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Perry Washburn was born in 1822 in Adams, NY, and died February 14, 1911 in Macomb, NY. His first wife was Persa F. Smith who was the daughter of Stephen Smith and Polly Thornton.  They were married on February 13, 1843 in Heuvelton NY.  He later married Calista Maria Hastings Covel in 1875 following his first wife’s death.  Information received from the Macomb town clerk in 1997 shows that Perry was listed as an 88 year-old retired farmer when he died from bladder disease in 1911.  His parents were listed as Rufus and Orilla Washburn and his place of birth was given as Adams NY.


Figure 1: Photo of Photo of Perry Washburn

In 1860, Perry and his family are shown in the census as living in Macomb.  Perry is listed as 37 year old farmer, born in New York.  His wife is listed as ‘Percy’, age 36.  Eight children are listed:  Henry D (age 16), Amy J (14), Minerva (13), Polly E (9), Harriett A (6), Sylvia (4),  Ruth (3), and Stella (1).  53 year old Polly Smith, the mother of Persa, is also listed.  The farm they lived on was valued at $4400 and they showed personal property worth $1800.


In 1870 the family is still in Macomb.  Perry and Persa are both shown as 48-years old.  Listed with them are Polly (19), Sylvia (17), Jena (12 – called Ruth in 1860), Estella (10), and George E (8).  His daughter Minerva (also known as Annette) is married and she and her husband George Tann are also living at home.  One additional person, Alvin Clute – age 18, is also listed.  Alvin may be the son of Perry’s cousin Alida.  The farm is valued at $7000 in this census and the amount of personal property has increased to $3500.


In 1880, Perry is listed with his second wife, Calesta.  They are still living in Macomb, though it is shortly after this time that they move to Minnesota.  Perry is shown as 57 years old and Calesta as 52 years old.  Living with them are Perry’s son George and Calesta’s son Bernie Covel


Figure 1 shows a photograph kept in the collection of Sylvester Washburn Jr, nephew of Perry.  This photograph appears to be of a frame photo or portrait of Perry Washburn.


 In 1892 Perry applied to the US government to receive a ‘dependent father’s pension’ due to his son Henry’s death in the civil war.  Many papers relative to his pension application exist at the National Archives and it is from these documents that information including the date of his marriage to Persa can be found.  In 1894, Perry submitted this deposition as part of the pension application process:


Figure 2: Amy Washburn Truax (right), Father Perry Washburn (left), daughter Carrie Truax Hurst (back) and Grand daughter Marion Hurst (front)

 “I am 71 years old, P.O. as above.  I have lived here nearly 12 years.  My home was formerly in St. Lawrence Co NY, P.O. Macomb.  I am an applicant for pension on account of my son Henry D. Washburn, my only son, who died in service at Armory Square Hospital at Washington.  He died August 4, 1863.  I believe he died of wounds incurred or injury incurred on the R.R. by a collision just after the battle of Gettysburg.


 My wife, the mother of the soldier, died I think 20 years ago last July, on the old homestead.  My son Henry D. Washburn was never married.  His mother’s name was Persy Smith before the marriage.


I own a farm of 297 acres of land in St. Lawrence Co, Macomb P.O..  It is rough, rocky land valuable chiefly as a dairy farm or grazing farm.  There may be 55 acres that can be plowed.  The buildings have been built some 30 years.  The house needs shingling and painting.  The barns are old and not of very great value.  I think the barn is insured for $400 and the house for $1600, I think.  I think the insurance represents the full value of the buildings.


The farm has been rented for some 12 years.  I don’t know the assessed value.  The man pays the tax who is on the land.  I rent the whole thing cash received and he pays the required tax.  Any extras as building school tax I pay if any.  He pays me $350 cash annually.


I think the farm would sell for about $15.00 per acre.  I would not want to take that.  I have tried to sell it for some years but have had no offers and have set no price. I sought to sell for $2000.  I don’t think it would sell for that.  I don’t think I could sell it for $15.00.  A similar farm nearby sold for $9.00 per acre at auction on a partition suit.


I own here this house and lot and I bought and own farm land in the town of Maine in this county.  I paid $1000 for the land in the town of Maine.  This place would not sell for $500 not more than that.  The land in the town of Maine would not sell for more than $600.  I don’t think it would sell for that.  I have no other means of income.  I get nothing from the land in the town of Maine.  There are $151 acres about.  I could not rent it for enough to pay the taxes.


