Thomas T. Perry
Thomas T. Perry was born March 12, 1853 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He came to San Antonio, Texas, as a young man, learning the craft of stone while masonry working for the Southern Pacific Railroad building bridges along the Pecos River—most notably, the Pecos "High Bridge". During this time, he married Mary Bond, taking her to their first home in a converted boxcar on the Spofford Junction siding in Kinney County. The couple moved to Santa Anna in 1890, when he worked building "The College"—Santa Anna's stone high school building. He worked on several stone structures on the Mahoney Ranch southwest of the town. A stone barn built on the Culverwell Ranch, now the McCaughn place, south of the town is still in daily use. During lulls in work or in the evenings, Perry created stone sculptures, such as headstones for graves, many of which were sold to Shipman and Izzard Monument Company in Brownwood. These were loaded on Santa Fe flatcars for shipment.
Perry did not work exclusively in Santa Anna. He built two of the stone buildings still standing in the Taylor County town of Tuscola, 40 miles to the northwest od Santa Anna. Perry was so thrifty he was loathe to spend the $4 for a ticket on the Santa Fe, so he walked to Santa Anna to see his family on weekends.
Perry gave up his craft to retire in 1931. He died June 17, 1943, leaving his wife Mary and five daughters: Ida Jones, Sadie Taylor, Floss Davis, Steward McHorse, and Ione Caton.
The Works of Thomas T. Perry
Pioneer builders made good use of this area's natural resources; many of the earliest buildings used limestone from the surrounding area for a sturdy building material. Some of these stone buildings still exist as fine examples of period architecture. Built between 1890-1910, the focal points of these unique buildings are the hand-carved finials atop the facades. The old Lone Star Gas building, now in Salado, boasts the most notable carvings. Nine stacked-ball finials, with the center set the tallest, distinguish this masterpiece. Both buildings' facades are embellished with arched windows of hand-carved vouisser stones, keystones, and jambs. The corbels support a dressed-stone frieze and two additional courses of stone, with the entire facade, topped by a stone cornice with hand-worked finials. It is the finials which set these structures apart. While the Salado structure has the stacked-ball finials, the building in Santa Anna has crest ornaments shaped like small arches.
In earlier years, the buildings now in Salado housed the offices of Lone Star Gas Company, Oscar Whitlow's barber shop, and finally, the local "domino hall", where the elder men of Santa Anna congregated. The stone building in Santa Anna now called "Sunnie's" was home to H.D. Speck's barber shop in the 1940's and 1950's and later to the Seventh Day Adventist clothing bank. Charles and Ellen West now retail antiques, Texas wines and other products from this singular example of the stone-masons' art and artistry.
According to Robert Robinett and Robert Smith, employees of the long-gone Santa Anna Silica Sand Plant, the "Santana Stone" was done in a stretch of caprock at the peak of the mountain behind the "old Riley House". As mining progressed, the stone was in danger of being dislodged and rolling downhill. H.L. Markland, plant owner, moved it to the front door of plant headquarters, where it rested until the mine closed in 1965. The buyers of the mining equipment wanted the stone, so it was loaded on a rail flatcar and moved to Guion, Arkansas, to the owners' front yard. There it sat, covered in English Ivy, which eroded the carving and discolored areas of its face.
In 1994, citizens who remembered the stone from childhood began searching for its whereabouts. It was tracked to Arkansas, where Mrs. Mertie Harris, wife of the original buyer, urged the current mine owners to let it return to its home. The Unimin Corporation agreed, so Montie Guthrie and Rod Musick drove to Guion and trucked the 4078 pound stone 650 miles home.
Was it carved by artist-in-stone Thomas P. Perry? Similarities to known works of Perry's can be seen. Work in the band of Santana's headdress resembles work in the kernels of the ears of corn on the "Harvest Stone." Lines of the feathers in the war bonnet are similar to lines across the top of the acorn. The shapes of some letters in Santana resemble the shapes and carving style of some of the numbers in the 1905 on the harvest piece. The reality is that no one living knows.
"The College", Santa Anna's first stone building, was begun in 1890, when Thomas T. Perry, stonemason, came to this area. The original two-story structure consisted of four room—two upstairs and two down. Paid for by "public subscription", the structure cost $4000 and used stone quarried from the Herndon place a few miles east of Santa Anna. This portion of the College was facing the mountains of Santa Anna, having five arched windows and a central arched door. A stepped parapet of stone extended above the rake of the front facade's gable. Small corner towers of quoin stones flanked the facade. At the peak sat a carved stone eagle with wings extended sitting atop a limestone ball.
In 1904 six rooms were added to accommodate the burgeoning population of area children. Replicating the north-facing facade, the newer, east-facing section was connected to the older section on the northeast by a round stone portico will hall above. The only difference in the stepped parapet facade was its lack of the stone eagle. A three-story bell tower rose at the junction of the two sections. With round stone orbs at each corner and a curved urn at the peak, this magnificent structure was overshadowed by nothing save Santa Anna's Peaks to its north.