Thursday, January 15, 2009

R.I.P. Cecil Warren Cheney, age 93

Another of my wife's dad's cousins, Cecil Warren Cheney, age 93, has died. Cecil left this life on January 10, 2009, exactly a month after his cousin Howard Cheney. These were the two men who we got together in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in October 2006, eighty-eight years after their last having been together. I won't repeat the story here; see the link if you are interested.

Cecil had a good life. Twenty-six years old when the USA entered World War 2, and recently graduated from college and married, Cecil went to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on the Manhattan Project. That was his service to his country during the war rather than armed combat. He remained in technical professions his entire career, but at some point (I'm not clear where) was also a sports coach of children's or teens' teams. He maintained his love of sports to the end, spending his Saturdays and Sundays in the fall glued to his television, eyes quite close due to poor eyesight, watching any football game that was on. He was preceded in death by his wife, Alwilda, who died in 2003 at age 89, from West Nile Virus. Cecil's years after Alwilda's death were not happy, and I'd like to think the reunion was a bright spot for him.

Cecil's father was William Boynton Cheney. Born and raised in Meade County, Kansas, he spent time in New Mexico as a cowboy, then came back to Meade County after his dad's death to help his mother with their 2,040 acre ranch and start a family. By 1916 the ranch had been sold, William had a wife and three children, and had acquired a ranch of his own in Meade County and perhaps extending into Clark County. Adjacent to Will's place was land owned by a large land and cattle company out of Kansas City. In September 1916, a dispute arose between Will and James West, who worked for that company, over the location of a fence. Only the two of them were there at the time of the dispute (or at least only the two of them knew for sure what happened). Will Cheney came away from that dispute dead, shot in the back. West was arrested but acquitted at trial. The family believes, and I'm sure it's true, that the jury was bought off. Some of them were later seen driving fancy new cars (in 1916, remember).

So Cecil was born during the very late days of the old west, in the old west, and had the family background that confirmed it. His grandfather, Seth Boynton Cheney, was a 49er, raised in Vermont, but left home in 1849 at age 16 and never contacted his family again. He spent almost three decades in California--prospecting, homesteading, logging, ranching--then made his way back to the Texas panhandle and eventually to southwest Kansas, where he married a girl thirty years younger and had his family. It's a very interesting story, and I've written a home-published book about Seth. Cecil was one of sixteen grandchildren of Seth; only one is now left alive.

My family? We're a bunch of recent immigrants in comparison. I have to go back to olde England to find characters and skeletons.

No comments: