* (Updates at the bottom of the blog)
It’s been a while since my last blog (Felix & Amelia Adler) but I was most definitely always working on the next. The problem was I ended up working on two older blogs due to new information and both of the next new people I researched ended up as dead ends. What I needed was a fresh start.
I happened to watch a video clip of an episode of Antiques Roadshow from 2012 and saw the appraisal of an old civil war firearm (known as a musketoon) that ended up worth quite a tidy sum. I had heard of the gun-maker before but also knew that nothing was known about him. It seemed like a long-shot but I was really wanting someone new to research. You should really watch the video to be able to appreciate some of the information later.
So what was actually known about him? He was probably from Tennessee and also probably made the firearms there. The several sources I read online placed his work as most likely in the Memphis, Nashville, or Chattanooga areas. He made fewer than 100 of them (some sources say even much less) and he then became lost to history. What I can tell you now is that one of these tidbits of information is absolutely true. The rest? Well let’s just see, shall we?
During my preliminary searching I was surprised at just exactly how little was known. This made me have second thoughts about even bothering. The best lead I came across as to his identity came from the Official Gun Digest Book of Guns & Prices for 2017. Although no further sources are cited, it does say that his name was Charles Chapman and that he was in Chattanooga. Regardless, since it was a source that actually specializes in firearms, it was worth at least looking into. I still had to keep in mind that they may be totally wrong and that I needed to look into other locations also. Here is a screenshot of the entry in the book: Screenshot
The place to start was the 1860 Census, right before the war. Unfortunately I had no info on him, other than a possible first name, so this made searching for “C. Chapman pointless, especially with the fact that I needed to search in Tennessee and the several states surrounding it. So I went ahead and searched for a Charles Chapman. Many came up. Since I had zero birth info I found everything from babies to very old men. After looking individually at every possible candidate within a reasonable age range in several states, I found something that made my heart go all aflutter. He was the absolute only one that had the documented skills to have been the right guy. And lo and behold, he was living in Hamilton County, the same county where Chattanooga is located.
In this census, done on 26 Jun 1860, we find Charles and his family beginning at line 16. It shows him as 30 years old, born in England, and he is a machinist. Next is his wife, Anna, who is 28 and also from England. Lastly, we have their son Thomas. He is 3 years old and had been born in Georgia. 1860 Census (More on this census in the updates below)
After this nothing would turn up in further searching. Maybe they moved because of the war or even went back home to England. Part of the problem was that their names were fairly common. However their being born in England was not. Zeroing in on that should have narrowed down the results enough to make finding them in the U.S. much better. Still nothing. After expanding my search to world records instead of just the U.S., I found them in the 1881 Census in England by using the fact that Thomas was born in Georgia as a requirement in the census. Thomas pops up plain as day living in Mancetter, Warwickshire, England. The only problem was that Charles was now gone and Anna was now married to a William Page, who is a general agent of accounts (think bookkeeper). Her new husband is 46 years old and he was born in Leicester, Leicestershire, England. Next up is Thomas R Chapman, 24 years old, and who is a machinist that was born in Georgia. I noticed then that the enumerator had mistakenly listed the children as in-laws instead of step children. Next up is Mary C, 20 years old and a milliner. She was born in Tennessee so apparently Charles and Anna were still living in Chattanooga about the time the war started in 1861. Then we come to Arthur V, who is a hatter apprentice. He was born in 1863 in Georgia, so they had moved back to Georgia during the first part of the war. This makes sense since Tennessee fell early on in the war. Lastly comes Anna. It shows her as 46 years old and born in Leicester, just like her new husband. 1881 Census
Pursuing Thomas again, I concentrated the search area to England. What I found was his marriage the following year, on 10 Apr 1882, in Mancetter. He married Alice Ann Williamson, who was born in 1858 in Romiley, Cheshire, England. In the document we see that his name is Thomas Robert Chapman, and that he is a mechanic. Don’t let this confuse you. He was both a machinist and a mechanic. Later in life he ended up in the bicycle business doing both. Back to the marriage document, Thomas lists his father as Charles Chapman and that he is a draftsman. Basically, he does engineering drawings. Marriage
The fact that Anna was remarried lead me to initially believe that Charles had died but since he wasn’t listed as deceased in the marriage record it made me think that he and Anna might have divorced instead. This made me assume that she had brought the kids back home to England, met a back-home boy, and then married him. It was time to find her marriage to Page. This would give me a better idea as to when she and Charles may have divorced. Surprisingly, it turned up in the United States. Anna married William J Page on 26 Oct 1865 in Muscogee County in Georgia. This is six months after the end of the war. Marriage
Now I was quite perplexed. Originally I figured she had gone home to Leicester and married a man who was also from there. Not so unusual. But instead, somehow she managed to find a guy from back home in the middle of Georgia? Too coincidental for me. My guess? He and Charles were buddies, acquaintances, business partners or something along those lines. In any case, we now know that Charles was out of the picture by at least 1865. Concentrating again on the United States, I started searching for William Page to see where he was while Charles was in Chattanooga.
