Hinkletown Early Families

Henry Charles Chapman Family

Henry Charles Chapman and Mary Ann Salmons Chapman settled near Hinkletown in 1857. The lengthy and interesting family history below traces their times from his shoemaking apprenticeship in England, arrival at New York in 1851, settlement at Hinkletown, the buildling of a log cabin on the English River, toils of raising their family, building new homes, and through 1914 when Mary Ann died. Their story is the testatment to many of the Iowa settlers, who struggled with the land and hardships of early Iowa.

H. C. Chapman


Mary Ann Salmons Chapman

The Family of Henry Charles Chapman - Nellie Maude Bever

Henry came from a large (perhaps well-to-do) family, and as such, he probably had more education than the average person of the time. There were at least four brothers, John, William, Thomas, and Charles. There is also mention of three sisters: Betsy, Susan, and Emma. Little else is known about the family. It is possible that Henry had a small store of money when he came to the US in 1851, as he was able to set up shop in Vienna, NY, and in two years' time, send for his wife and two sons, whom he previously left behind.

It appears that Henry was the only one in his family adventurous enough to shoulder the tools of his trade and strike out to make a place for himself in a new land. He was 19 years old when he finished his six years of apprenticeship to a London shoemaker who taught him his trade. He returned to his home town where he set up shop conducting it successfully. He was a skillful workman, expert in the use of all kind of leather. He must have been a good shoemaker and a good businessman as well. He made footwear for the workers of the region and fine boots for the Gentry as well.

Once he finished a pair of boots for the Lord of the land when he had the misfortune to spoil one boot. The pair was setting beside his bench, waiting to be claimed. He accidentally dropped his sharp leather knife and it cut a long slit in the leather of the boot. The leather was very expensive and he had only a few cuttings scattered around. After some thought, he contrived a fancy insert for each boot top to hide the cut, hoping that it would go unnoticed. The lord was very proud of his boots.

When he came to the US, Henry brought his tools - hammer, awl, wax ends and shoe lasts, trusting to the new land for good leather and people needing shoes. He must have found them very useful, and he gave them good service.

Mary Ann Salmons was the daughter of a minister, presumably a Wesleyan follower. Mary Ann said they never knew anything about their father. They had no idea where he came from, his nationality, or anything about his early life. He died suddenly leaving his wife with a family of daughters. Some way they managed, as families must under such conditions, and they married. From some things she had said, apparently Mary Ann worked as a domestic at various times but there is nothing clear about them.

When she was quite young, she had a young Jewish lover, a boy who came through the country selling goods from a pack. Whenever, he came, he brought lovely gifts to Mary Ann, whose mother had no desire for a son-in-law who was always traveling over the country with a pack on his back. She did fancy the young shoemaker in the village, Henry Chapman. She arranged a marriage between him and Mary Ann, who was forced to return the beautiful gifts from her Jewish lover and send him packing. In those days, parent's word was law, and Mary Ann was married to the shoemaker; a marriage that led her away from everything and everybody she had known and loved, into a land of untold hardship. One can only wonder how much homesickness and sorrow she had to endure. Like Henry, she had more schooling than many of her friends and neighbors. She had a knack for nursing, and she must have been adaptable, or she never would have survived.

Henry and Mary Ann were small people. Henry was lass than five feet tall, and slender, and Mary Ann was even smaller than he. Their bodies thickened with age, but they were never large. The first two sons, Charles Henry and Benjamin Salmons were five and three years old when they joined their father in Vienna, NY, where they lived for about four years. During that time Frederick Obadiah was born. Soon after Frederick's birth, the family again moved west. They lived for a short time in a small town, or fort, near the Mississippi River. A shoemaker could always make a living, and fishing was good there. In his adult years, Charles was heard to say that he ate so many fish during the stop beside the Mississippi that, "He couldn't look another fish in the face." But this was not the stopping place.

