Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Cheney, Charles

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHENEY, Charles, manufacturer, b. in what is now South Manchester, Conn., in 1804; d. there, 20 June, 1874. He went to Tolland as a clerk when he was about fourteen years old, and before he was of age engaged in mercantile business on his own account in Providence. About 1837 he removed to Ohio and established himself as a farmer at Mount Healthy, near Cincinnati, where he remained eleven years, during which period he became interested in the anti-slavery movement. About the time of his removal to Ohio, Ward Cheney and some of his other brothers had established a small silk factory in South Manchester, Conn. They had many obstacles with which to contend, and the factory was suspended after three or four years, but was revived in 1841, and in 1847 Charles Cheney joined his brothers in the undertaking. He spent a considerable portion of his time in Hartford, where they had also extensive manufactories. He served in the legislature for one or two terms, and was distinguished for his public spirit and generous charities. — His brother, Seth Wells, artist, b. in South Manchester, Conn., 26 Nov., 1810; d. there, 10 Sept., 1856, received a common-school education, studied art in Paris and Rome, began his professional career as an engraver in 1830, and from 1840 gave his attention to crayon drawing. He was one of the earliest American artists in black and white, and excelled in giving spirituality to his portraits and ideal female faces, which are still sought by collectors. Among his works are portraits of Theodore Parker with his wife, James Walker, president of Harvard, W. C. Bryant, and Ephraim Peabody, “Rosalie,” and “A Roman Girl.” When the poet Halleck expressed surprise that his portrait was not finished, the choleric Cheney said, “I will finish it,” whereupon he put his foot through it. — Another brother, John, excelled as an engraver of heads. His principal work is a print of the Madonna di San Sisto of Raphael. — Ednah Dow, wife of Seth Wells, author, b. in Boston, Mass., 27 June, 1824, was a daughter of Sargent Smith Littlehale. She was educated at private schools in her native city, and married in 1853. She was secretary of the School of design for women from 1851 till 1854, and in 1862 became secretary of the New England hospital for women and children. In 1863 she was secretary of the committee on aid for colored regiments and of the teachers' committee of the Freedmen's aid society. She has been vice-president of the New England women's club and of the Massachusetts woman suffrage association. Mrs. Cheney went south to visit the Freedmen's schools in 1866, 1868, and 1869. She has visited Europe several times, spoken before lyceums in the west in 1873, 1875, and 1876, and has lectured before the Concord school of philosophy. She has published “Hand-Book of American History,” for colored people and schools (Boston, 1866); “Patience,” a set of games (1869); “Faithful to the Light” (1870); “Social Games” (1871); “Sally Williams, the Mountain Girl” (1872); “Child of the Tide” (1874); “Life of Dr. Susan Dimock” (1875); “Gleanings in the Fields of Art” (1881); and “Selected Poems from Michelangelo Buonarotti” (1885). — Another brother, Ward, b. in South Manchester in 1813; d. there, 22 March, 1876, principal founder of the house of Cheney Brothers, was the most active in its business management. He first engaged in the dry-goods business in Providence, R. I., then in the culture of silk at Burlington, N. J., and in 1836 established with his brothers the manufacturing firm of Cheney Brothers in South Manchester. The business was afterward organized as a joint-stock company, retaining the firm name, and Ward became president of the corporation. He was also president of the Silk association of America. The brothers worked harmoniously in building up by slow steps an extensive business, with mills at South Manchester and Hartford, employing 2,500 operatives. The sewing-silks manufactured by them were considered by competent judges superior to the best qualities made in Europe, and found a special demand for use in sewing-machines on account of strength, uniformity of twist, and fine finish. They afterward made great progress in weaving silk goods with power-looms, and made printed as well as plain-dyed fabrics. On their father's farm they established the model manufacturing village of South Manchester, with cottage homes, a spacious and architecturally elegant hall and theatre, where dramatic and other entertainments are given gratis and religious exercises are held on Sundays, a school, a library and reading-room, boarding-houses, and pleasure-grounds. Here all the brothers had their homes, and their relations with their workmen afforded a rare instance of cordiality and affection. From time to time skilled operatives were brought over from England and settled in South Manchester. Mr. Cheney was known in business circles as a generous and progressive man, and frequently aided young men beginning mercantile life. He left an only son, Charles, of Boston. — Another brother, Arthur, b. in South Manchester, 14 Jan., 1837; d. there in December, 1878, also a member of the firm, interested himself in the drama and built the Globe theatre, Boston, originally called Selwyn's theatre, for the purpose of giving the best plays in a thorough and artistic way. It was managed with varying success by Selwyn, Floyd, and others, and, when it was burned, was rebuilt by Mr. Cheney and carried on at a loss. — Frank Woodbridge, manufacturer, b. in Providence, R. I., 5 June, 1832. After graduation at Brown in 1854 he engaged in business in Hartford, in connection with the silk manufacturing interests of the Cheney Brothers at Manchester. He volunteered for the civil war in 1862, and became lieutenant-colonel of the 16th Connecticut volunteers. The regiment went to the front, 29 Aug., 1,010 strong, but undisciplined and almost wholly ignorant of drill. The Confederates were beginning the invasion of Maryland that ended in repulse at Antietam, and all available troops were hurried forward to meet them irrespective of experience as soldiers. On 12 Sept., Lieut.-Col. Cheney led his regiment of recruits in a skirmish that proved preliminary to the battle of Antietam, in which engagement he was severely wounded, late in the afternoon, while endeavoring to rally his men, who, never having had a battalion-drill, had been thrown into disorder by the enemy's fire. Col. Cheney's wound proved so serious that he was obliged to retire from the service, 24 Dec., 1862. He travelled in Europe, China, and Japan, studying the silk industries of those countries, and became a member of the house of Cheney Brothers, and its treasurer.