From the day he was born, Levi Perryman’s life was never easy. On March 29, 1839, Levi entered this world, on the same day his mother, Elizabeth Farmer Perryman, left her earthly home. Less than nine months later, his father, Alex G Perryman was called to heaven as well, leaving Levi an orphan before the age of one.
His father’s brother, Jack Perryman, took Levi into his home and raised him as his own. Uncle Jack taught young Levi all the things a boy needed to know to become a man on the Texas Frontier. Levi attended school in Paris, Texas for a few short months, but the call of the wild west was too strong not to answer. In 1859, he decided to head west where land was plentiful and fertile. He chose Montague County as his home, building a modest log cabin near Forestburg.
His Uncle Jack proposed a business venture, a cattle raising 50-50 partnership. Jack followed Levi to Montague County with a hundred head of cattle. Under an oak tree, on the acreage Levi called home three miles west of Forestburg, his uncle presented him with “fifty head of cattle, a saddle horse equipped and a ten-dollar gold piece and said to him, “Now my son, root hog or die.”” The partnership worked well for both men until the War Between the States encroached on the business venture.
Levi joined the Confederate Army at Gainesville, Texas in Captain Gilbert’s company. He also served in Marshall’s squadron and Company I, 31st Texas Dismounted Cavalry. He participated in the Battles of Prairie Grove, Pleasant Hill and Mansfield. According to B B Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co, 1906) Vol 1 pp 701-704, “In the spring of 1865, he was ordered to report at Galveston, but at Houston, he applied for and received a furlough home and before he reached his destination Lee had surrendered and the war was over. During those three years of army life, no Yankee prison cell knew him and no federal bullet ever bruised his body. No absence without leave and no hospital record were charged against him. Mr Perryman was ever subject to duty’s call.”
Upon returning home after the war, he returned to his ranching endeavors with his uncle Jack. In 1866, he married Mrs Josephine (Milam) Price, widow of Pleasant Price. The new Mrs Perryman had a son, Pleas Milam, from her first marriage. Together Levi and Josephine had eight children. These children were Napoleon, William J, Elbert, Kate, Lennie, Charley, Sarah and Bob. Both Charley and Sarah died as infants and Napoleon died as a young child. Josephine died in 1884, leaving Levi with a houseful of young mouths to feed. He employed a gentleman named Pedro Videll to help tend to the children and home.
His cattle business was very successful. He managed to acquire about twenty five hundred acres of land in Montague County. Levi was well-respected in the Forestburg community and when the town was in need of a sheriff, Levi accepted the role. He was sheriff from 1873-1878. After his first term, he had no intention of running again. The townspeople got together a petition urging his re-election. He accepted, and served a second term in office. During his tenure as sheriff, he had several run ins with the ever-present outlaws that disrupted the Texas Frontier. He accompanied many criminals from the Montague County jail cells to their new home at the State Penitentiary in Huntsville. The Paddock book states, “His heavy and avenging hand was laid on Wild Bill McPherson and it brought Bob Simmons back from Kansas and lodged him in prison and it reached out after Ike Stowe and made him suffer for his crimes.”
While widely known through north central Texas as a soldier, rancher and lawman, his greatest claim to fame was his prowess as an Indian fighter. He was engaged in dozens of encounters with the raiding tribes that reeked havoc along the mighty Red River. Later in his life he wrote his first hand recollections of these Indian fights. In 1987, the Montague County Historical Commission received permission from Levi’s heirs to publish these accounts. A copy can be obtained from the Montague County Historical Commission or at the Tales N Trails Museum.
Levi purchased the cemetery that was used by the families in and around the Forestburg area in 1883. He deeded the cemetery to the county. The Perryman Cemetery is located 1.5 miles from Forestburg on FM 455. The Texas Historical Commission erected a marker that states, “The first marked grave in this burial ground is that of an infant who died in 1862. Other burials include those of a Mr Jones, a well-digger, killed by Indians in 1863 and Dory Booher and Ben Steadham former Confederate soldiers who had been captured at Lookout Mountain, Tenn. during the Civil War. In 1883, the cemetery was purchased by Levi Perryman (1839-1921) and deeded to Montague County. A Forestburg community leader, Perryman had been a Confederate soldier and Indian fighter and sheriff. Still used, this cemetery serves as a reminder of the area’s pioneers.” There are twenty-nine Perryman graves in the cemetery, all related in some fashion to Levi.
Levi was involved in many community affairs. He was a founding member of the Forestburg Methodist Church. He was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge in Saint Jo and later a member of the Masonic Lodge in Forestburg and Gainesville.
Levi Perryman died 22 March 1921, just a few short days before his 82nd birthday. He is buried in the cemetery that bears his name. An area newspaper, The Bowie Blade, printed a very fitting obituary.
“Levi Perryman, aged 82, died at this home two miles west of Forestburg March 22, 1921 and was buried at the Old Perryman Cemetery at Forestburg Wednesday afternoon, March 23, the Masonic lodge of Forestburg, assisted by the Methodist pastor, conducting the services. Mr Perryman was one of the rugged pioneers of the county who came here when the west was young and who blazed the way for civilization. He was born in Lamar County, March 29, 1839 and was left an orphan when only a few months old, and was raised by an uncle, Jack Perryman. In 1859, he moved to Montague County and settled on the place where he died. In 1866, he was married to Mrs Josephine Price and of this union, three children are now living. E W Perryman, ex-county sherrif, Mrs H Caldwell of Denton, and Mrs Ed Stallworth of Forestburg. Mr Perryman was elected sheriff of Montague County in 1873 and served one term, in 1878 he was petitioned to run again for sheriff and was elected a second term. It is stated he made an enviable record as an officer and run to earth many horse thieves, a class of criminals that he hated worse than any other. He was an old Confederate veteran, and a life long member of the Methodist Church.”