Carlotta Perry

Carlotta Perry, PoetCarlotta Perry grew to be a well-known, popular poet, published in the leading magazines of the day including Harper’s, Lippincott’s, and Scribner’s. Her verse was quoted by elocutionists and newspapermen and she was a popular speaker herself. She was a journalist, children’s author, and respected career woman. Admirers wrote to her from all over the country to obtain her autograph and she was identified with the Milwaukee School of Poetry and “western poets” in numerous newspapers and literary reviews. Yet when she died in 1914, having written nary a word for the last 14 years of her life, her funeral cortege from Chicago to Watertown was described in a memorial sketch thusly:

“It was on a stormy March day in the spring of 1914 that one of the touchingly pathetic sights of life was witnessed in the cemetery of the pretty little city of Watertown, Wisconsin.

Awaiting the train from the City of Chicago stood a hearse and a single carriage. From the train a gentleman and a veiled lady emerged who waited and watched while a coffin, covered with flowers and so small that it might have been that of a young girl, was reverently carried and placed in its sable receptacle. The small funeral cortege wound its way through the storm to the quiet cemetery on the hill, and there in a grave already prepared in one of the oldest family burial lots, was deposited the slight form of one whose name should and will live as one of the sweetest and most musical of America’s minor poets — Carlotta Perry.”

After the tragic deaths of her father and grandmother, Carlotta (a popular nick name for Charlotte), her sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth, and her mother, Louisa, continued to live in their home on Jefferson and Second Streets in Watertown. In 1866 an ad for day boarders ran in the Watertown Democrat. “A few gentlemen can be accommodated with Day Board at corner of Second and Jefferson Streets. Mrs. LM Perry.”

Carlotta also became active in supporting the family. In 1858 at 19, the fall term of the Public Schools of the City of Watertown has Miss Charlotte A. Perry listed as Assistant to the Principal of the Intermediate School, East Side of the River. Her sisters, Elizabeth and Caroline, both married, but Carlotta never did. Caroline, who was 7 years older than Carlotta, married George W. Perry. It’s not known if George was part of the same Perry family, but a GW Perry is listed as a cooper on the southeast corner of Eighth and Western Avenue in Watertown in 1866.

In her memorial to Carlotta, Helen Ekin Starrett says that Carlotta’s father was of Quaker descent. A search of early church records in Watertown shows that the family eventually became involved in the First Congregational Church there. It is recorded that Louisa M Perry, Carlotta’s mother, said a Profession of Faith in 1853. George and Caroline had a child, Charles Dana, baptized there in 1859, and at 21 years of age in 1860, Charlotte Augusta was baptized and took a Profession of Faith by Rev. C. Boynton.

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