History of Payson and Plainville, Il.
From: Quincy and Adams County
History and Representative Men
David F. Wilcox - Supervising Editor
Judge Lyman McCarl - Charman of Advisory Board
Published by: The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1919

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The Township of Payson has been described as "containing some of the richest lands and some of the poorest in the county." It is in the southern tier of townships, about five miles east of the Mississippi River, and, although it has developed no considerable village, embraces two rural settlements, away- from any railroad, known as Payson and Plainville. Although they are both old, they have been content to go along slowly, if safely.


In the earlier years the Town of Pay-son had a high horticultural reputation, certainly taking the lead in Adams County and measuring up to the highest standard of any other section in the state. The first apple orchard worthy of the name was planted by Deacon A. Scarborough in the spring of 1838. His stock consisted of one-year-old trees, purchased in St. Louis, but raised in Ohio. During the same year he purchased of John Anderson, of Pike County, a bushel of choice New Jersey peaches, with which he started orchards of that fruit which. for a time, were said to have been unexcelled.

William Stewart was probably the most widely known of the early horticulturists who gave that part of the county such a good standing. In 1836 he came with his wife and large family of children to Payson Township, his home for many years having been in the State of Maine. Not long after the family settled in Payson Township, Mr. Stewart returned to the East on a business trip and purchased a pint of apple seed in New York. With that stock he started the first orchard, or nursery, in Adams County. He. not only specialized in the cultivation of choice varieties of fruit trees, but commenced to raise ornamental shrubbery, and many of the old homesteads in the Pay-son neighborhood, and quite a distance beyond, owe their artificial landscape attractions to William Stewart's taste and enterprise. His death occurred in December, 1857, and his descendants in Adams County are numerous.


Previous to 1834 not more than half a dozen families had settled in what is now Payson Township. In the previous year John Wood, E. B. Kimball and Brackett Pottle had entered the tract upon which the village now stands at the general land office. Deacon Albigence Scarborough had already made a trip to the locality, and was so pleased with the general outlook that in the fall of 1834 he purchased of the gentlemen named the original site of the village, which he laid out in the spring of 1835. The proprietor came from West Harvard, Counecticut, and being a great admirer of Rev. Dr. Edward Payson, of Portland, Maine, named his pet village accordingly. In the laying out of the original lots, as well as in their sale, he was assisted by P. E. Thompson and James C. Bernard.

In the year 1835 Deacon Prince arrived with a stock of goods from New York and opened the first store in Payson. A year or two afterward J. C. Bernard and Joseph Norwood established themselves as merchants, the latter being the first postmaster. In May, 1836, the \Iethodists formed the first local religious society.

In 1836 Deacon Scarborough, Deacon David Prince and Capt. John Burns commenced the building of the stone windmill which was completed about three years afterward at a cost of $13,000, and which was so long one of the picturesque landmarks of Adams County.


Pioneer life is seldom marked by the presence of many educational advantages, but Payson had these advantages from her earliest days, due no doubt to the fact that the first settlers came from the East and from the old world where the school systems were well established.

In the year 1833 the land upon which Payson now stands was entered at the general land office by Hon. John Wood, E. B. Kimball and Bracket Pottle. In the same year Deacon Albigence Scarborough journeyed here, walking much of the way, in order to save the strength of his mule to carry provisions. He made a second trip with his family in 1834, purchased the land on which Payson now stands and in the spring of 1835 laid out the village, having it platted and recorded; afterward associating with himself P. C. Thompson and James 0. Bernard, in the laying out and sale of lots. The first sale of lots took place on the seventh day of August, 1836, and these three men gave 20 per cent of the purchase money of the lots sold for the purpose of building a seminary, and four acres of land were given by Deacon Scarborough upon which to erect the said building.

However, a number of schools were carried on by subscription before the public schools were organized. The first was in an old log cabin with puncheon floor on the northeast corner of Edwards and Fulton streets; taught by Miss Emily Scarborough, who also was the first public school teacher.

Miss Trimble, Miss Elizabeth Scarborough and Miss Ann Prince also taught subscription schools. The Hawley boarding school was a very ambitious undertaking and teachers were brought from the East. However, it proved a financial failure, and was bought by Doctor Corbyn, who gave up his work in Palmyra because of the trouble stirred up by rebels there. Here a number of Quincy students received their early education, among whom were some of the Bushnells and Bulls. Doctor Corbyn later became pastor of the Good Shepherd Church in Quincy.

