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Dr. William I. Chaney Biography

Note: The area of Sharkey County where Dr. Chaney lived is a part of old Issaquena County and did not become Sharkey County until 1876.

Source:  Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi,  Chicago:  The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891.

Volume I, pp. 538-40

During a professional career of over thirty years Dr. William I. Chaney has become noted as a practitioner of the healing art throughout his section, and justly deserves the euloguims bestowed upon him by his professional brethren. He was born at Port Hudson, La., January 28, 1828, being the eldest of two sons and one daughter born to the marriage of Thomas Y. and Emily M. (Johnson) Chaney, who were born in East Feliciana parish, La., in 1805 and Thibodeaux, La. In 1813, respectively, their marriage taking place in their native state in 1826. They afterward removed to what is now Sharkey county, where Mr. Chaney had become possessed of a tract of land where Rolling Fork now is, while on a surveying expedition with Stephen Howard, the celebrated government engineer and surveyor, in  1826. He was the first white settler to locate in what is now Sharkey county, and here became possessed of a very valuable plantation, which he named Rolling Fork, from the stream which he had named while on his first visit here. On this place he spent the rest of his days dying in 1835. He was a man of excellent habits and character, and was also very generous and courageous. He settled in a dense wilderness of canebrake, miels from any other settler, and during his lifetime Vicksburg was his nearest trading point. His father, George Chaney, was born and reared and married in South Carolina, and about 1800 removed to East Feliciana parish, La., where he passed from life. He was a son of Bailey Chaney, a native of England who just before the Revolutionary war, came to America and lived near Annapolis, serving in the war against his mother country. He afterward removed to South Carolina, where he died. The maternal grandfather, Col. Isaac Johnson, Jr., uncle of Gov. Isaac Johnson of Louisiana, was born and married in New Orleans, and in the state of Louisiana spent his entire life, being an able lawyer and a wealthy planter. He held many prominent official positions, such as district judge, etc. and in whatever calling he labored he displayed marked ability and fidelity to the duties of the positions he filled. He was a colonel in the War of 1812 and was at the battle of New Orleans. His father, Isaac Johnson, Sr., was born in England, and there married a French lady but became a resident of America while this country was still under English rule. He was also a lawyer and planter and died at Thibodeaux. The children born to Thomas and Emily (Johnson) Chaney are: Sarah, the first white child that was born in what is now Sharkey county, was educated at Patapsco institute, near Baltimore, Md., and is now the widow of L.P. Franklin, a prominent lawyer of Baltimore and a very classical gentleman and able politician; Thomas Y. Jr., died in 1861. He received a fine classical education in the University of Virginia and graduated in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1856, and also at New Orleans in 1857, and practiced medicine at Rolling Fork until his death. Dr. William I. Chaney was also given a fine classical education, being an attendant of the noble institution of learning, Princeton college, New Jersey, of which he is now A.M., being of the class of 1852, and graduated in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1854 and from the University of New York the following year. The following four years were spent as a surgeon on shipboard between New York and Liverpool, but since that time he has been a medical practitioner of Rolling Fork, and during the war he served as a surgeon in the Confederate army. On Wednesday morning, March 24, 1863, Crockett Carter, an overseer on what is now the Good Intent plantation, on Little Deer creek, brought the news to Rolling Fork that a fleet of Federal gunboats was on its way up Deer creek toward Rolling Fork, upon hearing which Dr. Chaney and his friend James Leach, mounted one of his finest racehorses and proceeded down the creek to learn if the report was true. Upon learning that it was, they hastened back to Rolling Fork, and the Doctor at once dispatched Crockett Carter in one of his own fine raceboats with two of his best oarsmen (slaves) with a message to General Hebert, who was in command of the Confederate post at Snynerís Bluff, eighty miles distant on the Yazoo river. The message was safely delivered about sunup of the next day, and at sundown of the same day Gen. W.S. Featherston and Gen. Stephen D. Lee land at the mouth of Rolling Fork with about two thousand eight hundred troops, where they were met by Dr. Chaney, who piloted them overland to Rolling Fork. In the meantime the Federals had reached the place with eight gunboats, seven transports and about six hundred marines under Commodore Porter, and had quartered themselves in the residence and grounds belonging to Dr. Chaney. At daybreak on the 26th, while the Federals were lying about the lawn sleeping, about thirty Confederate sharpshooters were picketed by Dr. Chaney, and as soon as it was light enough opened fire on the Federals, who were sleeping on the grounds, taking them completely by surprise. They at once fled to their gunboats, and a running fire of three days was kept up. In the meantime, a few miles below Rolling Fork, on the 27th, the Federals were reinforced by General Sherman with about six thousand troops, but being doubtless deceived as to the numbers of the Confederates, they continued to retreat, and were driven as far as the Yazoo river, which place they reached Sunday evening. This spirited little encounter doubtless delayed the surrender of Vicksburg for several months, the object of the expedition being a flank movement on Snyderís bluff. Dr. Chaney was married in1 862 to Miss Mary J., daughter of Col. William T. Barnard, of Sharkey county. She was born in Natchez in1 842 and died November 10, 1867, an earnest member of the Baptist church. The Doctor is exceedingly well read in his profession, and, possessing an exceptionally retentive memory, is a very intelligent and interesting conversationalist. He is the oldest inhabitant, in point of residence, in the county, and is more familiar with its early and later history than probably any other person; in fact, it can truly be said that nothing has transpired in the county with which he is not familiar, for many of the transactions of early times were related to him by his mother. These incidents possess great interest to those who are interested in the struggles, privations and hardships which the early pioneer were compelled to undergo, and would fill a volume in themselves. Many of the names of the settlers who followed his parents to this region are yet perfectly familiar to him, and he can tell with precision the location of each family. He commands the universal esteem of the community in which he resides, and as his ability as a physician has never been questioned, he has a very extensive practice. He has never desired publicity or notoriety, and has never held nor sought to hold public office. He is now the owner of nine hundred acres of land, and is otherwise well fixed financially. His mother was a lady of true Christian character, was cultured and refined and was always found ready to do any act of kindness for the needy. She died June 11, 1869, in the fifty-seventh year of her age, and her remains now rest in the old family cemetery in the town of Rolling Fork, beside those of Thomas Y. Chaney, pioneer of Sharkey county.

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