Our next Greene County VIP is Bishop Daniel A. Payne. Bishop Payne is known as one of the most important African American figures during the nineteenth century and was instrumental in the advancement of Wilberforce University and the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Daniel A. Payne, circa 1891-1893 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Daniel A. Payne was born on February 24, 1811, in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the son of free parents, who had African, European, and American Indian ancestry. Payne’s parents died before he reached adulthood and he went to live with a great aunt.
Payne was raised in the Methodist Church, and was self-taught - learning mathematics, physical science, and classical languages by candlelight. In 1829, at the age of 18, Payne opened a school for African American children in Charleston. The school was forced to close in 1835 after the passage of Bill No. 2639, restricting the education of enslaved and free people of color.
Dismayed, Payne moved north and enrolled in the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. He became ordained in 1839, becoming the first African American minister in the Lutheran Church in New York. He left the Lutheran Church and joined the A.M.E. Church in 1841, and became a minister in 1843.
During his time in Pennsylvania, he was the leader of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, which provided enslaved peoples food, clothing, and shelter, and assisted them in escaping to Canada. He again was focused on education and opened a coeducational school in Philadelphia. Payne also began acting as the historian for the A.M.E. Church and became ordained as the sixth bishop of the church in 1852 (Fig 2).
Fig 2. Daniel A. Payne, circa 1870-1890 (Courtesy of the Ohio History Connection, https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/5509)
Payne married his first wife in 1847, but she died the same year due to complications of childbirth. In 1854, Bishop Payne married Eliza Clark of Cincinnati.
Bishop Payne helped found Wilberforce University in 1856, but the university closed in 1862 due to the Civil War. In 1863, Bishop Payne negotiated the purchase of Wilberforce University on behalf of the A.M.E. Church. The same year, Payne was selected to be the president of Wilberforce University, a position he held until 1876 (Fig 3). Under his leadership, the enrollment grew rapidly, from just 12 students to 150 students by the end of his tenure.
Fig 3. 1870 U.S. Census with Daniel Payne and family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)
Payne was a staunch abolitionist, skilled writer, and devoted educator. He was instrumental in organizing A.M.E. ministries throughout the South, gaining 250,000 new members for the church during the Reconstruction era. In 1888, Payne wrote a memoir, Recollections of Seventy Years, reflecting on his life. In 1891, he wrote the historiography of the A.M.E. Church, titled History of the American Methodist Episcopal Church (Fig 4).
Fig 4. Bishop Payne and ministers who assisted in the organization of the First District Missionary Society, Columbus, OH, 1893 (Courtesy of New York Public Library)
Bishop Daniel A. Payne died on November 2, 1893, at the age of 82. His services were held in Xenia, and his body was transported east for his final burial at Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne, Maryland.
Until Next Time!
Harley, Danielle Kurash, "Bishop Daniel Payne: educating black saints in Ohio" (2002). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 3149. https://ecommons.udayton.edu/graduate_theses/3149
Greene County Archives
Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/2016690322/
New York Public Library: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/
Ohio Memory/Ohio History Connection: https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/5509