BY HON. B. FRANKLIN CHAPMAN, OF ONEIDA, N. Y.
Mr. Chairman and Cousins--For by that endearing name I wish now and hereafter to call you, without counting the link in the chain that binds us to our great and noble progenitor, Walter Palmer. This is a fit and proper place for us to meet and organize the first Re-Union of the descendants of a worthy sire, so near to the old homestead, on the slope just above the waters of Wequetequock Cove, which we visited today, where nothing remains but the cellar wall, the old well, the large flat stone in front of the door, on which we were so delighted to stand, and on which our distinguished sire so often trod ; and in sight of the old well-preserved burying ground of two hundred and fifty years ago, on more elevated ground, and half a mile away, and in which we saw no new-made graves within half a century in which we live.
Comparing them with to-day, what a contrast! That old homestead, on its thousand acre farm, filled by the parents and a dozen children--a community by itself--a happy family, hearty, healthy, laborious and free from vice.
Look at the palatial residences amid the giddy allurements of to-day--houses occupied by the parents and a child or two, or none, and all run by servants. In warm weather fresh air is needed to breathe; the house is closed; family and servants at Long Branch, Coney Island, Saratoga, abroad in Europe, around the world on a pleasure trip; the facilities for travel enable them to be continually on the "go." A continuing panorama is passing before our eyes; a never-ending strain upon every muscle and nerve.
Look at the old "burying ground " where Walter Palmer lies, and whose grave is covered over its entire length by a triangular stone, seven feet long and shaped like. the roof of a house, to keep the wolves from digging down to and eating up his body. Contrast it with the cemeteries of to-day, with their expensive mausoleums and monuments piercing the very clouds.
Give me the humble cottage, with contentment and happiness. Give me the old burying ground, with its simple mound and slab.
My friends, why this great concourse of people here to-day?. Hundreds, nay, thousands of the descendants of Walter Palmer assembled here under these vast tents?
It is the love of home implanted in every human heart; the place of our birth, the home of our parents and grandparents; and distance often lends enchantment to the view. And natural history teaches us that this wonderful instinct to find the spot where life began pervades the whole animal kingdom: hence, the fish of the sea will flow through the ocean to the. little streams where their life began.; and birds will sweep through the air back to the place where they were born; and beasts of the forest will seek out and find their native birthplace.
We have come here because we could not help it; that tie of kindred, that instinct of nature planted in every living creature, led us cheerfully here, and we all rejoice at the opportunity of seeing and conversing with each other, and forming so many new and valuable. acquaintances. For one, I can truthfully say that I have never spent two days of my life more happily and profitably.
Here we meet the child, the parents, the grandparents, coming from all parts of our Union; joy and gladness are seen in every face; mirth and song fills the air we breathe; and in the instructive and interesting historical and genealogical addresses delivered on this occasion, we rejoice to know that the descendants of Walter Palmer are not unknown to fame and history. The learned profession and the civil and military lists are filled with his descendants.
I hope to live and meet you again and again at future Re-Unions of the Palmers.
B. FRANKLIN CHAPMAN.
B. Franklin Chapman was born in Clockville, Madison Co., N. Y., March 24, 1817. His father, the late Col. Stephen Chapman, and his mother, Keturah Palmer, were born in Stonington, Ct., and emigrated with a large number of families from that locality in 1812 ; most of them settled on "Palmer Hill," in the town of Lenox, but Col. Chapman located in Clockville. He and the late Joshua A. Spencer were mechanics, but were employed quite extensively in "pettifogging" cases, and soon became adepts in their profession, and finally entered the law office of Gen. J. S. Spencer as students, and were admitted to the bar in 1822.
Col. Chapman was a strong, vigorous, energetic man, full of enterprise, liberal and confiding. Through his efforts the first post-office was established in Clockville, in 1814, and he was appointed the. first postmaster, an office which he held (with a brief interval) until he resigned in 1847. He reared a family of twelve children; five of them survived him, and are still living--Noyes P. Chapman, Wm. H. Chapman, Mary Ann, wife of Conrad G. Moot, Augustine, wife of Clinton L. Colton, and Benjamin F. Chapman, the subject of this biography, who, from youth up, has ever been familiarly known as "Frank Chapman."
