Madison Starke Perry was Florida’s fourth Governor. Born in Lancaster County, SC, Mr. Perry moved to Alachua County and became a prosperous plantation owner. His plantation was located about six miles east of Gainesville, in the area of present-day Rochelle. The community of Rochelle was located directly on the Railroad and old Stagecoach lines, and was the hub of business activity. Mr. Perry’s farm was also on the site of the first civilian fort in Florida during the Indian Wars.
Mr. Perry was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1849, and to the Florida Senate in 1850. Gaining a wide reputation as an orator, Mr. Perry, a Democrat, was elected fourth governor of Florida, serving from 1857 to 1861.
Major developments occurred during Mr. Perry’s term. The Florida Railroad was completed from Fernandina to Cedar Key, the border dispute was settled with Georgia, and the expansion of slavery in Florida brought related unrest.
Governor Perry called for the expansion of the Florida Militia and the expansion of military resources in response to the slavery issue. As the Presidential election of 1860 neared, Governor Perry warned that secession might be Florida’s only option, should the Republican Party be victorious. Governor Perry recommended that a convention be called to consider secession, and on January 10, 1861, the Convention adopted the Ordinance of Secession.
Governor Perry quickly ordered the evacuation of all U.S. Troops from Florida military installations, and be replaced by state militia troops. At the expiration of his Gubernatorial term in October, 1861, Mr. Perry joined the Confederate Army and was soon elected colonel of the Seventh Regiment of the Florida infantry.
Due to illness, Mr. Perry was forced to resign his post, and returned to his plantation in 1863, where he died in 1865. Mr. Perry is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery along with his wife Martha Starke Perry, a daughter, Sally Perry, and a son Madison Starke Perry Jr., also a Confederate veteran. The land for Oak Ridge Cemetery was personally set-aside for the community by Mr. Perry in 1854.