Henry County, IAGenWeb


Mae Shumaker Payne


  This is the story of a woman. The story of one whose life has unfolded the choicest of womanly virtues and whose crown is blazing with the jewels of her life's work. This is the story of a woman who loved life, who desperately fought to live, but losing the battle, accepted defeat with  the same courageous attitude with which she fought for victory.

This is the story of a woman with whom this writer has been associated for nearly fifteen years, and for whom he had the deepest respect and admiration, and an affection the years will not diminish. And if this is the story of a woman, there will also be found in the story a tribute to a character, faithful in all the complexities of living, and passing on through the portals of the Great Beyond, revives the faith of all that death is not annihilation.

Mae Shumaker Payne was born in a farm house in Jefferson county, Iowa, and three miles west of Merrimac, the third child of John W. and Mary A. Shumaker, two older sisters being Grace and Secial. When Mae was quite young, her parents moved into Henry county, leasing the 115 acre farm southwest of Swedesburg, and known as the Peter Boshart acreage. Here for ten years the Shumakers made their home, and here were born Carl, Mary, Hugh, Edith and Elsie. Mae and her brothers and sisters attended Prairie Mound rural school, the brick schoolhouse being about a mile and a half from the Shumaker home and two miles east of Trenton.

The Shumakers lived on the Boshart farm for ten years and in 1909, brought the 100-acre Stephen Thatcher farm, two miles northeast of Salem, and now owned by J.B. Hallowell. The farm was leased for a year, but in December, 1910, the family moved to it. It was here that Mae experienced her first great sorrow. Her father's health had begun to fail. He was taken to Rochester, Minn., where he underwent an operation, but which was of no avail. He died there July 4, 1911, a little less than six months after moving to his own home farm. Mr. Shumaker was interred at Green Mound cemetery, west of Trenton.

With the loss of her husband, Mrs. Shumaker faced a situation and a problem that was stunning. There she was with eight young children and a farm to operate. Relatives offered to take care of some of the children, and other suggestions were made for the future of her children, but Mrs. Shumaker utterly refused to break up her farm home or her family.

For fifteen years she operated that farm and with success. She was father and mother to her children; farm manager, home keeper. The children were organized and given their share of the work. There was no job to be done, no problem to be solved that Mrs. Shumaker refused to face, and in turn did the work and solved those problems. The children were well taken care of, kept in school at Fairview, and prepared well for their own future. In 1924 Mrs. Shumaker sold her farm and moved to Mt. Pleasant, which has since been her home.

When the family moved to Mt. Pleasant, Mae entered Howe's Academy, preparing for teaching. Later she attended summer schools at Iowa Wesleyan, and still later attended several sessions of summer school at the State Normal at Cedar Falls. For ten years she taught in the public schools of Henry county, and among them at Prairie Mound, where she first attended school.

She taught three years in the Salem school, her sister, Mary, also being of the Salem teaching staff. Leaving Salem, Mae taught two years at Maple Grove, her last school.

While teaching at Maple Grove, about a half mile from Finley Chapel, in Jefferson township, Mae boarded at the home of an uncle of the man she was later to marry. With the close of the school year in 1927, Mae gave up her career as a teacher and June 4 of that year, she was married to Clarence Payne at Burlington, at the Methodist parsonage, Rev. J.W. Stein officiating.

The establishment of a home of her own, founded on mutual love, faith and confidence, was the high tide of Mae Payne's happiness and contentment. The first fireside of the new home was set up at Yarmouth, where Mr. Payne was manager of the local telephone station. Soon he was transferred to the management of the station at Ainsworth, Iowa, and it was here that the great sorrow of Mae Payne's life engulfed her. In the spring of 1930, Mr. Payne came down one day with a high fever, followed by severe chill,, the advance warning of pneumonia. Everything possible was done, but in less than a week, on April 23, 1930, he passed away, and Mae Payne was left alone among the ashes of desolation and the ruins of her hopes and plans.

Clarance Payne, was the son of a good old northwest Henry county family, Mr. and Mrs. Miles Payne. He graduated from the Wayland schools, attended for a time Parsons' college and then entered one of the Wisconsin Military academies from which he was graduated. Interment of the young husband was at Finley Chapel, where fifteen years later, he was reunited with the sweetheart of his young manhood and where they will remain in close companionship until the Resurrection morn.

With the breaking up of her home, Mae Payne returned to her mother's home here in Mt. Pleasant, to take up the broken threads of her life, and weave them into a new pattern. In her great trouble Mae Payne did not ask for help. As her mother did before her, she faced the cruel situation with a fixed determination to live her life on her own strength. She knew that work, a job, something to keep her busy, was the partial remedy for her heart aches. She was her mother's own daughter. But what and where? Then occurred one of those strange incidents, which in the twinkling of an eye upsets plans, changes motives.

