The Founding of the Town of Perry
The Town of Perry was established in 1814 from part of the Town of Leicester (now in Livingston County). Parts of the town were removed later to form new towns.
The lore of this highland country that is known as Perry, New York, has enticed many individuals to become addicted to the land. History records how the men who came into this region during the Revolutionary War couldn't wait to return and take up residence. The soldiers had contributed to the soldier's desire to return to what they considered Eden.
The signing of the Big Tree Treaty with the Iroquois nation at Geneseo in 1797, gave the signal that land was now available for the masses of settlers who came here from New England. This treaty led to the developer's purchases of the lands west of the Genesee River. It was the land speculators who sold the land to the settlers traveling through the forests with their stone bolts and oxen, carrying whatever possessions they could carry on them.
The first known white settler to arrive in the land that came to be known as Perry, was John Woodward. According to legend, he stayed only two years and then disappeared into obscurity. 1809 saw Samuel Gates, who is recognized as the first permanent resident. He cleared the land on a site overlooking Silver Lake, raised the first wheat crop and planted the first orchard. The first white child to be born in Perry was his daughter, Nancy Gates. On early maps of the area, Silver Lake was known as Little Lake.
The name of the village and the town did not become Perry until after the War of 1812. According to Frank Roberts, a noted historian, Perry town was originally called Slabtown, Shacksberg, Beechville, Columbia and Ninevah. These names were reflective of the status of the village having five names in as many years by the original settlers. The name change to Perry originated when the postal authorities decided there were too many Ninevahs in New York State.
There is little written to tell us of the town meetings and the decision of making General Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of the Battle of Lake Erie, the namesake of what became a thriving mill community on the banks of Silver Lake Outlet. These mill sites are now immortalized with boulders giving the past history and can be seen with a walking tour of the village.
The Town of Perry is located on a plateau that overlooks both the Genesee Valley and the Oatka Valley. To the east of Perry lies Letchworth State Park, "The Grand Canyon of the East." To the south is Silver Lake, with its clear waters, boating, fishing, campgrounds, boat marinas, swimming beaches and the Pioneer Cabin. The location of Perry provides beautiful scenery that includes fields of grain and corn, beans, soybeans, alfalfa, and other produce. Citizens will tell you with pride that there is a larger population of cows than of people. The Town of Perry is home to some of the most productive farms found in the state of New York. Large barns, housing 700 or more milking cows, provide a very productive industry to this area. Perry is a Right to Farm community.
Arts Council and Public Library
The Wyoming County Council of the Arts is located in the Business District. Perry provides much of the backing for the county’s cultural events. Music, plays, historic interpretations, and other programs blend into the Perry scene. The Perry Public Library was built in 1914 with funds provided by the Carnegie Foundation. The Library has a large collection of reading materials, tapes, computers, and archives for a large collection of Perry history. The Art Gallery connected with the library features the works of Lemuel and Irving Wiles, noted late 19th century artists. The exhibit is open to the public and the focus of many interested national art museums. The Library is also located on the first known cemetery in Perry. The remains of the first permanent resident(s) of Perry are believed to be located on the Library property.
Perry Central School District Alumni Association
The Perry Central School district has the longest surviving Alumni Association in the country. Every year the Alumni Banquet welcomes the recent graduates into the Alumni Association and honors the history of past graduates.