Permelia Payne, 1845-1935

- by Alice Marie Beard

The daughter of one man with a mystery, Permelia married another man who was himself a mystery. After she left that husband, she went on to be a mystery herself.Permelia Payne

Permelia was born in 1845 into the Payne family of Vermilion Co., Illinois. Her mother died before she was two years old. Then her father left for a few years to fight in the Mexican War. In later years, she claimed that when she was about 15, she met Abraham Lincoln three times in the span of less than a year. Her story may have been true, or it may have been fantasy.

When she was almost 19, she thought she married
Tom Doyle. In fact, she married Frank Reed, who had assumed the alias "Tom Doyle." She bore two children by Tom. Tom and Permelia parted, and she joined with Joseph Malcom. She had five children by Joseph. No marriage record has been found for Permelia and Joseph, and no divorce record for her 1st marriage has been found. However, Permelia's first husband went on to marry three more times in their home county; that suggests there must be a divorce record somewhere.

Permelia told folks that Tom had died before she and Joseph married.

Thirty-one years after Permelia and Joseph's first child was born, Permelia's niece (her brother's daughter) married the son of Permelia's 1st husband and his 2nd wife.

This is Permelia's story as it appeared in the
Sioux City Journal newspaper 12 Feb 1928.
[complete with misspellings of surnames]

"Local Lady Knew Abraham Lincoln"
- by George O. Leach

While Lincoln was campaigning for his first term as president, Mrs. Malcolm accompanied her father, John Payne, Jr., to Evansville, Ind., to attend a banquet given in honor of Mr. Lincoln, at which he was to speak. A novel method of selecting partners for the banquet table was employed. Each lady was given a ticket with a number on it, and each gentleman received a numbered ticket, and the numbers were matched. Mrs. Malcolm and Mr. Lincoln held tickets with corresponding numbers. Mrs. Malcolm states that, although she does not remember anything definite Mr. Lincoln said at the banquet, he was very human and enjoyable as a partner.

"When I first saw Mr. Lincoln there at the banquet that night," she said, "I thought he was the homeliest man I ever saw. His face was so rough and lined; he had such a big nose, and he didn't have his whiskers then, either. But, after I drew him for a supper partner, and we talked a while, he didn't seem homely at all. He surely had wonderful eyes. He did not talk very loud in conversation, but when he was really tickled about anything he laughed right out loud, like he meant it."

The next time she met him was a few weeks after he had been elected president for the first time. He was either going to Washington or returning from Washington. Mrs. Malcolm does not remember which nor does she remember the exact date, but it was arranged that Mr. Lincoln was to stop off at Danville. The citizens of Danville gave him an ovation. A procession was formed of 500 couples of Lincoln supporters, and Mrs. Malcolm was chosen to lead it. She was mounted on a coal black hourse and rode the conventional side saddle of that day. She led another black horse and, on a litter between the two horses was erected a huge banner bearing the name of Abraham Lincoln. The procession was formed at the edge of town, ladies and gentlemen riding horseback, in couples. The gentlemen were dressed in blue suits and the ladies, including Mrs. Malcolm, wore riding skirts, white shirtwaists and blue caps. When they came to the pavilion erected in the square with Mrs. Malcolm leading, Mr. Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, who was also to speak there that day, ran down to help her off her horse. Mr. Lincoln got there first, and after assisting her to alight, he claimed her as a partner for the first dance which was to be held immediately following the speaking.

Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas each spoke thirty minutes. Mrs. Malcolm says the President made some very pointed remarks concerning the slavery situation in his speech. Mr. Douglas, in his speech, took his defeat for the presidency with very good grace and made a fine talk.

The dancing commenced at three o'clock in the afternoon, starting with a schottische, which Mrs. Malcolm danced with Mr. Lincoln. She says that, although he was ungainly and rather awkward, she enjoyed dancing with him better than she did with the more polished Mr. Douglas, who was short, and she is quite tall. Even now, Mrs. Malcolm is better than five feet, eight inches tall, and is not at all stooped. Lincoln and Douglas both danced almost every set, dancing round dances such as schottisches, polkas, waltzes, the Virginia Reel, also quadrilles, or square dances as they were called. When the ball closed at four o'clock in the morning, Mr. Lincoln, in the presence of the assembly, placed a wreath of white roses he had had made on Mrs. Malcolm's head in honor of her leading the procession and carrying his banner. Mrs. Malcolm wore the wreath on her 7 mile ride home that morning, and kept it for many years until it was destroyed from so much handling.

Two days later she accompanied her father to Springfield, Ill., where she again met Abraham Lincoln and visited with him at the capitol building. Lincoln said, "Here's the little lady who lead the procession for me the other day down at Danville." He insisted that she should sit down and visit a while. He asked her if she was tired after the dance. She said she was, and he assured her "that he was about tuckered out himself." During the conversation the subject of religion came up, and Mr. Lincoln said that he had no religous affilations, but that if he ever joined a church it would be Christ's church. When they parted, Mr. Lincoln shook hands with her and told her he hoped she would live to be a hundred years old. Mrs. Malcolm smiles as she observed that she was getting well along toward that age now. This was the last time she saw him.

