Dr. W. J. CHEANEY, general medical practitioner of Petersburg, now serving as county physician of Menard county, was born October 18, 1870, in the city which is still his home, his parents being James W. and Sarah C. (Houghton) Cheaney, the former born near Lexington, Kentucky, and the latter in Menard county, Illinois. The paternal grandfather removed from New England to Kentucky at an early day and there reared his family. His son James remained at home until eighteen years of age, when he went to Louisville, Kentucky, where he learned the carpenter's trade, after which he removed to St. Louis, Missouri, where he followed that pursuit for some time. Subsequently he came to Petersburg, where he carried on carpentering and building for a number of years, being thus actively associated with industrial interests and with the improvement of the city. In 1872 he was chosen by his fellow townsmen to the office of county treasurer, in which he served for two years, and upon his retirement from that position he went upon the road as a traveling salesman. He was very successful in that work and was therefore enabled to command a large salary. He continued upon the road until 1890, when he turned his attention to the lumber business, admitting his son Ed to a partnership under the firm name of E. S. Cheaney & Company, and the lumberyard is still conducted by the son. Mr. Cheaney was a leading contractor and builder of his time and took an active part in the improvement of the city. He possessed keen foresight, business enterprise and sound judgement and in trade circles and in social life commanded the respect and good will of all with whom he came in contact. He died February 21, 1901, and his wife is yet living.
Dr. Cheaney, the youngest of their three children, began his education at the usual age in the primary schools of Petersburg and passed successively through the different grades until he had completed the high school course. Desiring to direct his energies into a field calling for intellectual activity and offering good opportunities for success, he took up the study of medicine and surgery in the office and under the direction of Dr. Whitley, of Petersburg, who is still a successful practicing physician of this city and who is represented elsewhere in this volume. Dr. Whitley remained as his preceptor for four years and then entered the Rush Medical College, where he completed the full course, being graduated in March, 1892. Dr. Cheaney, having won the Doctor of Medicine degree, then returned to Petersburg, where he has since engaged in the general practice of medicine and surgery with excellent success, his labors for the alleviation of suffering being attended, in the large majority of cases, with the desired result. He is a member of the Menard County Medical Society and the Illinois State Medical Society, and also belongs to the Alumni Association of Rush Medical College.
Dr. Cheaney was married, January 26, 1894, to Miss Luella Ayres, of Athens, Illinois, a daughter of W. B. Ayres, who is a successful farmer of Menard county. Their children are Donald Ayres, Harold and William James. The parents have a wide and favorable acquaintance in this county, and Dr. Cheaney is prominent in Masonry, having attained the Knight Templar degree. He is also a member of the Knights of Pythias lodge of Petersburg. The interest of the community tending toward public advancement and improvement receive his hearty endorsement and active co-operation, and in no duty of citizenship is he remiss. His attention, however, is most largely concentrated upon his professional duties and in a calling where advancement depends entirely upon individual merit, he has gained for himself an excellent name.