Benjamin P Cheney & American Express

Can the son of a local blacksmith grow up to be a founding partner of a company that, today, is worth nearly $15 billion dollars?  Absolutely! American Express, the multinational financial services corporation founded in 1850, has roots in Hillsborough County and branches here in Peterborough.1

Benjamin Pierce Cheney (1815-1895) was born in Hillsboro, NH, and was named in honor of a neighbor, Benjamin Pierce, father of the future 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce.2

Cheney began his career at the age of sixteen, driving the stagecoach routes from Nashua to Exeter and Keene. He established lifelong friendships with a number of his passengers including the noted lawyer and statesman, Daniel Webster.3

“When twenty-one he became a stage agent in Boston and soon organized a stage express business between Boston and Montreal, later consolidating with others to form the United States and Canada Express Company which after thirty-seven years, he merged with the American Express Company [founded by Henry Wells and William G Fargo of Wells Fargo & Company] and became its largest stockholder. He became one of the pioneers in promoting several of the Western railroads. About 1881 he purchased as a summer residence the James Wilson farm at the northwest corner of Cheney Avenue and the Street Road, part of which continues in the family.”4

Following the death of his twenty-eight year old son, Charles Paine Cheney, in 1897, his daughter-in-law, Mary Lyon (Ward) married William Henry Schofield in 1907. Among her many philanthropic endeavors, Mrs. Schofield was the donor of All Saints Church, Parish House and Rectory here in Peterborough.5

1 “American Express,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Express

2 Stewart, Prof. Edgar I. “The Notable Career of Benjamin Cheney,” The Spokesman-Review, November 3, 1963, pages 2-3, 11

3 “Benjamin Pierce Cheney,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Pierce_Cheney

4 History of Peterborough New Hampshire (1954), Vol. II, page 1015

5 Ibid, pages 1015-1016