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John Paul, of Harrisonburg, Va., was born on June 30, 1839, near Ottobine, in the county of Rockingham, Va. He was the son of Peter Paul, and his wife, Maria Whitmernames coincident with the early settlement of the county. His paternal ancestors were of French extraction, having refugeed on account of religious persecution in the early part of the eighteenth century from France to Germany, from whence came Jacob Paul to America, in 1775, then in his seventeenth year.
Ile enlisted in the Revolutionary Army, serving as a drummer boy at the battle of Bunker Hill, and afterwards throughout the war as a private soldier. At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War he emigrated to Rockingham county, Va., and his son, Peter Paul, was the father of John Paul. The Whitmers belong to the well-defined influx of Germans into the Valley of Virginia in the latter half of the eighteenth century, who, along with the sturdy Scotch-Irish emigration, laid the foundation of its progress and civilization. There is no more beautiful locality in the fruitful county of Rockingham than “the hills of Ottobine," where the childhood of John Paul was spent, and where, now at work on the farm of his father, now attending the country school, he passed from boyhood to youth. Before he attained his majority, the yearning for a higher education possessed him, and after teaching school for a year, he entered Roanoke (College in the fall of 1860, there to pursue his collegiate curriculum. Before the first session had ended, however, the great Civil War was flagrant, and John Paul, in his twenty-second year, enlisted as a private in the Salem Artillery, with which organization he remained throughout the first year of the war, and then joined the Fifth Virginia Cavalry and was a lieutenant in Company I.
In August, 1862, during the second Manassas campaign, his regiment made a night attack on General Pope's headquarters. at Catlett's Station, and he was severely wounded in the charge. Ile promptly returned to his command on his recovery, and continued in active service until the battles of the Wilderness, when he was captured and was confined a prisoner in Fort Delaware, until after the surrender. His conduct throughout the war is known to have been that of a brave and fearless soldier. He offered his life-a sacrifice, if need be-upon the altar of his country, and none, not the bravest of the brave, did more.
At the reopening of the University, in the fall of 1865, John Paul, then in his twenty-sixth year, entered the law class, conducted by John B. Minor, that greatest of teachers and best of men, and prosecuted his studies in this department of the University for two full sessions, graduating in June, 1867, with his Bachelor's degree. He located at once at Harrisonburg, the county seat of his native county, and commenced the practice of his profession.
At the first general election of county officers, under the old Constitution of 1869-'70, held in November of the latter year, he was elected attorney for the Commonwealth for the county of Rockingham. This was the commencement of his political career. The position was one of importance, and what was most agreeable to the ambitious young lawyer, brought him in contact with many influential citizens, thereby assisting him in laying the foundation of a warm and devoted personal following in his native county that adhered to him in the trying and difficult political course upon which he subsequently entered. It is hardly necessary to say that he discharged the duties of this office with marked success, filling the same until October, 1877, when he resigned in anticipation of his election to the Senate of Virginia, for which office he was at that time a candidate upon a platform regarding the settlement of the State debt and the administration of State affairs, afterwards known as Read
juster. While Commonwealth's Attorney, his practice in civil cases was not extensive, except in the court of bankruptcy, where he enjoyed a large and lucrative employment.
The ambition of John Paul was distinctively political—he aspired to high political office, and enjoyed the atmosphere of political strife, and the campaign for Governor in 1877 on the State debt issue coming on, he entered politics when in his thirty-eighth year as a supporter of General Mahone and became a candidate for the State Senate for Rockingham county. His campaign was spirited, vigorous and aroused much enthusiasm among his many personal friends, and he was.
s. easily elected. In the following session of the General Assembly of 1877-78, he took a large part in the debates in the Senate on the debt question, which culminated in the passage of the Barbour bill, and upon the veto of that measure by Governor Holliday, the Readjuster party rapidly approached independent organization. The Congressional campaign of 1878 was now at hand, and the Readjusters determined to enter the field of national politics, and John Paul became a candidate for Congress in the Seventh District, then represented by his friend and fellow-townsman, Judge John T. Harris. He was not, however, the only aspirant from among the leaders of Readjustment. Captain II. H. Riddleberger and Judge Henry C. Allen, of Shenandoah ; Dr. S. H. Moffett, of Rockingham, and Rev. John E. Massey, of Albemarle, all prominent in the Readjuster movement, contested with him the leadership of the "Readjusters. General John Echols, of Staunton, also entered the contest. It may be doubted whether in the history of Virginia politics, there was ever at the same time in one district, as many candidates for Congressional honors, of as much ability as in the Seventh District in 1878. The canvass commenced early in June of that year, and by September Judge Paul had easily distanced Captain Riddleberger, Judge Allen and Dr. Moffett, and the Readjusters in the Valley were rapidly concentrating on him. Early in September, after a joint debate at Charlottesville---Mr. Massey's home-between that gentleman, Judge Paul and Judge Harris, the latter concluding the discussion,