In preparing a biographical compendium of Hancock county the writer has not to carry his investigation very far ere he finds how intimately identified therewith has been the honored subject of this sketch. Not only has he impressed his strong individuality upon the community and been honored with positions of public trust and responsibility, thus gaining distinctive prestige and proving one of the prime factors in insuring the development and material prosperity of his adopted city and county, but in a larger sense his career has been such as to win honor and distinction among his fellow men. When young in years he helped to maintain the prestige of American arms on foreign soil where he followed the stars and stripes to victory against a numerous foe, and in the late Civil war he proved his loyalty on every occasion to the government as a gallant and trusted leader on many bloody battlefields.
Captain Paullus is a native of Fairfield county, Ohio, born near the city of Lancaster, October 1, 1824. His father, John Paullus, a native of Augusta, county Virginia, went to Fairfield county, Ohio, as early as 1822 and there married Elizabeth Laney. In 1824 he returned to Augusta county, Virginia, and after spending a number of years there as a tiller of the soil again moved to Ohio and purchased a farm near the city of Dayton. Twelve years covered the period of his residence in that locality, at the expiration of which time he sold his place and took up his abode in the county of Preble, where he bought land and lived the remainder of his life, dying in 1852. His wife preceded him to the grave by seven years, departing this life in 1845. He was a son of Adam Paullus, who served as a private during the war of 1812.
The family of John and Elizabeth Paullus consisted of the following children: Matthew L., whose name introduces this article; Adam, deceased, a soldier of the late Civil war who enlisted in Company B, Thirty-fifth Ohio Infantry, and served during the greater part of the struggle; Sarah, deceased; Samuel A., is a farmer and stock raiser of Preble county, Ohio; John R., deceased:; Peter L., who is living a retired life in Memphis, Tennessee; in early life he was a carpenter, later became a successful lawyer and at one time served as mayor of Huntington, Indiana; James E. is no longer living; Catherine married Jackson Davis and resides in Dayton, Ohio; Hester, Nancy and Emanuel are deceased.
Matthew L. Paullus passed his boyhood days on his fathers farm and when old enough lent his aid to the work of cultivating the fields and clearing the land, meantime receiving his educational discipline in the primitive log school house in the neighborhood of his home. That he duly profited by the opportunities afforded him is shown by the fact that he mastered the elementary branches that constituted the curriculum and became well informed in practical knowledge such as only close observation and contact with the world impart. In his youth he learned blacksmithing and by close application became quite adept in the use of tools required in that trade. He followed his chosen calling in Fairfield county until 1846 and in April of the year following enlisted at Newark, Ohio, in a mounted company under Capt. John R. Dunkan for the Mexican war.
Shortly after being sworn into the service Mr. Paullus accompanied his command to New Orleans, thence to Point Isabella on the Rio Grande, where the company was attached to the little army under Gen. Taylor, whose duty it was to patrol that stream and watch the movements of the enemy. For a period of six months he served on the body guard of "Old Rough and Ready" and participated in several battles and a number of skirmishes which marked the introductory chapter of the war. He was attached to the Texas Rangers and the service was against the guerrillas, capturing the then noted Mexican leaders, Canalless and Martinas. Subsequently he proceeded further into Mexico and saw considerable active ser ice and made creditable record as a brave and daring solider. He passed through his varied experiences without securing a wound or any injury of any description and at the close of the war received his discharge as corporal, the document bearing date of August 4, 1848.
Returning to Ohio, Mr. Paullus opened a shop at West Alexander and worked at this trade at that point for about one year. Subsequently, in 1849, in company with fifteen others as brave and daring as himself, he took passage to California, going via New Orleans and the Isthmus of Panama. Owing to various obstacles and hindrances nearly six months went by before he reached his destination, but when he did arrive at Sacramento City it did not take him long to locate a mine at Deer Creek, Coloma county. For about one year he mined on the American river, meeting with only fair success, and at the expiration of that time went to Sacramento where he remained for a limited period, going thence to San Francisco. While on the Pacific coast Mr. Paullus visited many points of interest and met with numerous experiences and thrilling incidents which if put in permanent form would prove a valuable addition to the literature of the early times in the far west. Having satisfied his nomadic ambition, he returned east on board the ship Constitution, which appears to have made poor progress, as the vessel was eighty days at sea, during which time the stock of provisions became exhausted and for fourteen days the passengers had nothing but boiled oats to keep souls and bodies together. They crossed the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to Graytown and after a long, tiresome and in many respects a dangerous journey, Mr. Paullus finally, on the 1st day of April, 1851, reached his home in Ohio with sufficient means to start into business. On the first day of the following September he was united in marriage at West Alexander to Miss Mary Danner, of Preble county Ohio, and during the next eight years carried on the blacksmithing business in that town. When the war cloud spread over the country and the call came for the loyal sons of the north to preserve the integrity of the government and avenge the deep insult offered to the flag, Mr. Paullus laid aside his tools, closed his shop and tendered his services to battle against the hosts of treason. On the 6th of June, 1862, he joined the Ninety-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry and upon the organization of Company G, which he assisted to recruit, was honored by being chosen its captain. His military experience covered two of the most thrilling years of the war and was marked by duty bravely done. From Dayton, Ohio, the regiment proceeded to Lexington, Kentucky, form which point it went southward and took part in the battle of Richmond. At Perryville it received a baptism of fire in one of the bloodiest engagements of the war; then to Crab Orchard and later moved to Nashville, Tennessee. From this time forward to his discharge Captain Paullus saw much active service, participating in a number of battles, including Stone River, where the company lost twenty-one out of twenty-six men, his regiment having opened the engagement. In the battle of Stone River Mr. Paullus right shoulder was struck by the fragment of a shell, which fractured the bone and inflicted a very painful though not dangerous wound. By reason of careful treatment and a naturally strong and vigorous constitution he was sufficiently recovered in a little more than two weeks to rejoin his command. In February, 1864, he returned to Ohio, being honorably discharged from the service to which he had given more than two of the best years of his life.
