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
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
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
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