William Perry Hankins was the only one of Thomas Leander Hankins and Samantha Angeline Petty’s children not born in Hopkins County, Kentucky. He was born on 17 October 1898. According to information provided for his marriage bond twenty-two years later, he was born in Webster County, Kentucky. When Perry was born, the family lived in Dalton in Hopkins County, which is only a few miles from the Webster County line. While there is no explanation for why he would have been born in Webster County, that marriage bond is the only record located to date that identifies Perry’s birthplace.
Eleven-year-old Perry worked as a farm laborer while attending school in 1910. In April 1912, when Perry was thirteen and his youngest brother, Jimmy, was eleven, their best bird dog contracted rabies and attacked them. On 20 April, the boys were out on the road with the dog in the Grapevine area of Hopkins County where they lived. The dog had been acting strange for several days before it turned on them. According to the report published in The Hustler, one of the boys carried a shotgun and was able to shoot and kill the dog after a desperate fight.
Six months before the United States entered World War I, Perry enlisted in the U.S. Army on 3 October 1916 at Madisonville, Kentucky. When he sailed to France on 2 October 1918, Perry was with the 149th Infantry, 38th Division. They left New York City aboard the RMS Aquitania, an ocean liner in the Cunard Line used to transport troops during World War I. Brothers Jimmy and Elvie also joined the U.S. Army and the three brothers all spent time in France during the war. They were together there in 1918, at least long enough to have a picture taken.
Perry returned from France aboard the USS Pretoria, sailing from Brest on 24 May 1919. He arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on June 6th. After his discharge on 31 July 1919, Perry re-enlisted on 5 August. At the time of his discharge, he was in the 144th Infantry, 36th Division. During his second enlistment, Perry served as a corporal in the 15th Recruit Company, G.S.I. He was discharged on 4 or 5 August 1920 in Oteen, North Carolina.
Perry went to work for the railroad when he returned to Hopkins County. He was probably the Perry Hankins boarding with William Johnson in Williamson, Mingo County, West Virginia in 1920. Perry was not listed in his father’s household in Hopkins County. The Perry Hankins in Johnson’s household was the right age, was born in Kentucky, had served in the World War, and worked for the railroad as a car repairer.
On 12 April 1921, Perry married Margaret Hill in Earlington. Father L. E. Clements, Catholic Priest for the Immaculate Conception Church, performed the ceremony. Margaret was born on 19 November 1895 in Earlington to George Hill and Ollie Coomes. She had worked for the H. D. Coward store.
Perry and Margaret had little time together. Two weeks after their wedding, Perry required treatment for tuberculosis (TB). He entered the Mountain Branch of the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Johnson City, Tennessee, on 26 April. The influenza epidemic during World War I resulted in many soldiers developing TB. Soldiers who were gassed also became victims of the disease. The constant damp and rainy weather in France often resulted in the development of pneumonia, another factor in activating TB.
Perry returned home to Hopkins County after his release from the Johnson City facility on 27 July 1921. His and Margaret’s only child, William Perry, Jr., was born on 11 January 1922 in Hopkins County. By February 23rd, Perry was again receiving treatment, this time as a patient at the U.S. General Hospital #19 in Oteen, North Carolina. On that day, he wrote a letter to his eight-year-old niece Helen, who was back home in Hopkins County.
In that letter, Perry urged Helen and her brother to visit Bill, who was not yet two months old. He asked her to write to him after they saw the baby, adding, “I think he is the stuff.” He said the weather there was beautiful, just like a spring day at home. Perry talked about plans for when he returned home that summer, telling Helen to tell her daddy (his brother John) to plant a big watermelon patch and they would “tear it up for him.” He said he could see the Blue Ridge Mountains “every way you look,” and that he spent most of his time in bed writing letters.
By early October 1922, Perry was continuing TB treatment at Fitzsimons General Hospital (formerly known as U.S. General Hospital #21) in Aurora, Colorado, near Denver. This facility and the one at Oteen were the main army hospitals for tuberculosis treatment at that time. Whether Perry had been home between his stay at Oteen and entering Fitzsimons or moved directly from one facility to the other is unknown. If he got to go home, it was not for more than a few months.
Perry had been in Denver about seven weeks when he died on 1 December 1922. His body was returned to Earlington from Colorado on the train. Perry was buried in Earlington Cemetery (then called Catholic Cemetery) near Margaret’s father.
By 1928, Margaret had married Arvin Garnet Bixler. They lived in Frankfort, Kentucky, and had a daughter together. Arvin died on 21 January 1953 and was buried in Frankfort Cemetery. Margaret died on 8 December 1971 in Orange County, Florida. She was buried beside Arvin in Frankfort Cemetery.
William Perry Hankins, Jr.
Bill was born on 11 January 1922 in Earlington, Hopkins County, Kentucky. By 1928, his father had died, and his mother had remarried. He grew up in Frankfort, living with his mother, step-father, Arvin Garnet Bixler, and half-sister.
On 21 May 1940, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was discharged on 1 April 1943. Bill married Lucy Ford, and they had five children. They divorced in December 1966 in Lake County, Florida, and Bill married twice more. He married Marjorie Naomi Lundgren in March 1967 and later married Iwana Jane Boggess on 26 February 1980. Both weddings took place in Osceola County, Florida.
Bill died on 12 December 1997 in Lake County, Florida, and was buried there in Umatilla Cemetery.