ALEXANDER W. & SARAH SHELTON HUFFMAN PERRY
Namesake of Carrollton, Texas
Sarah Perry Was Buried On A Hill In The North Pasture.
The year was 1844, one year before Texas would become a state, a small family in a covered wagon with an extra team, three horses, and little money, made its way South. Through unfamiliar territory, no doctors or convenience stores, and always alert for unfriendly Indians, this family sought a new life in a place called Peters Colony. Yes, Alexander Wilson Perry (1819-1904), wife Sarah Shelton Huffman (1824-1896) and children Margaret (b. 1840), Rebecca (b. 1842) and Franklin (b. 1843) were traveling from Carrollton, Illinois to a new Southern homestead and a new life.
A. W.’s brother, Middleton, and his wife Ellen Malinda Ellis, had preceded them and was an influence on A.W.’s move South. Middleton settled in the Lancaster, Texas area and was on the Dallas County Pioneer Association Executive Committee in 1886; Ellen was a DCPA Vice President in 1887.
A. W. Perry was born in Pope County, Illinois; Sarah was born in Woodford County, Kentucky. Her family migrated to Illinois, where she met and married A. W. in 1840. A.W. and Sarah had eleven additional children in Texas. They were: Mary (b. 1846), Harriet (b. 1848), Alexander, Jr. (b. 1850), Commodore (b. 1852), twins John Hardin and Sarah (b. 1855), DeWitt (b. 1858), Wade (b. 1860), Carrie (b. 1862), Louria (b. 1864), and Roxanna (b. 1867). Ten children grew to adulthood. Most stayed in the area and married sons and daughters of other pioneer families.
A. W. acquired many acres of Texas land over the years in North Dallas County and South Denton County. He was recognized as a good businessman. He became the owner of the original townsite of Carrollton, Texas, platting the land and selling the lots. He gave land to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad for a right-of-way and depot. His involvement in the area was no doubt instrumental to the growth of the Carrollton area. He was engaged in farming and raising cattle, horses, mules, bees and sheep.
Sarah died in October 1896 and was buried on a “hill in the north pasture” of the Perry Homestead. This site was platted for a “burial ground” and would be incorporated in January 1897 as “A. W. Perry Cemetery.” The cemetery still exists today on Perry Road in Carrollton with over 650 burial sites and is marked as a Texas Historical Site. The Union Baptist Church of Farmers Branch (the first Baptist church in Dallas County, founded in 1876) was seeking land for a move when A.W. donated land adjacent to the North part of the cemetery in 1884. He and Sarah were active members of this church. A.W. and Sarah joined in 1850 and A.W. served as a deacon on many boards. In 1944, I, too joined this church, while it was on College Avenue in Carrollton. What a heritage! This church still exists today, but under a new name of Castle Hills Baptist Church located on Josey Lane in far north Carrollton.
The original A.W. Perry homestead, a four room dog-trot style house with a separate rock kitchen, was located about one mile south of the cemetery. This was a very active “Pre-Civil War to Post-Civil War” farmplace. A.W. and Sarah were made of true pioneering grit to accomplish what they did.
Upon A. W.’s death in 1904, his holdings were divided among his heirs. A son, Dewitt C. inherited the homestead and substantial surrounding acreage. Dewitt (1858-1930) married Francis Sarah Grimes (1866-1967), who had come to Texas from Davidson County, Tennessee with her family. They had one daughter, Pearl Perry (1889-1992). In 1907, DeWitt and Francis (better known as Aunt Fannie) built a new home on the homestead property and lived there all their lives. Today the house is known as the “A.W. Perry Homestead Museum,” a Registered Texas Historical Site open to the public for all to see a glimpse into early 1900 rural living.
DeWitt continued in his father’s example by donating land for a new school known as DeWitt Perry Middle School on Beltline Road in Carrollton. He also gave land for the Union Baptist Church’s relocation on Beltline Road and helped in other community needs.
DeWitt was known as a gentleman’s farmer and was highly respected by his neighbors and family. He would, most days, walk up Perry Road to Beltline Road and catch a ride into town. There, he would attend to his business, returning home at lunchtime. His grandchildren fondly remember the candy he would bring them. Aunt Fannie, in her later years would refer to him as a “wonderful and fair man” – Like Father, like son!
DeWitt died in 1930; Aunt Fannie remained in the homeplace until her death at 101 in 1967.
Pearle Perry was born and grew up in the homestead house. In 1907 she married William Arthur Gravley (1886-1957). Arthur’s family had migrated to the Farmers Branch area in the late 1870s and were successful farmers with large land holdings in the area. They had ten children: Beatrice (b. 1908), Thurmond (b. 1911), Lee (b. 1912), Frances (b. 1914), Addie May (b. 1918), Dorothy (b. 1921), Wilton (b. 1923), Evelyn (b. 1926), Joe (b. 1928), and “the baby of the family” Milburn (b. 1931). Nine of these children contributed to the continued growth of Carrollton and surrounding area. Milburn served six terms as Mayor of Carrollton. Wilton serves on the board of the A.W. Perry Museum and was president of Perry Cemetery, 1990-2000.
One daughter, Frances Olive Gravley, my mother, was born and raised in Carrollton on Perry Road. She married Samuel Bert Price (1912-1988) in 1936. Samuel’s family came to Texas in 1908 from Catawba County, North Carolina. At 86 years of age, Frances is still an active Carrolltonite. She and Samuel followed A. W.’s example of involvement in family, church and community affairs. Two sons were born of this union: Paul Raymond Price (b. 1937) and Samuel DeWitt Price (b. 1941). Paul lives in Carrollton. He is president of Perry Cemetery, a member of DCPA, a member of Peters Colony Historical Society, and a volunteer at A. W. Perry Museum. He is married to Rose Marie Milner, who is very active with genealogies of the family lines. Samuel Dewitt is married to Shirley Dever and lives in Round Rock, Texas.
A.W. and Sarah had no idea of the impact that their trip south and generous lives would have on North Texas. I am glad they came and proud to be one of their great-great-grandsons. The A. W. Perry family lives on!
By Paul Raymond Price for Dallas County Pioneer Association’s Proud Heritage, Volume III.
Photos from 1892 Memorial History & Biographical Sketches of Dallas Co. TX.