GOVERNOR PERHAM is, in the truest and best sense, a self-made man, and this brief
story of his life is both interesting and instructive. He was born in Woodstock, Oxford County, Me., March 31,
1819. His father was Joel Perham, born in Paris, Me., in 1797, and the son of Lemuel Perham, born in Upton, Mass.,
in 1760. His mother was Sophronia, born in Paris, Me., in iSox, daughter of Rowse Bisbee, son of Calvin, who was
a descendant of Thomas Bisbee, who came from England and landed in Scituate Harbor Ifl 1634. He married Almena
J., daughter of Lazeras Hathaway of Paris.
His education was obtained in the district school with one term in Gould’s Academy, Bethel. At about nineteen he
commenced teaching winters, working on the farm summers. He continued in this way fifteen years. He also took an
active part in the Teachers’ Institutes and Educational Conventions. For several years he has been President of
the Board of Trustees of Westbrook Seminary.
When twenty-one years of age he purchased, of his father, the old homestead farm on which he had lived from the
time he was four years old; and for about twenty years he carried on a large farming business, keeping from two
hundred and fifty to five hundred sheep. In 1853 and 1854 he was a member of the Board of Agriculture, being twice
elected. He has given numerous addresses upon the subject of Agriculture.
He early became interested in temperance, taking part in the organization of the first temperance society in the
town, and giving frequent addresses -a practice which he still continues. In 1857 he spoke in two hundred towns,
urging the re-enactment of the repealed prohibitory law. He has been at the head of the Sons of Temperance and
Good Templars in the State, and often a Representative in the National organizations of both these orders. He has
also delivered lectures on other subjects, notably on “Success” and “The American Citizen,” and his lectures were
always well received.
In religious faith be has, since he was nineteen years of age, been a Universalist. While liberal to other denominations,
he is earnestly devoted to the work of his own church. He has often been President of the Universalist State Convention,
and of the National Convention. For twenty-two years he has been one of the Trustees of the General Convention,
and part of the time President of the Board.
He was elected Selectman of Woodstock when he was twenty-two, and served the town in various offices until other
duties prevented. In politics he was a Democrat until 1853, when he voted for Anson P. Morrill for Governor, and
subsequently took an active part in the organization of the Republican party, with which he has since been connected.
In 1854 he was elected to the Legislature, and, at the opening of the session, was elected Speaker, the first instance
in the State in which a person having no Legislative experience had been elected to that office. In 1856 he was
a Presidental Elector, and, with his associates, gave the vote of the State for John C. Fremont. In 1858 he was
elected Clerk of the Supreme Court for Oxford County, and re-elected in 1861. He resigned in January, 1863, having
served four years.
In 1862 be was elected a member of Congress, for the Second Maine District, by about twenty-five hundred majority,
and re-elected in 1864 and in i866, by increased majorities. During his term of service in Congress he was a member
of the Pension Committee, being chairman the last four years. The duties of this Committee involved a large amount
of labor, as the increase of claims created by the war made it necessary to reorganize the Pension Bureau on a
broader basis. Reconstruction of the States was one of the leading questions in Congress during a part of Mr. Perham’s
term of service. On this and other subjects growing out of the war, he made several elaborate speeches which attracted
the attention of the people at the time. March 2, 1868, he delivered a speech on the “Impeachment of the President,”
in which he arraigned President Johnson for numerous violations of the Constitution and Laws. March 21, 1868, he
made a speech on “Relief from Taxation and the National Finances,” which was regarded as a very able effort. In
Congress Mr. Perham was always at his post of duty, whether in the committee room or on the floor of the House.
He was untiring in his attention to the soldiers, and was regarded by them as a firm friend.
In 1870 Mr. Perbam was elected Governor of Maine and was twice re-elected by increased majorities— serving in 1871,
1872, and 1873. Governor Perham advocated reform in the jail system so as to provide for the employment of the
prisoners in some industrial pursuit; an Industrial School for Girls; the establishment of Free High Schools, and
biennial elections and sessions of the Legislature. The first three of these measures were adopted during his administration,
the last later on.
He has been President of the Board of Trustee of the Industrial School from the time it went into operation. In
1877 he was appointed Appraiser for the Port of Portland, and held the office for eight years, when he resigned.
In 1891 he served on a Commission, appointed by President Harrison, to select a site for a dry dock on the waters
of the Gulf of Mexico. For the last seven years he has, with his family, resided in Washington, D. C., in the winter,
still retaining his summer residence at Paris Hill.