Written by Anna White
In Southie we are blessed to have have four Boston Public Elementary Schools right in our neighborhood. The Condon, the Perkins, the Perry and the Tynan are all here and we probably walk or drive by at least one of them daily. These schools are all named after real people and this summer, here on Caught in Southie, we’ll be examining who these people were. Who knows maybe it’ll help you in bar trivia this summer (seriously if it helps you win, we want a cut!)?!
Our second school this summer, is the Oliver Hazard Perry K-8, which in the 2016-2017 school year was the home to 230 students.
Oliver Hazard Perry had an interesting, heroic, yet tragic, life which makes him perfect for South Boston. He was a war hero who got into at least one fight with repercussions and died tragically.
Perry was born in Rhode Island in 1785.
Perry became a midshipman in the Navy at the age of 13
Perry was a war hero in the War of 1812 when he defeated a British squadron of ships
in the Battle of Lake Erie
In a letter he wrote after the victory to William Henry Harrison, he composed the famous line, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
After the Battle, Perry was made a Captain and received a Congressional Gold Medal and the thanks of Congress.
Perry has an odd, sordid connection to our hottest (thanks Lin-Manuel Miranda!) founding father, Alexander Hamilton. After being made a captain, Perry commanded a ship called the Java. The Java was sent to the Mediterranean to fight pirates (exciting!) while there SOMETHING happened and Perry slapped the Java’s Marine officer, John Heath. Perry and Heath were both court-martialed and found guilty, but they received only mild reprimands. After the Java returned the US, Heath challenged Perry to a duel. The duel was fought on October 19, 1817 on the same field where Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Heath fired first from four paces but he missed Perry; “honor” was satisfied when Perry refused to pull the trigger (the 1800s were WEIRD, man).
While on a mission to Venezuela, Perry contracted Yellow Fever and died on his 34th birthday. TRAGIC!!!!
Any Perry alumni out there? What do they teach you about your school’s namesake? The Perry was built in 1904, almost a century after Perry’s most famous victory. Many schools, towns and roads are named after Oliver Hazard Perry here in the US, because without him, and his victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, American history might have turned out quite differently.