William Cheney was born 1603 in Bennington, Lincolnshire, England to John Cheney (1568-1623) and died 20 June 1666 Roxbury, Norfolk County, Massachusetts of unspecified causes. He married Margaret Cole (1604-1686) 1625 in England.


William CHENEY (Lawrence-2, John-1) b. 31 Jul 1603 in England, d. 30 Jun 1667 in Roxbury, Suffolk Co, . MA. m. Margaret COLE (daughter of William COLE and Elizabeth DEARDS) in 1626 in Roxbury, Suffolk, MA, b. 1604 in England, d. on 3 Jul 1686 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA.

Notes: These notes are those of Lisa Sorensen 1998: It is still a mystery on how or when William arrived in Massachusetts. He was definitely living in Roxbury in 1640 because he was listed in the "estates and persons of the Inhabitants of Rocksbury". At that time, William owned 24 1/2 acres.

Roxbury Farm & Homestead

William was a successful farmer. At the time of his death, he owned over 100 acres of land, his home and a house in Boston. The Cheney homestead was located on Dudley Street near Warren Street in Roxbury.

Judging from the estate inventory, the main house was large. Probably, there was an entry area which opened on one side to the hall, and on the other side to the parlor. Behind both the hall and the parlor were bed chambers. The hall was the main living area of the Cheneys. The fireplace was located in the hall, and here was where the meals were prepared and eaten. The parlor was more of a state bedroom. Here the best bed with feather bolsters, pillows and fine linen was displayed. The room also boasted a great cupboard, a little cupboard and three chairs. Chairs were not common in New England households, and showed William to be above average in wealth. Also included in the estate inventory were 36 bushels of Indian corn, 12 bushels of Rye, 5 1/2 bushels of mault, 5 cows and 3 swine. This list gives a good indication of the Cheney diet. Indian corn was the staple of the Puritan diet.

They learned how to plant, harvest and grind the corn from the Indians. The corn was then used in puddings, cakes, hominy, succotash, etc, etc. "Rye-n-Injun" bread, made from ground corn mixed with rye, was a moist bread which did not dry out quickly. The drink of the Cheneys was beer. It was drunk at all meals by the entire family. Mr Cheney obviously brewed his own beer since he had 5 1/2 bushels of mault. William was active in the community.

Civic Duties

On February 21, 1648, William was elected to the board of assessors. He was also a constable of Roxbury in 1654-1656. Constables in those days did more than keep the peace, they also collected the tax money. On January 19, 1656, William was elected a member of the board of selectman, an office associated with men of education and rank.

In 1663, William Cheney guaranteed yearly contributions to the Roxbury Free School. The school, a first for Roxbury, was built with care and furnished with "convenient benches with forms, with tables for the scholars, and a conveniente seate for the schoolmaster, a deske to put the dictionary on and shelves to lay up bookes". On February 15, 1663 Cheney was chosen one of the Feofese of the school. The closest modern word for a feofee would be a director, and in Roxbury there were seven feofese. They made decisions on hiring of teachers, administrative matters and finances.

William Cheney did not join the Puritan Church until January 5, 1664 - at least 24 years after he arrived in Roxbury. This is an interesting fact because in those days Massachusetts was a Puritan Colony. The Church leaders were also the Colony leaders, and they dictated all aspects of life from what holidays could be celebrated (not Christmas) to what books could be printed and sold (mostly sermons). In 1631, it was enacted that "no one should be admitted a freeman, and so have the right to vote, unless he was a member of one of the churches within the limits of the colony".

How did William prosper in such a climate? Why did he wait so many years to join the Church. Possibly his wife joining the Church circa 1643, helped William maneuver around the Puritans. Whatever the case may have been, William was not made a "freeman of the Colony" until May 23, 1666. Unfortunately, he never got to use his new found right to vote because he fell ill in 1666, and died June 30th 1667. Sources: "The Cheney Genealogy" by Charles Henry Pope, 1897. "Customs and Fashions in Old New England" by Alice Morse Earle, 1893. "A Short History of the English Colonies in America" by Henry Cabot Lodge, 1881.

