Oren Burbank Cheney, the founder and first president of Bates College, was born in Holderness, N.H., December 10, 1816 to Freewill Baptist parents. His father, Moses Cheney, was a paper manufacturer and a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
At the age of thirteen, after injuring his thumb in an accident at the paper plant, Oren spent a brief time at the New Hampton Literary Institute in New Hampton, N.H. It was here that he came under the influence of Hosea Quinby, a young man who would become a leader in education among the Freewill Baptists. In 1832, when Mr. Quinby became principal of the Parsonfield Seminary, a Freewill Baptist school located in Parsonfield, Maine, Oren Cheney became a student, attending the school for one year. While at the Seminary, he helped start the school's temperance society and came under the influence of John Buzzell, pastor of the Parsonfield church, editor of the Morning Star newspaper and successor to Benjamin Randall, founder of the Freewill Baptists. Finding it inconvenient to be so far from home, Cheney decided to return to the New Hampton Literary Institute to finish his preparation for college. It was during his time here that he consecrated his life to Christian service.
Oren Cheney entered Brown University in 1835. Already an abolitionist, Cheney became more outspoken in his convictions after witnessing mob violence against anti-slavery sympathizers. He left Brown after one term and in 1836 entered Dartmouth College where anti-slavery sentiments were allowed more freedom of expression.
After graduating from Dartmouth in 1839, Cheney spent the next several years as principal of academies in Farmington, Maine, Strafford, N.H. and Greenland, N.H. In 1843, he became principal of the Parsonfield Seminary where he both taught and preached; his home became one of the stations of the Underground Railroad.
Feeling a call to the ministry, Oren Cheney was ordained as a Freewill Baptist minister in 1844 and entered the Biblical School in Whitestown, N.Y. to study theology. Unable to complete his studies due to the death of his wife, Rev. Cheney became the pastor of the Freewill Baptist Church in West Lebanon, Maine serving from 1847-1852. He was also elected by the Free Soil Party to serve in the State Legislature where he represented the towns of Lebanon and Sanford during the winter of 1851-52. It was during his time in the legislature that he obtained a charter for the foundation of Lebanon Academy.
In 1852 Rev. Cheney became the pastor of the Freewill Baptist Church in Augusta, Maine, a position he held until 1857. In September of 1854 he received a letter informing him of the burning of the Parsonfield Seminary and it was then that he had the vision of founding a seminary which would be more centrally located. After much perseverance, he obtained a charter and solicited funds and on September 1, 1857 the Maine State Seminary in Lewiston, Maine, opened. In 1864, with the financial support of Boston businessman Benjamin E. Bates, a charter was obtained turning the Maine State Seminary into Bates College. Oren Cheney served as president of the College until his resignation in 1894.
Oren B. Cheney was involved in many other endeavors. He was instrumental in establishing the Maine Central Institute at Pittsfield, Maine, and Storer College, a school for freedmen, at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. He was active in the Freewill Baptist denomination serving three times as moderator of the general conference and in 1876 he was a delegate to the General Baptists of England. Wesleyan University conferred the Doctor of Divinity degree upon him in 1863.
Dr. Cheney was married three times. In 1840 he married his first wife, Caroline A. Rundlett and they had one child, Horace Rundlett. Caroline died in 1846 and in 1847 he married Nancy S. Perkins who died in 1886. They had two children, Caroline and Emmeline. In 1892 he married Emeline S. (Aldrich) Burlingame. Oren B. Cheney died in Lewiston, Maine on December 22, 1903.
These records contain records from during and after the tenure of O.B. Cheney as the first President of Bates College. Among the materials are certificates signed by Cheney, to be given to donors to a "Sunday School Offering to the Endowment Fund" for Bates, and a brief letter from Maine Governor Edwin C. Burleigh. The "General Information" folder contains, among other items, a hand- and type-written transcript of information recorded by Cheney from Mrs. A. Wakefield of Lewiston, concerning David Davis, a Quaker and farmer who owned land in Lewiston, and for whom Mount David is named. Folders containing his diary (from 1864) and much of his correspondence and other writings also contain photocopies for patron use. Other folders contain correspondence, reports, sermons, and Cheney's resignation letter as president of Bates College.
The files are arranged alphabetically by folder title.
The collection is open for research.
The collection is the physical property of Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library. Bates College holds literary rights only for material created by College personnel working on official behalf of the College, or for material which was given to the College with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication or other purposes that exceed fair use.
CA 02.01, Office of the President, General records, Edmund S. Muskie Archives & Special Collections Library, Bates College, http://abacus.bates.edu/muskie-archives/EADFindingAids/CA0201.html
CA 02.02, Assistant to the President records, Edmund S. Muskie Archives & Special Collections Library, Bates College, http://abacus.bates.edu/muskie-archives/EADFindingAids/CA0202.html
MC-091, Freewill Baptist Collection, Edmund S. Muskie Archives & Special Collections Library, Bates College, http://abacus.bates.edu/muskie-archives/EADfindingaids/MC091.html
These records are indexed under the following headings in the Bates College Library catalog. Researchers wishing to find related materials should search the catalog under these index terms.
Burleigh, Edwin C.--Correspondence
Chase, George Colby, 1844-1919--Correspondence
Cheney, O. B. (Oren B.), b. 1816
Bates College (Lewiston, Me.)--History
Bates College (Lewiston, Me.)--Office of the President--Archives
Free Will Baptists (1780?-1911)--History
Accession No.: xx-001.
Office of the President, Oren Burbank Cheney records, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College.
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