Madison S. Perry was the youngest child born to Benjamin and Mary (nee Starke) Petty in 1814 in Lancaster County, South Carolina. While attending South Carolina College, now known as the University of South Carolina, he was a member of the Euphradian Society a literary society also known as Phi Alpha Epsilon. After college, he married Marth Peay and they had two children. A son Sargent Major Madison Starke Perry, Jr. and a daughter Sarah J. “Sallie” Perry.
After he moved to Florida at the age of 31 in 1845, he founded the village of Rochelle in Alachua County. There he acquired a plantation that grew cotton and became a leader among the planters of Alachua County. In 1849, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, and the following year was elected to the Florida State Senate.
Nine years later in 1856, Perry ran for governor, was elected, and took office on October 5, 1857. Georgia and Florida had been in a long dispute over state boundaries and he helped bring a settlement between the two. It was also during this period that he encouraged the building of railways throughout the state.
In the buildup before the Civil War, Perry foresaw the possibility that Florida might secede from the Union and reestablished the state’s militia. On January 10, 1861, Florida did secede from the Union for three years. It was at this time he called for the evacuation of all federal troops from Florida, with the intent to replace them with the militia.
Perry’s term ended as governor on October 7, 1861, at which time he became a colonel in the 7th Florida Infantry Regiment. Due to an illness and was forced to resign on April 30, 1863. After his retirement from the military, he returned to his plantation where he died two years later, at the at of 50.
The city of Perry, Florida was originally known as Rosehead, but in 1875 it was changed to Perrytown, and later they dropped “town” in his honor.
The author of the photograph is unknown, as is part of the public domain.