Again the journey west began, ending in 1857 for all time as far as they were concerned. They Made their way to Iowa County, IA, settling in Fillmore Township, post office Foote. There Mary Ann and three of their sons lived out their days. The family settled into a snug one-room log cabin near the English River. It was small but it was their own and they had few possessions. A fireplace at one end provided heat for comfort and preparation of food. At the other end was a big double bed under which a trundle bed was hidden for the day. This gave sleeping quarters for the small children and the parents. The big boys climbed the ladder into the attic above, a snug place in cold weather, a hot one in summer. The cabin had a puncheon floor, which are logs split in half, laid close together, split side-up. This made for a warm floor, fitting snugly to the sides and end of the building. There were no mop boards to give a smooth finish. A trap door near the big bed gave access to the root cellar below. This door was not hinged. It was a covering for the hole and fitted onto a framework made for that purpose. It was easily moved and was very useful in cold weather. Other furnishings were probably only the most needed, a crude table, some chairs or benches, some storage for dishes and utensils. It took little to make up a home in those days.

They must have found a fairly well settled community. Henry built a small shop near the cabin and did a thriving business. People always needed shoes and shoes always needed mending. Three children were born on the Iowa farm, very likely all of them in the log cabin. Alfred was born August 4, 1857; Emma December 25, 1860; Joseph March 28, 1865. It may be that Joseph was born in the house that they built farther from the river near the west side of the place, but it is certain that Alfred and Emma were born in the cabin.

This home in the woods must have been Paradise to 30-year-old Henry and 28-year-old Mary Ann, coming from a land where the fish and game belonged to the gentry, and there was a heavy penalty to pay if one snared a rabbit or angled for a fish. Here game of all kinds was plentiful. There were deer, wild turkeys, prairie chickens, timber squirrels, cotton tail rabbits, free meat for the snaring. The river held good fish, the bees furnished honey and the soil was rich. No doubt they had food beyond their wildest dreams.

But the cabin was built too near the river. All went well for some years, probably about 1861. One night, all were snug in bed, the big boys upstairs, the little boys, Fred and Alfred, in the trundle bed and the baby Emma in bed with her parents. Alfred, about four years old, woke to find his bet wet, really wet. He yelled that his bed was wet. His father shouted, "If it is wet, you know how it got that way! Now shut up!" So Alfred shut up, but not for long. The bed got wetter and wetter until the boy could stand it no longer. Again he wailed that his bed was wet. Now when Henry told his children to do something, they did not talk back to him. Henry was a violent man. Henry sprang from bed to settle the young boy, and plunged through the trap door into the cellar full of cold river water.

Fortunately, though, he bobbed back up through the opening where the trap door cover had floated off. Though the trundle bed was soaked, the water was not yet deep in the room. There was a great scrambling to get out of the house. The cattle were lowing in their pens, and everything was awash! Henry and the big boys fastened the oxen to the wagon and brought it to the house where they loaded it with bedding and supplies and started for dryer land. The cattle swam and waded two miles to a neighboring farm where the earth was dry. Loosening the oxen from the make-shift boat, they put them into a corral, made the place comfortable for sleeping and finished out the night there. It was two weeks before they got back home.

As the logs in the puncheon floor settled, it caused them constant planing to even it out. The shavings and splinters were swept to the ends of the logs and many of them settled into the open spaces between the wall and logs. They were dry, and good for quicken the live coals in the fireplace. Anyone making up the fire knelt and scooped up a double handful of shavings and threw them into the fire. The shavings proved an attraction for rats and squirrels also. They started nesting in there, which wasn't very good. So, Henry set steel traps there and anchored them securely so the catch wouldn't get away. One warm evening Mary Ann knelt down to scoop up a handful of shavings for kindling. Each hand went into a trap, and there she was on her knees unable to get free. Emma was a good sized child by this time, but she couldn't talk. Her mother sent her to the shop to fetch Henry, who never allowed the children in the shop. Too little to make herself understood, the child was sent back to the house. Her mother again sent her to the shop. Henry then suspected that something was wrong, and returned to the house where he freed Mary Ann from the traps.

