Guide to the Thomas Jewett Chesley Diaries, 1899-1912

Collection number: MS 294
Size: (4 items) (1 folder)

About Thomas Jewett Chesley

Thomas Jewett Chesley (June 1869-27 Oct. 1967) was born in Hutchinson, Minnesota, second son of James E. Chesley (1827-1881) and Frances "Fanny" Ann Tasker (1839-1905). The elder Chesley had gone west from New Hampshire to Minnesota in 1855 as part of the manifest destiny movement. After buying a farm in Hutchinson, he returned and married Fanny Tasker of Newmarket NH in 1864. The couple had two sons and then two daughters in Hutchinson.

While back in New Hampshire, James became friends with a man named Charles William Hardy Hayes (1836-1919), eventually convincing Hayes to come west and rent land on Chelsey's farm in exchange for a portion of the grain harvest. But Hayes became increasingly paranoid that Chesley was stealing grain from him, and in June 1881 the two fought over a portion of harvest. Chesley was stabbed in the head with a pitchfork and died that night. James Chesley holds the distintion of being the first recorded Anglo-American murder in McCloud County. His son Thomas was 12 at the time.

After her husband's death, Fanny (Tasker) Chesley sold the farm and moved back east to New Hampshire. Her family had opened a funeral home in Dover in 1867, and Thomas found work training as an undertaker in the Tasker Funeral Home. By 1899 he appears to have been a business partner or having been running the business alone. He was involved in the business until his death in the 1960s.

A photograph of what was then called the Tasker and Chesley Funeral Home can be found in Thom Hindle's "Images of America: Dover" (Arcadia Publishing, 1994) on pg. 103, or Tasker's website. The business was the sole survivor of the January 1932 fire which destroyed the Morrill Block on the corner of Main St. and Third St. Today, the Tasker Funeral Home continues to be a respected local business and has been a mainstay of the Dover community over 150 years since its founding.

About the Diaries

Four daily diaries document Chesley's business activities and travels around Maine and New Hampshire. In addition to the daily weather and finances, T. Jewett Chesley kept detailed records of local deaths, picking up the deceased from their family homes, their funerals, casket sales, hearse maintanence, visits with local business people and the Tasker family, and purchase of the materials required to ply his trade. Typical of the period, there is no mention of his family life.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Thomas Jewett Chesley Diaries, 1899-1912, MS 294, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Purchase from Carmen Valentino, 2018 (Accession No. 2018.09)

Photographs of various Chesley family members can be found on the website of the McCloud County Historical Society in Hutchinson, Minn. by searching for the surname. These include images of Fanny Chesley and James Chesley, along with several nieces and nephews of Thomas Chesley who are surnamed Bixby.

Separated Material

It's likely that Thomas Chesley kept more than these four diaries in his lifetime, but the others have been separated prior to acquisition.

Collection Arrangement

Arrangement is chronological.