MAJ. FLETCHER H. CHAPMAN, of Carlinville, is a fine representative of the native born citizens of this county who have exercised a marked influence on its affairs, and have in various ways contributed to its social, educational and material advancement. He was an officer in the Union Army during the late war whose military record added lustre to the fame of the brave and efficient soldiery of his State, and he has since won honors at the bar that entitle him to a leading place as a lawyer.
Maj. Chapman was born in Staunton Township, Macoupin County, April 15, 1828, and is a son of one of the oldest pioneer families of this section of Illinois. His father, Richard Chapman, was born in North Carolina, and was a son of Joseph Chapman, who is believed to have been a native of the same State. The father of the latter was a Virginian by birth, and removed from the Old Dominion to North Carolina prior to the Revolution, settling in Tyrrell County, of which he was a pioneer, and where he pursued his occupation as a farmer, and there died in the fulness of time.
The grandfather of our subject served in the Revolution of Guilford Court House. He passed his last years quietly working at his calling as a farmer in Tyrell County, N.C. He married Betsy Caswell, who is thought to have been a native of Tyrell County, whither her father had removed from his native Virginia in Colonial times. Both of the great grandfathers of our subject served in the war against the Indians, and received land from the colony of Carolina for their services.
The father of our subject was reared in his native State. He was a natural mechanic, and was equally skillful as a carpenter, wagon maker, cooper, tanner and shoemaker, all of which trades he pursued at different times. In 1818 he removed from North Carolina to this State, accompanied by his wife and five children, making the journey overland, bringing with him his household goods. He had a horse and cart and a part of his possessions were packed on another horse that he owned besides. He started in May, and in August landed in St. Clair County. He rented a tract of land, raised a crop, and in December, 1819, sought another location, coming to this county, that then formed a part of Madison County, and settling in what is now Dorchester Township. He thus became one of the earliest pioneers of this section of the State, which was then practically uninhabited and was in its primitive condition, with numerous deer, bears, wolves and panthers that often were troublesome to the few settlers that had ventured within their haunts. There were no railways for years, and St. Louis, about forty miles distant, was the principal market, though it was then but a small city of a few thousand people. At the same time that the chapman family settled in the county the families of Telemachus Camp, Richard Wilhelm, Whitmill Herrington and Richard and John Chapman came also.
Mr. Chapman settled on a tract of land from the Government lying in section 24, built a log cabin for the shelter of his family, and at once actively entered upon the hard pioneer task of clearing and developing a farm from the wilderness. He resided on it five or six years, and then traded his claim with a Mrs. Piper for a claim to a tract of prairie land ib section 29, Staunton Township, and later borrowed money at twenty-five per cent, interest to enter Government land. About 1837 he sold his land and entered another tract in the same township on sections 4, 10 and 15, and built on section 10. He improved a part of the land, and resided on it some years. After his wife died he lived with a daughter in Montgomery County, and there his death occurred in February, 1872, in his ninetieth year. Celia Davenport was the name of his wife, and she was born in Tyrell County, N.C., a daughter of Isaac Davenport, a native and life-long resident of that State. She died in July, 1852. She was the mother of seven sons and five daughters, all of whom grew to maturity and married. The parents of our subject were both true Christians and ardent Methodists. The first meetings of that denomination in this county were held at their house, and for many years divine services were conducted in their home, which was always a welcome abiding place3 for the traveling preachers on their rounds.
Maj. Chapman was the youngest of the sons in the family, and he has passed his life entirely in this the county of his nativity with the exception of the years devoted to his country as a loyal and patriotic soldier. He gained the preliminaries of his education in the pioneer schools of his early years. The first school in the neighborhood in which he was born was taught in a log house with no floor, said building having been erected by Abram Wyatt for a smoke house, and it was located on section 30, Staunton Township. As soon as he was large enough he began to assist in carrying on the farm. At the age of twenty he commenced teaching in Cahokia Township, and after teaching two years went to school at Hillsboro, as he was ambitious to extend his education. In 1853 he was elected County Surveyor, and served in that office the ensuing six years. In 1858 he began the study of law.
The breaking out of the Rebellion found our subject well equipped for the profession that he was about to enter, but he cheerfully laid aside his plans to help fight his country's battles. In May, 1861 he enlisted in Company C, Fourteenth Illinois Infantry, but was transferred in September of the same year to light artillery. He had the honor of being commissioned Captain of his company, and commanded it until February, 1862, when it was consolidated with Company D, First Regiment Light Artillery. The company then became Company B, of the Second Illinois Light Artillery, our subject being commissioned as Senior First Lieutenant, which position he held until March, 1863, when he was promoted to be Captain, his commission dating back to December, 1862. He retained that rank until the end of service. In the month of June 1864 he was appointed Provost Marshal, and stationed at Columbus, Ky. He acted in that capacity until July 1865, and was then honorably discharged with his company.
After his return to Carlinville from the South Maj. Chapman was admitted to the bar, and has practiced law here continuously since. His professional life has been varied by the cares of public office, as he has been called form time to time to fill responsible positions. He was Police Magistrate from 1866 to 1869, County Superintendent of Schools four years, and he has also been City Attorney. He was in early life a Democrat, but he left the army a confirmed Republican. In 1890 he was the candidate of his party for Congress. Socially, he is a valued member of the Dan Messick Post, No. 339, G.A.R. A man strong in character, of unblemished reputation, a wise and safe counselor, and liberal and progressive in his views, he has ever been an honor to the citizenship of his native county, and to such as he it owes its present high standing among its sister counties.
Our subject has been twice married. In 1854 he was wedded to Miss Sarah McCreery, a native of Orange County, N.Y. Their marriage was but of brief duration, as the young wife departed this life in April, 1857, leaving two children, Ida F. and Emily M. In 1862 Maj. Chapman was married to his present estimable wife, formerly Miss Cecilia Burns, a native of Dublin, Ireland. Their wedded life has been blessed to them by the birth of a daughter, Charlotte E.