Mary Ann's hands were badly damaged and a doctor came to the house to dress them. Of course, the story about the little girl being unable to make her father understand the situation came out. The doctor then examined the little girl. He opened her mouth, and found her tongue-tied. He snipped the cord holding her tongue down. Nobody ever suspected that she might be tongue-tied. Henry claimed that she never stopped talking after that.

After a few years they built another house farther from the river and there they ended their days. This new place was heavily wooded. There were great trees, nuts, thickets of wild fruits, and great bed of wild flowers. Much of these woods remained intact during the lives of Henry and Mary Ann. Small plots were cleared for corn, oats, and vegetable gardens. There was a small apple orchard. Usually there was a row of wooden paint kegs in one-gallon size, sitting along the garden fence in which Henry had planted seeds from especially good-flavored apples.

The kitchen was near the house, fenced all around with a gate near one corner. Just inside the fence, on all four sides were rows of small fruits - raspberries, gooseberries, and red and white currants. There was a huge Locust tree and a cherry tree in front of the house and a clump of Bleeding Hearts that survived many cuttings taken from it to beautify other homes.

The small wooden house had only four rooms for many years, a large room and a small one below the stairs, with the same arrangement above. It was a comfortable friendly house where all children grew to adulthood before moving to homes of their own. Most of them remained in the same locality to the end of their days. This was a home in the woods with small patches cleared for the growing of oats, corn, vegetable and garden - so little of it cleared that the boys were soon able to do the field work required. Anyway, Henry was no farmer; he was a tradesman - trained maker and mender of footwear.

He had his small workshop close to the kitchen door of the house and there did whatever work came to him. Also there were always the tasks of keeping up fences, fishing in the river for the fresh water fish they came to enjoy. And he became an expert at locating bee trees so the family always had a fresh supply of honey, even a few hives in the orchard. There is always plenty for a handyman to do wherever there is a home.At one time he had a shop in South English, a flourishing town some miles away. Each Monday morning he would walk over there, stay the week through and walk home Saturday night, to spend Sunday. He liked South English; he had a good business and he enjoyed the people. He decided it was a good place for him and his family to live. He was a good walker, as most people were in those days, and the journey didn't seem to bother him. He just wanted to live in town. So there he made a deal, trading the farm for what he considered a fine house in the town. When he reached home he told the family that they were going to move, making much of the grand life they would lead.

But he hadn't reckoned on his wife. She said, "No", and all the raging he did made no difference. They had a home, a better one than they had ever dreamed possible, and there she meant for them to stay. She would not sign the deed and all he could do was tell the man the deal was off. Henry was an angry man. His raging made no impression on this woman who had endured much and would endure more. She could not be moved. At last Henry took off, telling them he was moving back to England. Nobody tried to change his mind, so he went back. But he didn't go far and he didn't stay long. He made threats often through the years, and he went away frequently, staying a long time and saying nothing as to his activities during his absence. The family considered it just one of his habits and went on with their daily lives as though that was the way people normally lived.

For all of his fits of temper, he was a public spirited man, serving as Road Supervisor and a School Director. School terms were only a few weeks in winter when the young people could be spared from home duties, and another few weeks in the Spring for younger children and little beginners.

Hinkletown was a busy village with the usual activities of a country town. An ambitious Irish and English community kept things lively. There was a store where necessities could be obtained, a blacksmith shop, a sawmill where lumber could be made from a man's own logs. It was a long walk through the woods on a cold snowy mornings, but hardship was part of daily life. The children to the west would make a point of stopping at the Chapman house to get warm, and often, were fed pancakes hot from the griddle to help get them warm.

