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    In this exhibit, the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections has selected items from their extensive collection of family papers and institutional records to pay tribute to students past and present.
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  • Robert Chapman Letter

  • Reverend Richard Mather's IntroA treasure in the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections offers new clues to the origins of a founder of Saybrook, Connecticut.  In 1687 Robert Chapman wrote a letter to his children, and the 18th century copy of this letter was given to NEHGS in 1917 by Miss Mary Chapman.  The twenty-six page letter had been considered lost, by Rev. Frederick W. Chapman in his 1854 genealogy of the descendants of Robert Chapman.

     In his letter, Robert Chapman wrote “after a long and dangerous voyage ar[r]ive[d] at Boston in new England the 26 day of December 1635 and my Self with several others lovingly Entertained on Shore and had our entertainment that winter at governour winthrops farm.”  Chapman wrote that he arrived in Saybrook in April, 1636.  Other records show he served as town clerk, representative to the General Court, and lieutenant of the train band.  He married Ann Bliss on 29 April 1642, and he died on 13 October 1687.  He owned land in Saybrook, East Haddam, and Hebron.

    In the letter, Chapman gave details of his youth in England, including, at age 15, serving an apprenticeship 30 miles from home. When the young Chapman’s Christian faith and habits were challenged, Mr. Higginson, a preacher, helped keep him “from being deceived.”  In 1635 he “wrought Jorney work with one Tillinghust.” Before departing from England, the young man “spent some time in visiting my friends in Kent and Sussex.”  In much of the letter, Chapman repeatedly affirmed the pious messages of the day, and he admonished his children to live a Godly life.  This letter gives many valuable clues to guide researchers seeking his elusive English origins.

    More information on this manuscript appears in the October, 2005 Register.


    Judith H. Halseth, Ed.D. (judith.halseth@wmich.edu) is a trustee of NEHGS and a tenth-generation descendant of Robert Chapman.



    Robert Chapman Letter 01
    Capt Robert Chapmans Legacie to his Children. Left to them in writing before his decease who departed this Life the 13th day of October 1687

    [T]O leave Something with my Children that may be of use [to] them whilst they are passing [t]hrough a perilous worl[d] the design of this writing

    The first Part of my time till I was about 15 or 16 years of age I lived with my parents   [ ] was Educated in the way they then called puretansme in observ- ance of gospell rules and especially of the Sabath which [ ] no Little tryall to me to see [many?] others of neighbors
    Robert Chapman Letter 02 [aro]und about me to have their
    plays and Sports on the Sabbath
    and my Self held in by the rains
    of family Government to the du
    -tys of the Sabbath:
    When I was about 15 years of
    age I had a mind to be put out
    to Learn a trade great care was
    taken to Place me in Some Godly
    famaly and because there
    was not of that trade then known
    near my fathers house I was
    bound out to a man that Lived
    about 30 miles off who in a
    formall Shew had the name of
    [ ] Christian but in truth and real[ ]     
    a poor man. when I had been
    there a while I had my Liberty
    as other boys had to play on the
    Sabbath days and improved my
    Liberty Some time till the Lord
    was pleased to make me to remem
    -ber the way of Education at hom
    and how just it was with God
    to Leave me now to have my [ ]
    to be vain and profain as others
    by the Good hand of God upon [me]
    it  So prevented that I left of
    that course and attended the [S?]
    as well as I Could  Remem[ber]

