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Jabez Chapman

Born in Lebanon
New London County, Connecticut

From Cooperstown Freeman's Journal:  after Oct 9, 1896

The Girard, Erie county, Pennsylvania, correspondent of the Chicago Times-Herald, sends to that paper the following letter of October 9th. It will be read with interest by the older inhabitants of this town. Our Mr. I. K. Williams says that he very well remembers Mr. Chapman, whose blacksmith shop stood on the southeast corner of Main and Chestnut streets. He had a son Charles, who was in business here with Robert Davis, forty years ago. The letter in question says:

Ninety-nine years ago to-day, in the little town of Lancaster [should read Lebanon], New London County, Connecticut, was born a boy whom the women folks of the village said would not live twenty-four hours. But the wee mite of humanity fooled the people of Lancaster, and to-day he celebrated the 99th anniversary of his birth. Jabez Chapman--that is his name--is the oldest man living in Erie county, and without doubt the most active man of his years in the whole State of Pennsylvania. For one of his advanced years he is in remarkably good health, and the chances are that he will live to be more than 100 years old.

Mr. Chapman enjoys the distinction of having shod James Fenimore Cooper's horse while America's great novelist kept off the flies. He has always voted the straight Democratic ticket since that party came into existence, and it is his wish that he live to vote for another candidate for the Presidency. Sitting in an old arm chair in front of the glowing grate, Mr. Chapman this afternoon told the story of his life. It was a simple story, devoid of thrilling adventure, but interesting, nevertheless.

"I was born," said the old gentleman, "at Lancaster, Connecticut, October 9, 1796. My mother used to tell me that the women folk of the village shook their heads gravely and said I would not live twenty-four hours. I was a very small child, and was what the women folk call puny. But I have lived to bury every man, woman and child who lived at that time in Lancaster.

"When I was three years old, my father moved to Cooperstown, New York, and I remember the trip very well. My grandfather went with us. He was a blacksmith and so was his son, my father. When I grew old enough I learned the blacksmithing trade and worked at it for more than fifty years.

Grandfather and father put their tools aboard of a ship and it was six weeks before the vessel reached Albany. The family traveled by wagon. -- We were a week going from Albany to Cooperstown on account of the bad roads. Mother trudged along behind the wagon carrying a baby in her arms. Although it is 96 years since Washington died, I have distinct recollection of hearing my father say: "The country is now undone. Washington is dead."

"I well remember the war of 1812," resumed the old gentleman. "While a regiment was being organized at Cooperstown father got me an old snare drum which I learned to beat. I used to march around town ahead of the soldiers and taught them to keep step. Grandfather went to the war, but before the company got to Albany the Captain found out that he could make guns and repair them. He was kept in Albany while the war lasted repairing firearms.

When he came home he and I used to work together in the blacksmith shop making cowbells. There was so much forest around Cooperstown that the cattle used to stray away and get lost.

"Judge Cooper was a regular customer at my grandfather's blacksmith shop. He used to wear knickerbockers and fancy silk stockings that came up to his knees. When the men working in the shop would see the Judge coming to have his horse shod, they would put barrel hoops in the fire and then hammer them on the anvils so that the sparks would fly all over the Judge's fancy stockings." The old gentleman shook with laughter as he recalled the pranks played upon the Judge.

"Many a time has Fenimore Cooper kept the flies off his horse while I shod the animal," continued Mr. Chapman. "And he often told me that many ideas came to him while he was thus employed."

Mr. Chapman has lived with his daughter, Mrs. Philip Northrop, for the last fifteen years. He splits all the wood and cords it up for the winter. On his 90th birthday Mr. Chapman made a horseshoe that would do credit to any blacksmith.


This file was contributed for use by the New London County CTGenWeb Project  by:
Cheryl Bills <cherylb@ida.net>

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