With the exception of Benjamin, the Chapman children went to the Hinkletown school and absorbed whatever learning they could. Little Ben had an unfortunate experience with the teacher the first day of school. For some little thing nobody can remember, the stern man teacher took him up in front of the class, took down his trousers, and whipped him. He never wanted to go back, and his parents saw to it that he never did go back. He never learned to read and write; perhaps he never thought he never would since his eyes were poor and those were the days when nothing was done to help children through such things.

By 1894, the children were all married and the old folks were alone in the little house in the woods. Charles had been off to war, came home safely, married, had a family, and lived near on a farm of his own. Ben had married and gone to Nebraska to live; Fred, Alfred, and Joe all had families and lived on farms. Emma married and followed Ben to NE. Even the grandson, Daved, whom they had reared in their home following the death of his young mother, was no longer with them.

Their sons were busy men, long as the work days were, they still were too short to get all the tasks finished, so that there were fewer visits to the old folks, who felt lost without the old time confusion of a house full of young people.

Since Fred's family lived just a short hop down the lane from the home, they saw most of them every day, and the others came more often than the grandparents realized, but they were lonely.In May of 1894, they decided to attend the Decoration Day observation. They spruced up with new clothes, shined up the buggy and the horse and harness. All ready for a holiday on May 30. But, the day before the holiday, a calf made its way into a neighbor's pasture and had to be brought home. Taking Fred's son Joe with him, Henry went after the calf which was in a pasture near the river. The calf ran here and there with Joe and Henry in pursuit. Overcome by the heat and the violent exercise, Henry fell and died almost instantly. He was sixty nine and a half years old.

Mary Ann stayed on in the old home. There were plenty of grandchildren to keep her company, sleep with her nights, and helping her with the tasks around the place. She kept her few cows, raised some chickens and her garden as usual.

Soon after coming to Iowa they had affiliated themselves with the Christian Church at Fairview, a country parish. The children had been baptized in that church and it was their religious home. Soon after Henry's death, Mary Ann became a member of the Little Creek Catholic Church (Hinkletown) and so remained the rest of her days. Her sons were not pleased at the change, but the daughter had no fault to find. If that was Mother's choice, and she was happy, that was the way it should be. She remained a Catholic to the end, and lies in St. Patrick's "Little Creek" Cemetery several miles from Henry's last resting place in Clothier Cemetery, both country cemeteries.

For a number of years Mary Ann remained in her home the whole year through. Wherever she wanted to go, she drove her old white horse and was content to live a busy life among her neighbors, her friends, and her family. She was only sixty-seven when she was widowed, and a sturdy old lady. But, the winters were long, cold, and snowy in Iowa. It took a lot of wood to keep homes warm and a lot of work keeping comfortable in the house. she never kept her house as warm as most people, and though she never seemed to suffer from the cold, it worried the children when she grew older. So, when the first snow came, one of them would bundle her up and take her home with him for the winter where they knew how she was getting along.

Alfred had a motherless family and it is likely he had her more winters than any of them. He had a large comfortable home in Wellman, Iowa, and his children were very good to Grandmother. But, it was a task keeping her after the days grew longer. She was always eager to get home, back to her own house and her own things. As she grew older she had frequent severe illnesses, she had lost two sons, Charles and Fred, the log house began to go to pieces and no one made an effort to repair it. The foundation settled and the sagged; squirrels started making homes there, and various things went wrong.

By that time Mary Ann was in her eighties and she still wanted to be at home, so she went to live with her daughter-in-law, Ardelia and her family. There she ended her days, peacefully slipping away during the night of Aug. 31, 1914, twenty years, four months after Henry's death.

Frederick Obadiah Chapman: Third Son of Henry and Mary Ann


Frederick O. Chapman Family - Courtesy of Burrell Brenneman

Frederick Obadiah, third son of Henry Charles and Mary Ann Chapman, was born June 6, 1855 at Vienna, NY. He died November 3, 1901 at his home near North English, IA having spent his entire life time, after coming to IA, on the same land. He was forty-six at the time of his death, a victim of pneumonia.

