Pulaski County

Biography - Hugh Eshleman

HUGH B. ESHLEMAN. As president of the Bank of Pulaski Hugh B. Eshleman is well known in the commercial circles of Pulaski county, Illinois, and as the postmaster at Pulaski and an active and forceful character in the public life of both his county and town he is recognized as one of the prominent men of his community, where he has been identified with various enterprises contributing to its growth and welfare.

Mr. Eshleman was born at Villa Ridge, Illinois, September 25, 1877, a son of the late William Jacob Eshleman, whose death at Villa Ridge in 1900, at the age of sixty-eight years, terminated a long and useful career as an active participant in the civil and political affairs of Pulaski county, with which he had been identified from the close of the Civil war. William Jacob Eshleman was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, one of the seven sons of William Eshleman, a native of Germany who immigrated to the United States when a young man and located in Pennsylvania, where he married. These sons scattered and brought up their families in different parts of the United States, but the parents remained farmer residents of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, until their deaths at the old Keystone homestead. Unique is. the record of these seven sons during the great conflict of 1861-65. All of them entered military service but four of them espoused the Union cause, while the other three tendered their services to the cause of the Southland and entered the Confederate army.

William Jacob Eshleman, the father of our subject, responded to President Lincoln's call for volunteers the first year of the war and enlisted in the Forty-sixth Illinois Volunteer infantry. This regiment left the state in February, 1862, and proceeded to Fort Donelson, Tennessee, where it was assigned to the command of General Lew Wallace. As a part of Grant's army it participated in the battle of Shiloh, where the regiment took a conspicuous and honorable part, receiving commendatory mention from its superior officers. It also gave gallant service at Corinth and Metamora, and in May, 1863, entered upon the Vicksburg campaign. The regiment continued in service until mustered out in January, 1866, but Mr. Eshleman had been wounded four times and was discharged for disability in 1865. During one of the battles of the war his regiment captured a Virginia regiment in which his brother Aaron was enlisted and the brothers had the rare experience of meeting each other as enemies and as victor and vanquished in the fortunes of war.

William Jacob Eshleman came to mature life with a fair education. The promise of the West was alluring and in 1859, a young man of twenty-seven, he came to Illinois, locating at Freeport. It was thus that his services in behalf of the Union came to be as a member of an Illinois regiment. Soon after the war he was married in Pulaski county, Illinois, to Miss Rachel Elizabeth Kelly, a daughter of Rev. Mordecai B. Kelly, an old army chaplain, a well known Baptist minister, and ex-chaplain of the Southern Illinois penitentiary at Chester. To this union were born five children: Carrie May, who died, as Mrs. Frank Cothrun, of Sesser, Illinois; Mary Grace, who married Paul J. Munch of Minneapolis Minnesota; Nathan Wardner, who died while head carpenter of the Southern Illinois penitentiary; John M., of El Centra, California, for a time state deputy labor commissioner of California and now a railroad commissioner and leading Republican politician of that state; and Hugh B., the subject of this sketch. The mother died December 31, 1885, at the age of forty-six, and was survived by her husband until his demise in 1900. The father had given his whole active career to agricultural pursuits.

Hugh B. Eshleman received a liberal education in the Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbondale and in the business correspondence course in the Sprague School of Law. For a short time he read law with Judge Caster, of Mound City. He began his active and independent business career as the proprietor of a hotel at Mounds, Illinois, but later he abandoned that business to take up farming at Pulaski, and was thus engaged until appointed to succeed his brother Warner as head carpenter at the Chester penitentiary. Leaving the state service after two years he returned to Pulaski, where for four years he gave his attention to merchandising. During that period he received his first appointment as postmaster of Pulaski, serving four years. In 1906 he was reappointed to that office and is now serving under the civil service. He was reared under Republican influence and espoused the policies of the Republican party when he became a voter. Energetic, progressive and well educated, his fitness for public service placed him in office soon after attaining his majority and he has officiated in some capacity ever since. After havng served seven years as police magistrate of Pulaski he resigned to become a candidate for mayor and was elected to that office in April, 1911.

In a business way Mr. Eshleman was one of the organizers of the Bank of Pulaski, holds a controlling interest in it, and was its first cashier, serving from 1909 to 1911, or until chosen president of the bank, a position in which he has already demonstrated his ability for organization and successful management. Miss Ethel Little is cashier of the bank and her sister Ina is assistant postmaster, while Mrs. Eshleman is assistant to both the postmaster and the cashier of the bank. Besides this interest, Mr. Eshleman is secretary and treasurer of the Consolidated Concrete Tie Company, now exploiting the inventions of J. R. Sneed and R. J. D. Cowan in the shape of a concrete railroad tie, which seems destined to meet the requirements of practical use and become a valuable commercial product. Mr. Eshleman also owns considerable real estate in and adjacent to Pulaski, and his hand is evident in the substantial character of the buildings thereon. At the meeting of the National League of Postmasters in 1909 Mr. Eshleman was elected secretary of the body and was re-elected in 1911 as secretary and treasurer. He is a member of the Ancient and August Order of Masons, having attained to the thirty-second degree and the A. A. O. N. M. S. He is also affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Odd Fellows and with the auxiliary bodies of the first and last orders.

On May 15, 1897, at Pulaski, Illinois, Mr. Eshleman married Miss Flora May Kennedy, a daughter of J. B. Kennedy, a prominent citizen of Pulaski county. Mr. and Mrs. Eshleman have two children Ruth Marie Grace and Claud James.

Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 2, page 905-906


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