Of the several hits on Google Books, one was particularly interesting---a reference to his pre-emption claim completed in 1871 (search the book for "cheney" to find it).
The records of pre-emption claims are more detailed that straight federal land purchases. We discussed a pre-emption claim in Missouri a few years ago in Casefile Clues--for a relative in Missouri in the 1850s. I might order the records on John to see what they say as they may provide some clues as to his arrival in Colusa County, California. We'll have an update to see what is the the Bureau of Land Management database on him.
John Cheney (1821 Pennsylvania-1909 Colusa County, California) is a first cousin to Riley Rampley (1835 Coshocton County, Ohio-1893 Hancock County, Illinois), my gg-grandfather.