Hugh Morrow conducted classes in the basement of the Second Congregational Church, until it was destroyed by fire.

In 1846 a frame building now serving as a residence in the south part of the village was built from the academy fund upon the land given by Deacon Scarborough. This was used as a private school for two years. Afterwards it was rented by the district for a public school and remained so for a number of years. This building was finally sold and moved off the lot. Through the patient efforts of Joel K. Scarborough and his associates a new public school brick building was erected on the same lot, and a clear title to the town by quit claim deeds was insured from the early stockholders in the academy fund. The school has ever been good and always an honor to the town.

It must be remembered, however, that the Township of Payson was first laid off into school districts in 1837, for which purpose the citizens met on the 28th day of October and the first meeting of trustees then elected was held on the seventh of December following. In these districts public schools were established, although private schools were still maintained.

The Payson public school has increased in value, today ranking second to none in the county. The influence of her scholars is evinced by numerous distinguished people of various vocations who were born and reared in the town. Among these were Dr. David Prince, a famous physician and surgeon; Mrs. Anna Scott and others, who devoted their lives to missions in foreign fields; Prof. Edward Perry, the head of an oratorical school in St. Louis; Miss Mary Leach, a Ph. D. and Professor of Chemistry in Oxford, Ohio. Splendid teachers have been graduated from Payson School, as well as men in the ministry, law and business.

Among the former teachers who have done much for Payson School are Theodore C. Poling, now a successful lawyer and banker in Quincy; Professor Hall, who first graded the school; George Gabriel, who has taught in the Quincy Schools, been their superintendent, and is now president of the Board of Education.


This bronze tablet has a prominent place in the entrance hall of the Payson High School:

This building was erected by
Henry M. and Lucy W. Seymour
in memory of their only son

May his noble and generous life, which prompted this gift, inspire all students who enter here to improve this opportunity of study and of growth, that the world may he a better place because he once lived here."

"'A blameless nature-glad and pure and true,
He walked life's morning path in happy light,
Then passed from sight.
But still he lives in every kindly deed we do,
In all our love of truth and right,
Forever young, forever glad, forever true.'

Charles W. Seymour, in whose memory the building was erected, when only sixteen years of age was almost instantly killed in a ball game on the school grounds, May 22, 1915, a pitched ball striking him over the heart. The Seymour family is one of the oldest, most prominent and well-to-do in Adams County, the grandfather for whom Charles was named having located in Payson in the early '30s.

Shortly after the death of their only son, Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Seymour decided to provide this memorial schoolhouse as his monument. The building was completed and dedicated December 30, 1916. It is a beautiful structure, 172 feet long, extending back on the wings 42 feet and in the center 92 feet. Its red tile roof does not flame at the sky, but merely adds a touch of restful color. Its native limestone, taken from the Seymour quarries and, used for the walls of the building, is just the right shade, and the Bedford stone trimmings are in most excellent taste. Over the large stone pillars in the entrance arch is carved in the stone, "Charles W. Seymour High School." The visitor enters over granite steps into a marble stepped vestibule and thence into the entrance hail, floored with quarry tile and lighted with one handsome, indirect electric fixture. Facing the door is the bronze tablet with the inscription quoted above. The Hall walls are of marble. The wood work is all of quarter sawed white oak, stained silver gray. A marble base runs around the bottom of the side walls in the corridors leading right and left from the hail. Here the walls are tinted green and are offset by the French half windows. The floor is of mosaic tile. On the first floor, beside the hail and corridors, there are four class rooms, 24 by 32 each, an auditorium 32 feet wide and 45 feet to the stage, which is 10 by 18, and a recitation room on each side of the auditorium, 16 by 16 feet. In the light basement ample provision has been made for the domestic science and manual training departments. Here also are the large indoor play room, locker room for boys and girls, shower baths and the heating plant. The building is heated by steam, lighted by electricity, provided with hot and cold water and sanitary drinking fountains. The walls are of hollow tile and the floors of concrete and the building is fireproof.

