The area of Chesaw was heavily populated with Chinese miners by the time White miners came to the area. The owner of a store near the mining camps was run by a Chinese man known as, Chee Saw. Chee Saw, who arrived in the mid-1890s, married a Native American woman. He owned a small ranch near his store that miners frequented. His prices were fair and he was known as an honest man. Locals evolved the name of his store from "Chee Saw's" to "Chesaw," and eventually the name stuck and the town became known as Chesaw.
The town thrived during a brief gold rush from 1896 to 1900, and the town boasted several businesses, hotels, a bank, and a post office. A school was built in 1906, but was torn down during World War II. As gold became harder to find and not profitable, people began to move away, leaving the town to fall victim of abandonment.
As of 2016, Chesaw has a general store, gas station, a tavern, and volunteer fire department. The community also hosts an annual rodeo held every 4th of July.