Farmers who have been elected to positions of trust and honor are not by any means few in America, but it is the exception that the tiller of the soil continues to be such long after he has won success in any sphere outside his regular calling. The allurements of city life in the great majority of cases quickly overcome the inborn love of nature unadorned and the farmer is known by another name.
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Honorable William Payne has been one of the few. After terms of service in county offices and through twelve years in which he held membership in the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate he remained a farmer. His broad acres in Zuma Township, Rock Island County, he still called home, and there he continued to reside and plant and cultivate and reap and raise live stock till he felt it time to retire from active business and from office. Then he exchanged his farm for city property and became a resident of Rock Island.
Mr. Payne was born March 8, 1841, at what is now known as Pleasant Valley, Scott County, Iowa, his parents being Jeremiah and Letitia (Orr) Payne. They located in Scott County in 1837, the father being a native of New York State, and the mother a native of Ohio. The son received his education in the public schools near his home, and in the Winters of 1859. 1860 attended school at Quincy College, and in 1860 taught school in Posey County, Indiana, and Adams County, Illinois. At the outbreak of the Civil war he joined the Thirteenth Illinois Infantry, serving in Company D during the greater part of the four years he spent in the army. After the war he found employment in mercantile establishments and on the farm, till 1875, when he purchased the stock farm in Zuma Township on which he continued to reside for twenty-five years. In 1901 he rented the farm and has since given his attention to other affairs, spending four years in the South.
Mr. Payne’s career as a public officer began soon after the war. In the sixties he served one term as deputy county treasurer and two terms as deputy sheriff. In the early seventies he was elected sheriff, and filled that responsible office for two terms. In 1890 he was elected a member of the lower Illinois House, and so well were his constituents pleased with his work that they sent him back at the end of his first term for another six years, making eight consecutive years. Then they placed him in the Senate, where he held a seat for four consecutive years, retiring in 1902. Among other positions of trust Mr. Payne filled was that of president of the Rock Island Agricultural Association, in which capacity he continued several years.
In Masonry the subject of this sketch stands high, having attained the thirty-second degree. He holds membership in Rock Island Lodge, No. 658, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Rock Island Chapter, No. 18, Royal Arch Masons; Rock Island Commandery, No. 18, Knights Templar; the Oriental Consistory of Chicago, and Kaaba Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, of Davenport, Iowa. In addition he is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Mr. Payne was married October 26, 1870, to Miss Jennie Wilson, daughter of Major F. Wilson and Asenath (North) Wilson, both old settlers of Rock Island County. Four children born of this union: Frank, farmer and stock raiser of Zuma, married Miss Clara Frels in November, 1901. They have one son, Wilson Payne, born in 1894. Ben, of Rock Island, is single, and has all the Masonic degrees his father has. Lucy, was married in January, 1899, to Honorable Marton Bailey, of Danville, Illinois, and they have two children, Joe Cannon Marton, born in 1900, and Helen, born in 1894. Miss Mabel Payne the youngest of the family, resides at home.