The memory of a sixteen-year-old boy lives today in the heart of Payson and in the pride of Adams County. So short a span of life! Just long enough to bring to the village where he was born a gift that endures forever; for it was Charles Seymour himself who first planned the new school for Payson. It was in his boyish heart to give, when he became a man, an enduring monument to education, a monument which in the sad tragedy of his death has become a memorial to a boy and to his home village a surety of the things that make life worth while. In the death of Charles W. Seymour, the sixteen-year-old boy, Payson holds in her heart a memory and a gift, neither of which will ever be forgotten. In the boy there comes to the mind of Payson a lovable youth whose thoughts, strangely enough for youth, were of other people; a generous boy whose young heart was an inspiration to his friends, as it was a joy to his elders. In his monument they have a school beyond compare-one of the finest and most complete in the entire country.

State Superintendent of Schools Francis G. Blair delivered the principal address at the dedication of the memorial school in 1916, and in the course of his remarks said: "Helen Hunt Jackson, before her death, let it be known to her friends that she did not wish a monument to be erected upon her grave. She asked that her body be laid to rest upon the summit of the mountain where she had sat so often writing the stories for the children and the people of this country. She said that it was her wish that people coming to vist her grave might pick up two pebbles from the stream on the mountain and lay them upon her grave. If they wished some remembrance of that visit, they might take away one pebble placed there by other hands.

"What has happened within the years since her body was buried on the mountain?" Loving feet have toiled up the mountain side; loving hands have plucked up the pebbles and cast them on her grave until a real monument has been erected to her memory-a monument such as any noble minded person might crave for himself.

"Here, however, we have the erection of another kind of monument which, in my mind, is more noble and more abiding; here a building is erected within which, during the years to come, great spiritual forces are to influence the lives of children. Hundreds of boys and girls, coming under these spiritual influences, are to carry away with them gifts which will influence every thought and act of their lives. A monument will be built in the hearts and minds of the children which time will not destroy.

"We are told that on Mount Moriah King Solomon erected a ternpie, with marble and granite hewn and fashioned in the quarries, with cedars from Lebanon, and fir trees from Tyre and Sidon; with silver and gold and precious jewels from Ophir, and with the most skillful workmen that the ancient world could produce he constructed a temple that was the wonder of the ages. Princely potentates and crowned heads came from the four corners of the earth to look upon that magnificent embodiment of the architectural skill and genius. But the corroding breath of the centuries marred its beauty and the thundering tread of the Chaldean soldier shook its foundations. Amid smoke and flame it tottered and fell and crumbled to dust. Today we know not even the spot on which it stood. Yes, Solomon was a mighty builder, but he could not construct out of wood and stone a monument that would endure forever.

"So we turn from the dream of vanished grandeur and beauty to look into the school room, where the teacher is building another tern- ple; where she is laying its foundations deep and broad upon the eternal verities of nature and art; where she is carving its pillars and arches out of the infinite quarries of the human soul; where she is hanging its walls with the pictures of the imagination and the tapestries of the heart, and where, let us hope, she is crowning the whole with a dome resplendent in beauty and radiant with the hope of immortality. And over the entrance to such a temple is written in characters of living fire:

"'He who builds with wood and stone, Must see his work decay, But he who shapes the human mind, Builds for eternity.'

"It is because I believe that Mr. and Mrs. Seymour are building to the memory of their son such an imperishable monument that I have come to join with them and the people of this community in the dedication of this building."

Governor Frank O. Lowden offered three silk flags as prizes to the schools of the State of Illinois. Payson High School won one of these flags by selling a greater number of bonds in proportion to the number of students enrolled than any other high school in the State.


The Village of Payson was first incorporated in 1839, and secondly, in 1869, as a town. On April 26, 1903, it was incorporated as a village under the general state act. Its public utilities may be said to include electric lighting furnished by a local plant, of which W. K. Elliott is the owner, and a municipal well, 200 feet in depth, from which the supply for all purposes is drawn.

It also has two banks and a weekly newspaper. The latter, owned and edited by E. P. Maher and wife, is a live village institution, and has been such for a number of years. The two financial institutions
which accommodate the village and a considerable area of surrounding country are branches of the South Side Bank and the State Savings, Loan and Trust Company of Quincy. Their respective managers are J. G. Thompson and C. E. Gabriel, cashier. The branch of the State Savings, Loan and Trust Company. at Payson was opened in December, 1909, and the new building now occupied was completed in the fall of the following year.

The Village of Payson has had a reputation for sobriety and religious strength since the very early days, and the townspeople have well sustained it. At the present time the Congregationalists, Methodists and Disciples of Christ maintain organizations with settled pastors, and the Baptists have also a society. In priority of establishment the last named heads the list, a Baptist Church having been organized at Payson in March, 1834. As this was the first of the religious bodies to get a foothold, although the organization is not now strong, the event is worthy of some special mention.