Marriage to Margaret Cole

Margaret had a breakdown after William died. In the Church records of the time, Reverand S. Danforth noted that "Margaret Cheany widow having been long bound by Satan under a melancholick distemper, (above 10 or 11 yeares) which made her wholly neglect her Calling & live mopishly, this day (24 Mar 1673) gave thanks to God for loosing her chain & confessing & bewailing her sinful yielding to temptation" (The Cheney Genealogy by Charles Henry Pope, 1897 pg 29) Des pite William's careful provision for Margaret in his will, her widowhood was not with out financial problems. She petioned the court regarding her son Thomas' treatment of her, to which it responded: "In answer to the petition of Margaret Cheeny, widdow: The Court Orders that Thomas Cheeny her Son pay unto his sd Mother Five pounds in mony every quarter of the yeare, yearely for the improvement of the Estate left by his Father & give her good assurance of her living peaceably with him, otherwise that hee leave the house; the Estate being judged to bee wor th twenty five pound in mony per annum (Suffolk County Court, 749, dated 31 October 1676).

Margaret married (2) Mr Burge (or Burges or Burdge) and moved to Boston. She made a will on 9/23/1686, and died sometime later that year. (From the "Pioneers of Massachusetts" by Charles Henry Pope, Copyright 1900, pg. 97)

  1. Eleanor Cheney (1625-)
  2. Margaret Cheney (1628-1678) (born on 26 Nov 1628).
  3. Thomas Cheney (1630-1695) - md (1) his cousin, Mary Cheney and md (2) Mary Harbert. He was a veteran of King Philip's War (1675-76).
  4. William Cheney (1636-)
  5. John Cheney I (1639-1639) - Died as infant b. 20 Sep 1639 in Roxbury, MA. , d. in Dec 1639 in MA
  6. John Cheney II (1640-1671) - b. 25 Sep 1640 in Roxbury, Suffolk, MA. , d. 10 Dec 1671 in Roxbury, Suffolk, MA. "John Cheanie who was found dead in our River. It was apprehended byye Jury th at he slip i n accidently as he was catching of Eeles" (From"The Ancestry of Ev a Belle Kempton" by Dean C rawford Smith, C.G.; NewEngland Historic Genealogica l Society 1996, page 233)
  7. Mehitable Cheney (1643-1693) - md Thomas Wight (1633-1690) and moved to Medfield MA where their home was burned down in the 1676 indian raids of the King Philip's War.
  8. Joseph Cheney (1647-1704) - (born on 6 Jun 1647).


Offspring of William Cheney and Margaret Cole (1604-1686)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Eleanor Cheney (1625-)
Margaret Cheney (1628-1678) 26 November 1628 England 29 September 1678 Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Thomas Hastings (c1605-1685)
Thomas Cheney (1630-1695) 1630 Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts 4 March 1695 Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Jane Atkinson (1634-1724)
William Cheney (1636-)
John Cheney (1639-1639)
John Cheney (1640-1671)
Mehitable Cheney (1643-1693) 6 January 1643 Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts 1693 Medfield, Suffolk County, Massachusetts Thomas Wight (1633-1690)
Joseph Cheney (1647-1704) 6 June 1647 Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts 16 September 1704 Massachusetts Hannah Thurston (1650-1690)


Offspring of John Cheney (1568-1623) and Mrs Elizabeth Cheney
Name Birth Death Joined with
William Cheney (1603-1667) 1603 Bennington, Lincolnshire, England 20 June 1666 Roxbury, Norfolk County, Massachusetts Margaret Cole (1604-1686)
John Cheney (1605-1666) 30 June 1605 Bennington, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom 19 June 1666 Newbury, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States Martha Parrot (1608-1684)



Footnotes (including sources)