He pops up in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia in the 1860 Census during the time Charles was in Chattanooga with Anna and young Thomas. William is staying at a hotel there and is listed as a bookkeeper. Notice though that a couple of engineers are also listed with him. 1860 Census. Could they have been working for the same company? And Charles had an engineering background. The plot was thickening. For some additional ammunition, look at this map of the area and see where Whitfield County is in relation to Chattanooga.
Even in those days this wasn’t a great distance. And to drive me crazy a little more, I found this ad in a Chattanooga newspaper from January of 1863 where William is now living in Graysville, Georgia and trying to sell several barrels of Catawba wine. Wine. Also, remember that Charles and Anna had moved back to Georgia by 1863 because that is where their son Arthur was born. Now where is Graysville? Check out this map:
Unable to find anything more on Charles during that time I did another search on William to see when he and Anna went back to England. We already know that by 1865 William and Anna were farther down south in Muscogee County. Further searching resulted not in their trip home, but their living across the river from Muscogee County in Fort Mitchell, Russell County, Alabama for the 1870 Census. In it we find William, Anna, Thomas, Mary, and Arthur all there and all of their info is correct. 1870 Census. Further digging never revealed the exact time that they returned to England but it was at least now down to the 1870 to 1880 time-frame because they had already been found there in the 1881 Census.
Deciding to change things up a bit, I went over to FamilySearch.Org and did some general searching. I ended up finding most of the family in 1885 in the New Jersey State Census, so sometime between their 1881 Census in England and 1885 New Jersey Census they had come back to America. This census showed William, Anna, Mary Clara, and Arthur V are at some hotel or boarding house in Newark, New Jersey.
So where was Thomas? I went back over to him and started searching. After getting married in 1882, he and Alice had begun having their children. The first was Charles William, born on 4 June 1884 in Atherstone, Warwickshire, England. Next came Clara Ethel Gertrude in November 1885, who died within a year or two. But the next one, Minnie Isabell, was born 11 October 1889 in Harrison, New Jersey. So he had finally moved back to America sometime from 1885 to 1889. Within two years though he moved the family to Massachusetts, where his daughter Adeline Beatrice was born on 2 February 1891 in Salem. She would be their last child and while researching I got to talk to one of her grandchildren.
I think William, Anna and the rest arrived back in America in the earlier part of that 1881 to 1885 time-frame because Mary Clara got married there on 23 July 1885 to Ernest V Colombo, an Italian immigrant who was a weaver. Giving them time for a courtship is what makes me think the arrival was earlier. Within a few years of their arrival though, William J Page died. This was in Newark on 27 June 1892. Although I found his will, I was never able to determine who his parents or siblings were.
Speaking of parents, let’s discuss Charles’s background. I’ll get to Anna’s family a bit later. Through much of the research I was disappointed that Charles’ information was so sparse. It made me even consider ending the search and deleting everything. I mean, what’s the point of doing a blog about someone and you have nothing on them? I kept pursuing what I did know, namely his wife and children, in the hopes that something would shake from the tree. During this time I realized that Charles was probably from the same area as Anna and William. The involvement between them in the U.S. seemed to suggest something other than chance meetings in Georgia. We already know that William and Anna were from Leicester, so why not Charles? With this in mind, I tackled that possibility.