I am indebted on the farm in St. Lawrence Co. NY in the sum of $1200.  There has been a mortgage on the place for 30 years.  My property here is not encumbered.  I pay 6% interest on the mortgage.”


Figure 3: Perry Washburn and family

In 1900, Perry and his second wife Calesta are listed in the census for Fergus Falls, Otter Tail County, Minnesota.  They indicate that they were married in 1875 and Calesta indicates that she had 9 children with 7 still living.  These are likely children from her first marriage.


Figure 3 shows a picture of Perry and Calesta Washburn, along with their son George Elmer his wife Cora and their first two children.  It was likely taken around 1890 since George and Cora were married in 1885.  George died October 27, 1899.  The following notice was printed in the Gouverneur Free Press announcing his death:

October 27, 1899: George, only son of P. S. Washburn, died in Minneapolis while being operated on.  Suffered very much from asthma and went 17 years ago to Minnesota to find some relief.  He was 38 years old, left wife and four children and five sisters:  Mrs. Wm Watson, Mrs. Fred Sterling, Mrs. James Bayne, and Mrs. H. J. Hurlbut.




In 1910, Perry had returned to Macomb New York and was shown in the census listing as living with his daughter Sylvia and her husband William Watson.


Perry Washburn is buried in Pierces Corner Cemetery in Macomb NY, as are his wife Persa, daughter Annette, and son Henry.  The obituary for Perry Washburn found in the St. Lawrence Republican on February 22, 1911 stated:


Mr. Washburn was born near Adams, Jefferson County.  When he was three years of age his parents settled near Pierces Corners, a section of this county then a wilderness.  The family during their early tenure of the property cleared a 300 acre farm.  As a young man Mr. Washburn evidenced much interest in hunting and during his old age delighted in relating tales of thrilling adventure in the forest lands about his home when he went in quest of panther, bear and other ferocious game that infested the wilderness recesses of southern St. Lawrence county.


Twenty nine years ago Mr. Washburn went west, locating at Fergus Falls, Minn., where he engaged in farming.  Five years ago, following a successful experience in the west, he returned to Macomb and has since made his home with his children.  Mr. Washburn was twice married.  His first wife was Miss Percy Smith of the town of Macomb, whose death occurred over 30 years ago.  His second wife was Mrs. Calista Coville of Macomb, who died five years ago.  Five daughters survive.  They are Mrs. William Watson, Mrs. Fred Sterling, amd Mrs. James Bayne all of Macomb, Mrs. M. J. Truax of Gouverneur, and Mrs. Homer Hurlbut of Watertown.”


Also, on February 23, 1911, the Journal in Maine, Otter Tail County, Minnesota reported:


“Word has just been received by M. I. Truax that Perry S. Washburn, who formerly lived in the township of Maine and also in this city died at Gouverneur, NY on Feb 14th from old age.  He was 88 years and 6 months old.  He sold his farm and residence here a few years ago and went back to New York to live with his children.  Mr. Washburn was married twice and his second wife died here about five years ago.  Mr. Washburn was a man of strong character and pronounced views and was a good citizen.”


Lastly, sometime after his death, a large article was printed on the life history of Perry Washburn who was called a Macomb Pioneer.  This article contained quite a bit of exaggerated information, including references to his grandfather's brother Captain Rufus having served in the revolutionary war under Washington and claiming his grandfather came direct from England.  However, it provides an interesting insight into how Perry was regarded so it is included as follows:


Life History of Macomb Pioneer

Perry Washburn whose death occurred Feb 14 had interesting history


Perry S. Washburn, aged 89 years, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. William Watson, in the town of Macomb, Tuesday morning, Feb 14, at 6 o'clock.  Mr. Washburn was taken ill in October and since that time has been steadily failing so that his death was not entirely unexpected.  He is survived by five daughters, Mrs. William Watson, Mrs. James Bayne and Mrs. F. G. Sterling of Macomb, Mrs. M. J. Truax of Gouverneur, and Mrs. H. J. Hurlbut of Watertown.  The funeral was held from the late residence, Thursday, Feb 16.  The interment was at the State Road cemetery.  Upon the wish of Mr. Washburn, himself, his four grandsons acted as bearers.  They were B. H. Truax, H. D. Tann, S. A. Bayne of Macomb, and C. A. Watson of St. Lawrence University.


Perry S. Washburn was born near Adams in Jefferson county in the year 1822.  He was of English descent, his grandfather Nehemiah Washburn coming direct from England and settling in the Connecticut valley.  His son, Rufus Washburn, emigrated to what was then the wilds of New York state, settling first in Oswego, and then moving northward into Jefferson County.


