My paternal line were farmers in Staplehurst and I have a great deal of information already on them.  My research has now taken me to a whole new level of genealogy and I have been able to trace my GGG Uncle leaving Staplehurst in 1851 with his family, heading for a new life in the USA. (Jesse CHAINEY Jnr born 1809 Staplehurst and Catherine CLAVER born 1812 Charing, Kent).

Although I am sure Jesse thought he was doing the best for his family, his son Alfred CHAINEY, lost his life in the American Civil War during the battle of Corinth. He was only 20 years old. Another of Jesse’s children, Richard, was murdered in 1916 after an argument with a neighbouring farmer. (This case study can be found on my website).

Jesse’s granddaughter, Elsie May ROBERTS married William OBERST and they had six children. Tragedy struck this family in 1928 when their son Owen, aged just 17 years, confessed to murdering both his parents and all of his 5 siblings.

I am now planning and developing this extraordinary case for publication, although some months away, I would like to ask you if your organisation can provide me with a narrative of how life was for farmers in Staplehurst around the time of Jesse’s emigration (1851). Of course, I will be very happy to give an acknowledgement for whatever you may be able to provide.

In 1841 Jesse Jnr was living and working on his father’s farm “Heartsheath Manor Farm” (Jesse Lambert CHAINEY 1776-1857).

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Kind regards
Sue Baillie (nee Chainey)


Dear Sue Baillie

Thank you for your email of 16/12/2015 about Jesse Chainey (1809-?). We in Staplehurst did not
realise that he had emigrated to America with his family in 1851. It is so hard to notice the gaps
when people move away. So we would be very pleased to be told where he went, and when he
and his wife Catherine died? In the 1851 census he had already gone somewhere, because his
wife Catherine is head of the household, an agricultural labourer’s wife living at the old Quarter
on the east side of the main road leading to Cranbrook. These were old timber houses, probably
Tudor, rat-ridden, due to be taken down by 1861 as soon as better brick houses had been built
for their workers by Henry Hoare the banker and his wife the Lady Mary of Staplehurst Manor. 
Henry wanted to dig a lake in their place. It was usual for men to go abroad first, often with a
relative, to earn enough money to bring the family over to join them.

On the other side of the road, in one of the houses already established on the west side, lived
Jesse Chainey (1776-1857) as a lodger with his son-in-law George Huggins and his (Jesse
senior’s) daughter Martha. He was 71. He had given up the tenancy of Hartsheaf Farm in 1847.
Before 1847 Jesse junior was called a farmer when his first two children were baptised, but
for the third and fourth baptisms he was called a labourer. Presumably he didn’t have resources
enough to take on the tenancy himself (his father had held it since 1797), but the new tenant was
Charles Cleaver, who must have been related to Jesse junior’s wife Catherine Clever.

Which farm was it? The name Hartsheaf covers three farms, now differentiated as Husheath,
Hartsheath and Little Hartsheath. In 1843 in the Maidstone Journal of 12 September Mr Chainey
was congratulated on a superb hay crop at HUSH-HEATH, so I think he must have lived there.
But in 1836 he was to look after viewers of woodland as Mr Chainey, HARTSHEAF FARM.
The Tithe map of 1842 has Daniel West at Hartsheath and Jesse Chainey at Hartssheaf.

Staplehurst parish lies in heavy clay soil, hard work for the arable farmer. From the 1830s to the
1870s the farming industry was depressed, especially as farmers paid rates on land, which grew
heavier with every pauper depending on the parish for alms. Emigration became the rage, either
assisted by the parish (who shipped off the future fathers and mothers of paupers when children
left with their parents) or financed by their own endeavours. I think that is how Jesse junior went.
Anita Thompson, member of the Staplehurst History Group, Staplehurst Society.
Back to Home Page