Caesar Perkins

Caesar Perkins (1839–1910)

Caesar Perkins served two separate terms in the House of Delegates eighteen years apart (1869–1871, 1887–1888). Born enslaved, Perkins became a leader within Buckingham County's African American community after the American Civil War (1860–1865). In 1869 he won one of the locality's two seats in the General Assembly's lower house. Outside of politics Perkins purchased 628 acres in 1870, and later operated a general store and two ordinaries. He became an ordained Baptist minister by 1877. Perkins remained involved with public affairs, following most African American politicians into the short-lived Readjuster Party and then into the Republican Party. He won his second term in 1887, representing Brunswick and Caroline counties. He died in Richmond and was buried in Buckingham County. MORE...

 

Early Years and Education

Perkins was born into slavery in March 1839 in Buckingham County, and was the son of Joseph Mosely and Clarisse Mosely. Later accounts indicate that he chose to keep the last name of his former owner, William H. Perkins, who had been a member of the House of Delegates during the 1853–1854 session. The circumstances of when and how Perkins achieved his freedom are not known. About 1861 he married a woman named Susannah or Susan (surname unknown). They had two daughters.

In 1867 Perkins helped secure rations for freedpeople through the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, and later that year the local Freedmen's Bureau agent included Perkins on a list of prominent whites and blacks who were considered suitable for public office in Buckingham County. An advocate for educating former slaves, Perkins and other trustees of Fork Union Baptist Church purchased in 1868 a two-thirds-of-an-acre lot in Buckingham for the church and a school. Perkins eventually earned a divinity degree and was ordained a Baptist minister by 1877, when he was pastor at Zion Grove Baptist Church. He served several churches in the vicinity during the 1870s and 1880s and was treasurer of the Slate River Baptist Association late in 1880s. He continued to serve as a trustee of Fork Union into the twentieth century.

Political Career

Perkins's political career began on July 6, 1869, when he and James H. Noble defeated Conservative Party candidates by about 225 votes out of the 2,600 cast for each of Buckingham County's two seats in the House of Delegates. Across the state, however, the Conservative coalition was largely victorious, and in November 1869 Perkins attended a convention of Radical Republicans called to reorganize and strengthen the party. During the brief October session of the assembly Perkins voted in favor of Virginia's ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, required for readmission into the Union. When the General Assembly reconvened early in 1870, Perkins was appointed to serve on the Committee of Claims. He remained on the committee during the final session, which met from December 7, 1870, until March 31, 1871. On March 28 he voted with the majority in favor of a bill that provided for the payment of the antebellum state debt, which totaled more than $45 million. The Funding Act proved disastrous and was later regarded as one of the state's most ill-advised pieces of economic legislation.

On August 16, 1870, Perkins purchased for $1,675 the 628 acres in Buckingham County where he had been raising corn, oats, tobacco, and wheat on the farm he rented. In January 1873, however, he signed over his considerable amount of personal property to lien holders to secure the remainder of the purchase price. He also operated a store in Buckingham Court House and in June 1871 received a license to sell alcohol there. In 1872 he was licensed to keep two ordinaries in the county. Perkins was a supervisor for the Maysville township before resigning in October 1872 and was an assistant assessor for Buckingham later in the decade.

Perkins continued his political activity, attending the 1870 and 1872 Republican State Conventions and the 1872 Republican National Convention, in Philadelphia, that renominated Ulysses S. Grant as the party's candidate for president. In January 1873 the governor named Perkins one of the curators responsible for overseeing the recently established land-grant educational fund for Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). In August 1875 he attended a convention in Richmond of African Americans who had gathered to address the lack of economic opportunities in the state.

By 1880 Perkins supported the Readjusters, a biracial coalition that sought to reduce and refinance payments on the state's crippling public debt to fund public education and other services, and he was named a canvasser for the party's independent ticket that supported Democratic presidential nominee Winfield Scott Hancock. In 1881 Perkins attended the Readjuster State Convention in Richmond and served on the Committee on Credentials. Three years later the Readjusters formally merged with the Republican Party and Perkins was named to its state committee and as an alternate delegate from the Sixth Congressional District to the 1884 Republican National Convention, in Chicago.