The meeting to organize the Baptist Church was held at the residence of W. H. Tandy, about three miles north of the village, on March 8, 1834, and besides Mr. Tandy and wife, the society comprised two married couples and a bachelor. At first meetings were held in the houses of the. members, but in 1835 a log house of worship was erected in a grove near Gabriel Kay's residence. But when the Village of Pay-son was assured-in fact, at the second sale of lots, in April, 1837-the Baptists purchased a site for a church building, and soon afterward commenced its erection. They occupied this frame structure for twenty-seven years.

The Methodists had organized a class in the village during 1835, and in 1840 it was incorporated as a church. Its first building was completed in the fall of 1842, and a larger one in 1854. The present pastor of the Methodist Church is Rev. C. S. McCullom. The Congregationalists organized in May, 1836, the numerous Scarboroughs, headed by Deacon Albigence Scarborough, being among the original members of the church. The first house of worship was burned not long after its completion in 1842, the second meeting house being completed in the fall of 1865. Rev. T. J. Brown is now in charge of the Congregational Church at, Payson. The Christian Church, Rev. Charles L. Roland, pastor, was organized in February, 1868.

Payson has a number of secret and benevolent organizations. The oldest, Payson Lodge, No. 375, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was chartered in October, 1863. It has a present membership of about eighty. The Order of the Eastern Star has also a chapter, No. 375.


The little Village of Plainville, southeast of the central part of Payson Township, was originally called Stone's Prairie. Samuel Stone settled in that locality in the year 1822; himself, his family and descendants gave the settlement its early name. Among the other early settlers of the locality and neighborhood were Henry Wagy, Wyman Whiteomb and A. B. Vining, who came in the early '30s, and Solomon Shinn and John Delaplain, who came at a somewhat later period.

The first merchant of the place was Mr. Delaplain (deceased several years), and the little old building in which he displayed his small stock of goods is still standing, although it has been moved to another lot than its original site. A few years afterward John Vining opened a store. In the early '80s Mr. Delaplain built a new store at Plainville with a handsome residence, but both were burned some years later. The same fire destroyed several other buildings, including the "Observer," the home newspaper office. The publication named was owned by Chubbick & Caughlan.

For many years, while the postoffice was called Stone's Prairie, the village was popularly known as Shakerag. When Chubbick & Caughlan founded their newspaper they thought .the village should be named in honor of its first merchant, John Delaplain, and they, with others, petitioned the postoffice department to that effect. The result was that the name of the postoffice was changed from Stone's Prairie to Plainville. It was incorporated as a town May 1, 1896. The village is represented in the newspaper field by A. J. Crimm, editor of the News, who founded that. journal in October, 1915. Plainville has also a well organized State Bank, of which A. M. Carter is president and E. E. Benson cashier.

Both the Methodists and Baptists have church organizations-the latter of comparatively late establishment (1890). The Methodists of the locality have been active since 1854, when the Shiloh Church was dedicated; the Richfield Church was established in 1858 and the organization at Plainville was founded in 1876. These societies are now under the pastorate of Rev. George F. McCumber. The Shiloh membership is 56, the . Richfield 46, and the Plainville 118. Emory Elliott was on the work in 1855. For the past thirty years Revs. S. G. Ferree, R. Gregg, J. W. Maddison, A. V. Babbs, C. F. Buker, I. W. Keithley, J. A. Biddle, M. D. Tremaine, A. B. Fry and George C. Bechtel have been the successive pastors, previous to the coming of Mr. McCumber in 1914. Rev. L. C. Taylor is pastor of the Baptist Church.

The Masons, Odd Fellows and Modern Woodnien of America are organized at Plainville. The Independent Order Odd Fellows' Lodge was originally instituted in August, 1887, as Stone's Prairie Lodge, No. 759. Its successive noble grands have been J. F. Lightle, C. W. Sturtevant, William Hess, S. A. Benson, Gus Hampsmire, Orville Hess, H. O. Larimore, J. P. Journey and C. W. Sturtevant, second term.

Plainville was incorporated as a village in 1896, the first president of its board of trustees having been Lawrence Hoskins, with A. J. Crim, clerk. C. W. Sturtevant is now president of the village board and Fay Hoskins, clerk.

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