Edward Payne and the Lawrence Family

February 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Edward PayneCourtesy of Sangamon Valley Collection

Edward Payne
Courtesy of Sangamon Valley Collection

A story by local historian Tara McLellan McAndrew in the Sunday, February 3, 2013, issue of Springfield’s State Journal Register about Edward W. Payne caught my eye.  Tara describes Payne’s extensive collection of Native American relics and the fate of Payne’s life-long accumulation (click here to read the article).  I was especially interested because Edward W. Payne had such a close relationship with Susan and her family.  I refer to him briefly in Chapter One of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House:

According to news reports, on January 1, 1880, Susie invited Ed Payne to a leap year party at the Leland Hotel.  At that time Payne was a young bank teller with a promising future in the financial business.  In later life he would be one of Rheuna’s [Susan’s father] partners who established the State National Bank.  Rheuna was the bank’s first president, and Payne assumed that position at Rheuna’s death.

The two men evidently maintained a very close personal and business relationship. The association continued with the family after Rheuna’s death because Payne advised Susan on business matters and served as pall bearer at the funerals of Susan’s mother and second husband.  Like Rheuna, he was a school board member, and his bond with the Lawrence family was most obvious in his commitment to build Lawrence School. Details are related in the March 23, 1936, issue of the Illinois State Journal:

To the late Edward W. Payne, Springfield capitalist, must go much of the credit for the establishment of Lawrence school.  At the turn of the century Mr. Payne visualized that neighborhood as one which was to become populous and suggested to the board of education that a school be built in the square block bounded by First, Second, Laurel and Spruce streets. He was criticized in some quarters for wanting to build a school in that sparsely settled section of the city, but he succeeded in convincing the board that such a move would be advantageous…It is said that Mr. Payne personally selected and paid for all the brick that went into Lawrence school.

 At Lawrence the first library in any elementary school in the city was established …  It was furnished by Mrs. Susan Lawrence.  The first phonograph to be used in connection with the study of music in Springfield schools was placed in the Lawrence school.  It was donated by Mr. Payne and was the finest instrument of its kind available at that time. The school was named in honor of Rheuna D. Lawrence, mayor of Springfield from 1891 to 1894, and for many years a prominent banker here.

Even after Edward Payne’s death, his family continued the connection to the Lawrence family in a unique way. Nanette Payne, one of Edward’s three daughters, married Charles C. Thomas who purchased the Lawrence House for corporate headquarters of his publishing firm and preserved and protected the Frank Lloyd Wright designed house and furnishings for all of us to enjoy.

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