Alfred Chapman escapes Written by Christine in Herts. Working my way back through my husband’s family I reached his maternal great grandfather, John Chapman. He had lived in Black Torrington in North Devon, amongst a cluster of other Chapmans and had died before the 1841 census. There was no distinguishing middle name – nothing to single him out in the IGI records. It was clear that I was wasting my time trying to get anywhere with his records. I set him aside as an impenetrable 'brick wall' and turned my attention to other parts of the family who looked more promising. By the time she died, just before Christmas of 2005, my mother-in-law had long since ceased to be able to share her family history with us, but there were bits and pieces I had noted in the past, when the topic of conversation had wandered into family tree territory. When the time came to start the house clearing process, various nuggets turned up – some a real delight, even when they didn’t contribute much to the tree. There were wedding and funeral orders of service, invitations and birth announcements, a probate copy of a will from 1869, an original wedding certificate from 1883 and original baptism certificates from the years just after, along with Band of Hope and Women’s Temperance Movement certificates and a family bible, as well as some old letters It was correspondence dating from the very beginning of the 20th century which provided the means to break down the brick wall. Two pairs of letters – two inbound and two copies of the replies – between Arthur Willoughby Chapman of Plymouth (grandson of that John Chapman) and Willoughby J. Chapman of Galveston, Texas. At that time, Arthur was only about 18 years old – a very junior member of the family shipping company in Plymouth, but in an era of when people did not use first names, his name had appeared in full on a document (perhaps a letter of credit?) which had landed on the desk of a clerk in a real estate agents in Galveston. Furthermore, in that era when everyone was Mr this and Mrs that, that clerk happened to know that the 'W. J.' of 'Mr W. J. Chapman, manager, Gulf Fisheries Inc.' stood for 'Willoughby J., and he also knew that Mr Chapman‘s family came from Devon, whence also came the document on his desk. He had been intrigued enough to put the two men in touch with each other. The correspondence was packed full of the detail you’d have to exchange to work out how you were related, and they were indeed related. It was fascinating and it gave me lots of extra detail about the family, including names and anecdotes. It gave me a brief, but first hand account of the great storm of Galveston, in which W. J. Chapman and his wife had lost everything but their lives and counted themselves very lucky for surviving. It also gave an account of the rebuilding of Galveston and the new sea wall to protect it. I was reading these letters shortly after the inundation of New Orleans in August 2005, so that had quite a resonance. Although this didn’t really get me much further on with John Chapman himself. It occurred to me that someone in the USA called 'Willoughby J. Chapman' was likely to be researched by someone else, because it was that sort of a name. So I did some googling. A couple of e-addresses turned up in the process and I tried e-mailing them, explaining what we’d found. One recipient turned out to be a granddaughter of Willoughby J. Chapman, just as my husband is a grandson of Arthur Willoughby Chapman. She has been enormously generous with her family tree resources. Perhaps because they were emigrés, her ancestors had made and kept wonderful family tree records. Her great grandfather had written an essay which commenced - "It may perhaps be interesting to learn something of the history and genealogy of our family. I will begin with my grandfather Joseph Chapman of Black Torrington, Devon, England". It went on to encompass enough information to take me three generations further back and several branches sideways. My brick wall was comprehensively demolished! Rather more important than that demolition, is that I have gained an e-friend. In response to a set of images of that set of letters, she posted me a fat A4 envelope of copy records and e-mailed me transcripts and images. Amongst the bundles of information was a copy of W. J. Chapman’s father, Alfred’s diary. It covered the dates from 1 January 1869, as a tenant farmer in North Devon, through his emigration journey, to 4 May 1871, by which time his family had joined him via New York. It records the weather conditions every day and tells of his day-to-day experiences. It mentions the doctor calling to vaccinate two of his daughters (one only two months old) in 1869, when vaccination was pretty much cutting edge medicine; it talks of his difficulties with his landlord; it describes his journey from North Devon to Bristol and his crossing to Boston; it describes his experiences travelling through the US, looking for somewhere to settle – to live and to work and to which he could bring out his family. There are cameo experiences such as glimpsing someone whom he believes to be the president, travelling incognito with his wife; there’s the false hope that he’s bought a goldmine; remarks about the similarities and differences of the countryside, the people, the animals, the crops, even the churches, as well as passing remarks which show most graphically just how much travel has changed such as "Good work, 20 miles in 2 1/2 hours”. One 1871 entry in the diary grabbed my attention in a different way, Bessie being his wife - “February 25th Saturday - J.S. went to P.Office. Posted letter to Bessie, No.13, & received newspaper Western Times with 2 letters from me to Bessie. I am much hurt at their being published without my consent as there are some things ought not to be published and others are misprinted & misrepresented.” I thought to myself, I don’t live that far from the British Newspaper Library at Colindale so I could go and see if I could find the copy of that newspaper in which Alfred’s letters