San Francisco County









HON. MELVIN CANFIELD CHAPMAN, Mayor of Oakland was born in Westfield, Illinois, September 5, 1848, a son of Charles De Grasse and Cynthia (Palmer) Chapman. The mother, born in Durham, New York, November 9, 1819, a daughter of John and Statira (Canfield) Palmer, moved to Brimfield, Ohio, in September, 1840, and was married there October 26, 1841. Her father John Palmer, a soldier of the Revolution for seven years, quitting the service with the rank of Orderly Sergeant, afterwards a merchant at Durham, New York, died in 1822, age sixty-six. His widow survived him several years, reaching the age of seventy-two. Both were natives of Durham, Connecticut. Four of their children survive in 1891: John a farmer of Conklingville, New York, aged ninety; Mrs. Sarah (Palmer) Conkling, of the same place, aged eighty; Alexander, of New York City, aged Seventy-eight; Mrs. Cynthia (Palmer) Chapman, of Oakland, in her seventy-second year.

      The Paternal ancestry of M.C. Chapman dates back to Robert Chapman, born about 1616, who came from Hull, England, to Boston, Massachusetts, in August, 1635, and in November of that year went to Saybrook, Connecticut. He was married to Ann Blith (conjectured to be Ann Bliss, as the name Blith does not recur in the records), April 29, 1642. The old homestead, said to have been built in 1640, is still in existence. They had three sons: John, Robert Jr., and Nathaniel, and four daughters. The mother died November 20, 1685 and the father October 13, 1687. From their second son, Robert Chapman, Jr., born in Saybrook in September 1646, is descended this branch of the American Chapman’s. He was commissioner and surveyor of Saybrook, and represented his district in the legislature for eighteen sessions. Before his death he was owner of 2,000 acres in Saybrook, East Haddam and Hebron he was twice married: first, to Sarah Griswold, July 27, 1671, by whom he had nine children. She died April 7, 1692. His second wife was Mrs. Mary Sheather, by whom he had four children. He died suddenly in the court-room in Hartford during the November session of 1711. His oldest son, Samuel, born September 12, 1672, afterwards known as Captain Samuel, was married December 6, 1693, to Margaret Griswold, of Norwich. They had ten children, the sixth of whom, Jedediah, born October 9, 1703, was married to Hester Kirkland, and they had eight children. He is known as Major Jedediah Chapman, but was equally distinguished in religious and civil life, becoming a deacon in 1732, and being also an attorney. He died February 10, 1764. His son Jedediah, born in Westbrook, Connecticut, December 15, 1726, was married to Marry Grinnell in 1755, by whom he had eight children. He was ordained a deacon in 1771, and is known in the family annals as Deacon Jedediah; but, like his father, was prominent in military and civil affairs as well. He died February 29, 1816. Constant Chapman, son of Deacon Jedediah, was born in Westbrook, Connecticut, December 27, 1761, and served in the Army during the last six years of the struggle for independence, taking part in the battles of Brandywine, Trenton and many others. He is said to have been for a time on the staff of General Washington. He married Jemima Kelsey, of Killingworth, January 27, 1785, and embarked on a seafaring career, becoming captain and owner of a brig engaged chiefly in the West India trade. His vessel was captured by a French privateer during the period of the triangular embargo reprisals between France, England and the United States, about 1809. He was imprisoned in Paris some three months. About 1818 he moved to the “Western Reserve,” settling in Brimfield, Portage County, Ohio, where he died in 1850. John K., the third of his nine children, born in Connecticut May 29, 1791, was married to Esther Harris April 28, 1811, and served in the war of 1812, his chief career being farming in New York to 1818, then in Ohio to 1849, when he moved to Illinois. He died in Chicago April 22, 1856. His son, Charles D., the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, December 25, 1817, and taken by his parents the following summer to Brimfield, Ohio, where he was brought up to farming. At about the age of twenty he learned the trade of wagon-maker, and afterwards carried on the business in that line at Kent, Ohio. He was married in Brimfield October 26, 1841, and in 1845 moved with his wife and two children to Chicago, where he worked at his trade about sixteen months. About 1847 he again went into business on his own account in Westfield Illinois, continuing three years He then moved to Peru, Illinois, and there carried on a wagon-making business four years. Returning to Chicago, he engaged in the planning-mill business some three years. In 1857, leaving mechanical pursuits behind him, he returned to the vocation of his youth, engaging in farming near Kankakee, were he remained nine years. Again in Chicago and the planning-mill business, 1866 to 1869, he conceived the idea of coming to California, and on October 6, 1869, arrived with his family in San Francisco. He was then engaged in a general painting business until 1875 in the reclamation of the Tule lands in Solano County. In 1875 he settled in Oakland, dying here October 31, 1877. Mrs. Chapman is living in this city, in 1891, in possession of a remarkable degree of mental and physical vigor. Their children are: Alfred Palmer Chapman, born in Kent, Ohio, November 19, 1842; enlisted in 1861 in the Twenty-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry, known as the Chicago Board of Trade Regiment; was taken sick in the service and sent to the Hospital at Memphis, Tennessee, where he was visited by his mother, who obtained his discharge and brought him home. After coming to California he was engaged for a time in farming in Solano County, and is now of the firm of Chapman Bro., painters, of this city. William Hall Chapman, born in Akron, Ohio, October 5, 1844, now of the same firm; M.C. and E.C. Chapman, the subjects, respectively, of this and the following sketches.