When he was very young he learned the plastering and brick laying trade. He was seventeen years old when he came down with typhoid fever. There was an epidemic at the time and the entire family was stricken with the illness, with the exception of the father. Perhaps that was the year they moved from the cabin by the river to a house where the parents ended their days.

Fred was plastering the house when illness struck him. Quite suddenly he was very ill. He went to the other men who were working there and tried to tell them there was a storm coming. He wanted them to cover the mortar box of plaster he had made ready for a room he meant to plaster. He could not talk and had hardly enough strength to show them what he wanted. He was very ill for a very long time. His mother lost all her hair because of the fever from the illness, and when it came back in again, it was snow white and curly.

There was plenty of water in Iowa at that time. It was near the surface and good. Wells were dug with spades - deep and wide and round. When the digging started, Fred would begin walling the well with brick from the top following the spades down until the water was too deep for him to work in. If that well played out, or they wanted one in a more convenient place, they had Emma get a hazel switch and witch them another one. He followed this trade as long as he lived.

In 1875, when he was twenty years old, Fred married Harriet Simmons, a very young girl. They had a son Daved Benjamin, born October 12, 1876, and a daughter born in 1878. Apparently they lived near the home folks, for Mary Ann baked bread for Harriet when she became ill. When the baking was done, one loaf was hollow. At once Mary Ann said, "Harriet will die," and Harriet did die, leaving a baby girl who lived only eight months and was laid to rest beside her mother in Clothier Cemetery. The boy, Daved (this is the spelling his grandmother used) grew to manhood in his grandmother's home, which was only a short distance from his father's house.

February 14, 1880, Fred married Ardelia Miller and they made their home at the end of a lane east of the home place, as long as Fred lived. Fred was a fine man, a good neighbor, a kind parent, a thoughtful son, and a good citizen. He was a natural violinist, a real old-time fiddler. He could forget all his worries when he got the fiddle going.

He gave a lot of time to community interests, notably persuading his neighbors to help bring the rural telephone into being in their neighborhood. After it was working and people had become used to it, it was not uncommon for Fred or Charlie to give the general ring and get everybody on the line; then they gave the folks an evening of entertainment Fred fiddling and Charlie jigging. With the passing of time, Fred's family grew and grew. At the time of his death, he had eleven sons and daughters, a few days after his passing a daughter was added, making twelve - five sons, and seven daughters.

He had a very small bit of land, a portion of the land his father had acquired, and very small buildings. But there was always room and a welcome for company and, though he had little money, he was always ready to help anyone in need. One winter, when he had seven children, and a scant amount of provisions since he had been able to collect very much money he had earned at his trade, a young man with his wife and five children spent the winter with them. This man was destitute, unable to contribute in any way toward the living. At last he found a job cutting down trees and making fence posts at fifty cents a day. But he had no ax and was practically barefoot. Fred loaned him an ax and bought him a pair of boots for $1.50. They must have found that winter hard to live through.

As time passed and the children became "young folks" he began to get a few of the things he wished for. Among them were a driving team and buggy. He seldom allowed the boys to drive the team, but, if they did, they had to be home within a certain time and the horses must not have been driven beyond a moderate trot.

One day, Joe was away with the team and Fred sat fiddling as he did whenever the opportunity came. Looking out of the window he saw his precious team tearing down the lane on a dead run. He laid his fiddle on the table and went to meet the lad and tell him what was what. He found he had been fiddling for dear life while his house was burning down. All they saved was the fiddle.

He was the only one of the Chapman men who wrote letters. He wrote rather often to his sister and brother in NE, keeping them informed as to the parents and brothers, and urging them to return to Iowa. He was sure it was just as good as Nebraska - even a little better. The sister did return for a little while but Ben never did.

Fred was laid to rest at the side of his young wife, Harriet in Clothier Cemetery. His wife, Ardelia, outlived him many years, spending her last days in Keota, IA, where she had a home and several of her children were near. She was buried in the Keota Cemetery.

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