From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 438-445
In every community can be found some individual who, by sheer force of character closely allied to genius, rises above his fellow men, forges ahead in every laudable enterprise and fairly earns the title of a leading man. To such a one the people naturally look for guidance in all matters pertaining to industrial development; and as a moulder of public sentiment his influence, exerted in the right direction, has ever proved a potent factor in awakening interest along all lines of activity, besides promoting a superior type of citizenship. Such a character is the gentleman whose brief life history is herewith modestly recorded; a gentleman widely and favorably known throughout the county of Huntington, to much of whose prosperity within the last thirty years he has contributed, and whose life for a still greater length of time has been an open book, known and read of all men in the community where so many of his useful and busy years have been passed.
Silas Allen Pulse is a native son of Indiana, but descended from a long line of sterling ancestors whose history is directly traceable back through many generations to Germany, where the family appears to have achieved considerable local prominence. As early as the beginning of the sixteenth century the progenitors of the American branch of the family left the Fatherland and settled in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, where, in the year 1766, was born John D. Pulse, whose father, Michael Pulse, was among the first of the name to secure a home in the new world. John D. was a lad of ten years when the colonies declared their independence, and in the struggle which followed three of his brothers distinguished themselves as brave and gallant soldiers in the patriotic little army commanded by the immortal Washington. At the age of seventeen he went to Jefferson county, Virginia, where he married Sarah Fry, whose people were among the early settlers and substantial citizens of the Old Dominion. By occupation John D. Pulse was a farmer. After following that useful calling in Virginia until 1817 he migrated to Ohio, settling near the town of Hillsboro, where his death occurred in 1849, at a ripe old age. His wife survived him ten years, departing this life in 1859, having also lived far beyond the average life allotted to mortality.
Among the children of John D. and Sarah Pulse was a son, also named John D., who first saw the light of day in Jefferson county, Virginia, on the 6th day of May, 1807. When ten years old he was taken by his parents to Ohio, where he grew to manhood. After remaining on the home farm until twenty-five he entered into the marriage relations, May 10, 1832, with Nancy Jones, a native of Ohio, daughter of Samuel and Sarah Jones, well-known residents of the county of Highland. Immediately thereafter he set up his domestic establishment upon a fifty-acre farm, into the possession of which he had come a short time previously. After residing upon this place until 1835 he made a tour of inspection into the newly settled county of Huntington, Indiana, where his wife's people had settled a short time before; and, being pleased with the county and encouraged by the inducements it held out to men of moderate circumstances, he disposed of his interests in Ohio, and in September, 1838, arrived with his wife at their future home on the Salamonie river.
Mr. Pulse entered one hundred and seventy-five acres of government land, and after providing a small cabin for the reception of his family began removing the forest growth; and such was the progress made that by May of the following year he had ten acres cleared and ready for cultivation. At that time there were but four or five settlers within a radius of as many miles, and the nearest market place Huntington, then but an insignificant hamlet, was reached by a meandering path through the forest, to which the term road could not, with propriety, be applied.
Mr. Pulse bore his full share in promoting the growth and development of the county, and experienced in full measure all the vicissitudes common to the life of the Indiana pioneer of sixty years ago. In due time he became a prominent factor in the new community and acquired more than local prominence by reason of the high esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens, and emphasized by various official positions with which they honored him. In 1840 he was elected justice of the peace, the duties of which he discharged in a most praiseworthy manner. In April, 1848, he was appointed by the governor of Indiana an associate judge of Huntington county, in which capacity he displayed ability of a high order, and the offficial records bear testimony to the excellence of his judgment in numerous decisions, requiring not only a comprehensive grasp of sound business principles, but a thorough knowledge of the law. He continued as associate judge for a period of seven years, during which time he discharged his official duties with absolute impartiality, and strove to do the right as he saw the right regardless of the opinions of individuals.
Prior to his removal to Indiana Mr. Pulse held a commission from the governor of his native state as lieutenant in the First Light Infantry; later he became captain in the same organization, and a short time before coming to Huntington county was honored by promotion as colonel of the regiment.