    Robert Chapman Letter 03

    Click here for enlarged image

    Children be not wanting to your
    children when they are young be-
    [g]in betimes to teach them the know
    lege of the god of their fathers
     you will finde the first of time
    to be the Best of time: and though
    not much Encouragement may at
    present appear yet be assured there
    is a blessing anexed thereto that
    Shall in due time appear :
    After I had Somtime refrained my
    Self from those Sabath daye Sports
    Providentially there was a Scotch
    Minister who traviling through
    The town on xxx xxxxx xxx the Last
    [d]ay of the week was persuaded by Some
    Christians to Stay in town and preac[h]
    to them on the morrow which was
    the Sabbath: which he yielded unto and 
    did preach f[r]om those words : put you
    on the Lord Jesus Christ :  which
    words was in the opening and prose-
    cution  Such words as I thought I
    never heard before as to inward
    Soul Concernments and this did give
    a Second lift to me :
    After Some years Service with my
    master the way was opened for me
    as that I Returned home to my
    fathers house then was the great
    name and fame of new:England  
    Robert Chapman Letter 04
    Sounding about the Country: then
    Also liberty and Sports upon the
    Sabath publickly allowed then.
    Great numbers appeared to Embrace
    the Same and make a scoff at
    those that would not fall in with
    them : then the signs of a black
    and dark time did appear inso
    much that it Caused Great 
    thoughts of heart amongst
    the Godly what was their way
    whether to go for new:England
    there being then an open door
    Some chose to keep their Standing
    and others to great numbers from
    all parts of England of all Sorts of
    persons with their familys cast th[em]
    Selves upon the providence of God
    by Shiping themselves for new Eng
    land in which time it being the
    year 1635 : I wrought Jorney [?]
    work with one Tillinghust for the
    Space of half a year and untill
    I Came for new:England a blessed
    change it was to me to fall into
    such a Godly family where I had
    my desire of Christian Comunion
    and so as that I grew apace in
    Knowledge and Stability with
    Such warmed affections as that
    Robert Chapman Letter 05

    Click here for enlarged image



    I thought my Estate was Good
    but my purpose for Newengland
    being setled and the time drawing
    near of taking Ship after I had
    Spent Some time in visiting my
    friends in Kent and Sussex in
    the beginning of September was
    dismissed from them to the blessing
    of God and tooke Ship and after
    a long and dangerous voyage arive
    at Boston in new England the 26
    day of December 1635 and my Self
    with Several others lovingly En-
    tertained on Shore and had our
    entertainment that winter at Go
    venour winthrops farm :
    When I had been Some time on
    Shore I had a Great fit of sickness
    and many terrors with it as Concern
    ing my Estate : could make no Com-
    fortable work of what I had
    thought I had been wrought in
    me before but many discourag
    ments and heart mis-givings that
     Surely here must be Something
    more done then yet I had found:
    the Lord was pleased to raise me
    up again and from thence brought
    me to this place in the beginning of
    April 1636 where I have remained
    to this day ---- after
    Robert Chapman Letter 06 After I had been here Some
    time that black and dark day
    of the pequod war fell upon us in
    such Sort that our lives were in
    hazard night and day and when we
    Saw one taken away one day 2 at
    another 4 at another out of our
    little number and the Enemy rage
    and insult that he will have us
    all :  now comes home two questions
    what do I hear :and what must I
    do here :  here after much
    Strugling I was Satisfied in that
    that I was in the Place that God
    had Set me in that I did not
    bring my Self into it no further
    then I was advised by my friends
    Especially by my faithful Loving
    mother who I know did lay up
    a Stock of prayers for me
    Remember this Children your
    obediance to parents may Stand
    by you when you have Little
    Else to relieve you
    2dly what must I do here the
    voice of God to me both in his
    word and works was prepare thy
    Self the son of man Comes in an
    hour when you look not for him

    Robert Chapman Letter 07
    I Saw it So by others and to
    help on this Great work the Lord
    was pleased to Send mr. Higginson
    amongst us to be preacher unto us
    whose labour in the work of the
    ministry was Suitable Seasonable
    profitable according to the then present
    Dispensation of providence all which
    to gether put me upon more ear-
    nest indeavours then formerly by
    prayer hearing and laying up the
    word Studying the Scriptures ac-
    quainting my Self with the principles
    of the oracles of God unto which
    all truths may be refered and have
    found the benefit of that Study even
    to keep me Stedy from being decieved
    by the cunning and Subtle contrivances
    of Such as would be accounted to be
    angels of Light and yet in truth ar[e]
    the children of darkness who can cry
    up the Scriptures with great zeal and
    Solemnity even those that favour the lu[st?]
    of their hearts and others will Slight
    for this my time hath been a perilous
    age when So many false Christs hath
    appeared in the world to deceive
    Some they must have [Imediate]
    Revelations from heaven or else of
    no value others do affirm that
    though the Spirit doth witness

