07 April 2009

Sereno Elisha Payne

Member of Congress

Sereno Elisha Payne, a Republican, represented Auburn and Cayuga County in Congress (1883-1887, 1889-1914). Payne was born in Hamilton, New York, on 26 June 1843, the son of William Wallace Payne and Betsey Sears. He attended the Auburn Academy and graduated frmo the University of Rochester (1864). After studying law and passing the bar examination, Payne was admitted to the practice of the profession at Auburn in 1866. He served as city clerk (1867-1868), as supervisor (1871-72), as district attorney of Cayuga County (1873-79), and as president of the Auburn Board of Education (1879-82). He was elected as a Republican to the Forty-eighth Congress (1883-1885) and Forty-ninth Congress (1885-87). Defeated by Newton W. Nutting in the race for a seat in the Fiftieth Congress, Payne was appointed to Congress upon Nutting's death in 1889. He was elected to the twelve succeeding Congresses. He served as the first House Majority Leader (1899-1911) and as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee (1899-1911). A staunch protectionist, he is best-remembered as a sponsor of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff. Although re-elected to the Sixty-fourth Congress, Congressman Payne died at Washington on 10 December 1914. He was buried in Auburn's Fort Hill Cemetery.

On 23 April 1873, Payne married Flourette Gertrude Knapp (b. 12 March 1845, Aurelius), the daughter of Oscar Fitzallen Knapp and Airetta Montgomery Terry. They had one son, William Knapp Payne (b. 3 June 1874), who practiced law at Auburn.