John H. Chesteen


John H. Chesteen was born in June of 1869 in Georgia. At this time it is not known who his parents are. We believe he lived near Atlanta, Georgia. On the 1900 Census, his last name was spelled C h e s t i n e.

J.D. Chesteen, Ruben Chesteen, Larmar Devine and Wilton Nelson, four of John Chesteen's grandchildren, tell of the days when John Chesteen worked in the hot fields of Georgia at the age of 14. This was around 1883. In that day and time children worked as hard as their parents. It was necessary in order to have food to eat and a shirt on their back. One man told the story that he was nine years old before he owned a pair of shoes. His mother had died and someone bought him a pair of shoes to wear to her funeral. After the funeral he took them off and put them back in the box to save. He only wore them on special occasions and the next time he took them out to wear again they were too small. He had outgrown them.

In 1883 John and his stepsister were working together in the yard. She pulled up a weed that stings when it touches the skin. John had warned her not to touch him with it or he would slap her. She took the weed and hit him with it anyway. He reached out and slapped her as hard as he could after she insisted on hitting him with the weed. That night John was punished by his stepmother. Evidently he had taken a lot of abuse from his stepsister and stepmother. That night after everyone was asleep, John packed a small amount of clothes and slipped out the window and never returned. There is a possibility that John's brother left with him because he never lost contact with a brother that lived near Montgomery, Alabama.

John talked of living in railroad camp cars and driving an ox team for lumber companies. He managed to take care of himself for ten years before he finally got married. The last lumber company he worked for was Miller Brent Company of Poley, Alabama. He probably enjoyed that job more than the hot fields. Although John missed his dad, he never regretted leaving home. He moved forward with his life and never looked back. John made avow that he would never hurt anyone the way he had been hurt. He knew firsthand how it felt to be hurt growing up as a stepchild. He never talked about the past. Only a few people knew the story. At the age of 24 he married Rossie Jackson. Rossie Jackson was born in Alabama, June of 1874. John and Rossie were married at the home of her brother, Major Jackson, on September 22, 1894, in Coffee County. Her parents are unknown but she had two other brothers, General Jackson and Colonel Jackson.

John and Rossie made their home in Valley Grove and there they born four children. The first of the four was Curtis Connie Chesteen. He was born in September, 1896. And then there was a girl, Valonia Chesteen, born May, 1898. In April, 1899, Matthew Chesteen was born and in August, 1901, Arthur (Bunk) Chesteen was born. Matthew Chesteen apparently died young because his name soon disappeared on the census.

Around 1902, Rossie was cooking supper for the family during a thunder storm. After feeding the children, she picked up Arthur and got him to sleep. She put him to bed and returned to the kitchen. A bolt of lightening struck the stove pipe hitting her. It killed Rossie instantly. John was overwhelmed with grief losing his wife, whom he loved so dearly, and the mother of their children. He hurt deeply for the children also. He knew they would have to face this void in there young lives as he did. John kept a lock of her hair and the shoes she had on at her death. When John Chesteen died in 1933, he requested that the lock of hair and the pair of black shoes with broken square inch heels be placed in the casket with him. J. D. Chesteen, John's grandson, can remember seeing the lock of hair and the shoes in his grandfather's casket as he had requested.

No one is certain how long it was before John Chesteen married his second wife, Fannie Floyd. However, Fannie's name appeared on the 1910 census records along with John's children, ages 9, 11 and 13. Fannie was born around 1871. It is not known who her parents were, but John made no mistake choosing Fannie for his wife. She was extremely good to the children and continued to be a loving grandmother. Fannie Floyd's relatives were very close to the children. Gerald Chesteen, grandson of John Chesteen, has a poem that was written by one of Fannie Floyd's relatives, Laura Floyd.

Dorsey Barnette, a friend of the family, remembers Fannie cooking good meals for the family and always working in the house, keeping it clean and doing all the washing. He remembered riding beside John on the old wagon going to Valley Grove Church. His comments were "I saw John Chesteen as a wonderful person. As a child he seemed so good to me." Eunice Peek Bryant, another friend of the family, says she can remember walking to Cambell's Chapel School and was always so happy to see "Uncle John' 'as she called him. She would see him coming up the road on an old mule and wagon and his dog "Jack" walking along side the wagon. He would always stop and give her a ride.

