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. View Exhibit
A 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
Judith H. Halseth, Ed.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a
trustee of NEHGS and a tenth-generation descendant of Robert Chapman.
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