Person Colby Cheney by Col. Daniel Hall

Person Colby Cheney was born in that part of Holderness, N. H., which is now Ashland, February 25, 1828. He was the sixth child in a family of five sons and six daughters,—children of Moses and Abigail (Morrison) Cheney,—nine of whom still survive.

Of his sisters, Sarah B. is the wife of Rev. S. G. Abbott, of Needham, Mass.; Abby M. is the widow of George Washburn, late of Goffstown, N. H.; Ruth E. is the wife of Joseph W. Lord, of Wollaston, Mass.; Marcia A. is the wife of J. P. F. Smith, of Meredith, N. H.; Hattie O. is the wife of Dr. C. F. Bonney, of Manchester, N. H.

Of his brothers, Rev. O. B. Cheney, D. D., is the president of Bates College, Lewiston, Me., and has mainly laid the foundations of the success and popularity of that excellent institution of learning; E. H. Cheney is the editor and proprietor of the Granite State Free Press, Lebanon, N. H.; and Moses Cheney, a manufacturer of paper at Henniker, N. H., is retired from business.

The square, old-fashioned New England house, where the family resided, is still to be seen. It stands in the picturesque village of Ashland, overlooking the valley below, and commanding a view of lofty hills and beautiful scenery. The childhood of the subject of this sketch was passed in this venerable mansion, but his boyhood and early manhood were passed at Peterborough, N. H., where his father was engaged in the manufacture of paper. This gave him an early and intimate acquaintance with the paper business, enabled him to gain a knowledge of all its details, and gave him those habits of industry and self-reliance, which, upon the basis of a strong natural sagacity and force of character, have distinguished his business life. He acquired a fair education in the ordinary branches of knowledge, in the academies at Peterborough and Hancock, N. H., and Parsonsfield, Me.

His father removed to Holderness in 1845, having sold his interest to A. P. Morrison; and Person C. Cheney assumed the management of the paper-mill at Peterborough. In 1853 a firm of which Mr. Cheney was a member built another paper-mill at Peterborough; but he soon bought out the interest of his associates, and continued business in Peterborough till 1866.

Mr. Cheney took an early interest in politics, and represented the town of Peterborough in the legislature in 1853 and 1854. He entered ardently into the memorable events of 1860 and 1861, and zealously aided and promoted the preparation of his state for the great struggle to maintain the Union. In due time he offered his personal services, and in August, 1862, was appointed quartermaster of the 13th Regiment, N. H. Vols., and proceeded with the regiment to the seat of war. Joining the army of the Potomac, he rendered faithful service to the regiment and the country until exposure and overwork in the campaign before Fredericksburg brought on a long and dangerous sickness. Barely escaping with his life, he was compelled to resign and return home. He received an honorable discharge in August, 1863. From that time till the close of the war the Union cause at home had no more earnest or efficient friend and champion. In 1864 he was chosen railroad commissioner of New Hampshire, and served three years.

In 1866, Mr. Cheney removed to Manchester, and formed a partnership with Thomas L. Thorpe, as a dealer in paper stock and manufacturer of paper at Goffstown. In 1868 the firm of E. M. Tubbs & Co., of which Mr. Cheney had been a member three years, bought out the interest of Mr. Thorpe, and the business was continued under the name of P. C. Cheney & Co. In 1870 the mill at Goffstown was destroyed by fire, but was replaced by a new mill, and the business enlarged by rebuilding the old mill at Amoskeag village.

Mr. Cheney, upon becoming a resident of Manchester, became at once thoroughly and prominently identified with the development and prosperity of that rapidly growing city; and very soon his business capacity and integrity, his liberal spirit and engaging manners, attracted attention to him as a man not only highly fitted for public honors, but as pre-eminently capable of commanding them at the hands of the people. He was brought forward as a candidate for mayor of Manchester in 1871, and elected by a larger majority than any candidate had received since 1863. He performed the duties intelligently and to general acceptance, but declined a re-election. In 1874, at its organization, he was chosen president of the People's Savings Bank, and still retains the office.