Mrs. Malcolm also tells of a very tragic experience in her family which shows how bitter people became over politics during the Civil War. [In August 1863] her father was shot. It seems that her half-sister, a little girl six years old, pinned what was known as a "Butternut" pin, the emblem of the Democratic pro-slavery party, on the lapel of her father's vest. Mr. Paine did not notice the button, and when he went into town, it remained where the little girl had pinned it. He entered a store, and while there, a man who was an ardent anti-slavery advocate, came in and noticing the pro-slavery emblem, ordered it removed. Mr. Payne did not intend to be bluffed and refused. Whereupon the man drew a heavy calibered revolver and shot him in the abdomen, the bullet coming out through his side. Her father's brother, Milton Paine, sheriff of the county at that time, happened to be in the store. He started for the man and was shot in the hand. Another bystander, a friend of her father's, shot and killed the man. Mr. Payne lived only a few days, dying of blood poisoning as a result of the wound. Politics were taken very seriously in those days.

Shortly after the Civil War, Mrs. Malcolm married Thomas Doyle, who had been a northern soldier. They came west and took a homestead near Wood River, Nebr. Two children were born to them there. Shortly after the birth of the second child, Mr. Doyle died, and for several years after his death, Mrs. Malcolm supported her two children by her own efforts.

Then she married Mr. Malcolm and moved to a farm near Otoe, Iowa, where she lived for many years.

Is there any truth to Permelia's story? Perhaps no truth; perhaps more truth than even Permelia realized. If Permelia spoke the truth about her encounters with Abraham Lincoln, it would suggest that someone in her social or family circle was able to see Lincoln once while he was campaigning for president in 1860, and twice after he was elected but before he left Springfield, IL, on 11-Feb-1861 to travel to Washington, DC. If these meetings happened, 15-year-old Permelia was simply there with family -- her father and perhaps other family members.

It is tempting to dismiss Permelia's story as hyperbole. However, Permelia had an uncle whose life might argue against dismissing Permelia's story:

One of her Payne uncles had been a Captain in the Black Hawk War; Abe Lincoln had also been a Captain in that war. That is a "so what?" until you consider that this uncle had two known interactions with Lincoln. In 1836, this uncle was involved in a law suit. Lincoln, the Circuit Judge for the District that included Danville, Vermilion Co, IL, was the presiding Judge over the trial in Danville. Years later, during the Civil War, this uncle was a Captain in the Union Army. He was home on furlough and did not get back to his company on time; consequently, he was mustered out of service. He wanted his commission restored. He got signatures from other officers on a petition to set aside the mustering out order. He sent the petition to his old friend Ward Hill Lamon, identified in a Vermilion Co., IL, history book as a former law partner and personal body guard of Lincoln. By orders of Lincoln himself, this uncle was restored to this former rank and commission. [from Beckwith's "History of Vermilion Co., Ill.," pub. 1879]

Did Permelia meet with Abe Lincoln three times when she was 15? It's plausible, but not proven.

Permelia's obituary appeared in The Anthon Herald newspaper (Anthon, Iowa). It appears below. As with any obituary, it may not be 100% correct. There is a claim in the obituary that Permelia once lived next door to Abraham Lincoln and his wife (Mary Todd). This researcher has found no indication that Permelia ever lived next door to Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd married November 4, 1842, in Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois. In 1844, Lincoln and his wife purchased their first and only house. It was in Springfield, Illinois, at the corner of Eight and Jackson Streets.

Permelia was born June of 1845 in Danville, Vermilion County, Illinois. Initially, she lived with her father and mother in Danville. Her mother died in April 1847. In about 1848 or 1849, her father joined the U.S. Army and went to Texas where the United States was waging war with Mexico over Texas. Her father returned sometime before 1854. While her father was in Texas, Permelia resided with her paternal grandparents in Vermilion County. In 1860, she was 15 and her father had returned from war; he had remarried, and Permelia was living in Vermelion County with the Samuel SONGER family.

The Anthon Herald, 18 December 1935, page 1:
[complete with misspellings of surnames]:

Mrs. Permelia Ann Malcom, a resident of Woodbury County [Iowa] for thirty-five years, passed away at the home of her son, G.W. Malcom, five miles south of Anthon [Iowa] on Saturday morning, December 14, 1935, following a lingering illness at the age of 95 years, 6 months and 7 days of age.

Permelia Ann Payne, the daughter of John and [Virletta] Payne, was born June 7, 1840, at Danville, Illinois. Her childhood and womanhood were spent in Illinois where for a time she was a neighbor of Abraham Lincoln.

At the age of twenty-two, she married Thomas Doyle of Danville, Illinois, and to them two sons were born, A.I. Doyle of Milner, North Dakota, and F.M. Doyle of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In 1868 she married Joseph Malcom at Kearney, Nebraska. Five children blessed this union: Mrs. Clara Rogers who preceded her in 1933, G.W. Malcom of Oto, Mrs. Mae Drake of Los Angeles, California, Mrs. Lenora Jorgensen of Correctionville.