In the September 18, 1930 issue of the Daily News appeared in the classified advertisements the following:- 

pleasant work with good hours.
Permanent position. Must have
good education and pleasing per-
sonality. Address XYZ, care
News.         9-17, d4tp

At the time Mae Payne was visiting relatives in the Wayland community and her sister, Secial, was at home with her mother and also seeking a position. Secial Shumaker the next morning applied for the position. To her surprise the advertisement was calling for a girl for work in the News office itself. Secial talked the matter over with W.K, and was given the chance to try the job out.

However, on returning home Secial came to the conclusion that there was her sister Mae's chance to secure the most certainly needed work, the chance to be busy and distracted from her heartaches.

The next morning Secial returned to the News office, called for W.K., related to him the situation and asked that her sister be given the position. Mae Payne was sent for, returned home and made a personal call on W.K. Characteristically Mae asked many questions and answered many. The upshot was that Mae Payne, out of a list of 25 applicants, was given the place and September 20, 1930, entered upon her new experience.

So Mae Payne came to the News. For almost fifteen years she was with us. Coming into our organization as a counter clerk, she gradually by her own sheer ability and energy made an important place for herself. Her particular place was with the subscription end of the business. Her experience in the schoolroom had prepared her for work sorely needed at our office, in charge of the carrier boys. She knew boys and how to handle them. Gradually she was put in charge of the mail circulation and also the weekly subscription accounts.

Mae changed methods and records and in time had a smooth running system. As the subscription business increased, Mae was given assistance and this proving satisfactory, she drifted into news writing, especially local matter, and here too, she surprised us all with her diligence and intelligence in handling whatever came to her attention.

In the "History of the Newspapers of Henry County, 1848-1944," and issued in June of last year, there is found in the chapter covering the story of the Mt. Pleasant News, this paragraph:
    "The responsibility of publishing the News was gradually transferred to younger shoulders. Warren K. Rogers, elder son of the owners, became business manager, and A.M. Patterson, son-in-law, became responsible for the editorial news department. Mae S. Payne, first in charge of circulation, became in a fine and capable way, assistant to both the business manager and the editor."

We will not dwell on the earlier days of apprehension, while the malignant disease which finally conquered her courageous fight  for life was slowly undermining her strength. No one at the office suspected the situation. Nor of the weeks and months which followed the determination of the true character of her illness.

One morning last May the office was informed that Mae would be unable to be up for a few days. She was out a week and then came back, smiling and cheerful. She worked for three days, and then left her desk, not to return to it. In July she was at Rochester for a final and decisive verdict, as to her condition. It was feared and beyond human help to stay the cruel progress.

But Mae Payne never gave up. If the doctors could not help her she would fight on alone and she did. When we left for the lakes last July, we did not expect to see her again. But she lived. When we returned from the north in September, Mae was still courageously fighting her great battle for life. To the amazement of all, including physicians, she lived through the autumn months, always smiling, always cheerful, and always planning to get back to her work. Thanksgiving came and Mae participated fully in the spirit of the day, thankful to be alive, for love of her family, and friends who so many and so thoughtful.

And Christmas rolled around and Mae participated gleefully in the days doings and still planning to return to her desk. New Years dawned and found Mae still fighting, but while she refused to admit defeat, it was apparent that she was losing the battle.

With the closing days of January Mae realized that she would not recover, and accordingly set her personal house in order. She wrote the notice of her death, and also full particulars as to preparation and the arrangements for her funeral. She also bestowed upon her loved ones the many items of her personal possessions, and wrote loving messages to members of her family.

By this time it was found necessary to take Mae to the hospital where she remained two weeks. But she yearned so for home, that it was decided to return her to the familiar and comfortable surroundings of home. But after a week or so, it was found necessary to return to the hospital. 

But Mae kept up the hopeless fight until two days before her death, when she surrendered, and for the first time permitted the administration of opiates to deaden the agony she was undergoing. Her last hours were tranquil and free from suffering. She was fully resigned. Just before she passed away she summoned her last strength to assure her mother of her love and commending her to her God. And so Mae Payne has lived, and thus she died the evening of March fifth.

In the automobile, the driving force of the mechanism is protected against the wracking strains of the highways, by what is known as a three point suspension. Mae Payne's plans and hopes and achievements, as she traveled along the highways of her life, were also protected from the impact of human experiences on a three point suspension: her home, her church, and her job. In the home she found love and sympathy, a citadel of security and assurance. In her church she found the elements which strengthened her resolves, and courage to follow a code of personal living, that would not weaken her faith or reproach to her God. In her job she found release from her sufferings, tears and heartaches.

In Mae Payne, character stood out serene, stately and unyielding. In Mae Payne was discovered a splendid womanhood in full and fragrant flower.

-- “Bystander’s Notes“ by Charles S. Rogers, Publisher-Editor of  The Free Press [weekly newspaper published in Mt. Pleasant, IA] Saturday, March 17, 1945 p. 2

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