Judge John D. and Nancy Pulse had a family of five children, but one of whom, Silas Allen, whose name introduces this article, is living at the present time, 1901. Mrs. Pulse, a lady of sterling worth, possessed of many noble traits of mind and heart and a most devout member of the Methodist church, departed this life in the year 1875, aged sixty-one.
By diligent attention to business and the exercise of wise forethought Mr. Pulse succeeded in amassing a handsome fortune, consisting mostly of real estate, which today is among the most valuable in the county. The original home farm, which he cleared and brought to a high state of cultivation, was sold to his brother-in-law, John D. Jones.
In politics Mr. Pulse was originally a Whig, but later became an earnest adherent of the Republican party, though at no time was he what is popularly termed a partisan or seeker after political preferment. During the progress of the Civil war he was an uncompromising supporter of the Union, and used his influence untiringly, inducing all lovers of their country of suitable age to defend the national honor by bearing arms in its behalf. For a number of years he took an active part in political campaigns when the issues were of great moment, and his services in behalf of his party were always potent and greatly appreciated. In the matter of internal improvements no man in Huntington county did more than he for the general welfare. He was one of the original promoters and stockholders of the old Huntington plank road, constructed about 1856 and kept intact for several years thereafter, and to his efforts is largely due the activity which secured the Wabash & Erie Railroads, which have been of such incalculable benefit to every acre of land and to every citizen of this highly favored section of the state.
To enumerate in detail all the good that this estimable citizen accomplished for the welfare of Huntington county, and of Salamonie township in particular, would far transcend the limits of an article of this character, and but a cursory review of his life and achievements can be attempted. He was in the best sense of the term a western man, with unbounded faith in western institutions, and believed fully in the great future and advancement of the country, both now being realized.
For many years he was a communicant of the Methodist church, of which body his brother, Rev. George Pulse, was a distinguished minister, and all moral and religious movements found in him an active worker and liberal patron. After the death of his estimable wife he made his home with his son, Silas A. Pulse, who looked after his interests and ministered to his comforts during the remainder of his earthly career, which terminated August 1, 1890, in his eighty-fourth year.
Silas Allen Pulse, to a brief review of whose life the remainder of this article is devoted, is in every respect a worthy descendant of an honored father. He was born July 25, 1842, in Salamonie township, Huntington county, Indiana, the place where he first saw the light being one-half mile from the town of Warren, on the beautiful Salamonie river. Like the majority of boys reared in the country, his early years were spent amid the routine of farm work, and during the winter season he attended the public schools and obtained a thorough knowledge of the branches taught therein. The training thus received was afterward supplemented by a course in college at Monmouth, Illinois, under the auspices of the Presbyterian church; still later he pursued his studies in an institution of a high grade at Marion, Indiana, conducted by Prof. Samuel Sawyer, at that time a prominent educator of northern Indiana.
On leaving school Mr. Pulse turned his attention to agricultural pursuits with his father, and was thus engaged until the breaking out of the great Rebellion, when, with many other loyal sons of the north, he proffered his services and joined the mighty army of patriots that went forth to battle for the integrity of the Union. His first experience in the army was as a teamster, although he volunteered as a musician but was prevented from serving in that capacity as none of the members of the band were provided with instruments, a fact which caused him to ask for some other kind of service.
The regiment to which Mr. Pulse belonged, the Thirty-fourth Indiana Infantry, was commanded by Colonel Steele, of Marion, between whom and himself a warm friendship existed, Colonel Steele's son and himself being schoolmates at the old Marion college. By reason of this friendship Mr. Pulse was the recipient of many favors from the commanding officer, and at the latter's advice he left the service, when the order dispensing with bands was issued.
