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Oregon Pioneer Biographies


"Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley - Oregon," Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1903

CALEB J. PAYNE. The finest rural dwelling between McMinnville and Sheridan has just been completed by Caleb J. Payne, owner of one of the best stocked, best equipped and most thoroughly cultivated farms in Yamhill county. This farm possesses more than an ordinary interest for its fortunate owner and represents not only the field of his mature and successful activity, but is as well the playground of his childhood and the scene of his birth, which occurred December 21, 1858. The inspiration derived from all worthy ancestors has had its effect in forming the character of Mr. Payne, and furthermore it is to his credit that he so well maintains the reputation of one of the noble, capable and resourceful pioneers of the county.

The Payne family was early represented in America, the paternal great-grandfather holding large landed possessions in Pennsylvania. There in 1789 was born his son, Aaron, the intrepid Oregonian pioneer, a man destined to fill a broad niche in the affairs of his time and place. A farmer and local preacher of the Christian Church by occupation, Aaron Payne was also a courageous soldier in the war of 1812, and was later a soldier in the Blackhawk war in Illinois, to which latter service he was prompted by the massacre of his brother, one of the first to fall before the murderous vengeance of the Indians. In the war of 1812 he was with Jackson at New Orleans, and in the Blackhawk war was a member of the Light Horse Dragoons. He was wounded near the place where the great Blackhawk was taken prisoner, but not seriously, and finally located on a farm in Illinois, a stanch advocate of peace won at the expense of Indian extermination. He married a Miss Murphy, who bore him thirteen children, eleven of whom grew to maturity. Her death occurred in 1846, and the following year he joined a caravan bound for the extreme west, and without particular incident arrived at his destination in Yamhill county, Ore. Here he took up a donation land claim, cleared it of timber to a certain extent, and made his home among the crude conditions then prevailing in the state. Leaving his farm to the care of his children he took advantage of the gold rush to California in 1849, but on the way enlisted in the Rogue River war, participating in many of the important skirmishes. The need of his military srvices over, he resumed his journey to California, where he followed mining and prospecting for about a year, returning then to his donation claim, where he worked at its improvement for many years. He became prominent in politics and represented his county in the state legislature, all the while continuing to preach and run his farm, doing all the good that lay in his power to accomplish. His life was fashioned on self-sacrificing lines, and while directing the lives of hundreds into channels of usefulness and peace, received no remuneration save that conferred by an approving conscience. It was against his principles to receive money for preaching, but his farm netted him a fair income and he was what might be termed a financially successful man. When he was about eighty he retired from agricultural and ministerial work, thereafter living in retirement at North Yamhill until his death, in 1883, at the age of ninety-four years.

While Aaron Payne was living on his farm in Sangamon county, Ill., his son, Caleb J., Sr., the father of our subject, was born May 24, 1821. In time he left the paternal farm and learned the butcher's trade in Ilinois, and his search for opportunity was rewarded in 1845, when he was employed by a man by the name of Ramage to drive ox-teams, and make himself generally useful in a trip across the plains. This was two years before the father came west, and at the end of his journey he settled on the farm on the Sheridan and McMinnville pike, near where the son now lives, eleven miles southwest of McMinnville and three and a half miles east of Sheridan, and which is now occupied by his son. At the time of the Cayuse war he was endeavoring to utilize his six hundred and forty acres in general farming and stock-raising, but he responded to his country's needs and enlisted as first orderly sergeant, taking part in all the principal engagements of the war. His peaceful farming existence was further interrupted in 1849, when he went to California and mined for a few months, but his hoard was considerably lessened owing to the time he spent in caring for an old friend, William Ball, who had the misfortune to break his leg. Returning to Portland on the Brother Jonathan, he was forty-seven days en route, but finally reached his claim, the wiser for his various experiences.

In 1850, Mr. Payne married Malinda Toney, who was born in Callaway county, Mo., March 24, 1829, and who crossed the plains with her parents in 1847, settling on a farm in Yamhill county adjoining that of her future husband. But a comparatively brief married life was permitted Mr. Payne, for he died in 1858, leaving to his children a large property, but partially developed. His widow continued to live on the farm until 1872, when she married J.J. Butler and removed to a farm in the vicinity. Her second husband died a few years later, and she herself died in McMinnville in 1898, at the age of sixty-nine years. Five children were born of her first marriage, of whom Amanda is the wife of W.L. Warren, of McMinnville, and Mary is the wife of H.C. Burns, also of McMinnville; twins died in infancy, and Caleb C.(sic), Jr.

The present owner of the Payne property was educated in Monmouth and at the Portland Business College. He continued to be an integral part of the home farm until his marriage to Mary Raymond, a native of Marion county, and daughter of Augusta and Mary Raymond, pioneers of 1841. The young people lived in McMinnville for a short time, and thereafter lived on a farm in Marion county for two years. He located on the old home place in 1888, and the majority of the fine improvements now facilitating an extensive general farming and stock-raising enterprise have been of his own making and are the result of his enterprise and progressiveness. He makes a specialty of fine cattle and Cotswold sheep, and derives a substantial income from his fertile and productive property, which comprises three hundred and fifteen acres. Of the three children born in the Payne home Ethel is deceased; and Rita and Raymond are living at home with their parents. Mr. Payne is a prominent Democrat in his neighborhood, and takes an active interest in promoting the interests of his party. For several years he has been a member of the school board, at times serving as clerk, and at present is one of the directors. Fraternally he is associated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at Sheridan. Mr. Payne is one of the live, progressive forces of Yamhill county, his beautiful home, his scientific and practical knowledge of farming and his genial and optimistic manner, contributing to a truly enviable reputation.

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Posted 18 March 2000.