    Robert Chapman Letter 08
    witness according to the word yet
    without any condition or qualifica-
    -tion wrought in us : another Sort are
    those that Say there is nothing required
    of them but to believe that Christ
    hath done all for them and therefore
    neither Repent or obey the Gospel
    in the Sumery part there of -------
    another Sort and they are such as
    have gone creeping up and down
    the Country to gain Disciples who
    have and do teach that the Light that
    is in a person  if it be tended to is
    sufficient to Salvataion :these with
    Some others of Like import pass
    hard under Soaking awakenings to be
    Embrused ? as to bring rest to
    the Soul which through
    divine assistance upon tryall  I
    found them to lead off from
    Christ and so from rest for as much
    As they all have a tendancy to Cast off
    Christs yoak and therefore far off
    from bearing his Cross the nescesity
    of  which is So often urged by
    Christ himself otherwise we cannot
    be his disciples  his being prest[ ]
    hard upon me and the Sweetness of
    Communion with christ that I found
    in private prayer brought me up to a
    Settled resolution to be for Christ to  

    Robert Chapman Letter 09
    Stand for christ to take up his Cross
    and follow him in what capacity he
    Should bring me into which resolution
    I have found to abide and be helpfull
    to me Especially when I have Seen
    the cross coming to me and waies
    before me to Escape the Same o then ?
    do not deny Christ[?] hath Said that
    voice within me blessed by God that
    hath been my helper that in those
    criticall times and turns I have met
    withall that I have not imprisoned
    the truth when it hath come to
    my turn neither wickedly departed
    from my God :  my children I insist
    the more? here for this is foundati
    tion work it being laid upon christ
    Christ as a crucified Christ:  Christ
    As he is revealed in the Gospel
    Not coming with outwarn observa-
    -tion but with inward demonstra-
    -tion of the word and spirit of
    Christ thus lay your foundation
    and the building will Stand and in
    all matters you are called forth
    to attend  Let your business
    be with God  what Shall I do in
    this and that case, do not Confer
    with flesh and blood but Study
    the Good word of God  be proving
    what is the good and acceptable will
    of the Lord and keep close there to
    although you See the cross make  

    Robert Chapman Letter 10
    make fast toward you  flinch not
    for in due time you Shall reap if you
    faint not but Especially See that
    your foundation be laid upon Christ
    the discovery of his Love and rich
    Grace for this will allways be of
    a constraining nature to follow Christ.
    We Love him because he loved us first
    Gracious discovery begets love and love
    resolution as Some times he Said Should
    Such aman a I flee according to the
    Discoveries of free Grace So will be
    Our love : according to our love  So
    Our resolution for God ye Scripture is
    Plentifull in this 116 psam : I will
    love the Lord and the reason was
    because he had heard his Suppli
    cation and inclined his ear :
    but when was that when the
    Sorrows of Death compassed me
    about  and the pains of hell gat
    hold upon him as if david Should
    Say oh here is matchles love
    indeed when death and hell come
    together even then for God to
    hear and then to deliver
    this hath begotten love in my
    Soul  therefore hath thy Servant
    found in his heart to pray oh Says
    he I love the Lord and will call
    upon him so long as I live
    Children look to your

    Robert Chapman Letter 11
    your Selves : on this account Strong
    resolutions for God  Speake out
    Gracious discoverys of God : weak
    resolutions argues weak work and no
    resolution Seems to render a person
    as having yet his choice to make
    Standing upon an Indifferent point
    with god it is that wich which Some
    times you know I have hinted at
    when persons have been presented as
    fit for church comunion and to be en-
    -roled amongst the Saints they have
    Spoken Some more and Some less
    according to what God hath done for
    them but very little if anything
    at all what they will do for god
    which Seems to fall Short of all the
    examples both Christ himself and of
    the most Eminant of Saints and is a
    mongst many others  arguments an
    argument of declention and of pitifull
    low Spirits when Christ was asked
    whether he were a King Says Christ
    to this and was I born and for this
    Cause came I Into the world So Paul
    I go bound in the spirit to Jeru-
    -Salem : I have Sworn Says David
    and will perform that I will keep
    thy righteous Judgments :  See therefore
    what resolution and purpose of heart
    you are come to for as a man thinketh  

