Chesteens

Updated
07-10-07


Chesteen is the # 47,951 most common last name in the USA.
What was the distribution of Chesteens in the United States in 1920?

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Index

Index to Chesteens
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Chesteen vs. Chastain
Three Chesteen Families
Edmond Y. Chesteen
John H. Chesteen
Notable Contemporary Chesteens


Chesteen vs. Chastain
By Tim Chastain

The predominant spelling of the descendants of Pierre is, and always has been "Chastain," but how was it pronounced? The existence of "Shasteen" and similar spellings by government agents and sometimes even the owners of the name suggests that the soft French pronunciation of the "Ch" was retained by some early Chastains.

Even more numerous are variations demonstrating that the second syllable rhymed with "seen" rather than "sane." Thus Shasteen, Chasteen, Chastine, Chatin, and so forth.

From the time I learned to read, I was fascinated with both syllables because I recognized that the spelling "Chastain" (which is the way all my ancestors spelled our name), did not represent phonetically the way we pronounced our name: "Chesteen." Of course, those who knew me by my own introduction usually misspelled my name, while those who knew me from a class role book or similar source mispronounced it. As a teenager, I constantly corrected pronunciations. Two corrective statements I used were, "Pronounce all the vowels as E's," and "There is no stain on my name!" As I grew older, I began to answer to anything without bothering to correct.

As an adult, I have frequently observed that I am the last "Chesteen" in my line, as both of my brothers, and my only son, all have adopted "Chastain" as the pronunciation of our name as well as the spelling. It is easy to understand why.

Further evidence that "Chesteen" was the pronunciation of our name is the 1860 census, where the family of great-great-grandfather Edward Chastain was listed as Chesteen. They knew how to spell their own name, so the census taker must have written the name based on how it sounded. I do not understand the transition of the peculiar pronunciation in my family, but as a young adult I was very excited to learn of family lines that followed the spelling of "Chasteen," and even more excited to discover family lines using the "Chesteen" spelling. I felt vindicated in retaining an old, traditional, and very legitimate heritage.

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Three Chesteen Families

I am indebted to genealogist Jimmy Chesteen for the fact that there are three known lineages using the "Chesteen" spelling. In each case, it seems that the spelling occurred when a an illiterate Chastain moved away from his family to an area where Chastains were not known, so the customary spelling was lost in favor of the phonetic spelling and was retained by the descendents.

Jimmy Chesteen's family, centered in Mississippi, descends from Edmond Y. Chesteen. Ed was from the Anderson County, South Carolina group of Chastains and was the only member of his family to migrate to Mississippi in the 1850's. A second group seems to descend from Wesley Chesteen in northeast Tennessee, and a third from John H. Chesteen, which is concentrated in south Alabama and west Florida. A member of the John H. Chesteen family has written a biography of John H. based on transmitted family tradition.

None of the three Chesteen families have been linked positively to Pierre, though Edmond seems to connect as 6. Edmond Y.; 5. John; 4. Stephen; 3. James; 2. Peter, Jr.; 1. Pierre.

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Edmond Y. Chesteen
By Jimmy Chesteen

Edmond Y. Chastain (Chasteen/Chesteen) was illiterate and relocated from Anderson Co, SC to Attala Co, MS in the early 1850's. Edmond, not being able to read or write and not having any near relatives, friends, and any county officials who were familiar with the Chastain family, had to depend on others to render a spelling for his surname, again, as it sounded to them, never having seen it put on paper.

His children, the first generation of Chastains in this area, were thus invariably taught in school to write the name as Chasteen or Chesteen. Both variations were used interchangeably until the early 1900's when (by tradition) a meeting of the cousins was called and the Chesteen spelling decided on. Edmond died in 1899 and the spelling on his grave marker is noted as Chasteen. Four of his five sons are buried in the same cemetery and two have the spelling as Chasteen and two as Chesteen, however from the third generation on down, the spelling is consistently Chesteen. --From RootsWeb post.

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John H. Chesteen
1869-1933
By Peggy 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.

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Notable Contemporary Chesteens

Gaston D. Chesteen (Assistant Chief of Joint Committee on Taxation).
Jimmy Chesteen (Hospital Lab Director and Genealogist)
John Chesteen (Interior Designer)
Richard Chesteen (Political Science Professor)
Susan Chesteen (University Professor and Fly Fisherman)
Dave Chesteen is listed on roster a chip aboard the space craft Stardust.

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