A Visit to Chapman’s Corner: from Family Farm to Corporate Farm

This summer I spent some time browsing through back issues of the Family Herald, a popular Canadian weekly that ceased publication on Sept. 26. 1968. A column entitled Chapmans Corner caught my attention. Could it possibly have a connection with the community of the same name, located near Little Shemogue?

This area was settled about 1855 by Frederick and Bowden Chapman, sons of Philip Chapman. The various Chignecto Chapman families all descended from one William Chapman, who with his wife, four sons and four daughters, emigrated from Hawnby, Yorkshire to Point de Bute in 1775. So numerous were their offspring that it has been claimed that of all the Yorkshire families, the Chapman name has become the most numerous.

It did not take long to find a link with the Chignecto Chapmans. The writer, Lyman Thompson Chapman, was also a descendant of the same William Chapman, but through another branch of the family that settled in the Amherst area. Whether the title was simply a play on the family name, or inspired by the community of Chapmans Corner did not matter. I was hooked, and started looking for the column, which appeared during the 1960s. As might be expected, in a publication that focussed on rural and small town Canada, the column emphasized agricultural topics. However, Chapman frequently interspersed comments on early 20th century life in this region.

Who was Lyman T. Chapman? Born July 18, 1897, he was the son of Alexander Chapman and his wife Minnie Chapman, the latter a member of yet another branch of the William Chapman family. He graduated from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 1916, and shortly afterward joined the Royal Flying Corps. Following the war, Chapman attended the Ontario Agricultural College where he obtained his BSA. For most of the 1920s he was involved in agricultural extension work in Alberta.

A career in journalism beckoned in 1927 when Lyman T. Chapman was named editor of the North West Farmer in Winnipeg. He held this position until 1936 when he returned to the Maritimes. Named third principal of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Chapman succeeded Dr. John M. Trueman (1870–1937), a native of Point de Bute. For generations the neighbouring Chapman and Trueman families, among several others, exemplified the Yorkshire legacy in agriculture.

Unfortunately, Chapmans term as Principal was brief. Another war intervened, and he joined the RCAF in 1940. In 1947 he returned to journalism, being named Associate Farm Editor of the Family Herald. He fulfilled this latter position with distinction, until his retirement in 1963. Always a farmer at heart, Chapman then purchased a large dairy farm at Hudson Heights in Quebec. In addition to operating the farm he continued, for several years, to write his column and contribute feature articles on agricultural topics to the Family Herald. Lyman T. Chapman died in May, 1980.

Over his long life Chapman witnessed the decline of the family farm and the rise of todays familiar corporate farms. In his early years, horses were an essential part of the industry. By 1980 they had all but disappeared. As a progressive farmer, Chapman acccepted the inevitability of 20th century changes. However, his boyhood days, without electricity, few labour saving devices and backbreaking hours of toil were never forgotten.

Haymaking was the subject of one Chapmans Corner. He wrote: I remember in my teenage days, I helped my father make hay on the Tantramar marshes. Our limit in a day was to stow 10 tons of baled hay in a freight car. I recall that the best hay went into the mow for the horses, the other kinds were taken home for the cattle. Before World War I, a large percentage of our hay was sold for horse feed.

One winter the Chapman farm had the contract to supply hay for the horses at the Fire Hall in Amherst. I can think of no more satisfying job for a teenager than hauling hay to the fire horses. I remember one day when we got caught in a winter rain, with a load of hay on a bob sled. We unloaded the hay and got on our way for a cold, wet, seven mile ride home. Someone overlooked putting windshields and electric heaters on the bob sleds, and so if you got cold, you got off and walked behind the team. The hay we delivered to the Fire Hall yielded $10. per ton.

The advent of the automobile was an event of extreme importance. He wrote in another Chapmans Corner: I well remember, the first Ford that came into our community. It was a touring car, the forerunner of the convertible. But putting the top up and down was not done with pushbuttons! To start the engine, you cranked it by hand; sometimes it kicked like a mule. Changing a flat on a rainy night was a real test. It took a large and varied vocabulary to operate one of those early automobiles. Years later my first car was a second hand Ford coupe. There are many people today who will never know the joys of motoring on dirt roads (without shock absorbers) and with pneumatic tires carrying 50 to 60 pounds of air and flapping side curtains when it rained. There was one advantage. When the snow came, you set the car up on blocks to take the weight off the tires, and relied on Dobbin and the one horse open sleigh.

A matter of great concern to Chapman was the use of irreplacable farmland for the construction of the Trans Canada Highway. He knew the problem at first hand, since the route passed through part of his farm. Recognizing that such super highways were inevitable, he went on to urge engineers to redouble their efforts to select routes that bypassed valuable agricultural land. … I doubt if Henry Ford, far-sighted as he was, ever visualized the modern speedways with underpasses, overpasses and bypass circles that are required to keep our restless population on the move.

Because of his work as an editor Chapman frequently travelled by train. On one memorable trip he was accompanied by his wife and son. In December 1932 they took the train from Winnipeg to Amherst. His reason was a desire to once again experience a Maritime Christmas. The result was a story book holiday with festive meals hosted by members of the extended Chapman family.

In September 1967 Lyman T. Chapman made another memorable trip to the Maritimes. This time he travelled from Montreal to Truro to attend the annual Fall Assembly at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. The occasion was the official opening of a new mens residence named Chapman House in his honour. In a subsequent Chapmans Corner he provided a full account of the ceremony.

In addition to the ribbon cutting, Chapman had the privilege of unveiling a plaque inside the entrance to the new building, and following these events,to speak at the Assembly. In recalling earlier times, Chapman mentioned three interesting days in my association with NSAC the three that ranked above all others. First, there was the great day of my graduation in April 1916, when Principal Melville Cumming (1876 1969) handed me my diploma with a notation in red ink With Honours. This entitled me to attend the Ontario Agricultural College and complete my degree. The second great day came twenty years later on October 1, 1936, when I returned to the college as Principal. The third was Sept. 27, 1967 when Principal Dr. William A. Jenkins intoduced me to the Assembly.

Following his speech he admitted to his readers: I did a bit of day dreaming. As the students were presented for scholarships, I began to wonder which one of them might be Principal twenty years hence. For the record, from the third Principal appointed in 1936 Lyman T. Chapman down to the present Principal, Dr. Garth Coffin, all have been distinguished graduates of NSAC.

I am indebted to former Principal Dr. William A. Jenkins, once a student of Lyman T. Chapman, for his helpful information. Thanks must also go to the staff of the MacRae Library at NSAC, for their courtesy in giving me access to the Agricola Collection. Readers interested in learning more about the history of the college are directed to an excellent history: Shaped Through Service, written by A. Dale Ells.