That’s when I found him in the 1851 census in Leicester. In this one, he is visiting some large farm family named Lambert. Charles is now a 22 year old engineer and was born in Leicester. There is also another engineer with him, classmates I assume. 1851 Census. I finally now had enough information to begin an earnest search for his birth. After briefly pursuing a few false leads I found it.
One of the things I enjoy about researching England is the church records, especially for the accuracy. Another is their listing actual birthplaces in the census. Anyway, I found two documents on his birth. The first shows him being born at home on 12 March 1829 in Albion, Leicester, Leicestershire, England. It also shows that his father is named Thomas, he is a wool spinner and that he’s from Leicester. His mother is shown to be Mary Hill, from Corby, Leicestershire, England. It also lists his maternal grandparents (James and Sarah Hill) and his mother’s sister, Frances. Birth 1
The second birth document is two pages and is a plethora of information. It not only gives the information on Charles but also on the first five of his nine siblings. In genealogy, it doesn’t get much better than this. Anyway, the document verifies the earlier document on him and then we see that his first five siblings are Robert, Sarah, Fanny Page, Mary Hill, and Clara. You’ll find them about two-thirds of the way down the page. Birth 2A Birth 2B
At this point, let’s take a look at what we have. His father Thomas and brother Robert – Charles’ first son, Thomas Robert. His sisters Mary and Clara – his daughter, Mary Clara. He later has a brother you’ll meet named Arthur. Does that ring a bell? – His second son, Arthur. And then the most intriguing one. One tradition back in the day was giving a child a family surname as a middle name. So that brings us to Charles’ sister, Fanny Page Chapman. When I mentioned earlier in the blog about the possible relationships between Charles and William Page, one I hadn’t considered was family, namely a possible cousin. Unfortunately, by not knowing William’s parentage it’s much more difficult to prove.
Another problem with researching Charles’ family is the way the British records are online, namely their massive use of indexes. These give much less information and make it much more difficult to confirm if you have the right person or not. Their indexes usually give the dates in quarter/year, such as Jan-Feb-Mar 1861. I researched Charles’ parents and siblings as much as I could accurately do, but this portion of his tree pales in comparison to my American ones. Regardless, Charles never showed up in any of the information that I did find on his family members. When it comes to doing British research you’re much better off to be there and actually get to see the documents. As far as his immediate family, his father probably died in 1882 but I never saw when his mother did. Besides Charles’ siblings that I mentioned earlier, his parents had four more children and they were Annie, Thomas James, Cuthbert (who died at about age 10), and Arthur.
This would be a good time to go ahead and cover Anna’s family. Not surprisingly, it was just as difficult to follow out as it was Charles’. I won’t bother with posting all the documents but I’ll give you the basics on the family. Anna was born about March of 1833 in Leceister to Edward and Elizabeth Barrows. Her father, who was a tailor, was born in London in about 1810 and her mother was born in Leicester in 1811. Anna was their first-born, followed by her siblings Mary, Harriet, Elizabeth, Maria, and finally her baby brother Edward in 1847. I was able to follow all of their lives to varying degrees, but just like Charles’, none of it was very useful. Her parents split up in the 1860s, with her mother living with different daughters until her death in Leicester in 1892. Her father lived with his son after the split and appears to have passed away the summer of 1874.