Mr. Washburn came from a family of soldiers.  His grandfather Nehemiah served in the war of 1812, taking part in an engagement with the British troops near Ogdensburg.  A brother of Nehemiah Washburn, Captain Rufus Washburn, served in the Revolutionary war under Washington.  Several years after the war, he was drowned in the Oswegatchie river at Smith's Mills, the present site of Elmdale, while returning from a town meeting at Gouverneur.  Months later, his body was found about three miles down the river lodged in an old tree top.  Perry Washburn's brother, Simon Washburn, served in the civil war, as did also his son, Henry Washburn, who was killed near Annapolis Junction.  Elmer L. Watson served as an officer in the navy during the Spanish-American war.


Rufus Washburn moved from Jefferson County to the town of Macomb, then a part of the town of Gouverneur, when Perry was only one year of age.  The Washburn's long cabin, which was one of the first in the region, was built on the land now owned by Thomas Harmer.  There he chopped, logged and cleared the land to raise corn for the subsistence of his family.  He died in 1828, when Perry was only six years of age.  Besides Perry, he was survived by four children.  Orrila Washburn, who married Chauncey Day, Cynthia Washburn who married Joshua Houghton, Sylvester Washburn who married Jane Hurst, and Simon Washburn who married Emily Rounds.  Two years after the death of her husband, Mrs. Rufus Washburn married Oliver Rounds, whose father, Joseph Rounds, had served under Washington from the beginning of the war to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.  The family then moved from Macomb to the foot of Mud lake, in the town of Depeyster


Perry received his early education in a little log school house, near the site of the present Mud Lake school.  At seventeen, his education was completed, and he began to clear a parcel of land in the town of Macomb on the old state road, where the Washburn farm is now located.  The house was built in March, 1843. 


In December 1842 he married Percie Smith, daughter of Stephen Smith and on the fourth day of April, following, he moved to his newly constructed home on the shores of Hickory lake.


The Washburn farm was a typical English home.  Every necessity of life was raised or manufactured on the farm.  Everything was done on a large scale.  Grain and potatoes were raised by the thousands of bushels and sugar from the large bush was manufactured and sold by the barrel.  In connection with the farm, lime, potash, and black salts were manufactured.  The potash and black salts had a ready market in Montreal, and he often made trips down the river to the old French city.


In 1880, Mr. Washburn's wife died and a year later he married Calesta Hastings.  In 1882, he rented his farm and moved to Minnesota where he purchased a house and lot in the city of Fergus Falls, where he lived until 1906.  In June of that year, he sold his property in the west and came east to spend his declining years with his children.


During his life, Perry Washburn always stood for what was best.  His philosophy of life was simple, but pure, and the courage of his convictions was never lacking.  During his long and useful life, he was gifted with an extraordinary memory, and this faculty remained unimpaired up to the day of his death.  Scenes of his boyhood remained with him always with an astonishing vividness.  He was personally acquainted with many of the old Revolutionary soldiers, amongst whom was Solomon Gross, who at one time signed a note for him.  In his last few hours, the extraordinary strength of the man was brought forth.  He seemed to be an inspiration within himself.  Almost his last words were, "What is life?  It is character, a good name, and a clear conscience."  It was his philosophy of life.


Children of Perry Washburn and Persa Smith are:

                           i.    Henry D Washburn, born 1844; died 1863 in Washington DC.

                          ii.    Amy Jerusha Washburn, born October 16, 1844; died June 17, 1927Married Milton Truax.

                         iii.    Minerva Annette Washburn, born July 12, 1847; died 1874 in New York.  She married George Tann.

                          iv.    Polly Evaline Washburn, born 1851; died March 11, 1879 in New York.  She married Chauncy Tyler.

                           v.    Harriet O Washburn, born August 1853 in New York; died April 29, 1913 in New York.  She married Frederick Sterling.

                          vi.    Sylvia S Washburn, born June 1854 in New York.  Died September 15, 1931 at her home in Hammond, NY

                         vii.    Ruth S Washburn, born 1857 in New York.

                        viii.    Cynthia Washburn, born May 27, 1858; died September 11, 1923 in Mexico, Oswego County, NY.  She married Homer Hurlbut

                          ix.    Estella C Washburn, born February 1859; died November 11, 1917.  She married James Bayne.

                           x.    George Elmer Washburn, born 1861 in New York; died October 27, 1899 in Minnesota.  He married Cora Dell Claypoole