52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #1- Edward Byron Payne

Edward Byron Payne, c 1920?
Edward Byron Payne, c 1920?

Most people have at least one beloved ancestor that they feel close to even once that person is gone. I have a stoic grandmother proud of her family history, who always said that we come “from strong pioneer stock, and can do anything we set our minds to do;” a sweet grandmother and grandfather that let me ride with them in their convertible on a trip to the lake; a smart aunt who inspired me to attend college and always keep educating myself; and a great-grandmother who always insisted we eat some of her potato salad that, as a picky eater, I loathed, but I did anyway, because she was my dear great-grandmother and it was a privilege to know her. Genealogists usually have even more of those beloved relatives, but they are often ones who passed away long before the family historian was born, even many, many years before.

Edward Byron Payne is one of my beloved ancestors that I never got to meet. He died the year before his great-grandson, my father, was born, so the connection seems ever more distant. My dad’s parents and grandparents knew him well, and shared some of their stories, though it was never enough for me. I have been researching this man since I was about 15, and it just seems that the more I learn about him, the more questions I have about him.


Edward B. Payne, fondly known as EB or EBP in my household, was the third (known) child of Joseph Hitchcock (“J.H.”) Payne and Nancy S. Deming. J.H. Payne was an ordained Congregational minister, living and serving in Ohio when their daughters were born- Cornelia in 1837, and Ruby D., in 1839. There was a long break before another known child was born- perhaps there were others who did not survive, a sad reality in those days. The Rev. Payne was farming and preaching in Middletown, Vermont, in 1846-47, when Edward was born, although I have been unable to find any record of EBP’s birth in the town vital records.

Interestingly, Edward was born 25 Jul 1847, just 19 days after his maternal grandfather, Harvey Deming, died in Middlebury, VT. (The circle of life…) “Edward” has been a family name now used for at least four generations, starting with (Dr.) E.A. McMurray, in honor of Edward B. Payne. (Dr. McMurray was EBP’s grandson.)  I can only find one earlier Edward: Stephen Edward Payne (1821-1883), the brother of EBP’s father. The “Byron” part of EB’s name probably was in honor of his mother’s brother, Byron Deming (1826-1920), as well as the poet in this educated, literate, family.

In 1850 EBP was just 3 years old and living in Fremont, Lake County, Illinois, along with his sisters Cornelia and Ruby D., their parents, and Nancy’s mother, Ruby (Sturtevant) Deming. His father is listed as a farmer, with $1000. in real estate value; he also was serving as a minister per other records. The 1850 US Federal Census was taken on 7 Dec 1850. Little Ruby, named after her maternal grandmother and just 10 years old as listed in that census, died sometime later that month. (Her death record has not yet been found, nor her grave.) Although the holidays were not celebrated in a grand way back then as they are now, it must have been a somber Christmas, instead of what would normally be one of the most joyous times of year for a minister.

Finding the family ten years later in the 1860 census has been a challenge, with no success as yet. They were in Salem (or Liberty) and Wilmot, Wisconsin 1858-1865 per Rev. Payne’s Necrology. Apparently they were just one step ahead of the census taker…

More to come about Edward B. Payne.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Photo of a photo of Edward B. Payne that hung in my grandparent’s home.

2) 1850 US Federal Census, Joseph H. Payne, head of household: Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: Fremont, Lake, Illinois; Roll: M432_114; Page: 79A; Image: 163., accessed 3/31/14. JH Payne was listed as a farmer with $1000 in real estate value, and born in New York. His wife was born in Vermont, and mother-in-law Ruby (Sturtevant) Deming born in Massachusetts.

3) Joseph Hitchcock Payne- Necrology, Congregational Yearbook, 1886, Congregational Churches in the United States National Council, Volume 1886. Published by Congregational publishing society, 1886. Page 30.


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