Friday, November 8, 2019

William Owen Cheney Sr.

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “rich man.”

This blog post is another in a series connecting the dots in my tree to the souls buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

William Owen Cheney Sr., son of John Cheney and Catherine “Katie” Evans Owen, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia on September 30, 1809. The Cheney family was a large one. William’s father had eight children by his first wife, Rachel Benson, and eight children by his second wife, Catherine Owen. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, several of the children did not survive infancy. The children from John’s first marriage were Aquilla Cheney, Thomas Benson Cheney, Julia Cheney, Richard Cheney, Margaret Cheney, John Cheney, Samuel Cheney, and Joseph Cheney. The children from John’s second marriage were Drucilla Echols Cheney, Sarah Harris Cheney, William Owen Cheney, Elizabeth Evans Cheney, Harriet Holcomb Cheney, Melissa Baldwin Cheney, Rhoda Ann Cheney, and Marian Catherine Jane Cheney.

William’s connection to me is very distant—we have no common relative, however, there is a connection. William is the great grandfather of husband of 2nd cousin 3x removed. The connection runs through my 4th great grandfather, Charles L. Lankford. Charles’ son was Robert Chester Lankford > Robert’s son was William Mell Lankford > William’s daughter was Pauline Lankford > Pauline’s husband was Harold A. English > Harold’s father was Patrick M. English > Patrick’s mother was Martha Sarah Cheney > Martha’s father was William Owen Cheney.

William’s father served in Captain Levin Winder’s company in the First Maryland Regiment during the Revolutionary War.

William married Mary Elizabeth Callaway, daughter of Rev. Enoch Callaway and Martha Patsy Reeves, in Wilkes County, Georgia on November 4, 1829. Together they had at least 13 children—Enoch Reeves Cheney, Martha Sarah Cheney, Almarine Catherine Cheney, William Owen Cheney Jr., John Franklin Cheney, Mary Elizabeth Cheney, Rhoda Ann Cheney, Reuben (or Robert) Sumpter Cheney, Thomas Butler Cheney, Felicia Melanie Cheney, Melissa Lurine Cheney, Howell Cheney, and Patrick Mell Cheney. There may have also been a son named Joseph Benson Cheney. Two of his children became ministers—John and Reuben. His son William Jr. became a physician/surgeon.

William’s father died at the age of 72 in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia on October 19, 1837. John was buried at Penfield Cemetery in Penfield.

Marriage license for William O. Cheney and Elizabeth Callaway

William moved from Wilkes to Greene County in December 1839. He remained there the rest of his life.

On October 31, 1850, William, his wife, children, and mother lived in District 161 of Greene County, Georgia. William was a farmer with real estate valued at $5,000. He owned 30 slaves, many of them children. Four years later, William’s mother died at his Greene County home on May 14, 1854. Catherine, a native of Virginia, was 73 years old at the time of her death. She was buried at Penfield Cemetery with his father. William was the administrator of her estate later that year. All of her perishable property, including horses, hogs, plantation tools, corn, fodder, oats, cotton seed, among other things, were sold at her late residence in Greene County, along with a total of 760 acres of land.

On June 2, 1860, William and his family lived in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. At this point, there were only four children remaining in the home—Mary, Rhoda, Reuben, and Patrick. There was a 33-year-old seamstress named Emily Moore living in the home with the family. William was a farmer with real estate valued at $4,750 and a personal estate valued at $18,000. William was managing the farm with the help of 20 slaves, eight of which were children.

On June 3, 1870, William, Elizabeth, and Patrick lived in Penfield. Unlike years past, the census enumerator didn’t record any real or personal estate for William. Instead, he recorded real estate valued at $1,600 and a personal estate of $800 for Elizabeth. William was a farmer, Elizabeth keeping house, and their son Patrick was a farm laborer.