In 1875, under peculiar circumstances, Mr. Cheney became the Republican candidate for governor. In 1874 the Republicans had lost the state for causes which it would not be useful to recite; and the Democrats, having control of every branch of legislation, had used their power to fortify themselves in the possession of the state government, by making new ward divisions in the city of Manchester, and redistricting for councilors and senators, in such a manner as to put their adversaries at great disadvantage, and render it almost impossible to recover the state. Under such circumstances it became absolutely necessary for them to place at the head of the ticket a name of the greatest personal popularity. Such were the prestige of Mr. Cheney, gained by his successful administration in Manchester, his personal magnetism among those who knew him, and his well known energy as a canvasser, that, unexpectedly to himself, he was selected as the standard-bearer of his party, and the result proved how wisely. The hottest campaign ever known in a state proverbial for the violence of its political contests ensued, and there was no choice of governor by the people; but Mr. Cheney had a plurality of the votes cast, although Judge Roberts, his competitor, received the heaviest vote his party had ever polled in New Hampshire. The Republicans secured a majority in the legislature, which elected Mr. Cheney governor. In 1876, Gov. Cheney was again a candidate, and after a canvass which exceeded in intensity even that of 1875, he was re-elected by a flattering majority of the popular vote, which was heavier than had ever before been cast in New Hampshire. Mr. Cheney brought to the office of governor a patriotic love for the state and solicitude for her good name, a clear insight, great executive ability, thorough business habits, and personal dignity, urbanity, and tact of a high order. These qualities, combined with his undoubted integrity and earnestness of purpose, enabled him to give the state a most prudent and successful administration of its affairs. The retrenchment of expenses, so much needed in a period of financial depression following years of sharp distress, was kept steadily in view, and a thorough business system inaugurated in all branches of the government; the affairs of the adjutant-general's office were redeemed from years of neglect and confusion; the state debt was materially reduced; at his suggestion a law was passed requiring vouchers to be filed for all disbursements from the governor's contingent fund; and the finances of the state were left in all respects upon a sound and stable basis. The prominent part of New Hampshire in the Centennial Exposition was due largely to his foresight, his faith in its benefits, and his untiring efforts in its behalf. None who participated in them will ever forget the brilliant success of "New Hampshire Day" at Philadelphia, or the reception of Governor and Mrs. Cheney, during his term of office, to the members of the legislature and the citizens of Concord, at White's Opera House, which was a memorable social event.

Gov. Cheney retired from office with the universal respect and esteem of men of all parties, and has since devoted himself closely to business. On the death of his partner, Dr. Tubbs, in 1878, Gov. Cheney purchased his quarter interest, and thus became sole proprietor of the business. The following year he converted the property of the old "Peterborough Company" at Peterborough, into a pulp-mill, and obtained an amendment of the charter, by act of the legislature, changing its name to the "P. C. Cheney Company." This charter is among the oldest in the state, having been granted in 1833, and bears the names of Charles H. Atherton, Samuel Appleton, Samuel May, Isaac Parker, Nathan Appleton, and others, as grantees. The original charter authorizes the company to extend its operations to any town in the state.

In 1880 the company commenced operations for increasing its production by building both a pulp and paper mill in connection with the old one at Manchester. This enterprise has been carried to completion, and thereby doubled in amount an already extensive business. Consequently the corporation, the stock of which is held by Gov. Cheney solely, now owns and carries on wood-pulp mills at Goffstown and Peterborough, and also one in connection with its paper-mill and waste-works at Manchester. Its paper-warehouse is at No. 1104 Elm street. The product of these various establishments, and their monthly disbursements for labor and services, are very large; and it is doubtful if a more important business has been built up in our state by the courage, foresight, and skill of one man. Gov. Cheney is an indefatigable worker, and keeps all the details of his extensive and complicated business within easy command.

He is identified with the First Unitarian church of Manchester, and has been a director and president of the society. He is a Royal Arch Mason, and member of the Altemont Lodge; also a member of Peterborough Lodge, I. O. O. F.

In 1850 he was married to Miss S. Anna Moore, who died January 8, 1858, leaving no children. He married, June 29, 1859, Mrs. Sarah White Keith, daughter of Jonathan White, formerly of Lowell, Mass., one of the earliest of Lowell's manufacturers, by whom he has one daughter, Agnes Annie Cheney, born October 22, 1869. His domestic life is singularly happy and charming. His residence, No. 136 Lowell street, is a home of modest elegance, of courtly hospitality, and the center of a refined circle. It is not too much to say that to the affectionate sympathy, the grace, and fine social tact of his accomplished wife, Gov. Cheney owes not only the enjoyments of a delightful home, but much of the success and popularity of his career.

The bare outlines of Gov. Cheney's life, as above given, convey but a faint impression of the essential quality of the man, and his importance as a factor in the social, business, and political life of his day and generation. It remains to be said that in Manchester his name is the synonym for liberality, public spirit, a generous and helpful charity, and a philanthropy, which, though unobtrusive, loses no opportunity to exert itself for the relief of distress and the elevation of society at large. Of a sympathetic nature, he cares more for others than himself, and no deserving person or worthy object ever solicits his aid in vain. He is prominent in every movement for the public good, and never spares himself, nor grudges the means which his business sagacity, energy and enterprise have gained for him, when work is to be done for a good cause, or help is needed for anybody in poverty or distress.

Mr. Cheney is still in the prime of life, and his useful service, his honorable and upright character, his high and unselfish aims, have made him a power in the state. A brave, true, and honest man, a sincere and warm-hearted friend, of positive convictions, of unflinching devotion to principle, and fitted for any station, he is obviously in the line of succession to still higher honors than have been accorded him. It goes without saying that such a man has hosts of friends; and certain it is that he is second to no man in New Hampshire in those elements of popular strength and confidence which commend men to public service.

An earlier biographer, from whose sketch most of this is derived, appropriately closes his delineation of him with the remark, that "Mr. Cheney may yet be drawn from the seclusion of private life, and the unremitting toil of active business, to lend his aid to the councils of a nation."