He was born with an active brain and strong muscle--a leader among the boys; whatever was to be done he did it first and took the consequences afterwards. Much of the mischief in and out of schoolhouse was laid on him, and he generally got the lickings and never grumbled.
On the death of his brother, Stephen, in 1831, who had previously been admitted to the bar, his father decided to educate and make a lawyer of him. He assisted his father in making surveys, and idolized a compass.
In the Fall of 1834, he entered Stockbridge Academy; the next Spring he entered the new Hudson River Seminary, where he was under the mathematical instruction of Prof. Ostrander. In the Fall of 1835, he went to Manlius Academy, and applied himself to the study of languages, and the next Spring he followed his teacher, Mr. Bushaus, in opening Fayetteville Academy, where he remained until he entered the sophomore class in Hamilton College, at Clinton, August, 1836. In the junior year he was one of the prize speakers, and was graduated in July, 1839, with one of the five honors--the Philosophical Oration.
He then entered the law office of his father, and in January, 1841, was admitted to the bar, and subsequently to the District, Circuit and Supreme Courts of the United States. By his indomitable industry and perseverance he acquired a large practice, and soon became one of the leading members of the bar of Madison County.
He married Miss Huldah Wilcox, daughter of Dea. Alanson Wilcox, Nov.10, 1841; they had three children--Elmer, who died at the age of two years; Mattie, who married Capt. Charles E. Remick, of Hardwick, Vt., who was then engaged in business in Boston, and subsequently was with the firm of E. S. Jeffray & Co., New York, and now is established in business in Oneida, N.Y.; Stephen, who studied law with his father, then entered and was graduated from the Albany Law School, and was admitted to the bar in May, 1874, and is now in company with his father.
In April, 1880, he left the old homestead where he and his children were born, and with his entire family moved into his new home in Oneida. In politics he is a pronounced Democrat, and has ever been one of the influential Democratic orators in Central New :York. In early life he was connected with schools, holding various town offices, such as School Inspector, Commissioner, Town Superintendent, Supervisor; also District Attorney and Postmaster. In 1861, at the breaking out of the Rebellion, Mr. Chapman led off with the first war speech in the country, and no patriot ever worked harder than he during this long and memorable struggle.
He has had large experience as a surveyor and engineer, and his services have been sought for by the most eminent lawyers in Central New York, in suits involving the title to real estate and water powers.
To-day he stands erect and has the vigor and step of youth; a constant and hard worker, enjoying, as he ever has, good health, blessed with a constitution capable of great endurance, endowed with a vigorous mind, entertaining and instructive in his conversation, interspersed with mirth and anecdote.
Amid all the tumults of life he has found time to devote to literary works; he has a model library, and for years has been accustomed to deliver popular lectures on various subjects, and among them, “Washington and its Defences,” “Harper's Ferry," and especially his late and popular lecture on “Salem Witchcraft," which has been received with great favor through out the country.
The Jackson Citizen (Mich.), in speaking of it, says: “Mr. Chapman is a lawyer of superior ability, and his word-pictures of that terrible delusion were as vivid as the closest acquaintance could make them. The audience seemed to be completely fascinated by his eloquence, and were swayed at his will as he described in graphic language those terrible scenes through which the people of Salem passed in that fated period.
[The foregoing biography is copied from the “History of Madison and Chenango Counties," pages,734, 735, by James H. Smith; accompanied by a fine steel engraving; 1880.]
Proceedings, or, Memorial volume of the first Palmer family re-union held at Stonington, Conn., August 10 & 11, 1881, the ancestral home of Walter Palmer, the pilgrim of 1629 : being also a part of the genealogical, biographical and historical records of the family, as contained in the several addresses, etc. delivered on the occasion of the re-union. Noyes F. Palmer, Brooklyn: Brooklyn Union-Argus, 1881, pp. 151-155.
©1999- MadisonCountyNewYork.com All rights reserved