Eliza Ann Beebe Cheney was born on January 11, 1815 to Charles Beebe and Elizabeth Train Beebe. (One source states that she was born in Freedom County, New York and another source states that she was born in Bethany, Genesses, New York). Eliza's family moved to Buffalo, New York, and Eliza grew up as one of 11 children on a farm two miles south of Arcade and one mile from Sandusky. She taught school for three years prior to her marriage. Eliza began keeping company with Nathan Calhoun Cheney and had agreed to marry him, when word reached her family that Nathan had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When Nathan came and confirmed that the reports were true, he told Eliza that he would release her from her promise to marry him but that he wanted her to think about it a few days. Eliza responded that she wanted three weeks to decide. After three weeks had passed, Eliza answered that she would marry Nathan, and if his new religion was not true they would find this out together. Eliza's parents were opposed to the Mormons, and when she decided to marry Nathan, only her mother and a few friends attended the wedding. They were married on April 22, 1834 in Freedom, New York at the farmhouse where Nathan was working. A few weeks later, Eliza joined the Church, and soon she was reconciled with her parents. Eliza and Nathan traveled to Kirtland where they lived for several years before moving to Nauvoo. They became the parents of seven children: Helen Mar, Eliza Jane, Charles Ebenezer, Nathan Beebe, Anna Louisa, Franklin ('Frankie'), and Emily Mariah. In 1846, they moved their family to Benton's Port, Iowa; Jefferson, Missouri; and then to Winter Quarters. They traveled to Utah in 1850, arriving in Salt Lake City on October 6. They settled in Centerville and began to establish their farm. They had been there for one year when Eliza died on October 6, 1851. Nathan died only a few months later, on February 10, 1852, leaving their five living children as orphans.
This collection of Cheney Family Papers was donated to the Harold B. Lee Library by Edith C. Clay. It contains four biographies of Eliza and Nathan and transcripts of several letters written by Eliza and Nathan. The Brief Sketch of Nathan Calhoun Cheney and Eliza Ann Beebe was written by their son, Nathan Beebe Cheney. The copy of this biography is a partial manuscript. Only the first page is included, and the second page is a duplicate of this first page. The biography, Nathan Calhoun Cheney and Eliza Ann Beebe Cheney, was written by a great-granddaughter, Edith C. Clay. Clay provides descriptions of Eliza's childhood home and farm. In her youth Eliza learned to spin flax and wool to make cloth. She loved doing fine needlework and making flowers for hats and bonnets. Clay also relates Eliza's experiences with persecution and her preparations to protect her family from mob violence. Pioneers of 1850: Life Sketch of Nathan Calhoun Cheney and Eliza Ann Beebe Cheney as told by their daughters Helen Mar Cheney Miller and Eliza Jane Cheney Rawson and complied by their granddaughter Sadie Foss Elliott, gives genealogical information about Nathan's family and describes events in his early life. It also relates Nathan and Eliza's courtship, gives a physical description of Eliza, and lists the birth and death dates of their children. Descriptive Narrative of the Lives of our Great Grandparents, Nathan Calhoun Cheney and Eliza Ann Beebe Cheney has a handwritten note on it stating that the biography was 'taken from a pagent prepared to portray the lives of our great grandparents.' This biography duplicates some of the information in the other biographies; however, it also includes a 'Sketch of the Life of Nathan and Eliza Ann Beebe' which was copied from the journal of Eliza and Nathan's daughter, Eliza Jane Rawson. The letters included in the collection were written by Eliza and Nathan to their respective families. Two letters from Eliza were written in Nauvoo (in October and November of 1842). Two more of her letters were written at Winter Quarters (in January 1847 and January 1848). In these letters Eliza reaffirms her testimony of the gospel and her and Nathan's determination to remain with the LDS Church. She also speaks about births, deaths, and other family events. Two letters are from Nathan to his family. They contain information on events in Kirtland and Nauvoo, including accounts of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.