In 1880 the family came to a farm west of Anthon and resided in the home of C.A. Malcom [her son] of Spencer, Nebraska, and this community the remainder of her life. She was a charter member of the Christian Church of Anthon, having joined in 1887 when the church was planned.

Besides her children, she leaves thirty-six grandchildren, sixty-one great grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren, a total of one hundred seven descendants. She also leaves one brother, J.B. Payne of Potomac, Illinois. Her husband died in 1914.

Funeral services were held in the Federated Church at Oto [Iowa] on Monday, December 16, at 2 p.m. with Rev. Milton Dills, pastor of the Christian Church in Correctionville, officiating. Burial was in Bethel Cemetery, Piero, under direction of Wilson-Hull Funeral Home of Correctionville.

Permelia & the man she married at age 19:

Thomas Reed DOYLE (born Francis REED)
BORN: Abt Nov 1835, at sea?, Quebec, Canada
DIED: 8 Feb 1916, Kankakee, Kankakee Co., IL
BUR.: 15 Feb 1916, St. Patrick Cem. (Resurection Cem.), Danville, IL
MARR: 17 May 1864, Vermilion Co., IL
FATHER: probably named Robert REED
MOTHER: probably named Agnes BELDON or MONK

WIFE: Permelia Ann PAYNE
BORN: 7 Jun 1845, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 14 Dec 1935, Oto, Woodbury Co., Iowa
BUR.: 16 Dec 1935, Peiro, Woodbury Co., Iowa
John PAYNE, Jr., son of John Payne, Sr., & Hannah Earle
Virletta O'NEAL, dau. of William O'Neal & Melinda Grimes
1) Addison Ithamore DOYLE
BORN: 26 Jan 1865, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: Jul 1954
BUR.: Anthon, Woodbury Co., Iowa
MARR: 23 May 1886, Anthon, Woodbury Co., Iowa

2) Francis Marion DOYLE
BORN: 27 Aug 1866, Catlin, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 31 Jan 1940, Minneapolis, Hennepin Co., Minnesota
BUR.: 1 Feb 1940, Anthon, Woodbury Co., Iowa
SPOUSE: Myrtle Estella BAYS
MARR: 1896, Anthon, Woodbury Co., Iowa


Permelia & Joseph MALCOM:

Joseph MACOM
BORN: 12 Apr 1835, Syracuse, Onondaga Co., NY
DIED: 8 Aug 1914, Decatur, Burt Co., Nebraska
BUR.: 10 Aug 1914, Bethel Cemetery, Peiro, Woodbury Co., Iowa
MARR: (no legal marriage; began living together in 1868 in either Fremont or Kearney, Nebraska, according to their later stories)

Permelia Ann PAYNE
BORN: 7 Jun 1845, Danville, Vermilion Co., IL
DIED: 14 Dec 1935, Oto, Woodbury Co., Iowa
BUR.: 16 Dec 1935, Peiro, Woodbury Co., Iowa
John D. PAYNE, Jr.

1) Clara Delilah MALCOM
BORN: 5 Jan 1869, Neola or Red Oak, Montgomery Co., Iowa
DIED: 28 Mar 1933, Decatur, Burt Co., Nebraska
BUR.: Hill Crest Cemetery, Decatur, Nebraska
MARR #1: 2 Jan 1889, Cherokee, Cherokee Co., Iowa
[divorce case #2887, filed 19 Oct 1912, District Court, Burt Co., Nebraska]
MARR #2: 8 Jul 1918 [2nd marriage to same man]
[divorce, 30 Jan 1920, Burt Co., Nebraska]

2) George William MALCOM
BORN: 25 Dec 1870, Avoca, Pottawattamie Co, Iowa
DIED: 18 Sep 1959, LeMars, Woodbury Co., Iowa
BUR.: Peiro, Woodbury Co., Iowa
SPOUSE: Minnie Matilda Jane HUMPHREYS
MARR: 18 Mar 1894

3) Harriet May MALCOM
BORN: 8 Mar 1872, Avoca, Pottawattamie Co, Iowa
DIED: 4 Feb 1937, Wilmar, Los Angeles Co., CA
MARR: 16 May 1895, Sioux City, Woodbury Co., Iowa
4) Charles Alonzo MALCOM
BORN: 22 Jul 1874, Avoca, Pottawattamie Co., Iowa
DIED: 1 May 1966, Lynch, Boyd Co., Nebraska
5) Lenore Laurina MALCOM
BORN: 26 Jul 1879, Avoca, Pottawattamie Co., Iowa
DIED: 13 Feb 1961, Correctionville, Woodbury Co., Iowa
BUR.: Correctionville, Woodbury Co., Iowa
MARR #1: 6 Oct 1895, Woodbury Co., Iowa
MARR #2: 17 Sep 1941

Photo of Permelia's gravestone is HERE, at


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