    Robert Chapman Letter 12
    thinketh in his heart  So is he the
    times coming on do call for Settlement
    See your foundations be Safe:  I have Insist
    -ed the more upon this because Scripture
    and experience Lays So much weight
    thereon  the church of Ephesus [haveing]
    fallen is commanded for her recovery
    to repent recover her first love and
    do her first works : I Shall now Come
    to Give Some hints Concerning the Build
    ing upon this foundation that is a Spirituall
    building, as the foundation is So must the
    building be :
    First then Remember that in this build-
    -ing there must be an agreement with
    the foundation in all the causes’ thereof the
    Eficient meritorious formall and finall
    causes : first the Eficient which is the
    Spirit of God without which you can-
    -not Strike a Stroke to the building
    aright : we know not how to pray as we
    ought but the Spirit helpeth our in
    firmities   it is not Grace received in
    the habit that will do but the operation
    is of the Spirit
    Secondly you must agree with the meri-
    torious cause and that is the righteous
    -ness of Christ that there is any good
    look from heaven upon a Sinfull Soul
    is the purchase of Christ : away then
    with that Self conceited righteousness
    of our own and feel and Say when we
    have done all we can we are

    Robert Chapman Letter 13
    unprofitable Servants
    Thirdly we must agree as to the formal
    cause faith in God and observance to
    God a believing hart and a Godly life
    you are no more Strangers and forainers
    Says Paul but fellow citizens with the
    Saints and of the household of God and
    are built upon the foundation of the 
    Apostles and prophets Jesus Christ
    Himself being the Chief corner Stone
    fourthly.: you must agree with the foundation
    as to the finall cause which is to build a Spirituall and So an Eternall house and hence
    this building is called a building of God an
    house not made with hands Eternal in the
    heavens : now where-Ever there is this
    foundation laid upon Christ there is a grow
    -ing Spirituall building there upon which
    Shall grow So high as to reach into
    heaven and there remain a holy temple
    through the Spirit unto the lord notwith
    Standing all the powers of darkness and the
    gates of hell that Shall not prevaile
    Fifthly that the guilding and the found-
    -ation may agree whatever you do Labour
    to keep up uprightness to God and to man
    a citizen of Sion is one that
    Speaks the truth in his heart : his heart
    and his tongue doth Sweetly
    agree then this Spirituall building  

    Robert Chapman Letter 14
    Spiritual building and foundation will agree also there is nothing that the Devill and his Instruments do more Set themselves against then the uprightness of the Saints and it is rare if one day pass but that a discerning Spirituall builder may See Subtile and crafty and many times undiscerned working of Sin Satan and the world to drive aman off from his up-rightness which if they can attain that they know the man is conquered and Like to have his portion with hippocrites  Now to leave with you my Children  Some of my obser-vations and experiences in my time of Snares and dificulties that I have been brought into and helped thereon First I have often met with 2 ways the one a way of uprightness with the Cross, the other away of falshood wth worldly advantage  I have Chosen the first Secondly : I have met with 2 Sorts of persons Saints and Sinners : by Saints I mean Such who are called faithfull and true and are like minded unto Christ :  by Siners I mean garnished profesors and yet Like minded with the world rising high in forms and outward Shews of holiness but as deeply bespoted with the filth of this world as others. were were there  visard taken off I have loved the first and been Shy of the Second try me o God and know my heart

    Robert Chapman Letter 15
    try me and know my thoughts and See
    if there be any wicked way in me and
    Lead me in the way Everlasting
    Thirdly I have met with temptations both
    from Saints and Siners who have delt In-
    juriously with me and ungratfully to have
    revenged my Self which I have had op-
    -pertunity to do : but the lord hath Said
    vengance is mine and I will repay believing
    that it Shall So be: have quieted my Self
    and been Still :
    fourthly : I have met with temptations on
    worldly preferments to conform to the
    Customs of the changing times it being the
    way to get up and hold out in honourable
    Employments but the Snares and temp-
    -tations that ly thick and Strong in such
    capacities have been fearfull to me I have
    not to my Knowledge used any indirect
    means for Such attainments lest the
    temptations Should be too hard for me
    and a trembling thing to me when God
    hath Called me forth upon the Stage of action
    Fifthly I have Seen the time when
    it was Joy to me to do that which
    was right and habve indeavoured
    to do So to mine enemies as well as
    friends: of Spiritual and Soul concerns
     in these particulers
    First I have Seen the time when
    Secret communion with Christ