For some time after returning home Mr. Pulse was engaged as salesman in the mercantile establishment of Good & Brother, at Warren, but in 1863 he again exchanged civil pursuits for military life, enlisting in the fall of that year in Company A, Thirteenth Indiana Cavalry. He was at once made first sergeant of his company, and after spending the winter at Indianapolis the regiment was attached to the Army of the Cumberland and experienced its first active service in the neighborhood of Hunstville, Alabama, where for duty well and faithfully performed the subject was promoted to the position of second lieutenant. Indeed, from that time forward he had almost entire charge of the company, and during the operations against the Confederate General Hood, then moving toward Nashville, he distinguished himself upon many occasions as a brave and trusted officer. About that time the regiment was divided, the section to which Mr. Pulse's command was attached proceeding to Murfreesboro, where, until after the bloody battles of Franklin and Nashville, he was constantly employed in most difficult and hazardous service. He proved a fearless and capable officer during both of those sanguinary engagements. He participated in a number of other battles, the most interesting to him being near Murfreesboro, where his company was detached to guard a bridge, a fair and easy mark for the enemy's artillery, which poured upon it a hot and incessant shell fire of several hours' duration. Finding it beyond endurance to hold the position in the face of such a furious fusilade, the company was forced to fall back to a less exposed place. A superior officer, however, ordered the men to return at all hazards and keep the enemy from taking the bridge. Lieutenant Pulse was named to lead the advance; and, in the face of the murderous fire, realizing that a soldier's first duty is obedience, he placed himself at the head of the men, who, inspired by his fearlessness, sprang forward and at great loss succeeded in reaching the bridge, which they successfully held until the sun went down upon the scene of blood. That night Colonel M. L. Johnson, one of the bravest and best fighters in the army, led the regiment across the bridge, the men riding four abreast, and attacked the battery which had done such fearful execution during the day, causing the enemy to retreat, during which their guns were with great difficulty dragged away.
In all the operations and minor engagements leading to the battle of Nashville Mr. Pulse took an active part, and after the repulse of Hood's army accompanied his regiment to New Orleans. Later his command formed part of the force which operated with the fleet under Admiral Farragut, capturing the fortified city of Mobile; thence the command was ordered to Columbus, Mississippi. The line of march was through a region where no Federal troops had been seen, and was marked by many incidents, notable among which was the interest excited by the appearance of the "yanks," who, as many of the hot-headed southerners thought, could be nothing less than uncouth boors or wild savages. The movements around Mobile were replete with great danger and the most intense excitement; all the roads leading thereto were mined, and many of our brave men lost their lives by the explosion of these concealed torpedoes. But in due time the country was successfully cleared of hostile forces, the enemy scattering in broken detachments in every direction before the advance of the Union army.
During the entire summer of 1865 the Thirteenth remained at Columbus, holding the city and country adjacent, Lieutenant Pulse being frequently detailed for special duty to distant points. After a period of active and upon numerous occasions thrilling service, Mr. Pulse was discharged November, 1865, with the rank of brevet captain, and immediately returned home and took up the peaceful pursuits of civil life. His military career is replete with duty bravely and uncomplainingly performed, and his record is unstained by a single act detracting from his patriotism or honor. Indeed, any one might feel deservedly proud of the part he performed in the great struggle which reunited a disrupted country, and too much can not be said in praise of him and like heroes to whose loyalty and self-denying efforts the present happy and prosperous condition of our nation is due.
Soon after leaving the service Mr. Pulse purchased the mercantile establishment of S. L. Good, at Warren, and with the exception of four years has since largely devoted his time and attention to mercantile business. On taking possession of the store the stock represented a capital of about seventy-five hundred dollars, a splendid business for that time; but since then the interest has largely increased, until now the establishment is conservatively estimated at from twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand dollars.
Mr. Pulse carries a general stock, departments being devoted to clothing, boots and shoes, gents' furnishing goods, queensware, millinery, notions, hardware and groceries, in fact, everything kept in a first-class department store, requiring the constant service of from ten to twelve experienced salesmen. The proprietor is familiar with every detail of this large and constantly increasing business, representing about sixty-five thousand dollars annually, and gives it his personal attention, besides devoting considerable time to other interests, which returns him liberal financial profits. The main building, 132X40 feet, erected in 1884, contains two large and commodious rooms; but the steady growth of trade now demanding, in addition to the ground floor, two upper stories, all well stocked, and the space occupied is considerably larger than that of any other store in Huntington county. At one time Mr. Pulse conducted a branch store at Montpelier, now discontinued.
