This Month In History: The Death of William Perry
After his arrival in Jefferson, Texas in 1842, Captain William Perry quickly rose to prominence in the community. He partnered with W.W. Withenbury and opened Jefferson to steamboat traffic. He went on to obtain large amounts of land, opened the Excelsior House, and even served as Mayor for a short time 2. It’s during this time that he donated Lots 7-9, Block 86 (now the site of the UMBC) to local slaves to allow them their own place of worship.
On his way home, on the night of January 2nd, 1869, Perry encountered Detective Charles H. Bostwick and his soldiers outside of the home of John Vines. They had received word that known fugitive, Bud Connor, was planning on meeting Vines’ wife, his sister, that night to get supplies before leaving town. However, due to conflicting accounts of what actually transpired that night, the legitimacy of this claim is still in question. Official reports state that the soldiers spotted Perry, believed he was Connor, and ordered him to halt. When he failed to comply, they fired on him. It was not until they approached the body that they realized their mistake.
Perry’s body was then taken into the Vines’ home, and the soldiers returned to camp. 2 This was convincing enough to most to prove that the death of Perry was accidental and was thereby dismissed. All charges against Detective Bostwick and his men were dropped. 1People remained skeptical of Bostwick’s claims. It was difficult for anyone to believe Perry could be mistaken for Connor. At this time, Perry was in his 50’s, whereas Connor was only about 20. Several witnesses also came forward claiming they heard the soldiers shushing each other and they had never ordered Captain Perry to halt. There are also claims that they were never informed when the trial was taking place. Therefore, no one had the opportunity.
The decision to take Perry’s body in to the Vines’ house has also been brought into question. Why was he taken there when his own house was only down the street? Also, after Perry was shot, the soldiers were sent back to camp, rather than having a select few wait back and continue to wait for their original target Bud Connor.
Perry’s funeral took place on January 8th, 1869 1. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Jefferson alongside his wife. Despite potentially never knowing the hard facts of what actually occurred that night, Captain William Perry’s death (and life) will remain an infamous part of Jefferson Texas’s history.
Spencer, Andrew and Curtis Hawthorne. Murder in Jefferson: THe 1868 Stockade Case. Jefferson, Texas: 23 House, 2012. Book.
Traylor, Russell. Carpetbaggers, Scalawags and Others. Waco, Texas: Marion Coun-ty Historical Commision , 1982. Print.