SENECA D. CHAPIN, whose history is inseparably interwoven with the development and progress of White Hall along lines of substantial improvement and commercial activity, and whose progress in every field to which he directed his energies was one of his marked characteristics, was born in Conesus, Livingston county, New York, on the 18th of July, 1836, the second in a family of eight children, six sons and two daughters, whose parents were Abel J. and Rhoda (Hart) Chapin. The surviving members of the family are Mrs. Lucy Trescott, of Livonia, New York, W. C. Chapin, who is living in White Hall; Elmer J. Chapin, of Fort Scott, Kansas; and Mrs. Elizabeth Parker, of Westfield, Massachusetts.
Seneca D. Chapin began his education in the public schools and continued his studies in Kenyon University, at Alfred, New York. At the age of nineteen he began teaching in his native state, but on account of failing health put aside the duties of the profession after a few years. After a time, however, he removed to Clay county, Illinois, where he again engaged in teaching. In the summer of 1860 he came to Greene county, where he was also identified with the educational development of the community, teaching for some time in White Hall and vicinity. Later, however, he engaged in merchandising in company with the late H. J. Moreland and afterward with his brother W. C. Chapin. His business affairs were always carefully conducted, indicating keen foresight, sound judgment and unfaltering enterprise, and as the years passed he contributed to public progress as well as to individual success through his investment in and improvement of property.
On the 8th of April, 1865, Mr. Chapin was married to Miss Caddie Carr, of White Hall, who survives him. Their children are Ella Leonia, wife of J. H. Fox, of White Hall; Belle, wife of Dr. W. T. Knox, of Manchester, Illinois; Troy A., of Jacksonville, Illinois; Dr. Henry A. Chapin, who is represented elsewhere in this work; and Metta and Edith, at home.
Mr. Chapin was particularly prominent and influential in community affairs, so that his worth was widely acknowledged by his city. He served as a member of the school board of White Hall, and after the death of Marcus Worcester, he was appointed his successor in the office of postmaster. He filled the position for fourteen consecutive years and was a courteous and obliging official, rendering satisfactory service to the public, not allowing political prejudice to interfere in the slightest degree. He was elected the first mayor of the city of White Hall and on the expiration of his first term was re-elected, and it is uniformly conceded that the city never had a mayor who excelled him in faithful and efficient service, for he managed the business of the city with the same spirit of enterprise, economy and progress that he manifested in his private affairs. At the close of his second term he retired from office in order to give his undivided attention to his business interests and refused steadily thereafter to become a candidate for office or accept the political honors which his fellow townsmen would have bestowed upon him. However, he continued to take an active interest in public affairs as a private citizen, and the welfare and upbuilding of White Hall were causes dear to his heart. The fine large brick school building, the Baptist church, the Chapin block and his own private residence and other buildings evidence his enterprise and his efforts in this direction.
In early life Mr. Chapin was in delicate health and hardly any one thought that he would live to manhood or achieve the splendid results which crowned his efforts for the city and for the advancement of his personal interest. He possessed a resolute and undaunted spirit, husbanded his strength and resources, and his mental powers were such as to enable him to grasp and readily understand a business situation and use its possibilities to the best advantage. His success in life attests his financial ability, his harmonious dealings with his fellowmen, his liberality in support of every good measure, his patient endurance in bearing the affliction of years, his Christian fortitude and his unblemished character. He was well educated, industrious, and a man of strict integrity. He was temperate in all things, sincere and honorable, and while he prospered he also left to his family the priceless heritage of an untarnished name. He died February 24, 1903, and the funeral services were conducted under the auspices of White Hall Lodge, No. 80, A.F. & A.M., of which he had long been a member. The interment was made in White Hall cemetery, but the fruition of his works is not ended, for his memory is cherished by the many who knew and honored him and remains as a source of inspiration to them.