public meeting house served as a school house during the week, and a church on Sunday.  In Mrs. Hargett's diary she described the meeting house building.

Logs to build the meeting house were cut on the Leon river and hauled to Perry by oxen-drawn wagons.  The men in the community took turns as carpenters with one man chosen as "head carpenter".  The log building was 24 X 30 feet; it had one door facing the east, made of 2 X 12 inch boards with 2 X 12 inch boards bracing the top and bottom, and a cross beam to brace the top and bottom boards.  There were four small windows made with wooden shutters, strong hinges and a bolt on the inside.  The seats were rough, being made of logs split lengthwise, with pegs driven into the underside for legs.  On Sundays the ladies sometime took a folded quilt  to sit  on to protect their "Sunday clothes".  One bench had a back, made of narrow boards.  This was called the " recitation bench" for school and the "mourners bench" on Sunday.  A pot-bellied stove, standing in the center of the room, furnished heat in the winter and a prop for the men's feet in the summer.

As strange as it may seem to the modern day educator, some of the most learned men and women of our times had their first educational introduction in schools of this nature.

The people of the community, who had gone to school before moving to Perry, taught the children when a teacher could not be found.  However Miss Jane Leach was the first, or among the first, teachers to teach in the log-cabin building.   Hers was the first funeral in Old Perry Graveyard."  A young lady school teacher, by the name of Miss Jane Leach, took pneumonia and died, at the close of her short school year."  Her grave is marked by a rock cairn to protect it from being dug into by wolves and other preying animals.  Although vandals have made disrepair's in Old Perry Cemetery at times, Miss Jane Leach 's grave has never been disturbed.  Land for the "Perry Graveyard" was purchased from James and Molly Lillard by the Trustee of the Perry Cemetery; J.S McClain, J.T Ray, J.L. McNeel, I.F. Wood, and N.B. Horn.

The Perry school continued as long as the 175 (more or less) inhabitants lived in the bustling little village.  The records show that the year of 1860 to 1870 were dark years for Perry.  A severe drought struck the community in 1860, making it hard to make a living, since there were no crops that year.  All of the young or able-bodied men went off to fight in the Civil War, leaving the women and children and old men to carry on the farming and business that was done in the community.   Other residents moved back to their former homes and took the records with them.  But we can safely assume that the school had little or no attention during this period. 

In the summer of 1873, a cyclone blew the town away, destroying the old log community house.  After the crops were "laid by", work was begun on a new frame church and schoolhouse near the cemetery, however the town was rebuilt about two miles east of the old town site where business was resumed.  The frame building was destroyed by high winds , as the "old Timers" had predicted it would because of the height of the building, five years later.  The abdication of Perry began when the Santa Fe Railroad by-passed Perry, and established a new town on the railroad called Moody, two miles south of Perry.

 The fate of Perry was sealed when the railroad company gave the Baptist congregation three lots of land in Moody if they would build a church on the land.  The congregation accepted the offer an built their church in 1884 and Perry died, leaving nothing at the old site except the "graveyard" and some glad and sad memories.  The school moved to Moody along with the inhabitants.

 

 

Old Perry Cemetery - Reminder of 'Old Days' 

The Moody Courier - May 30, 1974

The Old Perry Cemetery is only a few miles from Moody, but it is rapidly becoming a forgotten entity of a history connected to the present Moody and its inhabitants.

Old Perry settlement was situated on the rolling hills adjacent to its cemetery.  When the Santa Fe railroad built a line through Central Texas in 1882, Old Perry was bypassed.  The inhabitants of Old Perry relocated their town to that advantage of the railroad line.  The new town was named Moody for Col. William Moody, a railroad stockholder.

Moody buried its dead at Old Perry Cemetery for awhile, but later made two cemeteries closer to the new town.  After this, the old tombstones had only an occasional visitor.  The visitors left flowers and the vandals turned over many of the stones. Some they broke.  The only regular visitor was time.

Algae began to grow on the marble markers and the iron fences began to rust.  The indention's in the stones that were made as last tributes to loved ones began to be smoothed out by wind and rain.

Except for a man who was hanged for stealing livestock, most of the people who were buried there were ordinary.  But the cemetery is extraordinary in the sense that it is a history of forgotten time.  Perhaps for reason, Old Perry should be remembered.