Shortly after leaving the army, Captain Paullus came to Hancock county and purchased one hundred acres of land in Center township. In March, 1865, he moved to Greenfield and opened a blacksmith shop which he operated for a period of about two years and then engaged in the hardware business with William Wood, under the firm name of Paullus & Wood, a relationship which lasted one year, when he retired.
Subsequently, in partnership with A. J. Banks and James Morgan, he erected a large two-story brick building on Main street at a cost of twelve thousand dollars, in which he retained an interest until 1883. He then sold out and turned his attention to other pursuits and has continued an active factor in the industrial and business interests of the city and county to the present time. In 1888 he was elected a member of the county board of commissioners and as such proved a capable and painstaking official, looking after the peoples interest with the greatest care and advocating many important public improvements, including the county infirmary, the utility and wisdom of which have since been abundantly demonstrated to the satisfaction of the public. He served six years in this responsible position and left the office with the fullest confidence of the public. The first iron bridges were constructed during this period, twenty-two being completed when he left office. One hundred and twenty-five miles of toll roads were purchased by the county and converted into free pikes, costing from two hundred to six hundred dollars per mile. Several miles of new roads were constructed during these years, and in many ways the ideas of the commissioners have been carried out by their successors. His principal associates on the board were such able men as Dr. John Dye, George W. Parker, Lett Dennis and John W. Hays.
Captain Paullus has been a Democrat ever since old enough to wield the elective franchise and for a number of years was a very active worker in the party. He is well read in general and political history and keeps himself in touch with the times on all the great issues and questions of the day. Pronounced in his views and ready at all times to back up the soundness of his opinions with logical argument, at the same time he is tolerant of the opinions of others and accords to every man the same right of private judgment which he himself exercises. He is one of the oldest Odd Fellows in this part of the state, joining the order at Eaton, Ohio, in 1852, and retaining an active membership to the present time. He has passed the chairs in subordinate lodge and is also a member of Canton No. 22, Patriarch Militant, at Knightstown, Indiana. He also belongs to the Masonic fraternity, having bee initiated into the mysteries of the craft in 1867. Since 1877 he has not been an active worker, but is still a recognized member of the order.
Capt. Paullus has a strong and forcible character and his prominence in private and public affairs has made him known and esteemed throughout the county. The record of his early life reads like a romance, the vicissitudes and hardships which he endured in the far west and in old Mexico while fighting the battles of his county being among the most interesting and thrilling experiences of the time and places in which they were encountered. As a brave officer in a war which tested the perpetuity of the institutions left us by the fathers of the republic, he did his duty nobly and well, while his career as a private citizen and public official has been such as to commend him to the favorable consideration of the people of his adopted city and county. Such a life as his has many of the elements of exaltation and a record concerning it cannot but offer lessons of incentive and inspiration. By economy and consecutive application he has been enabled to acquire sufficient means to maintain himself in comfort and provide for his declining years, while his temperate habits give him an enduring strength of mind and body which have fitted him to endure the effects of early privations and hardships and to retain a virility of physical force and the full possession of mental faculties remarkable in a man of his years and experience. Capt. Paullus subscribes to the Methodist creed and since united with the church, many years ago, has been guided and controlled by the great religious truths which now constitute such an important factor in his life. While having no children of their own, Capt. and Mrs. Paullus have reared five who have been given the best advantages. They are William D. Wilson, a commercial salesman of St. Louis, Missouri; Claude P. Wilson, a veterinary surgeon, of Greenfield, Indiana; Ida Paullus, wife of Lewis Stewart, a railroad conductor of Dayton, Ohio, Callie Cline, wife of Thomas Gable, banker of Dayton, Ohio, and Kate Paullus, who married Ira Collins and is now deceased.
Transcribed from Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 326-330.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI July 27, 2002.
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