Part of the Indiana Biographies Project
Ralph A. Paige
Ralph A. Paige was born in Ware, Massachusetts, August 26, 1825, and died in Richmond, Indiana, September 23, 1887. The ancestry of the family can be traced back to the early part of the seventeenth century, when settlement was made in Massachusetts by ancestors of the subject of this sketch. The grandfather. Major James Paige, was a minute man on the immortal 19th of April, 1775, when American history first began to be made. His immediate ancestors were Benjamin Paige and Mary Ann (Magoon) Paige. Benjamin Paige saw service in the Massachusetts militia, holding a commission as lieutenant, signed by Elbridge Gerry in 1811, and one as lieutenant colonel by Governor Brooks, of Massachusetts, in 1822.
Ralph A. Paige was the youngest of a large family of children. In 1831, when he was six years of age, his parents decided to try their fortunes in the great and then almost unknown west. They came out to Zanesville, Ohio, where after a short stay they moved to Richmond, Indiana, where Benjamin Paige for some time kept hotel, or "tavern," as was then the usual method of denominating hotel business, at what is now known as the northeast corner of Sixth and Main streets. The son Ralph A. for a brief period during his boyhood days attended such private schools as the times and country afforded,–crude and imperfect affairs, compared with the system of modern times; but the greater part of his education was obtained through his own industry and efforts, after his daily work was finished, and the midnight hours often found him endeavoring to overcome the want of early educational training.
He began his business career at an early age, first clerking for James Morrisson, Sr., a relative of the well known Robert Morrisson, donor of Morrisson Library. After some time spent vyith Morrisson he was employed in the dry-goods business with James E. Reeves, with whom he was associated later on as partner. In 1846 he started a store at Williamsburg, Wayne county, Indiana, but after a short time there returned to Richmond, where he continued business with William Wilson. Upon the dissolution of this partnership he was associated with his cousin, Edwin C. Paige, in the dry-goods business, with whom he continued in business until 1853, when he bought out his partner. From this period until the time of his retirement from active business in 1873 he was entirely alone in his business ventures, which he carried on with excellent judgment and success.
In 1853 he was married, at Centerville, Indiana, to Miss Mary E. McCullough, only child of Isaac W. McCullough and granddaughter of Samuel McCullough, one of the early settlers of Oxford, Ohio. Two children were born to them, Ralmaro and Lillian E. Fraternally he became a member of the Order of Odd Fellows, and was an early noble grand in the first lodge at Richmond, Whitewater Lodge. He was also a charter member of Oriental Encampment, of which he was chief patriarch. He also obtained the charter and selected the name, it being suggested to him on account of the situation of Richmond, in the extreme eastern part of the state. Politically his first vote was cast for Zachary Taylor. Upon the formation of the Republican party he became one of the original members of that organization, with which party he continued to affiliate. While in no sense an office seeker or politician, he took great interest in the political welfare of his country; and his extensive reading of political history and his wonderful memory of events and dates were such that few men were better acquainted with the historic affairs of his country than he.
Coming from New England Congregational religious training, his later years were, through family associations, more or less Presbyterian. Though not a member of any church, his religious beliefs were well grounded, and his knowledge and practice of fundamental religious principles were more thorough than those of many of more pretensions. His belief can best be expressed by an extract from a poem written by himself, which we quote:
" When our work on earth is done,
And time shall veil our setting sun;
When the spirit shall leave its mortal mold,
And all the glories of Heaven behold, —
Then the goal of life is won."
In his business relations he was thoroughly upright and conscientious, gentlemanly, considerate and courteous in his personal and social contact, and with all mankind an honest man.
Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties, Indiana, Volume 1, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1899