William died of liver and heart disease in Georgia on Sunday, August 6, 1871. He was buried at Bairdstown Baptist Church Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. His will, probated in Greene County on January 28, 1871, left his whole estate and personal belongings to his wife Elizabeth, 150 acres of land as the homestead, and 800 acres of land. William willed that his son Patrick Mell Cheney remain with his mother until he reached majority. William also willed that Patrick’s board, clothing, and education should be paid for by the estate, and that he receive one good horse, bridle, saddle, one bed and bedstead, furniture, and $50 worth of household and kitchen furniture. Should Elizabeth die before Patrick was educated, then he would receive the homestead and 250 acres of land. William appointed his son Enoch as the executor of the will. When Elizabeth died, their son Enoch was to receive 50 acres of land. The remainder of his land was to be sold and the proceeds would be equally divided between sons John and Robert, and his sons-in-law William H. McWhorter and John S. Wheatly. William’s household and kitchen furniture were to be shared between his sons Enoch, William Jr., John, Robert, and Patrick Cheney, and his son-in-law Stephen English.

William’s tombstone at Bairdstown Cemetery reads:
Sacred to the memory of Wm. O. Cheney, Sen.
Born, Sept 30th, 1809
Died, August 6th, 1871
By the grace of God I am what I am
Two things strike me about the grave—the “Sen.” after his name on the stone and the Southern Cross of Honor marker at the head of his grave. I thought the “Sen.” meant that William was a senator but I don’t find him listed anywhere as a state or U.S. senator. I also don’t find that he served during the Civil War. I do find a military record for his son, William O. Cheney Jr., who was a surgeon with the 7th Battalion, Georgia Cavalry (State Guards). I’ll keep an eye out for a record that documents his service, if he in fact did serve.

William's grave (2012)

Southern Cross of Honor Marker at the head of William's grave

William’s marker is also showing its age. Until this past August, it had been seven years since I last visited Bairdstown Cemetery. When I do visit, I always walk the cemetery with my camera and on both occasions, snapped a photo of William’s grave. When you compare the photos, you’ll notice considerable damage has taken place since my last visit.

William's grave (August 2019)

William's grave (August 2019)
By all accounts, William was a rich man. It appears he was very comfortable financially with a large plantation and plenty of land and he was surrounded by his large family, which is worth more than money can buy.


  • Administrator’s Sale, The Temperance Banner, Penfield, Georgia, December 23, 1854.
  • Austin, Jeannette Holland, The Georgians: Genealogies of Pioneer Settlers, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1984.
  • Cheney, William O., U.S., Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861–1865.
  • Executor’s Sale, The Temperance Banner, Penfield, Georgia, September 09, 1854.
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 02 November 2019), memorial page for William Owen Cheney, Sr. (30 Sep 1809–6 Aug 1871), Find A Grave Memorial no. 24039548, citing Bairdstown Cemetery, Oglethorpe County, Georgia, USA ; maintained by Alice Wolfe Allen (contributor 47160492).
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 03 November 2019), memorial page for John Cheney (30 Aug 1765–19 Oct 1837), Find A Grave Memorial no. 73550153, citing Penfield Cemetery, Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Don Sharp (contributor 48167782).
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( accessed 03 November 2019), memorial page for Catherine Evans Owen Cheney (3 Jan 1781–14 May 1854), Find A Grave Memorial no. 14469345, citing Penfield Cemetery, Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Mz Fish (contributor 46622368).
  • Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828–1978 for William O. Chaney.
  • Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828–1978.
  • Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742–1992.
  • Lasher, George William, The Ministerial Directory of the Baptist Churches in the United States of America, Ministerial Directory Company, 1899.
  • Last Will and Testament, William O. Cheney, Sr.
  • McCall, Howard H., Roster of Revolutionary Soldiers in Georgia, Genealogical Publishing Company, 2010.
  • Obituary, Catherine E. Cheney, The Temperance Banner, Penfield, Georgia, May 27, 1854.
  • Orrell, R. L., Descendants of Richard Cheney of Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
  • U.S. Federal Census, District 161, Greene County, Georgia, 1850.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Penfield, Militia District 141, Greene County, Georgia, 1870.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Slave Schedule, Greene County, Georgia, 1850.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Woodville, Greene County, Georgia, 1860.
  • William O. Cheney, Sr. Death, Herald-Journal, Greene County, Georgia, date unknown.
  • William Owen Cheney photo from Brown, Tomlin, Hearn, Fambrough tree, stewartbrown71,, August 15, 2009.


  1. I'm guessing that the "sen" after his name on the gravestone was for senior, since he has a son with the same name.

    1. Well that never entered my mind! Thanks for posting this comment and for reading.

  2. Thank you for posting this. W. O Cheney is my 3(x)great grandfather.

    1. I hope you were able to learn something about your ancestor. Thanks for reading!