It’s now time to go back to Anna in New Jersey, but I’ll preface this with the fact that this is another state that is not the best for online records or newspapers. That being said, let’s get started. The last we were in New Jersey, Mary Clara had gotten married in 1885 and William Page had passed away in 1892. The next I found them was in the New Jersey 1895 State Census. In this one, Anna is living with her daughter’s family in Manchester, which is in Passaic County. In Mary and Ernest’s 10 year marriage so far, they have had the following children: Alfred L, Florence E, and Blanche. That’s about all the information in this census worth mentioning. 1895 Census. For the 1900 Census, they are all still in Manchester. One of the two main things to note is that Mary is very pregnant in this one. I only know this because the census was done on 21 June and a month later she gave birth to her last child, a son named Lester Joseph. The other thing to note is that Anna has said that she has borne 8 children and that three are living. There is little to no hope that we’ll ever know how many she had with which husband. 1900 Census
Now let’s cover Arthur V, Anna’s youngest son. I later found that he had not come over with the rest of the family, but had come by himself and arrived in New York City on 21 July 1884 aboard the Oregon. 1884 Arrival. He is passenger number 103 on the list. Within two years he married an Elizabeth Jane Morpeth, whose parents were both from England. They promptly had a baby girl, who died young and then two sons, Edwin Herbert in 1888 and Elbert Vivian in 1895. By 1900, Arthur had moved his family to Irvington, Essex County, New Jersey. In the census he is still employed as a hatter and his wife Jane says she has had two children, both living. We know she lost one but she hasn’t mentioned it. This isn’t that uncommon in the 1900 census. Both boys are also there. Most of the family is at the bottom of the first page and the youngest boy is at the top of the second one. 1900 Census A 1900 Census B
We already discussed the family of Charles’ son Thomas Robert earlier, so let’s pick him up in the 1900 Census. In this one, he and his wife Alice are raising their family in Salem, Massachusetts. His information is all correct and he does bicycle repair. Their children Charles, Minnie and Adeline are all there. They also have a 20 year old servant girl there with them. 1900 Census.
We’re at the point where I’m going to stop with the more detailed information on the family, but I will give you a synopsis of the rest of their lives:
- Anna Barrows Chapman Page went on to live with her daughter until she passed away on 3 January 1911 in Paterson, New Jersey. She is buried in Laurel Grove Memorial Park there.
- Thomas Robert Chapman stayed in Salem and died there on 22 April 1918 from the Spanish flu. He is buried there in Greenlawn Cemetery. His wife Alice permanently moved in with their daughter Adeline after Thomas’ death and stayed with her until she passed away in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1938. The last of Thomas and Alice’s children died in 1982.
- Mary Clara Chapman died sometime in the 1940s I believe. Her husband had already died back in 1908. The last of their children died in 1985.
- Arthur V Chapman and his wife Jane raised their children mostly in Orange, New Jersey until he was committed to a mental hospital in 1927 or 1928 (I’ll leave out the obvious reference to the “mad as a hatter” phrase). As near as I can tell, I think he died in the early 1930s. I lost track of Jane after 1934 (I believe she remarried) and the last of their children died in 1988.
I’m still not convinced that Charles survived the Civil War. If you remember, sometime between 1863 and 1865, William Page and Anna ended up in Muscogee County, Georgia. Maybe Charles was there too. He was an engineer and the important Confederate port of Columbus was there. The fighting in northern Georgia got heavy in 1863 and 1864 and this is probably when Charles, Anna and William would have left the area to head south. If they were already in Columbus in 1865 then they would have witnessed the 16 April attack on Columbus by Union troops, one of the last of the war. This was exactly a week after Robert E Lee had surrendered. The city was defended by about 3500 troops from local Georgia and Alabama home guard units, along with civilian volunteers. The port was also attacked to destroy what vessels were there. So did Charles get caught up in all of this? Or had he and Anna actually divorced and he lived out his life elsewhere? To find the answer further research will be needed in Catoosa, Whitfield and Muscogee counties in Georgia. Also, research would have to be done in England. It will definitely have to be done by someone with more resources than me. To throw a wrench into the monkey, and toss my Columbus theory into jeopardy, I found a Charles Chapman who is a machinist living in Chattanooga in 1886. 1886 City Directory
Now, remember I said at the beginning of the blog that one of the few things known about Charles was absolutely true? Well, now you know what that was. It was the item that said he was lost to history.
