SOURCE: History of Greene County, Ohio: its people, industries and institutions; (1918)By: Michael A. Broadstone.
The Rev. Thomas Perkins, of Wilberforce, a retired minister of the African Methodist Episcopal church and the owner of a large plantation in the state of Mississippi, is a striking living example of the amazing accomplishments of the Negro race since the days of emancipation. Born a slave, he was eighteen years of age when by that divinely-directed stroke of the immortal Lincoln's pen he became a freeman. Slavish servitude, however, had not crushed within him that strong native sense of industry that later was to bring him so large a measure of success, nor had his instinctive aspirations for something beyond such servitude been stifled thereby. Exercising a sense of proportion and a keenness of judgment that can not be commended to highly, he remained on the plantation on which he was born, a rich Mississippi cotton plantation of nearly one thousand acres; saved the greater part of such wages as came to him after he became "his own man", improved such opportunities as he could seize in the way of education and mental development, applied his native common sense to the task in hand and in time became the owner of the plantation on which he had labored as a slave. In the meantime, in the pursuit of the material things of life, he had not been neglecting the cultivation of the spiritual side of his nature, and after a powerful conversion turned his attention to the spread of the gospel message, in due time was ordained a minister of his church and became the presiding elder of his district. Upon his retirement from his plantation he came North, joined the Wilberforce settlement, erected there a comfortable residence and has since been living there, very properly possessed of a sense of accomplishment that might profitably to the race be set out in a much more ample tale than the limitations of this brief biographical sketch will permit.
Thomas Perkins was born on a plantation in Leflore Co., Mississippi, Nov. 15th, 1845, son of Rufus and Isabella Perkins, who were slaves on adjoining plantations in that county and who continued to make their home there after emancipation. Rufus Perkins lived to be seventy years of age. His widow survived him until 1902, she being eighty years of age at the time of her death. She was the mother of eight children, seven sons and one daughter, of whom but two are now living, the Rev. Thomas Perkins having a half-brother, John Robinson, who is still living in Leflore county, Mississippi. When Lincoln's emancipation proclamation freed the slaves Thomas Perkins was a husky young slave boy on the plantation on which his mother was held. He had practically no opportunity to acquire a knowledge of letters, such lessons as he had received along those lines having been but occasional Sunday lessons delivered to the youngsters on the plantation by one of the kind-hearted woman in the "big house", but from the days of his early youth, he had felt a longing for that form of learning that comes out of books and after emancipation he and some of the other young folks of his race in the neighborhood formed a group, employed a teacher and set up an "independent" school in which he was able to advance somewhat farther than the knowledge of the mere rudiments of learning and his mind was thus opened to the possibilities of self-study which he later improved to the great advantage of himself as well as to the advantage of those with whom he came in close personal touch. Upon his release from bondage he received for his labor the sum of fifty cents a day, paid by the owner of the nine-hundred acre cotton plantation, but so simple were his needs that he was able to save the greater part of even his meager wage. He married when twenty-one years of age and after that his wife helped him save. It was his custom to have his employer reserve his wages until the end of the year, when he would receive the pay for his year of toil in a lump sum. Before his marriage he made an old tool chest his bank, there being no bank within sixty miles of the place, but after his marriage he found his wife's "bustle" a safe and ample receptacle for his accumulating wealth. After a while he branched out on his own account and sub-rented a portion of the plantation oh which he had been employed. His industry and excellent methods of farming produced their rewards and as he prospered he extended his operations, still successfully, until in 1892 he was enabled to buy the whole of the plantation of nine hundred acres on which he had so long labored, and six hundred acres of which he still owns, having sold three hundred acres of his place upon his removal to Wilberforce. In 1885 he was converted at a revival meeting being held in the African Methodist Episcopal church in the neighborhood of his home and felt a powerful call to turn his talents in the direction of the ministry of his church. He presently was admitted to the conference and for two years served as an itinerant preacher, this service proving so acceptable to the conference that he was ordained and not long afterward was made presiding elder of his district, in the meantime, however, continuing to carry on his farming operations. After a while his health began to fail and he was advised to come North. In 1897 he arranged his affairs in Mississippi so that he could leave his big farm in charge of a responsible tenant and moved to Wilberforce, the fame of which active center of race education had long been dear to him, and there has ever since made his home. In 1899 he erected there the twelve room house in which he and his family reside. He owns a tract of seven acres surrounding the house and there enjoys comforts and advantages that he hardly could have even dreamed of in the days of his boyhood when a slave down on a Mississippi cotton plantation. Though long retired from the active ministry he continues to take an interest in church work and is a member of the board of stewards of Holy Trinity church at Wilberforce. Politically he is a Republican.
The Rev. Thomas Perkins has been twice married. In 1866 he was married to Lulu Fisher, who was born in a county adjoining that in which he was born in Mississippi, and to that union were born eleven children, those living being, Alice Perkins, wife of L. Baker, superintendent of construction of United States government buildings; first colored man to have that place, now stationed in Detroit, Michigan; Lizzie Perkins, wife of Fred McGinnis, instructor in printing in Wilberforce University; Eliza Perkins, wife of Gilbert Allen, of Wilberforce, the two making their home with Mrs. Allen's father, and Bryan Perkins, who is married and lives at Centralia, Illinois, where he is engaged in the railroad shops. The mother of these children died in 1897, and on March 2nd, 1909, Reverend Perkins married Ella Irving, who was born in Kentucky.
*NOTE* I am not related to this family and I have no further information to add. The source of where this information was obtained from is listed at the top of this page.
Denise Perkins Ready