PAYTON S. POPE. For nearly a hundred years the Pope family has set the stamp of its influence upon the history and development of Southern Illinois, especially in Franklin county, which has served as the center of their activities since pioneer days, and in Payton S. Pope, the popular clothing merchant of Benton, we find a prominent representative of the present generation of the line. Mr. Pope was born in Franklin county, August 12, 1850, the son of Benjamin W. and Abigail (Richards) Pope. His father, who was born in South Carolina, moved with his parents to Tennessee, and from there migrated to Illinois, following his sister, Mrs. Nancy Gasaway, and settling on a farm here in 1828. The elder Pope spent his entire lifetime in this section and was one of the wealthiest and most widely acquainted men in Franklin and adjoining counties, it being his boast that at one time he knew every family in Franklin and Williamson counties. As the physician who ministered to the physical ailment of the people for miles around, he was revered and respected beyond the degree of those engaged in no less honorable but less human and personal service to fellow human beings. He also assisted in protecting the pioneer inhabitants against the raids of the Indians who occupied the country so extensively in the early part of the nineteenth century, and served in the Black Hawk war under DeMent. His death occurred in 1868, near the point where Ziegler is now located.
The Richards family, also, belonged to the pioneers, and our subject's maternal grandfather, who was an Ohioan by birth, of Quaker parentage, became an early resident of Wayne county, Illinois, where he continued to live until the time of his death. Mrs. Pope survived her husband five years, the date of her demise being in 1873. Both she and her husband were members of the Christian church, and well known for their activities in religious affairs.
Payton S. Pope enjoyed excellent educational advantages and after completing the study of the common branches in the grade schools attended the institution of learning at Carbondale for a portion of two terms, was a student at the State University at Champaign and also went to Ewing College in Franklin county. After completing his studies in these institutions he taught school for two years and then took up the study of medicine, intending to follow the profession of his father for a life work. In pursuance of this intention he entered the Missouri Medical College, remaining there for a time, but completed his professional course at the Nashville Medical College, of Nashville, Tennessee, receiving his degree in 1877. After engaging in active medical practice for a time, Mr. Pope discovered, however, that his tastes were such as would give him greater satisfaction
to take up other lines of work, and he accordingly decided to go into business. His first commercial venture was as a live stock and grain dealer, his method in this business being to travel all over the county buying and selling from farmers to city dealers. Finding this line of endeavor profitable, Mr. Pope continued in it for ten years.
In 1886 he made a change in his business operations and purchased a general store, in Benton, which he continued to conduct until 1907, when he decided to devote his energies exclusively to clothing lines, that being the class of stock he has since continued to carry, his trade being a very extensive and profitable one. Mr. Pope is a man of sagacity and broad business talents and has succeeded in acquiring a considerable amount of property. He is the possessor of large interests, including some valuable coal lands.
It was in 1877 that Mr. Pope's marriage to Sarah E. Mitchell occurred. She was the daughter of Jesse G. Mitchell, one of the prominent residents of Franklin county, he having been up to the time of his death, in 1891, engaged in agricultural and mercantile pursuits at Locust Grove. His wife survives him and is living in Benton at the present time.
Mr. and Mrs. Pope are the parents of four living children: Benjamin W., a resident of Texas; Mrs. George Powers, of Benton, whose husband is connected with the Hart & Williams Coal Company; John E. and Florence E., twins, whose home is still under the parental roof. The family are leading members of the Christian church here, and Mr. Pope is especially interested in religious affairs as conducted by the church and Sunday-school of his denomination. He is a Prohibitionist in political faith, a man of high moral standards, staunch integrity and progressive thought and action.