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Dr. Marion Cheek Papers

Identifier: MSS-022


The collection contains personal memoranda of Dr. Marion A Cheek, letters to Mrs. Sarah B. Cheek, original case documentation, ledgers, and various other correspondence.


  • 1878 - 1903

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All rights reserved by Georgetown University Law Library unless otherwise noted.

Biography of Dr. Marion Alonzo Cheek

Dr. Marion A. Cheek was born July 14, 1853 in Orange County, North Carolina. He was the son of Adolphus Williamson Cheek and Cornelia Susan Fowler.

In 1874, after graduating from medical school, Dr. Cheek was recruited by Presbyterian mssionary Dr. Daniel McGilvary to work with the Laos Mission as a medical officer. While on his journey to Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1875, he met and married Sarah A. Bradley. While working with mission, Dr. Cheek raised a pledge of $10,000 from the US to build a hospital. Unfortunately, the mission board would not allow it, causing disappointment and bitterness with Dr. Cheek. Another issue was that the misson did not approve of his business practices and his attempts open a private clinic. He severed his ties with mission in 1885 and officially resigned in 1886. He continued to serve as a doctor to mission families in times of crisis.

While working with the mission, Dr. Cheek became poplular among the foreign community for his hunting skills and the Loa for his medical knowledge. In 1876, Dr. Cheek healed the chao's principal wife, and was rewarded for saving her by being given a slave girl named Noja and a block of the land. He used this land to build a dispensary, a hospital and houses which would be the beginning of his timber business.

In 1884, after returning from America on leave, Dr. Cheek used his contacts with Lao to help him establish a foothold in the teak trade. He became the Borneo Company's Chiang Mai agent, and in return for his services, he obtained access to capital for leases, foresters, and elephants. He borrowed Borneo Company funds to operate a paddle steamer, start a boatyard, and form a construction company that built houses, schools and a teak bridge over the Mae Ping.

Cheek ran out of capital in 1888, and the Siamese government loaned him funds to continue his business. However, between 1890 and 1892 Cheek defaulted on the interest payments for the two loans, and the Siamese government seized most of his assets, comprised mostly of elephants and teak logs. Cheek claimed that he was close to making his business profitable, and that he had not violated his contract with the Siamese government. He sought damages for the illegal seizure and his financial ruin. The seizure of his property and the related assault of E.V. Kellet, a U.S. diplomat, triggered a diplomatic episode which was brought before an international arbitration committee. The committee ultimately ruled in favor of the Cheek estate.

Dr. Marion Cheek died on July 4, 1895 while on board a ship bound for Hong Kong. He is buried in Bangkok, Thailand. The legal and diplomatic dispute continued with his estate after his death.


4 linear feet (4 boxes)

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Part of the Manuscripts Repository

Georgetown University Law Library
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