As already stated, Mr. Pulse has other interests, not the least of which is the large amount of valuable real estate in his possession, owning at this time over eight hundred and sixty acres of valuable land, six hundred acres of which comprise a single farm in Wells county. Upon these lands have been drilled a number of oil wells, the royalties from which were highly remunerative, amounting at one time to about one thousand dolars (sic) per month; but owing to the low price of oil his income from this source is materially diminished at present, not exceeding one-third of that amount. Mr. Pulse gives considerable attention to live stock, cattle, hogs and sheep, having on his various farms some of the finest herds and flocks to be found in northern Indiana. He also keeps a number of fine horses, principally for road purposes, and is recognized as one of the best judges of horse flesh in this section of the state.
Like his father before him, Mr. Pulse has always been an advocate of internal improvements, and the present superior system of turnpike roads by which Huntington county is traversed was largely made possible and secured through his untiring efforts. He has paid for turnpikes out of his own pocket over six thousand dollars, deeming such outlay of the greatest possible value to every citizen of the county.
Any sketch or biography of Mr. Pulse would be incomplete without reference to the many improvements at his home, notably his dwelling, in many respects one of the most beautiful, commodious and complete residences in the county. The original building, a brick structure, erected in 1861 by his father, has recently been carefully remodeled, enlarged and supplied with all of the modern improvements which make living among men of wealth in these days a luxury indeed. The edifice stands on an eminence a little to the north of the town; and, surrounded by a natural grove of beautiful and graceful trees, presents a most luxurious and home-like appearance, besides commanding one of the most romantic prospects in the entire country. The premises are in keeping with the structure, and everything, both inside and out, betoken the presence of a gentleman of excellent taste and the home of a genuine, old-fashioned hospitality, rarely found among men of large and varied business interests. In the social circle Mr. Pulse is popular, open-hearted, open-handed; a favorite among his numerous friends, and in every respect deserving the high esteem in which he is held by the public. Few men in Huntington county are as widely and favorably known, not only for his business transactions, but for the social amenities of life which never fail to win and retain strong personal attachments. He is a broad-minded man of the world, alive to all that interests and benefits his fellows, a friend and willing helper of the deserving, a public-spirited benefactor; in brief, a typical representative of the successful and progressive American, the best product of the free institutions of which the great west feels proud.
In politics Mr. Pulse is a Republican, earnest in the support of party principles, and upon many occasions has served as delegate in conventions, especially the national at Minneapolis in 1892, and a stanch supporter of Harrison, and exercises a strong influence during the progress of campaigns, national, state and local. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, holding most cordial relations with all the brethren of that ancient craft.
He was united in marriage in May, 1866, to Miss Ruth C. Hayward, of Franklin county, Indiana, daughter of Joseph Hayward, a well-known farmer and tanner of that section. Prior to her marriage Mrs. Pulse had visited Warren, her many superior traits demanding the respect and admiration of all. To Mr. and Mrs. Pulse have been born the following children: Minnie, wife of George A. Roberts; Gertrude, wife of O. E. Evans, of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Lillie, wife of George Good, a banker of Warren; Annie, wife of Morton Bridge, of Van Buren, Indiana; Daisy, wife of Charles Keller, both of whom reside at the old family home. The mother of this family died in 1894, passing from earth with the assurance of a future reunion with her loved ones. She was a lady of excellent character, domestic in her tastes and a true helpmeet to her husband, not a little of whose success is directly traceable to her sound judgment and feminine sympathy. Open hearted and hospitable, she was known and appreciated for her kindly acts of charity; and as an earnest and devout member of the Methodist church she exemplified in her daily walk and conversation the genuineness of the religion she professed.
Additional to the children named, Mr. Pulse has twelve grandchildren, all of whom give promise of a continuance of the superior qualities of head and heart that have ever characterized their ancestors.
Thus in brief has been sketched the salient facts in the life of one of Huntington county's most active and successful business men. He has borne well his part in life, and it is fitting to class him with the representative men of a section of the state known and honored for the high order of its citizenship.