Paine or Payne? It’s all the same family

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 8:45pm
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A centuries old Block Island family tree has found life and organization in Peter Greenman’s new book, “The Block Island Descendants of John Paine.”

Any account of the Payne family would have to be fascinating, and this one certainly is. Greenman makes it clear that he has not written about all Payne family members, as a large number of them moved off the island and re-located to points as near as New London, Conn., and as far away as Ohio. But, he believes he has “captured all Paynes who stayed on the island.”

As Greenman notes, “Every Payne descendant is related to every other Payne in the book.” From colonial times on, the name has been spelled, by turns, Paine or Payne. No matter, they are all the same family, but Payne is the dominant spelling.

The progenitor of all Paynes in this book is John Paine, Sr., born about 1642, who became a freeman in Newport, R.I. in 1686 (meaning that he was able to vote), then became a constable. He purchased land in Kingstown and Jamestown, R.I., in 1697 and 1698, then bought 30 acres in the Pettaquamscott Purchase in Narragansett. The original Pettaquamscott Purchase was made in 1657 by a group of settlers who “purchased from Narragansett sachems a tract of land about 12 square miles in size for the measly sum of 16 pounds” (from “A History of Kingston, R.I. from 1700- 1900”). John Paine, Sr. died May 17, 1704, and is buried in the Common Burying Ground in Newport, his headstone a slate stone with a skull etching.

John’s son Thomas Payne, born in 1680, married Elizabeth Williams, whose mother, Anna Alcock, was from Boston, Mass.; Newport, R.I.; and Block Island. Thomas and Elizabeth had a son, John, in 1719. Thomas was widowed, and he married his second wife, Susanna George , on Block Isalnd. Susanna’s mother was Sarah Rathbone. Their daughter Margaret, born in 1724/27, married Benjamin Potter of Kingstown and Block Island, on February 13, 1746, on Block Island.

The first deed for land on Block Island conveyed to the present Payne family is dated Dec. 21, 1752: conveyance by Samuel Champlin to John “Pain,” land purchased by Pain for 1,150 pounds. The parcel was four tracts of land bounded by lands belonging to Nathaniel Dodge, John Dodge, and Daniel Rose.

Thomas Payne and Samuel Littlefield, both of New Shoreham, were admitted as freemen in the Colony of Rhode Island in 1736. In 1755, Thomas Payne deeded to his son, John Paine, 33 acres of land in the town of New Shoreham, land that Thomas bought from his daughter, Margaret, and his son-in-law, Benjamin Potter. In addition, he deeded to John 12 1⁄2 acres bounded by properties belonging to Nathaniel Mott and Samuel Rathbun.

Peter points out that the children of Frank C. Payne, Sr. and Bella Champlin and their children and grandchildren are all descendants of John Howland, a Mayflower passenger in 1620. Bella Champlin is a Mayflower descendant, and all current members of the Payne family descend from her. Other Block Island n a m e s that pop up in the Mayflower roster are Pocock and Carder, and the lineage is a straight line from John Howland to Harriet Payne (Phelan) and her brother, Frank C. Payne, Jr.

Harriet and her husband, William Blake Phelan, are the deceased parents of Blake Phelan and Marcia Phelan Merrick. Frank C. Payne, Jr. and Doris Willhagen Payne are the deceased parents of Clif, Carole, and Cathy Payne.

Included among the first pages of Greenman’s book is a useful and detailed timeline, compiled by the author, of important events in the history of Block Island. Beginning with Verrazano in 1524, it goes up through the centuries to 2002, including dates that barques for cattle and settlers were finished; populations of Native Americans and settlers in 1675; infestation of pirates, 1700; Palatine wreck, 1737; churches built, town halls built and moved; lighthouses built at Sandy Point; schools built; theater, hotels built; horse cars beginning, 1898; First World War; Prohibition; Ocean View bought by the Payne family, 1945, at the end of the Second World War; airport built; Census, 486 people in 1960; Shamrock and Vaill demolished; the fire at Ballard’s; building of Payne’s Harborview Inn by Carole Payne. And much more in between all of those. It would be a nifty project to update the timeline with events of the last 18 years, and to follow through with it as the years go by.

The Paynes are related to most, if not all, early European families on Block Island, by virtue of lineage or marriage: Alcock, Dodge, Hall, Rathbun, Rose, Sands, Dunn, Mitchell, Mott, Littlefield, Pocock, Ball, Champlin, Sheffield, Lewis, Conley, Negus, and more. Adrian Mitchell’s mother was Phebe Elizabeth Payne (only child of John and Lavinia Mott Payne), so Adrian is cousin to the Paynes, Phelans, Motts and many other families as well. The wills, weddings, letters, properties, and accomplishments of the Payne family through 11 generations is addictive reading.

I came across an anecdote written by the late Betsy Theve, who lived in the large house next to the Spring House Annex. Erwin and Anna Payne B r e w e r were friends of Betsy’s in-laws, and Betsy met them in the 1950s. Anna Brewer’ s father, Edward Roy Payne, owned the Spring House at the time of Anna’s birth on March 13, 1916. Betsy wrote: “Anna was born in the Spring House Annex. She weighed only two pounds, she told us, to which Erwin would add, “but she’s made up for it since!” Anna was a heavy-set woman. She explained that they placed her in a shoe box and put her in the Annex oven to ensure her survival following her birth.”

Greenman’s book is most enjoyable, insightful, and, yes, fascinating, in terms of the Payne family heritage. It is also a visual treat of family photos, old and newer: photos of family properties, from early days to the present; Payne’s Dock before it was Payne’s Dock; The Hygeia in its heyday; action shots of Payne Farm, including Harriet Payne on a horse-pulled plow; family groupings of the Phelans and Paynes; the Spring House; the Ocean View; old advertisements for the family businesses; and a great deal more. Many have been provided by Marcia Phelan Merrick, Blake Phelan, and Carole Payne. In the back of the book is a handy index with names of Payne family members and in-laws, and a page number for each. Go to the page and find out where that person fits in. Or, use the book as described by Peter, tracing a family member back through the generations to the very beginning, using the genealogical numbering system.

The Payne heritage is indeed a glorious one.

“The Block Island Descendants of John Paine” can be obtained by contacting Peter Greenman at P.O. Box 1242 or calling (401) 466-2950.