In November 1887 Perkins was elected by a vote of 2,157 to 1,830 to a second term in the House of Delegates, representing Buckingham and Cumberland counties. During the single session that met from December 8, 1887 until March 5, 1888, he sat on the Committee on Labor and the Poor and the Committee on Manufactures and Mechanic Arts. He voted to direct Virginia's congressional delegation to support repealing the internal revenue taxation system, or at least repealing taxes on tobacco and distilled spirits. Perkins supported appropriating funds for improvements at the State Female Normal School (later Longwood University), in Farmville, and at the Central Lunatic Asylum (later Central State Hospital), for African Americans. During the winter he attended a Republican meeting that organized a state chapter of the Republican League, which directed local chapters in an effort to advance the party's platform and elect more candidates to state and local offices.

Following his second term, Perkins remained involved in Republican Party affairs. He attended state conventions in 1888 and 1892, sitting on the Committee on Credentials on each occasion. In 1888 he was elected a delegate to the Republican National Convention, in Chicago, but disagreements about the party's leadership led to the seating of an alternate delegation from Virginia. Perkins generally supported former U.S. senator William Mahone, who had led the Readjuster Party and had become a Republican Party leader, but he opposed Mahone's proposal not to field any Republican candidates in the 1894 congressional election in response to the General Assembly's passage of the Walton Act, which served to disfranchise many African American and white Republican voters. As a member of the party's state committee Perkins attended the contentious meeting at which a new state chairman was chosen after Mahone's death in 1895.

Later Years

By 1891 Perkins had moved to Clifton Forge, where he acquired property and operated a brickyard for the nearby Iron Gate Land and Improvement Company. He suffered financial difficulties and his property was sold at public auction in 1896. While living in Clifton Forge, Perkins helped establish Second Baptist Church (later Main Street Baptist Church), of which he was pastor, and facilitated the transfer of property to the church in 1897. He later returned to Buckingham County, where he farmed on land he owned there. In February 1897 Perkins and his daughter sold a storehouse and a half-acre lot in Maysville for $600.

At the Tenth District Republican Convention held in Staunton in 1898, he supported Robert T. Hubard as the congressional candidate. Newspaper reports charged that Hubard and Perkins conspired to pay $5.00 and travel expenses to African American delegates for their votes for Hubard. The accusations did not stop Perkins from supporting Hubard again in his unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1900. At a Republican meeting in Buckingham two years later, Perkins spoke about the recently passed Constitution of 1902, which severely restricted African American voting. The Richmond Dispatch reported that Perkins favored the constitution because he believed it could reduce fraud. He also urged black men to acquire enough property to be eligible for voting, believing that honest registrars would qualify anyone, regardless of race, who achieved the criteria established by the new constitution.

On March 9, 1896, Perkins's wife died following a brief illness. On December 14, 1899, he married Lucy J. Claiborne, a widow, in Richmond. Perkins joined the Colored Knights of Pythias, a fraternal and benevolent association for African Americans, and in November 1904 he helped establish a chapter in Buckingham. He later became the District Deputy Grand Chancellor for the county and organized additional lodges there. He donated a house and lot to the Maysville school district in August 1910.

On September 22, 1910, Perkins died of heart disease at a Richmond residence after a lengthy illness. He was buried on his property near Dillwyn, in Buckingham County.

