The most sacred lesson in the Bible is the story of the "Good Smaritan." The man who exemplifies in his daily life the virtues of the Samaritan rises to the highest and best deserved distinction of his day. Such a man is Asher F. Pay, of Huron. His kindly heart finds an ever ready echo in that of his devoted wife. Between them—often at a sacrifice—they have schooled other people's boys, found legitimate employment for the idle, and have redeemed wayward girls. Their Christianity has been of the practical sort—of the good Samaritan type—and their thoughtful deeds of kindness will not be "interred with their bones."

Asher F. Pay, of Huron, Beadle county, South Dakota, was born in Jefferson county, New York, the year that the Mexican War broke out. Like Lincoln, he got most of his education at night, after the old folks had retired, lying near the fire-place, reading from borrowed books. Later on he attended Todds' School for Boys for a brief period.

Left fatherless at the age of ten years, he not only had to make his own way through life, but he was compelled to help earn a livelihood for the rest of the family. After his father's death, the family drifted to Woodstock, Illinois; and from there they made their way west to Washington, Iowa, where fifty-five years ago last October, young Pay apprenticed himself for three years to A. R. Wickersham of the Washington Press, to learn the printer's trade.


In 1862 he went to Chicago, and united with the firm of Dunlop, Sewell & Spaulding, railroad printers, to learn book and job printing. At the end of twenty months he returned to the "Washington Press," but shortly thereafter gave up his work to respond to his country's call, and enlisted in the Union army.


Although Asher F. Pay has never published in South Dakota a newspaper of his own, he is, nevertheless, usually referred to as a newspaper man. This arises somewhat from his early training as a printer and writer, but more especially from his work in South Dakota as a reporter for the Metropolitan papers of the east.

During his first four years in Dakota, he corresponded for several large papers;—first for the Minneapolis Tribune. His early reportorial work for this paper, wherein he heralded praises for Dakota prairies and showed the possibilities of this empire of the west, soon won the attention of the Chicago Inter-Ocean. They wrote to the Tribune to find out who their Dakota correspondent was. This led to his additional employment by the Inter-Ocean. His work on the latter paper soon won for him national recognition, with the result that the Journal, the Times and the World, all of New York city, were added to his list.

Of recent years he has gradually eliminated his reportorial work until today he contents himself with furnishing material for the Minneapolis Journal, and a few other metropolitan newspapers, with which he has been identified for many years.


At sixteen years of age young Pay enlisted in the 45th Iowa Infantry, cornmanded by Colonel Berryman, and, as a result, he was united with the Army of The Tennessee. As stated, Pay's father was dead. His mother was an English lady. America was her adopted country. Yet young Asher was the fifth one of her noble sons on whose patriotic brow she had implanted a loving mother's farewell kiss, and said: "Go! my boy. 'God bless you! Abe Lincoln needs you."

The boys went; they served their country well. One was wounded at Atlanta; another at Chicamagua; one fell in the capture of Jeff Davis, but finally survied; another froze his feet and lost the use of them in the famous campaign through Dakota against Indians who had taken part in the New Ulm, Minnesota, massacre and were fleeing westward; while young Asher himself sustained injuries that have troubled him ever since. He was mustered out at Keokuk, Iowa, in October, 1865.


After the war Pay went to Galesburg, Illinois, where, for five years, he engaged in the printing business. From there he went to Keokuk, Iowa, then to Carthage, Illinois, where for ten years he managed a business establishment for a Keokuk firm. Removing to Springfield, Illinois, he managed a dry goods business for two years at that place, for a New York firm, and then, owing to ill health, resigned to come to South Dakota.

He landed at Huron in 1882 and homesteaded a farm in Beadle county. Later, for several years, he worked on the Daily Huronite. Finally, he received an appointment in the U. S. Land office at Huron, holding this position for two years.

An unwritten political code of ethics has sprung up in South Dakota whereby the office of clerk of the courts in a large number of counties —particularly those that have at their respective county seats a strong G. A. R. post —is given to an old soldier, his local post not infrequently deciding for themselves who the honored member shall be. Just so at Huron. For fourteen consecutive years Pay has held the position. Two years ago he announced that he would not be a candidate for re-election in 1912. Therefore, at the state G. A. R. encampment held in Pierre, last June, his admiring comrades got busy and formulated a plan informally to make him the "old soldier" candidate this year for Secretary of State. His candidacy, although strenuously objected to by himself, at once became popular throughout the state, and it has now acquired an apparently irresistable momentum.

Here is a kind hearted gentleman who has extolled the virtues of our state, who is leaving the imprint of his own splendid manhood upon the lives of the state G. A. R. encampments; one whom we all love, and whose memory we shall be pleased to honor. He has lived a long, useful life of repute and service; and the question arising is: "Does it not "Pay"?


©2002, Virginia A. Cisewski
All Rights Reserved