Larmar Devine said "my granddaddy loved me so much. He would hold me on his lap a lot". J.D., Wilton and Ruben remembers how he took up a lot of time with children. Ruben lived with John and Fannie for a period of time.

The oldest son, Curtis Connie Chesteen married first to Fannie Caton and they had one son, Ruben Chesteen. He later divorced Fannie and married Nettie Davis from Laurel Hill, Florida. They had six children, three girls and three boys. Mellie Irene Chesteen was the first bom, Arthur Eugene Chesteen was the second bom, Margaret Chesteen was the third born, Roy Ellicl-.. Chesteen was the forth bom, Macie Lou Chesteen was the fifth born and Gerald Donnette Chesteen was the sixth bom. They all lived and grew up in the Rose Hill, Antioch, and Harmony area of Covington County.

John's daughter, Valonia, married Nace Devine. They had six children also. Larmar Devine, Roosevelt Devine, Inez Devine, Mennie Lee Devine and Geraldine Devine. The sixth one was a twin sister to Geraldine. She died at birth. Valonia had dark complexion and long hair. She was a very pretty woman.

Arthur, known as "Bunk", the youngest of John Chesteen's children, married Cora Lee "Babe" Nelson. They only had one son, J. D. Chesteen, but they raised a nephew, Wilton Nelson, who lost his mother when he was only four months old. They lived around Newbia and Antioch community area in Coffee County.

Wilton Nelson remembers his stepfather, Arthur or "Bunk", telling him about John Chesteen moving a man once from Bum Out, Alabama, to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, by oxen and wagon. It took several days to complete this move and his pay was 20 gallons of sorghum syrup. They often laughed about eating sorghum syrup and cornbread for a whole year. Also, Wilton remembers that his stepfather, Arthur "Bunk" was terrified of bad weather. He never allowed his wife to cook during a storm.

John Chesteen has many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. Most all of whom have achieved some special recognition in one way or another. Katlyne Chesteen, his great-great granddaughter won "Little Miss Senior" of Conecuh County in 2000. Brook Justice of Hartford, another great-great granddaughter, won the National Peanut Queen of 1999 in Dothan. Leah Karol Williams, another great-great granddaughter won "Miss Spirit of '76" in the 1900 centennial year (1976). Sharon Chesteen, his great granddaughter from Marianna, Florida, won "Miss D. C. T. Sweetheart in 1981.

John Chesteen, Rossie Chesteen and Fannie Chesteen are all buried at Valley Grove Cemetery.

By Peggy Wesley Chesteen, wife of Gerald Chesteen
Rt 2 Box 204AE
Andalusia, AL 36420
July, 2000

Additinal notes:
Added MAY 2003

From: Jim Chesteen
To: Gerald and Peggy Chesteen
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2003 11:55 PM
Subject: RE: Chesteen

Hey Peggy, I'm still trying to get this typed up for you!!

As it turns out, the index was wrong for 1880 as it lists Jonathan but the name when looking at the record is actually Joshua or Johua. And, in this recording, the wife's name is given as Emma but that too seems incorrect as she is noted in other records that I located in Upson County, where they were in 1900, as Frances and Frances Elizabeth. In 1880 the eldest child is listed as Emma (as she was also in 1870 and later) and I just think that the census recorder confused the names and did not correct.

Here's the family in 1870, Cobb County GA page 340B
Joshua Chasteen age 26 Railroad worker
Lucinda Chasteen age 32 Keeping House
William (P?) Chasteen age 5
Emma (F or H) Chasteen age 3
John E Chasteen age 1

The Lucinda above appears to be the children's mother including John. The above info was the end of the data we had on this Joshua Chasteen in the association database. But, he was the only Joshua Chastain noted in the 1860 census for Georgia and was located in his father, William's, home that year, also in Cobb County. I believe that he is also the only Joshua "Chastine" noted in the 1870 record for Georgia so the probability is extremely great that this is the same person we are tracking.

In 1880 the family is noted in Taylor Co. GA

Joshua Chastine age 36 head Farmer
Emma Chastine age 36 wife Housekeeping
Emma Chastine age 12 daughter
John A Chastine age 10 son
Luvinia Chastine age 5 daughter
J. L. Chastine age 2 son

The above record was indexed incorrectly under the name Jonathan Chastine but the record itself is clearly Johua or Joshua. I also suspect that Emma is the same as Frances E. below and the name just mixed up with that of the daughter. Based on the above two census, it seems very reasonable that John and Emma were children of the first wife Lucinda and Luvinia and J.L. were children of the second wife. There's a gap of 5 or so years in the births of the children and from the 1900 census below, you'll see that Joshua and Frances indicated that they had been married 24 years, so this substantiates the theory of two wives and two sets of children for Joshua. I haven't found any of them in the 1910 census yet but did find a death and burial for Emma who seems to be John's full sister. I suspect that Luvinia is the half-sister that is talked about in family tradition as giving John some problems!!

