Mystery Monday: The Birth of Edward B. Payne

Edward B. Payne, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.
Edward B. Payne, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio. This is the youngest image we have of Edward- he would have been about 27 years old. (We apologize for the reflection from the glass.)

McMurray Family (Click for Family Tree)

One hundred sixty-nine years ago, on 25 July 1847, a son was the third (known) child born to Nancy S. Deming (1813-1893) and Joseph Hitchcock Payne (1810-1884). They named him Edward Biron/Byron Payne.

We do not know of any ancestors named “Edward” that he might have been named after, but we have not yet extended those lines as far back as we would like to have completed. His middle name, however, was likely after Nancy’s brother Byron Deming (1826-1920). Perhaps his middle name was also in homage to the poet Lord Byron, who many know today for his short poem, “She Walks in Beauty.” Byron wrote much more than just that one lyric, though, and was quite famous in his own time as one of the Romantic era poets. “J. H.,” as Edward’s father was known, was an educated man. He had read the classics as he completed his education, which included seminary training; he would have read Byron and many other poets and writers. Nancy’s father (Harvey Deming, 1785-1847) had been Town Clerk so she likely was educated to some degree as well, or maybe could read and/or write- we don’t know for sure, since there is so little in the records for women. J.H. and Nancy may have had dreams that their son would become a poet, and that he did as well in life as his Uncle Byron- but we are getting ahead of the story, and today’s Mystery Monday.

We cannot find a birth record for EBP (as he is lovingly known in our home since I am so obsessed with learning more about his life). Most information about his birth states he was born in Middletown, Vermont, including a card he filled out in 1918, when he was 71 years old:

CA State Library Biographical Card- front, cropped
CA State Library Biographical Card- front, cropped

Of course, when someone gives their birth information, it is always secondary evidence, since, although they were there at their birth, they probably were not aware of what day or year it was! A person only knows the day of their birth by what others tell them, such as their parents, or when they see a vital record.

The vital record here is the mystery this Monday- where is a record of EBP’s birth?

The 1900 US Federal Census noted that EBP was born in Vermont in July of 1847, but it also included that his father was born in England and his mother in Germany- both places are decidedly untrue, as the family has deep roots in early America. (Perhaps someone else gave the census taker the information?)

EBP’s second wife, Ninetta (Wiley) [Eames] Payne [Springer] was the informant for his death certificate in 1923, and she stated his birth as 25 July 1847 in Vermont.

Everything else we have found states EBP was born in Vermont, but where? And is there proof of when, since some sources noted his birth year as 1845 instead of 1847?

Starting with the information given by EBP on the California Author Card, we found that Middletown is in Rutland County, Vermont. The name was changed to Middletown Springs in the late 1800s, but he may not have known that, or else just preferred the name of the town as it was at his birth. Middletown is not a very populous town- only about 750 residents even today, with not many more in the past.

Vermont Vital Records are now available from FamilySearch and, and a search box search on both websites was unsuccessful. So I looked through the records, page by page (virtually), in Rutland County for the years 1844-1848. No EBP. No mention of his parents. No mention of his sisters, but they were born in Ohio so would not be included in the Middletown or Rutland, VT birth records.

In The History of Middletown, Vermont, in Three Discourses… by Barnes Frisbee, published in 1867, we learn that Joseph H. Payne, EBP’s father, moved to Middletown in December of 1846, and preached there in the Congregational Church for about a year. That tidbit helps us to pinpoint his birth year as 1847 (vs. 1845), as EBP stated it was.

So, no success finding proof of Edward Biron Payne’s birth online despite many, many hours, but we do have a ‘preponderance of evidence.’ Happily, FamilySearch has a number of microfilms that include Middletown/Rutland land records, town records, etc., so those will be the next resource to peruse. We might be able to learn a bit more about the family’s short year in Middletown, as well.

Anyone out there have proof?

Surprise party for Edward B. Payne on 27 July 1893. Morning Call (San Francisco), page 3, column 2, Chronicling America via
Surprise party for Edward B. Payne on Tuesday, 25 July 1893. Morning Call (San Francisco), Thursday, 27 July 1893, Volume LXXIV, No. 57, Page 3, Column 2, ‘Chronicling America’ via

For now, we will continue to use 25 July 1847 as EBP’s birth, and we did raise a glass in his honor today. He was an incredible man, who put his faith into practice and worked unflaggingly to better the condition of all men and women. He once commented that he believed there was a door between the two worlds, our world of the living and the world of those who have moved on to the next phase, whatever that may be. I hope that today the door opened just a bit, and he saw how we lovingly honored him on his ‘natal day.’



Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Image from Leominster Massachusetts Historical and Picturesque, by William A. Emerson, Lithotype Publishing Co., Gardner, Mass. 1888, page 55. Accessed 25 July 2016 at
  2. Edward B. Payne census information–Year: 1900; Census Place: Berkeley Ward 2, Alameda, California; Roll: T623 83; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 397, via The 1900 US Federal Census for Edward B. Payne, indexed incorrectly in the home of Samuel Wakeman despite EBP having a different house number- he was actually single since his wife had died, and boarding at 2147 Parker St., as was Charmian Kittredge, who is listed on the same page. They were living in the home of Roscoe Eames and his wife Ninetta (Wiley) Eames. Charmian was the niece of Ninetta, and would later become the wife of the writer Jack London. Roscoe and Ninetta divorced, and she later married Edward. But that is all another story or two… or twenty.
  3. The History of Middletown, Vermont, in Three Discourses… by Barnes Frisbee, Tuttle & Company, Printers, Rutland, Vermont, 1867, page 95, via


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