William Payne was born in Leicestershire, England, March 14, 1817, and is the son of John and Mary (Ossin) Payne, natives of the same shire. The former was a tailor in his younger days and during his later years was proprietor of an hotel. They are both deceased at the present time and he of whom we write is the only survivor of five children with the exception of one sister. He has never had a relative on this side of the Atlantic except for two nieces who spent three months in visiting here.
William Payne received a good common-school education, remaining with his parents seventeen years of age when he determined to come to the New World and taste the sweets of possession for himself. He set sail in the spring of 1833 and was several weeks in making the trip, but finally landed at New York. He came direct to Michigan via the Erie Canal and Lakes to Detroit and first located five miles west of Ann Arbor, where he made his home for some time.
William Payne had but $5 on landing in Ann Arbor. He first worked out on farms until 1836, when he took up eighty acres of Government land on section 35, Deerfield Township, Livingston County, and received a deed signed by President Van Buren. In the fall of 1836, our subject returned to his home in England, having accomplished his object of securing a farm in the new county. He spent two and a half years in the mother country, and was engaged as shipping clerk for a firm of Waters & Whitmore. In 1839 he returned to America and the following year settled on his land, building a log house with a stick chimney and employing slabs for seats.
In the spring of 1840 William Payne was married to Miss Sarah M. Roberts, of Chemung County, N.Y. Indians and wild game were plentiful at the time of their first settlement, but the work of clearing and improving the farm left not a great deal of time for hunting. Our subject has added to his original purchase until he now owns seven lots of eighty acres each. He has cleared and improved a good many acres of land. He farmed until 1880 when he retired from active business and moved to Fenton where he has since lived. Here our subject has a fine home and is pleasantly situated in every respect. Mr. Payne’s first wife died about 1883, she was the mother of two children and an excellent matron, who in her church relations was a Baptist. Our subject’s eldest son, John L., is married and lives on the old homestead in Deerfield Township. William H., is married and lives in Bancroft. He is a at present interested in the hardware business and is moreover a dealer in produce. Our subject was re-married in 1885, his bride being Mary J. Davis, a native of New York State.
William Payne is a Republican in politics and has held various local offices. He has been Township Assessor. Both he and his wife are members of the Baptist Church, our subject having been so connected for thirty years. As a farmer Mr. Payne has been very successful and is the owner of one of the best farms in the State. His buildings and other improvements upon his place are of the latest and most perfect designs. Like most men, he has a private fad outside of his business, being greatly interested in taxidermy, having taken up the art when but thirteen years of age. He has done a great deal in this direction for his own pleasure and amusement and many of his friends have been enriched by his taste in this direction by a case of fine birds. He himself owns several cases of the finest specimens, and has birds from nearly every clime and county in the world.
Source: Chapman Brothers. Portrait and biographical record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1892.