      M. C. Chapman received a good common school education, supplemented by a two year course in Grand Prairie Seminary at Onarga, from which he was graduated with honor, while his physical development was promoted by labor on the home farm near Kankakee during intermissions in school work. On the return of the family to Chicago he learned engineering in his father’s planning-mill, and served a year as engineer of a steamboat in the lake trade. After the removal to California he was engaged chiefly with his father in the general painting business, and at his death, in 1877, continued in the same line as his brothers. While thus engaged, about 1880 he conceived the idea of studying law, and in 1882 entered the law office of the late Henry Vrooman, under whose guidance his natural talent for the profession became clearly established. He then attended lectures in Hastings College of the law, the law department of the University of California, and at the end of his term, November 10, 1884 he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the State of California. He then opened a law office in this city, rapidly pushed to the front of the profession. Few members of the bar have attained greater prominence in so short a time. In the seven years since his admission he has ably conducted several important trials, of interest not only to the county but to the State at large, his success being equally marked in criminal and civil cases.

      One of his most important of these was the Ah You case that has just been decided by the Supreme Court. It involved the supremacy of the general law over city charters framed under the recently adopted constitutional amendment, and it directly affected the cities of Oakland, Stockton, Los Angeles and San Diego, all of which had recently framed charters under this amendment, and it indirectly affected all of the larger cities of the State which might in the future frame charters under this amendment. The importance of this case can be estimated when it is said that it affected over half of the population of the State. This case was carried up to the Supreme Court in the face of the greatest opposition, in which many of the most learned lawyers in the State were pitted against Mr. Chapman, and yet he won his case. Mr. Chapman has conducted many other important cases, among which was the suit of Maria D. Wilson against the Fourteenth Street Railroad Company, in which the plaintiff obtained $10,750 damages for injuries sustained by her from the carelessness of the company’s agents.

      He also defended Manuel Silva, charged with murder, and so clearly did he prove his case that the defendant was acquitted almost without question.

      He is always a thorough master of a case and is quick to see the best and most favorable points that can be presented to a court or jury. He is a clear, forcible orator, which enables him always to bring the case before a jury in the most suitable manner.

      In 1888 Mr. Chapman’s Republican friends of the Fifty-fifth State Assembly District in Oakland decided that they wished him to represent them in the Fifty-third Assembly, 1889-90, and he was nominated and elected to office, serving his constituents to the general acceptance of this community. In 1891 a wider constituency demanded his public services, and in the city convention he was unanimously nominated Mayor of Oakland, and was elected by a plurality of 2,101 out of a total of 6,647 votes.

      Mr. Chapman was married in Oakland. December 21,1887, to Miss Lillian Childs, a Daughter of W.W.Childs, Superintendent of  the Remillard  Brick Company of this city.


Transcribed by Kim Buck.

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, Pages 612-615, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.








EDGAR CHARLES CHAPMAN, Attorney, of Oakland, was born in Peru, Illinois, February 14, 1857. (For Parentage and ancestry see preceding sketch.) Receiving his education in public schools of Illinois, and after the age of twelve of those of San Francisco, he was graduated from the high school of that city in 1876. He learned the trade of Painter with his brothers, continuing in that line until near the close of 1884, when on the admission to the bar of his brother, M. C., he entered his office and taking up the study of law under his instruction was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of California, August 16, 1886. He then spent some thirty months engaged chiefly in land deals in the counties of San Diego and Ventura. Returning to this city before the close of 1888, he engaged in the active practice of his profession, being closely associated with his brother, giving special attention to the department of real estate, building and lien laws. He formulated the new lien law presented to the consideration of the Legislature of California in its session of 1891. He was chosen chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Alameda County in October, 1890, and took an active part in the county and city campaigns of 1890-1, managing the financial details especially with great success.

      Mr. Chapman was married in San Francisco, January 4, 1888, to Miss Victoria A. Card, born in Michigan, of English parentage.




 Transcribed by Kim Buck.

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, Page 615, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.


© 2006 Kim Buck.


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