Biography of Walter L. Payne

Walter L. Payne, a native son of Kansas, had been closely identified with a number of its business and public activities for a number of years, and is vice-president of the Pioneer State Bank of Burlingame. The Payne family have had a part in the making of Kansas for fully sixty years.

It was Mr. Payne’s grandparents, Lorenzo Dow and Mary Ann (Wildman) Payne, who were the pioneers of the family in Kansas. They located at Trading Post in Miami County, where Lorenzo D., who was a physician by profession, practiced for two years until the border ruffians drove him across the line into Douglas County. In that county he continued his practice until his death in 1875. Doctor Payne and family had come to Kansas overland in the usual custom of the early settlers, and made the journey in a prairie schooner. He was a man of splendid influence as well as a successful physician and did much to build up his community. It was the exposure incident to a hard and continuous practice in a new country, involving long and arduous riding and driving from place to place, that eventually brought about his death.

This branch of the Payne family is descended from one of five brothers who came from England to America in the early days. Merton Anson Payne, father of the Burlingame banker, was born December 25, 1837, in the State of Ohio. He was educated in common schools and had the advantages of an academy at Wolcott, Indiana. For several years he was associated with his uncle in a bank in Indiana, and in 1859 followed his parents to Kansas. He made the journey by way of railroad as far as Kansas City, thence took a steamboat up the Missouri River to Leavenworth, and from there by stage to Lawrence. His destination was the settlement called Clinton, ten miles southwest of Lawrence. Merton A. Payne had hardly become established in Kansas before the war broke out. He enlisted in the Fourteenth Kansas Infantry, served as a sergeant, and when that regiment was reorganized he became first lieutenant of the Fourth Arkansas Volunteer Infantry. He was in many of the hard fought campaigns in the Trans-Mississippi region, and continued with the army until discharged in 1864. Returning to Clinton, Kansas, he was married in October, 1865, to Catherine McCoach. She was a daughter of John and Mary (Hareltino) MeCoach, both of whom were born in County Donegal in Northern Ireland. John McCoach when nine years of age was a stowaway on a sailing vessel and landed in Philadelphia. By hard work he saved enough money to bring over his three sisters. He became a prominent coal merchant in Philadelphia, but eventually on account of the ill health of some of his family moved to Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and in 1857 came overland and took up a claim southwest of Lawrence, Kansas. Two years later he brought his family to the west and he was identified with the State of Kansas the rest of his years. John McCoach died in 1896, and his wife in 1876. There were eight children in the McCoach family. One daughter, Mary, is now deceased. George McCoach was a Union soldier in a regiment of Illinois Infantry, was in the famous marsh to the sea, spent eleven months in Andersonville prison and afterwards died in Ohio from wounds he had received while attempting an escape from that notorious stockade prison. While attempting his escape he was shot in the neck by buckshot and was also bitten by hounds. The son, John McCoach, was a member of the First Kansas Volunteers and served throughout the entire war, participating in Wilson Creek as his first battle, held the rank of second lieutenant and is now living in Colorado Springs. James McCoach at the age of seventeen went to Leavenworth and in 1865 started across the plains with a freight train and was never afterwards heard of. William McCoach at the age of fifteen crossed the plains and located in Helena, Montana. Thomas McCoach is now living in Colorado.

After his marriage Merton A. Payne with his father, Doctor Payne, bought a building and store that had been erected by John Beam in 1856. This was a landmark in that section of Kansas, and stood until it was burned in 1904. Its sills had been hewed with a hand ax, and the floor was of 12 by 2 inch planking. From that time forward until his death on January 19, 1883, Merton Anson Payne was an active and successful merchant. He was a republican, though never in any sense a politician. He was considered one of the leading men of his community, lived an upright and temperate life, and was a member of the Masons and Odd Fellows. He and his wife were active Methodists, and his widow had always maintained a very close association with church affairs. Mrs. Payne now lives on the old homestead at Clinton, Kansas.

Walter L. Payne, who was born on the home farm in Douglas County, Kansas, April 13, 1867, is the oldest of three brothers. His brother, Edgar A., is connected with the Standard Oil Company at Lawrence. Rolla Merton, the youngest, died in 1873.

A substantial education trained Walter L. Payne for his active business career. He attended the public schools of Clinton and also Baker University. For two years he was a cowboy in Meade County, and then returned to Clinton and took up a career as a general merchant. He successfully managed the store there until 1896, and during that time from 1890 to 1895 was postmaster.

On May 24, 1894, Mr. Payne married Miss Vienna C. Chilcott. Mrs. Payne was born in Iowa, was brought to Kansas and lived first in Jefferson County and then in Douglas County on a farm. She was liberally educated, having studied in Baker University and having pursued post-graduate work in Kansas University. For four years before her marriage she taught school. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Payne lived on a farm in Douglas County and his younger brother was on the homestead at the time. Mr. and Mrs. Payne are the parents of two children: Roland Dow, who is assistant attorney general to S. M. Brewster at Topeka; and LaVergne, who is assistant cashier in the Pioneer State Bank at Burlingame.

In 1896 Mr. Payne removed to Lawrence, where he was a prosperous clothing merchant until 1900. In that year he was appointed deputy county clerk, an office he filled until January, 1903. Then for four years he was assistant state treasurer under T. T. Kelly, and for six years filled a similar appointment under the late Mark Tulley. Thus, for ten years Mr. Payne came into close touch with the state official life at Topeka, and is one of the most widely known men in Kansas.

In January, 1913, he came to Burlingame and had since given most of his time and attention to his duties as vice president of the Pioneer Bank. In 1912 he was republican candidate for the office of state treasurer, having been defeated by a very narrow margin. In 1916 he again became a candidate for this office, was elected November 7, 1916, and is now serving as treasurer of Kansas. Mr. Payne is one of the men of leadership and influence in his home city, and since 1915 had been president of the city council and for two years in 1914-15 was president of the Commercial Club. He is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, being a member of Consistory No. 1 at Topeka, had been prominent in Scottish Rite work for the past ten years, and belongs to the Royal Arch Chapter at Burlingame, to the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Fraternal Aid Union and the Knights and Ladies of Security.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Payne have a deep and active interest in the First Presbyterian Church at Burlingame, in which Mr. Payne is an elder. Mrs. Payne gives much of her time to church affairs, is a member of the Ladies Guild, and also belongs to the Saturday Afternoon Club and other ladies’ organizations in that city. While little is known of the fact, Mrs. Payne had dispensed a broad charity for a number of years, and during her residence in Topeka was a working member in several charitable organizations.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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