Time Line

  • March 1839 - Caesar Perkins is born enslaved in Buckingham County, and is the son of Joseph Mosely and Clarisse Mosely.
  • About 1861 - Caesar Perkins marries a woman named Susannah or Susan (surname unknown). They will have two daughters.
  • 1868 - Caesar Perkins and other trustees of Fork Union Baptist Church purchase a two-thirds-of-an-acre lot in Buckingham for the church and a school.
  • July 6, 1869 - Caesar Perkins and James H. Noble defeat Conservative Party candidates by about 225 votes out of the 2,600 cast for each of Buckingham County's two seats in the House of Delegates.
  • October 8, 1869 - Both houses of the General Assembly of Virginia ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
  • November 1869 - Caesar Perkins attends a convention of Radical Republicans called to reorganize and strengthen the party in the face of Conservative victories in recent elections.
  • Early 1870–March 31, 1871 - Caesar Perkins is appointed to serve on the Committee of Claims in the General Assembly, where he remains during the final session.
  • August 16, 1870 - Caesar Perkins purchases for $1,675 the 628 acres in Buckingham County, where he has been raising corn, oats, tobacco, and wheat on the farm he rents.
  • Late 1870s - Caesar Perkins serves as assistant assessor for Buckingham County.
  • March 28, 1871 - Caesar Perkins votes with the majority of the General Assembly in favor of the Funding Act, a bill that provides for the payment of the antebellum state debt, which totals more than $45 million.
  • June 1871–October 1872 - Caesar Perkins operates two ordinaries in Buckingham County, and serves as supervisor for the Maysville township.
  • January 1873 - The governor names Caesar Perkins as one of the curators responsible for overseeing the recently established land-grant educational fund for Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University).
  • August 1875 - Caesar Perkins attends a convention in Richmond of African Americans gathering to address the lack of economic opportunities in the state.
  • By 1877 - Caesar Perkins earns a divinity degree and is ordained a Baptist minister while serving as pastor at Zion Grove Baptist Church.
  • By 1880 - Caesar Perkins supports the Readjusters and is named a canvasser for the party's independent ticket supporting the Democratic presidential nominee Winfield Scott Hancock.
  • Late 1880s - Caesar Perkins serves as treasurer of the Slate River Baptist Association.
  • 1881 - Caesar Perkins attends the Readjuster State Convention in Richmond and serves on the Committee on Credentials.
  • 1884 - Caesar Perkins is named to the Republican state committee and as an alternate delegate from the Sixth Congressional District to the 1884 Republican National Convention, in Chicago.
  • Winter 1887–1888 - Caesar Perkins attends a Republican meeting that organizes a state chapter of the Republican League, which directs local chapters in an effort to advance the party's platform and elect more candidates to state and local offices.
  • November 1887 - Caesar Perkins wins election to a second term in the House of Delegates by a vote of 2,157 to 1,830, representing Buckingham and Cumberland counties.
  • December 8, 1887–March 5, 1888 - Caesar Perkins serves on the House of Delegates Committee on Labor and the Poor and the Committee on Manufactures and Mechanic Arts.
  • 1888 - Caesar Perkins attends the Republican Party state convention.
  • 1888 - Caesar Perkins is elected to the Republican National Convention but disagreements lead to an alternate delegation.
  • By 1891 - Caesar Perkins lives in Clifton Forge, where he acquires property and operates a brickyard for the nearby Iron Gate Land and Improvement Company.
  • 1892 - Caesar Perkins attends Republican Party state convention.
  • 1896 - Caesar Perkins suffers financial difficulties and his property is sold at public auction.
  • March 9, 1896 - Susannah or Susan Perkins, the wife of Caesar Perkins, dies following a brief illness.
  • 1897 - Caesar Perkins helps establish Second Baptist Church (later Main Street Baptist Church), of which he is pastor, and facilitates the transfer of property to the church.
  • February 1897 - Caesar Perkins and his daughter sell a storehouse and a half-acre lot in Maysville for $600.
  • 1898 - At the Tenth District Republican Convention, held in Staunton, Caesar Perkins supports Robert T. Hubard as the congressional candidate and later faces charges of bribing voters.
  • December 14, 1899 - Caesar Perkins and Lucy J. Claiborne, a widow, marry in Richmond.
  • 1900 - Caesar Perkins again supports Robert T. Hubard in his unsuccessful bid for Congress.
  • 1902 - Caesar Perkins supports the Constitution of 1902 at a Republican meeting, arguing that it could reduce fraud.
  • November 1904 - Caesar Perkins establishes a Buckingham Country chapter of the Colored Knights of Pythias, a fraternal and benevolent association for African Americans.
  • August 1910 - Caesar Perkins donates a house and lot to the Maysville school district.
  • September 22, 1910 - Caesar Perkins dies of heart disease at a Richmond residence after a lengthy illness. He is buried on his property near Dillwyn, in Buckingham County.

References

Further Reading
Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Virginia: Guide Quality Press, 1945.
Lowe, Richard. Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856–70. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991.
Moore, James Tice. Two Paths to the New South: The Virginia Debt Controversy, 1870–1883. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Robinette, D. L., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Caesar Perkins (1839–1910). (2015, January 9). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Perkins_Caesar_1839-1910.

  • MLA Citation:

    Robinette, Dustin Landon and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Caesar Perkins (1839–1910)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 9 Jan. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: January 7, 2015 | Last modified: January 9, 2015


Contributed by Dustin Landon Robinette and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography