Thomas Chesnut was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1803. Shortly after his marriage to Jane Officer on October 5, 1828, the newly ordained Chesnut devoted his life to missionary work, which took the couple to Beallsville, Ohio. In 1856, the Chesnuts left Ohio for Sioux City, Iowa, where Thomas assisted in establishing that city's First Presbyterian Church. They left in 1861, after facing Indian trouble, and settled in Urbana, Illinois. Chesnut died on February 7, 1872.
Catherine Chesnutt, one of Thomas' children, married William Ewalt of Shelby, Ohio. Ewalt served in the 63rd Ohio Infantry Regiment and 163rd Ohio National Guard Regiment.