Sarah E. Chester (Sallie Chester)

Story in St. Nicholas

Sarah Elizabeth Chester, who also wrote as Sallie Chester, was born in Schuylerville, New York, on January 15, 1847. She was the daughter of Charles Huntington Chester, a Presbyterian clergyman from Connecticut, and Julia Anna Thomas, of Norwich. The couple, married in June 1841, had relocated to Greenfield, New York, by 1842. A series of moves and children followed: to Schuylerville, circa 1845; to Niagara Falls, four years after Sarah's birth; to Geneva, New York, approximately six years later. [1] By the 1860 census -- which found the family still in Geneva -- the household contained eight children between the ages of three and eighteen. Sarah was the third child and the oldest girl. [2] Although no other information about her childhood has surfaced, the census indicates that several of the Chesters' neighbors were involved with books or education. The house next door was occupied by a schoolteacher; a book-agent, book merchant, and book dealer all lived in residences nearby. Additionally, one of her uncles, Anson Gleason Chester, was "an editor and miscellaneous writer." [3] Such an environment may have nurtured Chester's early literary inclinations, for by 1865, at only eighteen, she was already publishing articles in Harper's New Monthly Magazine [4]

Chester's earliest book publications, all aimed at juveniles, date from 1869. Her first series, the three-volume Roly and Poly, also appeared that year. When the 1870 census recorded her, still living at home in Geneva with both parents and five of her siblings, she gave her occupation as "Authoress." She continued to write for periodicals as well as book publishers: Little Teachers (1873), volume two of the twelve-volume Swallow Stories, carried the notice ""The tales in this volume were copyrighted when issued in the Illustrated Christian Weekly, 1871-2" [5], and she had two stories in St. Nicholas in 1877 and 1879. For the better part of the next decade, Chester published juveniles, largely with the American Tract Society. A reviewer in Godey's Lady Book described one such offering, Handsome Harry (1878), as "A pretty story for boys and girls, in which Christian truths are conveyed in attractive incident and conversation." [6] The 1880 census, however, lists her only as "boarding": she and two younger siblings (Clara and Porter) were living in Geneva with her sister and brother-in-law, Eliza and George Atwood, and their family. [7]

A. R. Logie

Circa 1881-82, Sarah Chester married A. R. Logie and published at least one more book, Out of the Fold , which appeared under her married name in 1882. Its publisher, The American Tract Society, advertised this as "a story full of humor and pathos, describing a young girl, . . . [her] home-life, her adventures while 'out of the fold'." [8]

She gave birth to a daughter, Christine, in December of 1886 or 1887, and a second child, Leslie McLaren Logie, circa 1891. She died in North Carolina on September 12, 1897. [9]


1. Reuben H.Walworth, Hyde genealogy, or, The descendants in the female as well as the male lines : from William Hyde of Norwich, with their places of residences, and dates of births, marriages, &c., and other particulars of them and their families and ancestry (Albany: J. Munsell, 1864) contains information about Chester's ancestors and a little about her family. It also supplies birthdates for most of her siblings: William Nevins, 7 June 1842; Mary, 24 Sept. 1843 (d. 28 March 1844); Thomas, 29 May 1845; Eliza, 11 December 1848; Carlos Tracy, 17 March 1851; Frederick, 19 May 1853; Clara, 14 Mary 1855(p. 443). Another sibling, Porter Lee, was born 29 Jan 1857. His birthdate is given in "Family & Local Histories - Hamilton College, New York Graduates, 1879" on

2. The census shows that a Mary Leffingwell, age 70, also lived with the family.

3. Sarah E. Chester is another 19th-century series author completely overlooked by standard biographical sources. Only A supplement to Allibone's Critical dictionary of English literature and British and American authors even contains an entry for her, and that entry consists solely of a list of her publications. Thus, census and genealogical records provide the only biographical information.

Quoted material is from Walworth, 444. One of Anson Gleason Chester's minor claims to fame is that his request to Edgar Allen Poe for an autograph poem elicited a response that included a copy of "For Annie" prior to its publication. It's possible, however, that in calling Anson Chester an editor and writer, Walworth has confused him with his brother Joseph L[emuel]. Chester. Another of Poe's letters, this time to Joseph, refers to Joseph's "nom de plume of 'Julian Cramer'" as a name recognized by Poe. The commentary at the website of the Poe Society of Baltimore goes on to credit Joseph Chester with a volume of poetry, Greenwood Cemetery and Other Poems (1843). Additionally, an editorial in Godey's Lady's Book from 1850 calls Cramer "Our musical editor" and praises his poetry; it also contains a brief biography of the (unnamed) man behind the pseudonym.

4. Two of her articles from 1865 -- "Faces" (July) and "The Silent" (November) -- are at Cornell University's Making of America site, as is a third piece, "Fishing in Mists," from July 1869.

5. Description and quotation from the American Antiquarian Society's catalogue entry for Little Teachers.

6. Godey's Lady's Book, December 1878, pg. 523.

7. Information about George and Eliza Atwood is courtesy of W. M. Nevins, a distant relative of Sarah Chester. Porter, inexplicably, is listed as a "student" in the census though he supposedly graduated from Hamilton College in 1879 ("Family & Local Histories - Hamilton College, New York Graduates, 1879" on

8. The ad appears in 1882 issues of The Child's Paper, online as part of MSU's Sunday School Books in 19th Century America project.

9. Information about Sarah's marriage was initially from the Nevins Family of Kingston MA and Canterbury CT pages; another version of the family tree (which includes Sarah's father's middle name) is at ROOTSWeb NEVINS-L.

Copyright 2009 by Deidre Johnson. Please do not reproduce without permission

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