William Smith [Guillermo] (1870-1924), missionary in
Argentina and Bolivia and
the first Evangelist church in Cochabamba, was born in
Dublin, the second of four children. His father died when
William was six years of age. When his elder brother moved to
New York for employment, William Payne joined the railway
company, where he was respected as a responsible and disciplined
employee. Reportedly, his neighbours in Dublin used to say: 'Set
your clocks on the hour. Here comes little William'.
At the age
of sixteen, Payne was appointed superintendent of the Sunday
school in an evangelical mission. His formal studies were at
Wesley College in Dublin, and he was subsequently employed by a
company that administrated properties. During a Dublin visit by
John Henry Ewen, who had been on a mission in Argentina, William
Payne was convinced to travel to the mission in South America.
At the same time he met his wife, Elizabeth Milne from Scotland,
and they were married in September 1890. The young couple
travelled to Spain to observe the gospel methods used there and
to learn the Spanish language. During their stay in Spain their
first daughter, Margaret, was born. Later in Argentina, Lillian
and Arthur completed the family circle.
1892 the family arrived in Buenos Aires. First William helped
out at the mission at Quilmes and then in the southern district
of Tandil. Due to Elizabeth's bad health, in 1894 they moved to
Córdoba. Payne went on horseback to visit small towns in the
provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe, Salta and Jujuy. Sometimes while
he preached, he was pelted with stones, rotten oranges and other
refuse. The Roman Catholic priests accused him and his
companions of distributing false bibles, and many copies were
confiscated and burned.
William Payne established a mission in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In
September of that year an enraged mob, instigated by the local
clergy of Cochabamba, advanced to the Paynes' house throwing
paving stones and shouting 'heretics, enemies of the holy
religion.' Then they beset their house and made a kerosene
bonfire in the street with the Paynes' furniture and belongings.
This incident was the result of political feuds between liberal
and traditionalist leaders in Bolivia. Paynes' house, including
a gospel bookstore and lecture room, was on Comercio street in
Cochabamba (present-day Nataniel Aguirre). William Payne
registered before the Bolivian authorities as a member of the
Canadian Baptist Mission, recently permitted to operate in the
country according to the liberal laws of the Federal Revolution.
However, the bishop of Cochabamba Jacinto Anaya verbally
attacked the mission through the pages of El Heraldo
replied that he was a photographer, preacher, and that he was
trained in many trades unknown at that time in Bolivia. He added
that he had been born in Ireland, that he was waiting for a shipment
of bibles to be distributed in Cochabamba, and he would consult
with his lawyer about his situation. The municipal council
warned William Payne that he must refrain from celebrating
faiths other than the Roman Catholic, but to no avail. The
debate intensified and politicians in Cochabamba and La Paz
defended their views for or against freedom of worship. Riots
ensued and the police had to intervene. The affair ended with a
constitutional reform that allowed freedom of worship and
abolished the ecclesiastical privileges of the Roman Catholic
clergy in Bolivia.
Payne and his family returned to Argentina, where they settled
in Córdoba. Elizabeth died in 1916. In November 1917 he married
Marie L. Mohsler, who had been in the mission in Tucumán, and
they settled in Jujuy. His second wife died in May 1921. His
third and last marriage was to Constance Coomber, who had
commenced working among indigenous peoples in northern Argentina
and in southern Bolivia. William Payne died in 1924 in Jujuy.
Miguel, 'Las instituciones' in 500 años de cristianismo en
(Buenos Aires: CEHILA, 1992).
Mérida, Wilson, 'Recuerdos del primer vendedor de biblias' in
Revista de Domingo, 11 June 2006 (http://www.lostiempos.com),
accessed 13 July 2006.
Ernest, 'Pioneer Work in Argentina - The Life of William S.
Payne' in Truth & Tidings, May and June 1997 (http://www.truthandtidings.com),
accessed 13 July 2006.
Adela, Quo Vadis? poem published in El Heraldo