Sifting through piles of paper Wednesday, I came upon this article, headlined "A Modern Chariton Curiosity" and published in The Chariton Democrat on July 4, 1889, as O.E. and Alice Payne were preparing to move into their new home on East Auburn Avenue --- we call it "Dual Gables" now.
"Brother O.E. Payne, Clerk of the District Court of his county, has built one of the neatest and prettiest of all the Chariton houses. It is odd, remarkably odd. We like it because it is out of the usual order of things. It is a one story cottage, composed of some nine or ten rooms (six actually) of rather small dimensions, amply provided with beautiful figure heads at its dual front, rich ornamentation on its hurricane decks, and commodious port holes at the rear. This residence is located on East Third Avenue (renamed Auburn some years later), fronts south, and is of this precise shape: "Y."
"It is said that the reason Mr. Payne built here is because he feared it would not be healthy for a public officer to own all his estates in Ringgold county and draw all his official emoluments from Lucas. So he invested in Lucas. Mr. Payne built his residence in a Y shape because he was Y's enough to see the fitness of things in it. The rear represents Lucas county where he holds office, one prong represents Ringgold, where he farms; the other represents Clarke, where his deputy resides."
The second paragraph, obviously, is tongue-in-cheek. The fact that the youthful Mr. Payne (he was 29 when the house was built) did not own property in Lucas County had been a bone of contention when he was running for clerk of court during 1887 --- as was the fact he was an ardent suffragist. He apparently did own some land in Ringgold County, however. Alice, also his deputy clerk, was a native of Murray in Clarke County.
So after reading that, I drove over to Dual Gables to take a couple of new photos. It now is owned by the Lucas County Arts Council and rented out to visitors for short-term stays ranging from overnight to a week or more. Paint dinged badly in a hail storm a couple of years ago has been repaired, so it's looking good. Central air conditioning and a new furnace also have been installed recently.
Innovative when it was built, the National Register of Historic Places-listed house remains one of the most interesting in town --- and it kind of reflects the interesting life its builder led.
O.E. --- and I have no idea what "O" stood for although "E" represents Edward --- was an Illinois native who grew up near Liberty Center in Warren County. Whatever name commencing in "O" his parents blessed him with must have been fairly grim --- he never used it.
O.E. started his working life as a peddler, upgraded to "traveling salesman" by the time he arrived in Chariton during the early 1880s. Sheer personality seems to have been a major factor in his election as county clerk during 1887, but he was good enough at the job to be re-elected to a second term.
On June 5, 1887, O.E. married his deputy clerk, Alice E. Ryan, at the home of her parents near Murray and their first son, Harlan, had arrived by the time the new house was ready for them.
O.E. and Alice had three children before they were done, but she developed consumption during the 1890s and her health deteriorated. During the late years of that decade, the family moved from Chariton to Old Orchard in St. Louis County, Missouri, and sold their innovative Chariton home to Marena Houston, whose husband, Samuel D., had died during 1896.
Alice Payne died in Old Orchard on Feb. 13, 1900, and O.E. seems to have remained there for a few years before heading for Canada during 1907. He settled in Alberta, near what became Hanna, farmed for a while and became a naturalized citizen during 1913.
On June 28, 1912, O.E. and the widowed Margaret Powell, of Chariton, were married at Calgary, Alberta, and settled down at Hanna. By 1921, O.E. listed his occupation there as newspaper journalist.
As the years passed, O.E. had become increasingly interested in Christian mission work and during 1922, the Paynes left Canada, returned to Chariton for a time and then set sail during 1923 for Kimberly, capital of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. His occupation was listed as "author" on the passenger list of the vessel that carried them as far as London; hers, as nurse.
During the early summer of 1925, however, O.E. died suddenly at Kimberly. At the time, he reportedly was supervising the work of dozens of native South Africans in what was described as the Kimberly mission field.
And there he was buried, a considerable distance from his innovative little house on East Auburn Avenue in Chariton, Iowa.