were published. It took me a while to get organised, but I did establish using their online catalogue, that they had the copies covering the relevant time span; 4 October 1870, when he’d landed in Boston and 25 February 1871, when he’d collected the infamous papers from the post office, allowing for a margin of time for letters to have been written and to travel to and fro. Eventually I got myself to Colindale, armed with a spare morning in which to enjoy myself investigating. I called for the first volumes of papers and realised that it was probably going to take a little while. The newspapers were made up of a couple of folded sheets about A1 in size – so about A2 to deal with. It was a daily weekday paper, so there would be quite a lot to wade through. I started browsing: looking for the correspondence pages, for the local news columns and skim-reading for references to Chapman. I began to realise that I would be getting copies of pages from more than just the one paper, when I did find them. Alfred Chapman had been a cause célèbre in this (Liberal) newspaper. The descriptions of his difficulties with the landlord clearly understated his problems. He’d ended up going to court to protect his position as tenant farmer, having had his tenancy terminated rather abruptly (almost certainly because his political views and non-conformist churchmanship conflicted with his landlord’s opinions). He was always going to find it difficult because his landlord was Lord High Sheriff of Devon, a practising barrister, an MP and the son of the Archdeacon of Exeter. Alfred himself, referred to “the position he occupies as a magistrate, as a Captain in the Yeomanry, as a practical farmer, and as a so-called leader (being chairman of the committee) of the Conservative Party in North Devon”. Due to the landlord reneging on an unwritten agreement, he found that winning his original case was no advantage because his landlord won another which meant Alfred was down by a couple of hundred pounds, which was a lot of money in those days. The newspaper championed his cause as a tenant farmer trying to protect the interests of all tenant farmers. There were several leader articles, some other letters from Alfred, some directly to the paper and records of the efforts to raise money to send with his wife, when the rest of the family followed after him. * see Related Articles below * My 'spare morning' lasted most of the day! However it was so interesting and was very satisfying to feel that I could send my e-friend something which I knew would bring her so much pleasure. Christine from Herts Birth: Feb. 16, 1810 Baltimore City Maryland, USA Death: Jan. 4, 1877 Muscatine Muscatine County Iowa, USA He married (1) Sarah Reinhard in 1836 Ky and (2) Mary Ann Klein. John was the son of John Gordon from Carlisle Pa - who died in Md 1818 and wife Maria Gardner. He was orphaned at the age of 8 years. Also, from a book entitled "Our Gordon Family", by Spencer Gordon, 1941, General Gordon's second wife was Elizabeth Dougherty, nee Klein. His children by Sarah Reinhard were Ella Blake, Susan Baker, Mary Edwards, Maria, John Gardner 11, and Annie. By his second marriage with Elizabeth Dougherty, he had a son named Glenn. . Obituary-- General John G Gordon no More - A Brief Sketch of an Honorable and Useful Life For several days the community has been expecting, with painful and anxious hears, the dread news of the death of John G Gordon. At 2 O'clock this morning the end came, and the spirit of the beloved husband and father, the honored citizen and esteemed friend, crossed the dark flood, to mingle with the Celestial band on the other shore. Surrounded by weeping wife and children, sweetly, peacefully, like a child hushed to gentle slumber, and unconscious of the physical pain too often inflicted by the arrows of Death, he sank to rest, only the still pulse and marble like features indicating the great transition from time to eternity. "So fades the summer cloud away, so sinks the gale when storms ale o'er, So gently shuts the eye of day, So dies the wave upon the shore" Thus passed away on of Muscatine's oldest and most esteemed citizens - one whose form and face and pleasant voice and kind greeting were familiar to the youg and old of the city. It will be remembered that the cause of his death was a paralytic affection. Until this sudden and unexpected attack he had been remarkably free from disease, never before having in his recollection, been ill a day , ad never, particularly speaking, having taken medicine. The attack which loosed "the silver chord" of life came on Saturday evening, December 16, two weeks ago last Saturday. It was about 7 o'clock and Mr Gordon was in the store, standing by the counter, listening to the reading of the evening paper by his associate, Eugene Klein, when he experienced a singularly painful sensation, and on the impulse of the moment, started towards the door. It was noticed by Eugene that one leg seemed to drag heavily, and that it seemed to be a painful effort to walk. On reading a point about half way between the stove and the front door, the General Stopped and leaned over the counter, evidently in distress. In reply to the tender inquiries of Eugene he remarked that he felt very strangely. Eugene and Mr Hunt, the head clerk, at once assisted him home. He then left the store, never to return. For a day or two he was able to move about the house, and hopes of his recovery were entertained, but his strength gradually failed and he was soon compelled to keep his bed. During the last week or ten days of his illness, the General was only conscious at intervals, the trouble having, it seemed more seriously affected the brain. It is believed that the attack was superinduced by a severe fall received on the steps of his house last spring. We can give here only a brief sketch of the eventful life of this well know and loved citizen. He was born in Baltimore MD, February 16, 1810, his age being nearly 67 years. At an early age he was sent to York, Pa, to serve an apprenticing for the