Finally, an interesting final story though that pertains to that video clip at the beginning of the blog. During one of my numerous Google searches I came across a catalog for an auction held on 23 September 1921 in New York City. In it, they are auctioning off the arms collections of two different men, a George M Potter of Allendale, New Jersey and a George H Steel of Brooklyn. Here is the cover to the catalog: Catalog Cover
Inside the catalog is a huge list of items to be auctioned. One of those is a C.Chapman musketoon, serial number 8. It also mentions the initials J.R.R. being scratched into it. This wasn’t noted on the video but when I went back and looked at it I could have sworn I could almost make it out in the buttstock. Here is the gun’s entry in the catalog (top of page): Entry. If you’re interested in seeing the whole collection I’m linking it here for the PDF version of it. Catalog
So the lady’s family story of them finding it in the early 1900s is obviously wrong. The gun was sold in 1921. The earliest that her family could have found it was whenever the next owner left it in a house that they sold, and who knows when that was.
Also, I didn’t notice in the catalog as to which gentleman owned Charles’ gun, but the one named George Potter was the owner of an advertising business and lived in New Jersey. I believe you readers now know several people that lived in New Jersey during that time. And Massachusetts isn’t that far from New York City either. My guess is that someone in the family sold it to one of the collectors. I checked my Chapman tree for anyone that could match the JRR initials but there wasn’t any, so that’s another mystery that will probably never be solved. Of course, it could just be a coincidence that the family lived nearby.
One final thing, I emailed two of the Antiques Roadshow militaria appraisers a little while back about this, Paul Carella (because he’s the one from the video) and Rafael Eledge (because he’s in my home state) and I never heard from either. I was going to let them be the first two people to read it but it didn’t end up that way.
In the end, I enjoyed researching this one immensely. It was frustrating many times, as they all are, but it was still fairly satisfying to throw a little light onto a forgotten man.
Update 22 Feb 2017 A: Had some free time and went back to the tree to see if I missed something. Noticed something in Charles’ 1860 census and will pursue this to see if it shakes anything loose.
Update 22 Feb 2017 B: Well, I dug into it some but it still needs more research. So you don’t have to scroll way back up the page here is the 1860 Census again: Census. If you look at Charles again, move up to the family directly above him. The head of the family is Henry. Ancestry.Com had transcribed his surname as Sounleighton. After comparing the enumerator’s writing I realized the “S” was a “W” and from there was able to discern that his name was Wormleighton. Now look at the census again and you’ll see that Henry was from England. There was a village named Wormleighton in Warwickshire, England. This doesn’t mean he was from there but it at least confirms the proper spelling. This is also the county that we saw Anna and William Page living in during the 1881 Census. But that’s not the best part. After digging into Henry and his family for a while I discovered something interesting, but by now not real surprising. Henry was born in Leicester. I’m still working on him and his family to see if there is any other connections to Charles.
Update 24 Feb 2017: Gone about as far as I need to and haven’t found Charles by following Henry, however I did find out why they were all in the Chattanooga area at the time. It was the railroad. Attempts to build railroads in Tennessee had started in the 1830s. The 1840s to 1850s were very busy for Chattanooga in this regard. People from all over the world were brought in or came on their own. The Irish were there for the labor, the Germans for their craftsmanship, and the English for their skills with iron-working. This explains why Henry and Charles were there in the first place. After reading up on the situation in Chattanooga during the war I came to the conclusion that he may have done most of his gun-making in northern Georgia. One last thing, if any readers of this blog are from England, could you please stop by Leicester and see if anyone is still there? I think they all came here….
Update 25 Feb 17: Intensified my Google searching and came across a useful item on Charles. In this London newspaper clipping we get a better idea of about when he came to America. The article shows that in August of 1854 he is performing an Indenture of Assignment. Basically he is putting his valuables, properties, etc, in a trust to be used to pay any creditors. This sounds like he is planning on not being around in the very near future and it absolutely fits the time-frame for him. So he left for America somewhere between 15 August 1854 and his son’s birth in March of 1857. Indenture
Update 3 Mar 17: After extensive searching for Charles separately in England, the U.S. and Canada I have to conclude that he did not survive the Civil War. Maybe THIS is the real reason he only made a few of his firearms. I still don’t know how or where he would have died, though.
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