1900 Upson County GA census page 9380B

Joshaway Chastien age 65 head Farmer married 24 years
Francis Chastien age 56 wife married 24 years, mother of 5 children, 2 still alive
Sarah Jane age 12 granddaughter
Thomas age 8 grandson
Mattie age 6 granddaughter

The three grandchildren's names were dittoed as "Chastien" but it looked like the recorder initially started to record their surnames differently. On the first child, Sarah Jane, he began to write her surname as Lo or Lu.. but then crossed this out and dittoed from Chastien on the above line. So, I don't really know about these grandchildren or whose they could be. Possibly the daughter Emma who was not at home this year and not located.

I've found some odd things on this group. I located some birth records and cemetery records for Upson County and located Emma's burial and death date. She is buried in The Rock Cemetery in Upson County. Her name is given as Emma Chasteen Smith, "Granny" age 91 died 5/29/1959. On birth records I located the birth of Jesse Blackman on 13 Sep 1892 whose father was James Henry Blackman and mother was Vennie Chasteen. I assume that Vennie is a nickname for Luvinia. The strange thing is that there is also a birth record for a William Eddie Chasteen born 6 Jan 1892 whose father is given as Josh Acoy (should this be Joshaway???) Chasteen and mother as Emma Chasteen. I'm not sure how to interpretate this!! Since there doesn't appear to be another "Josh" in this area, I'm wondering if this is a child that Emma had out of wedlock and Joshua, actual grandfather, was just listed as the father on the record. I did locate Emma Chasteen Smith in 1920 and she is residing next door to William E. Chasteen and his family. So, I do believe that Emma is William's mother and she was not married to his father since he used Chasteen as his name. I still don't have any idea who those grandchildren could belong to, it seems that Luvinia is too young to be the oldest's mother, we know John had left home by then, J. L. is too young so Emma is the only real possibility unless they could've belonged to the son William of the 1870 record who is not found after this.

Anyway, a little more detail but will finish typing up for the database and send the complete file to you as well. Again, this is the only family out of about 10 in 1880 that had sons named John born 1867 to 1873 that we could not identify further. And, based on ya'll's family tradition, this match for John seems very likely. Like my family, they didn't appear to be too literate, used various spellings of the name Chastain, Chastine, Chasteen, etc., and since they were isolated from other Chastain families came to adopt the Chesteen spelling as we did.

-----Original Message-----
From: Gerald and Peggy Chesteen []
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2003 4:54 AM
To: Jim Chesteen
Subject: Re: Chesteen

Jim, Is Johnathan wife's name Emma ? Or was that the another one ?Peggy
----- Original Message -----
From: Jim Chesteen
To: Gerald and Peggy Chesteen
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 1:31 AM
Subject: RE: Chesteen


I've taken a look at the 1900 census for the Joshua Chastine and really believe that this is the link. He had a John born 1869/1870 in his home in 1870 (John 1 year old) and 1880 (John 10 years old). The family was in Taylor County GA in 1880 but had moved to the county just to the north, Upson, by 1900.

I also noticed that this Joshua had two wives, one was John's mother and then the second. The first wife's name was Lucinda and the second Frances Elizabeth. Of course, I don't know either's maiden names.

I didn't look at anything in AL in searching for John (i.e. the note below on Edmon Chesteen family) but searched for all John Chastains/Chasteen/etc. born between 1867 and 1873 in Georgia. Found 10 families and of those the household of Joshua was the only one that contained a John that we didn't already have a record for. And this matches everything we know concerning John, born in Georgia, about 1869 or 70, left Georgia for Alabama. And, these counties are not that remote from where he appeared in 1900 there in Coffee County (I believe that's the correct county). I'll give the Edmon Chesteen family a look but think that Joshua Chastine's son John and John Chesteen are one and the same!!

I'm going to type all of this up explaining the steps at how I arrived at this conclusion and get out to you. I did get a hold of Margaret on the phone, thanks for the number, and will mail her a copy as well.


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