Article Number Thirty Two -
Chapman Family

Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on September 29, 1883, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided by the Durham Center Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell



A Series of historical sketches of this town would be very incomplete without a mention of the Chapman family, especially of Benjamin Chapman, who exerted a commanding influence both in civil and in religious life.
 
He was born in Saybrook, Conn., Feb 23, 1768. He was descended from Robert Chapman, who was born in England about the year 1616. He emigrated to this country in 1635, and became one of the original settlers of Saybrook. He and his ancestors belonged to that class of people who were known as "Puritans", and who were consequently bitterly persecuted for their religious opinions.  History informs us that during the year 1635 more than three thousand persons left England and landed at Boston and Plymouth. Robert Chapman, a young man of nineteen years of age, was one of that number.  In the Autumn of that year, John Winthrop, the younger, who was the son of John Winthrop, the governor of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and who was sent to England on business for that colony, returned as agent for Lords, Say and Seal and Lord Brook. These gentlemen had received from the Plymouth Council a grant of the lands lying about the mouth of Connecticut River. The Dutch at New York had previously purchased lands of the Indians in the valley of the Connecticut, and had built a fort and a trading house where the city of Hartford now stands, and as a consequence they claimed the whole country.  Young Winthrop, however, was directed to build a fort at the mouth of the river and make the requisite preparations for planting a colony.  In the Autumn of 1635, he, and twenty men, Robert Chapman being one of the number, took possession of the river and its shores, built a fort and commenced a colony.  In honor of Lords Say and Brook, they called the town "Saybrook".  The Dutch attempted to dislodge them, but were unsuccessful and subsequently relinquished their claim to the rich valley of the Connecticut.  Mr. Chapman participated in the Pequod war of 1637, and in every way identified himself with the fortunes of the colony until his death.
 
Having said this much concerning the ancestry of the family, it is sufficient for our present purpose to simply indicate the line of descent from Robert Chapman, the emigrant from England, to Benjamin Chapman, the immigrant to Durham. It is as follows: Robert Chapman, Robert, his son, born at Saybrook, Sept., 1646, Benjamin, son of Robert Jr., born March 1, 1659;  Benjamin, his son, born Nov. 8, 1725, Benjamin, son of Benjamin, Jr., and great, great, grandson of Robert, Sr., born as above, Feb, 28, 1768.
(NOTE: There is something wrong with the dates between Robert, Jr., and Benjamin, the first, but that is the way it is written, I'm quite certain Robert was more than 13 when Benjamin was born-AC)
 
He was married March 29, 1792, to Widow Lydia Cochran, and removed to this town in the following June. He located about a mile East of Cornwallsville near Anson Strong's.  In the year 1800, he removed to Durham village, and in 1803, he built the house now owned by A.C. Cowles, Esq.  In 1808 he bought the farm now occupied by Thaddeus Collins.  The house stood at that time near the present family burying ground.  It was built by Daniel Merwin about the year 1790 and was said to be the first two-story house built in the town. The frame is oak, brought from the hills East of Oak Hill. The public road at that time passed the house and burying ground and continued Easterly, crossed the stream---Saw-mill creek---at the location of the present bridge near "Honest John Peck's," and thence it passed on up through the fields to the Dr. Cook place where J.M. Hallock lives.  About the year 1812 he moved the house to its present location and lived there until his death, Feb. 2, 1842. He and his wife brought their certificates and united with the Presbyterian church at Durham, Jan. 13, 1793.  Dec. 27, 1798, he was chosen deacon, and Nov. 18, 1830, he was chosen elder.  Both of these offices he held until his death, that of deacon for more than 41 years. He was a man of excellent spirit and judgement, and was often employed by the church in critical cases of difficulty, not only at home, but his arbitration was often sought by the sister churches of the Presbytery. He held various town offices, and in the year 1810 he was a member of the legislature---33rd session.  He was a deep thinker, and as is often the case with such men, he was very absent-minded.  He and his wife were accustomed to ride to church in a gig---at that time quite a fashionable two-wheeled vehicle. On one occasion at the close of service, so absorbed in thought was he that he forgot all about his wife, horse and gig and returned to his home (nearly a mile) on foot, leaving the whole establishment at the church. He had a "colored man", Toby who lived with him a long time, and very laughable accounts are given of his absent-minded directions to him about the work of the farm.
 
Lydia, his wife, formerly the Widow Cochran, had two daughters by her former husband, Sarah, who married Henry Hotchkiss, and Hannah. unmarried.  Mr. Chapman was a kind and faithful father indeed to these fatherless ones, as also to the six daughters given him. The eldest, Suley, married Benjamin Sayre of Montrose, PA.; Temperance married Dennis Baldwin and is now living, 87 years of age, at St. Paul, Minn.;  Lydia married George Whitlesey, of Durham, and after his death she married a Mr. Carman, of Honesdale, PA.  Emeline married Daniel Kirtland, of Durham, afterward of Honesdale;  Catherine married Ezra Hanel, of Durham, removed to Ashland, and finally to Honesdale;  Mary married Jason Torry of Honesdale.  Upon Mr. Chapman's death in 1842 the farm was owned by Dennis Baldwin, his son-in-law, and his widow remained at the homestead until 1857, when she removed to Honesdale, where she died, March 17, 1864, aged nearly 99 years.  In the Summer of 1879 Deacon Chapman's bones were taken up from their resting place in the family burying ground at Durham and deposited by the side of those of his wife in Honesdale.
 
There were other Chapmans living in the town in its early history. James Chapman was a distant relative of Benjamin Chapman, descended from Robert Chapman, the first, through the line of Nathaniel Chapman, his youngest son. He lived where Dr. J. B. Cowles does, and built that house, said to be the oldest house in the village. Some of his descendents now live in Pontiac, Mich.  But little can be definitely ascertained at present concerning this family.
 
Caleb Chapman and his wife became members of the church at the same time that Deacon Chapman did, and were probably related to him, but his subsequent history cannot now be given.
 
Samuel Chapman lived where Austin Hull does, and raised a large family of children, but it is thought he was not related to the other Chapmans of the town.  One of his daughters married Esquire Phelps of Conesville, and another daughter married Luther Hayes, of Durham, now of Greenville, and became the mother of John N. Hayes, missionary to China.

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