Perley's father was a prosperous farmer, and the Bartlett children were evidently raised in relative comfort in the large, two-story house at the edge of Northborough that his grandfather had built. The boys probably had a modest, local education, allowing them to at least read and write. Perley wasn't the oldest son, and apparently didn't learn a trade. Just down the street was the family of his first cousin, Antipas Bartlett. His daughter, whom he had known since they were about 12, became his wife. Married just short of 22, his future, and that of any family to come, was in farming. He chose not to stay in his home town - not surprising given that this was common in his generation across New England. Only his oldest brother Jonas, who inherited the family farm, and sister Martha Hastings stayed in town. Perley moved probably first to
Wendell, MA, about 1798, where he appears in the 1798 "Direct Tax" with a house and land, then to Deerfield, MA, by 1801. On 5 February of that year, Perley, "of Deerfield," bought land in Wilmington, VT from Eliphalet and Thomas Wells Dickinson, also of Deerfield. The property was 100 acres in "lot #3, second range of the 5th Division." Brother Joel followed Perley to Wilmington, then settled in Dover, next town to the north. Sisters Catherine and Elizabeth Clisbee also ended up in Vermont with their husbands, who were brothers.
Perley was a "a prominent farmer in the old school" about a mile-and-a-half north of the village.(1) That term, coming from a 1900 publication, may simply mean that it was before the age of agricultural machinery. The Bartlett house was probably the Cape Cod-style building that sits facing, and very close to, Deerfield River, just after Rt. 100 crosses it. It was later bought by industrialist John C. Newton for a summer property. It may have been Newton who had the larger, early 20th century house built next to the older house. The homestead property had 150 acres, but deed indeces are mute about when the extra 50 acres was purchased. Perley also had two other lots in Wilmington, including the 90 acre "Summit lot," but there is a deed for the 100 acre "Strickland lot" at the north edge of town bordering Somerset. That was bought from Joseph Guild in January 1814.
Perley served as a constable for Wilmington in 1818 and one of three selectmen in 1822 and 1823.(1.1) He apparently was a captain in the local militia.(1) Several years before his death, he represented Wilmington at the Vermont State Constitutional Convention of 1843. These positions are a testament to the thought that he attended school in Northborough and could conduct himself well among whatever rural elite there were in Wilmington.
Perley's estate papers include an inventory of his personal goods, farm equipment, animals and
real estate. His household goods were enough to indicate that he was prosperous at farming as his father and grandfather before him had been. When he built his little house isn't known, but it looks like an early 19th century building. It was a respectable house for a young farmer who had recently started a family in the Vermont woods. That it was never enlarged suggests he either couldn't until later in life, after most of his children had left home and the need was no longer there, or he simply didn't ever feel the need to. Either way, it was a very cozy environment for a family that reached 12 in 1814. Within the next 10 years, five of Perley and Lucy's children had left home, which would have eased the crowding, but the 1820 census suggests their son Lyman and his wife were living there after their recent marriage. They probably didn't stay there long. The estate papers also say that "Dr. Rockwell" was paid $7.00 for a "visit & advice." Circumstantial evidence leaves little doubt that this was William Hayden Rockwell, head of the Vermont Asylum for the Insane in Brattleboro. Perley must have suffered mental problems, perhaps delusions, shortly before his death. He is buried beside Lucy in the cemetery behind the
Congregational Church, now called "Restland."
The sale of the farm is not clear, but on 17 February 1846, Israel Lawton, administrator of Perley's estate, sold 24 acres of it to Carly Winchester. On 21 March 1848, Lucy sold her dower interest to Carly, who is listed in the 1850 census at a location that was very likely the former Bartlett farm. A list of Perley and Lucy's children with
the daughters’ married names is given in the probate record, and in lieu of birth and as yet, marriage records, has allowed the daughters to be identified. The family legend that muralist Edwin Austin Abbey and singer Jesse Bartlett Davis
were cousins is not accurate.
Perley died without a will. An inventory of his estate was taken on
27 August 1845:(2)
total personal value= $168.72
homestead of 150 acres=$4360.00
one out-lot, pasture and wood lands of 90 acres=$483.00
real value= $4754.54 (less than the sum total of the above lands)
The estate was to be divided equally between 10 heirs (his children), but
wife Lucy's 1/3 dower right is also outlined in the estate papers (see Lucy's biography). The latter describes her rights to part of a two-story house,
two rooms deep.
children of Perley and Lucy (Bartlett) Bartlett:
i. Curtis R., b. 7 January 1797 (Northborough, MA, vital records)
ii. Lyman, b. abt 1798 (twin?, b. Wendell?, MA)
iii. Hannah, b. abt 1798 (twin?, b. Wendell?, MA)
iv. Avery, b. abt. 1801 (Wilmington, VT)
v. Jonas b. 10 April 1803
vi. Lois, b. abt. 1805
vii. Lowell, b. abt. 1808
viii. Elmer b. abt. 1810
ix. Lucy, b. abt 1811
x. Perley, b. abt 1813