Biography - WALTER S. MAYO

Perhaps none of the prominent citizens of Edwards county has contributed more towards placing her in the rank she to-day holds among her sister counties than Walter S. Mayo. Through his decided executive ability, his systematic efforts in her behalf, his untiring energy, coupled with his long service as an official, Edwards county possesses a record second to none in the administration of her finance or in the completeness of her past civil history. Mr. Mayo was born in Albemarle county, Virginia, March 7th, 1810. His father, Lewis, was a teacher as well as planter. To be a planter in the Old Dominion carried with it the idea of being a slave-holder as well - and so he was. A brother of his, Joseph, was the father of Joseph Mayo, mayor of the city of Richmond, just before the late civil war. The father of Lewis was also named Lewis, and was one of three brothers who came from England and settled, one in Richmond, Virginia, one in Albemarle county, same state, and the third, after a short sojourn there, in Kentucky. It is thought that they were of the same family with Rev. John Mayo, who emigrated from England to this country about 1639, and who was one of the original settlers of the town of Barnstable, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He was the first pastor of the second church erected in the city of Boston, a position he filled from 1655 to 1673. He died at Yarmouth, Cape Cod, in 1676.
To Lewis Mayo and wife were born Newson, Walter L., Samuel Winston, three sons, and Carey Ann (who married Hiram Keach) and Catharine Shepherd, daughters. Walter L. was a young man of ambition, great determination and self-reliance. Having acquired a fair education he started out to become the architect of his own fortune; crossing the Alleghenies he made a brief stop with his uncle Harry in Tateville, Kentucky, and thence came on to Edwards county, Illinois, in 1828. A stranger among strangers, penniless in pocket but fertile in resources, he soon obtained employment as teacher, a few miles southwest of Albion, where he boarded in the family of Jones, one of the commissioners of the county court. His adeptness in figures soon commanded attention, and he supplemented his meagre income as a teacher by making calculations in behalf of the county, and in making out papers for his host. This it was which afterwards led to his selection as clerk of the county court. Upon the breaking out of the Black Hawk war, in 1831, he was among the first to offer his services in response to the call of the Ranger Governor, which were promptly accepted. Being so well fitted by nature for such a position he was made quartermaster for the battalion from Edwards and adjoining counties. Just prior to this he had been appointed to fill a vacancy as county clerk. The records were found by him to be in a chaotic state. With a will he set to work and brought system out of disorder. So well did he accomplish his ends that for thirty-seven years he was maintained at his post of duty, nor did the respect for his commanding talents rest here; in addition to the duties of county clerk he was called upon to act as circuit clerk, probate judge, and treasurer as well. Pioneers declared that as long as they had Mayo they needed no other official. Into his official relations with the people he brought that frankness and generosity so characteristic of the Virginians, and which he possessed in so remarkable a degree that he won the confidence, esteem and friendship of all. During all his long term of public service he was constantly sought as an arbitrator between fellow-citizens in matters of dispute, and certain it is he adjusted more difficulties during that time than did the courts. Through his skill in this field of usefulness many heart-burnings and bitter feelings between neighbors were assuaged. Of a warm, genial and jovial nature, his voice and manner evinced a sincerity of conviction and an earnestness of good purposes, when giving advice or counselling harmonious adjustments between disputants, that he seldom failed in his efforts in this direction. No one hesitated to seek his advice, and very few ever had cause to regret its adoption. During the years of his official career he amassed considerable property. Not a citizen of Edwards county says aught else than that it was well earned.
Mr. Mayo was warm and steadfast in his friendships, and confiding in his nature, yet he could not overlook a betrayal, even in semblance, and while he would go to almost any length for a friend tried and true he held but little intercourse with those who had incurred his disapproval.
Mr. Mayo was united in marriage to Elizabeth Hall, a native of England, March 3d, 1834. By her he had six children. Lewis Mayo, now a prominent citizen of Leavenworth, Kansas. Florence the wife of Henry Hopkins. Alfred, who died in Indian Territory, Sept. 30, 1868. Rosamond, Ella C., and Alice E., all living together with their widowed mother in Leavenworth, Kansas. The family of Mrs. Mayo came from England to Edwards county early in 1821. In the year 1871 Mr. Mayo's family went to Leavenworth, where they have since resided. At the time Mr. Mayo was a member of the State Legislature, and although he joined his family, he always considered Edwards county his home, and here he exercised all his rights of citizenship. He had, during the last few years of his life, large banking interests in Olney, Richland county, to look after, and doubtless, but for his untimely end, would, with the family have returned to the old home to have spent life's evening. His sudden disappearance from the active duties of a busy life, and the manner of it, are matters of conjecture. He was last seen by acquaintances boarding a train of cars on the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad at the Union Depot, in St. Louis on the evening of the 18th of January, 1878. Among resolutions adopted by his fellow-citizens in mass meeting assembled consequent upon his demise, as indicating their love of him we copy:
Resolved, That in this sudden bereavement our entire community feels deeply the severe loss we have sustained in the removal from sight and knowledge of one with whom we have so long and so intimately associated as one of our early settlers.

Resolved, That in Mr. Mayo we recognize one, who, through a long and active life, was highly esteemed as a true citizen, a just and high minded official, a kind neighbor, a warm-hearted and faithful friend, and in his late years an active and earnest Christian worker.

Resolved, That in this mysterious bereavement we realize the loss of one of our number whose place among us will be so long and so sadly vacant in our community and county, and while we wish to yield to the dealings of Providence we find it one of the severest strokes we have been called to suffer.

Resolved, That we realize that the peaceful and the financially prosperous character now so highly enjoyed by Edwards county, is due in a great degree to the influence of Walter L. Mayo in his official and his social relations, and in his long and earnest active life.

Extracted 12 Aug 2017 by Norma Hass from 1883 A Combined History of Edwards, Lawrence, and Wabash Counties, Illinois, pages 221-222.

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