Edwin was the son of James Wilson Cheney (b. August 20, 1841) and Armilla Armanda (b. ca. 1846), daughter of Linus S. and Rebekah J. (Jaegger) Perkins. His father was born in Royalton, MA, and moved to Maine with his parents ca. 1850. James W. entered Oberlin College in 1860 before enlisting in the 7th Ohio Infantry in April 1861. After his marriage to Armilla Perkins on May 27, 1868, he moved from Shelbyville, IL, to Detroit, MI, in 1870 where he engaged in manufacturing tool-handles and other specialty items. Edwin's sister, Luella Emory Cheney, was born April 11, 1871 (adopted).
Cheney became an electrical engineer. He commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build his family a house in Oak Park. Wright engaged in a love affair with Edwin's wife Mamah, with whom he went to Europe. Upon their return, Mamah moved into Taliesin, the new house Wright was building for them, while it was still under construction. For reasons unknown at the time, Julian Carlton, a domestic servant, killed Mamah and her two children, John and Martha, who happened to be visiting (Edwin still had primary custody). Four others were also murdered during this event, and Carlton, following ingestion of acid in an apparent suicide attempt, died before being tried.
- "St. Louis Obituary Index". St. Louis Public Library. Archived from the original on 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
- Charles Henry Pope, The Cheney Genealogy (Boston, MA: Charles H. Pope, 1897), 195, https://archive.org/details/cheneygenealogy00pope
- "BBC News - WALES - Mystery of the murders at Taliesin". News.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- Frank Lloyd Wright biography by author of "The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion"
- Cheney House article from the Oak Park Tourist Website
- Frank Lloyd Wright genealogy (partial)