    Robert Chapman Letter 16
    Christ hath been Esteemed by me as
    the most precious time in this world
    Secondly I have Seen the time that I have
    longed for the Sabbath before it came and
    when come Esteemed them honourable and
    holy unto the Lord
    Thirdly I have heard and recieved the word
    many a time with this prayer lord make this
    word Good to thy Servant:
    Fourthly : I have found a Difference in the
    Solemnity and awfullness of my heart
    betwixt the reading of the pure word of
    God and other mens works there from
    fifthly I have found great benifit in the
    comunion of Saints Specially in those days
    when Spiritual Experimentall things were
    brought forth: that which comes from the
    heart usually reaches the heart:
    Sixthly: I have thorow the Grace of god in
    dificult Cases which were beyond me
    been able to Commit my Self in the Sense
    of my own insifficientcy into the hands of
    him who is alsufficient and have had the
    accomplishment of that promise both in
    doing and suffering my Grace Shall be
    sufficient for thee
    Secondly The change of times in
    my time acording to my observation
    may not be unusefull to you if my
    time be divided into 3 parts I
    lived almost a 3rd part in Eng-
    -land before I Came into these
    Parts : that was a declining


    Robert Chapman Letter 17
    time as to the life and power of
    religion few there were in most places
    and Great places too that kept up
    religion in their families and things
    grew worse and worse: profanation
    of the Sabaths allowed by the 
    prelates bowing the bodys of the congre-
    -gation when the name of Jesus was
    mentioned with Severall other Injunct
    -ons to the Subverting of Souls : te
    Godly of the land grieved and not be-
    -ing able to help them Selves the others
    discouraged  So as they were Seen to
    walk on Every Side : then a time to
    make that prayer help Lord for the
    Godly  man ceaseth and the faithfull
    fail from among the children of men
    this I Saw in my first part of time
    in England and it was an Evil time
    that the Shadows of the Evening were
    Streched over the people of God
    A Second change of time in my
    time was in the morning of new
    England I may Say the first 20 years
    and it was a rising time glorious
    things were then reported of our Sion
     newenglands morning clear and beau
    tifull though not altogether without
    clouds of herisie which acationed
    trouble but yet Soon crushed the
    persons being found no better then 

    Robert Chapman Letter 18
    then wandring Stars and their doctrins
    Like Empty clouds without  water
    them had the Churches rest in New England
    and were Edified walking in the fear
    of the Lord and in the comfort of the
    holy ghost were multiplyed then was
    the glory of our first temple  such as
    its doubtfull whether Ever it will be
    recovered to : then were the churches
    organised with teaching Elders [Ruleing]
    Elders deacons all fixed in their places
    then were there to be found in the
    Churches men able pious men who
    could and did in the absence of their
    officers instruct the people out of
    the Scriptures to their edification
    and good sattisfaction then there were
    Signal testimonies of God hearing the
    prayers of his people with Speedy an-
    -swers there unto then God
    rebuking kings for the Sake of his
    people he broak their laws and cut
    their Spears assunder Saying be still
    and know that I am God  I will be
    exalted among the heathen --------
    The Last 3d part of my time or
    there abouts nigh 20 years accord-
    -ing to my observation hath been
    a declining time from those first
    ways as in general all or the most
    part do grant that after God hath
    done So well by us we have  

    Robert Chapman Letter 19
    Iesuran like waxed fat &
    kicked the heel and therefore have all
    those Evils come upon and over taken
    us : and that Seem to Increase upon
    us one year after another as if the
    Lord were resolved not only to make
    us Sick with Smiting but to give us
    a deadly wound that Shall not be
    healed : I Shall leave with you my
    Children Some perticulars of my
    observation and who wee may be
    compared unto  Surely in our first
    days to Capernaum lifted up to heaven
    and in our last days with those in
    malachies time inclineing downward
    towards hell :
    The first Sign of declention is loss of
    love and affection to God and his ways
    Saith Christ to the Church of Ephesus
    thou hast left thy first love their
    declention first begins in cooling the
    affections  and then diverting the
    judgement and practice So Say they
    the table of the Lord is poluted and
    his meate is contemptable as if they
    should Say it is poor beggerly living
    upon the provision God hath provided
    in his house, oh how many have
    there been in Churches who have for a
    considerable time well aproved of
    the doctrine of
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