mercantile business. When a young man he removed to Louisville, Ky and there embarked in business for himself. After a short but very successful career here, he transferred his headquarters to Pittsburgh, Pa and such was the popularity he had gained at Louisville that he carried with him in his new house a large part of his old custom. In the spring of 1844, following the tide of emigration and the course of the empire, he came west and located in Muscatine, commencing business as a general merchant. His first stand was an old frame standing on the site of the brick now occupied by McQuesten and Sawyer, his next a similar structure standing where Mr Gerndt has his meat market, next to Daugherty's drug store. He occupied this land till 1851, when he completed and moved into handsome brick block which is so well know as the store of J G Gordon & Co. During all those busy years his has been controlling spirit in the store. For eight years from 1866-1874 O P Waters, Esq, was a partner, and for several years before and ever since Eugene Klein, his brother in law, was associated with him in the business, but the General has ever taken a pride in giving his personal attention to its super vision, and the customer who entered the store without being greeted by the General himself with a hearty salutation, a cheery word, a bright smile and a cordial hand shake would have felt as if something was wrong. In his business relations, the General ranks with hie pioneers of the city and the best know and most prominent and influent ion in the State. In earlier times, when dry good, groceries, hardware and greenware were combined, his trade commanded sweep of country taking in radius of from 100 to 140 miles and his large establishment was known as one of the finest and most extensive in the west. His popularity as a merchant was commensurate with the extent of his trade. Every one liked to deal with one who was at once so courteous obliging and straightforward in his commerce with all. General Gordon was twice married - first at Louisville to miss Sarah Beinard, who bore him six children (five daughters and one son) and second in 1856, in Muscatine, to the widow of James M Daugherty, and daughter of Edward Klein, by whom he had one son and one daughter. All his children are living, ? the daughter by his second marriage. His surviving daughters are Ella, wife of Wm R Stone, and Mary, wife of Col J F Culver, both of Duluth, Minn; Susan, wife of W S Humphreys, of St. Louis; Maria, wife of M W Griffin,of Muscatine, and Miss Annie, at home; Gardner, the elder son has been in St Louis the past few years and Glenn, the younger is at home. The distinguished title of General was bestowed on Mrs. Gordon in 1847 by the Governor Ansel Briggs of Iowa, the commission, the original of which we were shown, was dated at Iowa City June 27, and appointed the General the command of "the second division of Iowa militia" We do not hear that he ever performed any active service, but the appointment was a deserved recognition of worth of a prominent esteemed citizen. Though at home no man stood higher in the confidence and affection of the people than Mr. Gordon we believe that during his long residence here he held but one public office, and that was the humble municipal trust of alderman. Not that he was urged to serve the public with his clear judgement and fine abilities, but that he was a part of the philosophy of his life to abstain from active participation in politics, preferring rather the quiet and pleasures of home and the honors of a successful business to the turmoil and strife of the political arena. As a Mason, however, he was one of the oldest and most esteemed members of the order. General Gordon will be missed in every walk and circle of Muscatine life and society. Prominent and active in business; liberal and zealous in forwarding public enterprises; genial intelligent and communicative in society with a rich store of anecdote and reminiscence to entertain friends, his death will leave a void hard to fill and bring a pang to every heart. Who that was not familiar with his fine figure and handsome pre sense as he made his regular diurnal trips between the store and house? Time, with his magic wand, had touched him but lightly; yes so gently that in his more than thirty years of reputable citizenship he seemed but little changed, either as to the cheerful and intellectual face or the lively and sympathetic spirit antimating him, and he glided almost imperceptibly into the ripeness of old age. At heart he was kindness itself. Talmage told us that a single flash would sometimes reveal all the secret springs in a mans life, and so a simple incident will serve to illustrate Gen Gordon's character. On the bitterly cold Friday just before his illness, a well known professional begger, a woman, came into the store to solicit charity. She stood near the door some little time without receiving attention, when the General chanced to observe her for the first time. Hastening forward he placed a piece of money in her hand and politely bowed her out remarking on his return that he "couldn't turn a dong away without something on such a day". But we cannot speak further of this admirable traits of character which so endeared him to this relatives and immediate friends and made him personally so popular. His long life of usefulness and activity will be an enduring monument that speaks more eloquently than words and will keep his memory green. The General was a regular attendant at Trinity church, and was one of its most zealous an liberal supporters. The bereaved widow and children of deceased have the deepest sympathy of the community in their sore affliction. The funeral will take place from the family residence on Second Street, on Saturday, at 10 o'clock a.m. The paul bearers selected are: H W Moore, G A Garrettson, P. Jackson, F H Stone, J Carskaddan, A Jackson, John Lemp, J J Hoopes, and J P Ament. , direct ancestor of John G Gordon holds in safe keeping the above mentioned "commission" dated June 27 1847.