July 6, 1996
Martin Piel is another who remembers the hanging of Henry Armstrong in 1909 on a gallows in the Noble county courthouse park. He saw the execution, as a school-age youngster, but as he recalls the story Mr. Armstrong was buried in an unmarked grave near the southeast corner of Grace Hill cemetery. Newspaper accounts of the day said the burial was in the local Catholic cemetery.
Mr. Piel has other vivid memories of early day Perry. He wonders how many people remember when Perry had not even one square foot of paved streets. "I remember when it rained so long for a spell that the corner of Sixth and Delaware was one big mud hole, a lob-lolly. In his own words, here are a few more of Mr. Piel's interesting recollections
"Who remembers Perry's first fire station? It was located where the Dollar General Store is now located (on Seventh street just off the northwest corner of the square). Perry had the most beautiful team of horses that pulled the fire wagon. When not needed for that, they had the back lot to romp in and exercise. When the siren sounded, they would dash into the fire station. The harness was suspended from the ceiling. They would take their places and the harness would drop onto them. In a matter of a few seconds they were on their way to the fire. Ernie Cooper was fire chief. He also was a heavyweight boxer. One of his opponents was Texas Tate. They took turns beating each other. A big fire took out several buildings south of where Chris' Pharmacy now stands on the west side of the square.
"My father, Fred Piel, operated a blacksmith shop where the magneto shop now stands. One day he made some repairs on what was probably the first auto that came to Perry. When finished, the owner of the car asked for the repair bill. Dad said, 'Oh, nothing:' He finally settled for a ride around the block. I got to sit in the back seat, and oh, what a thrill!
"The tornado of 1912 came while we were eating supper, about 6:15 in the evening. It started out as a spring shower but imbedded in that shower was a tornado. It came so sudden that we had no time to go to the storm shelter. So much debris was flying through the air that it would have meant sudden death to be hit. We rode out the storm until it was over. My father had four cows tied to a 2 x 6 which rested on top of the manger. After the storm eased up we looked out and we could see no barn and no cattle. Later we found them near Cow Creek, still tied to the 2 x 6, but grazing as though nothing had happened.
"Who remembers 'Hot Tamale Tom,' who peddled his wares on the corner by Foster's Drug Store? He had a two wheeled cart to sell tamales. I sold him many sacks of corn husks that he used for wrapping the tamales. I got 25 cents a sack for my time.
"I don't think anyone in Perry knew 'Cattle Annie.' She rode with the Doolin and Dalton outlaw gang. They were the ones that robbed the train in Red Rock. Cattle Annie had two sons who were raised by their grandmother, who lived next door east to us. As a youngster we played together many times. I did not know that they were sons of Cattle Annie until they had grown and moved away. My mother knew who they were but never revealed it to me until they were grown. I can't tell you their real names -- they may not want it known. I also remember U.S. Marshal Bill Tilghman. He served as chief of police in Perry for a time, walking around the square with a .45 strapped to his hip.
Mr. Piel concludes: "How do I remember all this? I go back to 1903, when I was born in Indian Territory." Mr. Piel now lives on Route One, Perry. My thanks to him for these interesting glimpses into the past.