Article on the original dedication of the William Chapman Memorial in 1939

A Stroll Back to 1774: William Chapman monument unveiled

The following is an address given by Dr. G.J. Trueman, president of Mount Allison University on Oct. 15, at the unveiling of a monument of William Chapman, who came to this country from Yorkshire, England, in 1774. The story was taken from The Sackville Tribune-Post, Oct. 19, 1939.

In 1771 Governor Francklyn went to Yorkshire to seek settlers for Nova Scotia. While in 1755 Fort Beausejour was taken, yet it was not until after 1760 that things became quiet enough to encourage settlement. Numbers of families from New England, who were themselves tenants of new England landlords, and many of whom were acquainted with Nova Scotia from previous war days, were encouraged to leave their homes and come in large numbers to Nova Scotia. These came mainly in 1762, 1763 and 1764 and settled largely in the Annapolis Valley, the Upper Saint John River, and on the Isthmus of Chignecto. Before 1771 a number of these had gone back to New England, dissatisfied with the country, and there they remained. There were also on the Isthmus a number of English settlers who had been connected with general work of the Forts, both Lawrence and Fort Beausejour, and there were some soldiers such as Majors Dickson and Goodwin and others whose descendants are still living on the Isthmus.

It was only natural that the men from New England would be more or less in sympathy with their brothers at home who, from 1765 on, had been increasingly dissatisfied with the British government. As is well known, when the Rebellion finally broke out in New England, there was considerable trouble on the Isthmus and in 1776 a strong effort was made by the rebels to take the fort and make this country a part of what has since become the United States. No doubt therefore, the British authorities were anxious to bring the country a number of settlers directly from England, who would not be disturbed by the local difficulties which caused the revolutionary war on this continent. Most Englishmen who came to this country were from Yorkshire, although a number were earlier of Scottish descent. With the exception of a few mechanics and tradesmen, all were farmers who had been on farms owned by landlords, and who came to this country to buy land of their own and till the soil. They left that part of the country no doubt for motives similar to those which led them into the Yorkshire valleys a century or more before. They were a determined and ambitious people, not any too willing to accept the dictates of their landlords, and determined to lead free, successful lives.

There has come down to us, recorded in the ship’s papers in the case of many of the families, the reasons why they left Yorkshire. The two most frequently given are on account of advance of rent and to seek a better livelihood.

We do not know the exact number of people who came from Yorkshire, but we know that among the first who came was Charles Dixon, who left for posterity complete records of his reasons for leaving Yorkshire, of the voyage over, and of his early experiences in this country. Mr. Dixon sailed from Liverpool on the Duke of York in the spring of 1772 and he bought over 2000 acres of land in Sackville on the 8th of June of that year. All of the land had been granted before the Yorkshire people came, so that in practically every case they had to buy from the other settlers. In 1773, 1774, and 1775, many more Yorkshire families, sailing from various ports, Hull being the favourite, came over. By the last of June, 1774, nine vessels had come into Halifax, carrying from 100 to 200 passengers each. At least one of the vessels went to Boston and passengers reshipped from there. The usual method of travel, however, was direct to Halifax where the women and children with the household furniture were transferred to schooners and sailed up the Bay of Fundy, landing at Fort Cumberland. The men frequently walked across country to Windsor and from there went by boat to Parrsboro and along the region now known as the Boar’s Back to River Hebert. Here they were met by boats at Minudie and from there carried to Fort Cumberland.

It is impossible to trace all of the families who came to this part of the country, but the following family names are representatives of those who settled in Amherst, Sackville, and Westmorland.

Amherst and vicinity: Black, Freeze, Robinson, Lusby, Oxley, Foster, Brown, Lodge, Ripley, Shipley, Pipes, Coates, Harrison, Fenwick.

Westmorland Point, Point de Bute, and Fort Lawrence: Keillor, Siddall, Wells, Lowerison, Trueman, Chapman, Donkin, Read, Carter, King, Trenholm, Dobson, and Smith.

Sackville and vicinity: Dixon, Bowser, Atkinson, Anderson, Bulmer, Harper, Patterson, Fawcett, Richardson, Humphrey, Cornforth, and Wry.

William Chapman came to Nova Scotia in the spring of 1774 bringing with him his wife and family of eight children, four sons and four daughters. He purchased a large block of land, near Point de Bute Corner, with the marsh adjoining, and settled at once on the property. This is a part of the grant on which we are now standing and the home remained in the Chapman family until a few decades ago, when it was sold to John Robinson, whose son, Fred, occupies it at the present time. William Chapman came from Hawnby, a beautiful hilly country on the high moor, some 30 miles from York, and about three miles from Helmsley, an interesting old town in the heart of the moor country. John Wesley spent some little time preaching in Yorkshire and gathered large numbers to his standard. In 1770 a small, stone Wesleyan church was built in Hawnby and this still stands and is in good repair. No doubt the Chapmans as well as many of the other Yorkshire families attended this church. When in Yorkshire a year ago, I visited a beautiful old inn with flagstone floor, leaded glass windows and thatched roof. This inn is over two centuries old and has been in the hands of the Ainsley family all that time. It is not more than three or four miles from the old Chapman home and I felt sure I was following the example of many of the old Yorkshire settlers when I drank a glass of beer with the present day farmers. Lord Faversham, who by the way is a son-in-law of Lord Halifax, is much interested in all his tenants, and encourages Mr. Ainsley to keep up the old inn even though a new building has been erected nearby.

The first Methodist church in the country now called Canada was built in 1788 on the land given to John Wesley by William Chapman. The old deed with the signature of Mr. Chapman has been placed in the Beausejour Museum, and with it many pictures of the country and old letters written shortly after the arrival of the Yorkshire men, may be seen by any interested.

Colonel Henry Chapman followed William Chapman on the old farm and of his five sons each measured six feet or over and all were well built in proportion and were outstanding men. Two of his sons, Joseph and Stephen, were among the volunteers of the war of 1812; both lived to be over 80 years of age. Joseph Chapman was the third of the name to live on the old farm and it was he who greatly enlarged the old cemetery in which we are standing by donating a considerable piece of land and bringing the cemetery to its present dimensions.

Apparently there was very little communication between the Chapmans who remained in England and those who came to this country. In 1789, however, a letter was received by William Trueman, of “Prospect” in Point de Bute, written to him by James Chapman, one of the relatives who remained in Hawnby. I am going to quote briefly from this as it gives you some idea of the old stock that came to this country:

“Dear Friends: What shall I say to you? How shall I be thankful enough that I have once more heard of my dear old friends in Nova Scotia. When John Trueman let me see your letter it caused tears of gratitude to flow from my eyes to hear that you were all alive….There has just been a conference at Leeds and good old Mr. Wesley was there among the, very healthy and strong, through 86 years of age. At our Hawnby Love Feast I had Mr. Swinburn and his wife two nights at my house. They seem to be people who have religion truly at heart and both earnestly desired me to remember them both to you in kind love. Pray give our find loves to our old friends, your father and mother, and tell your Father when I see my Tooth drawers (plyers) then I think of him, for he made them. My dear friends, farewell, ours and our family’s kind love to you and all your family, and also all the Chapman Families.

There is also an interesting reference to the Chapmans in a letter written from Yorkshire on January 15, 1881:

“Mr. Chapman – Sir: You will no doubt be surprised to receive a letter from an unknown relative. We were much pleased to learn that you had made inquiries about the Chapman family after so long a silence. We often heard father speak of Uncle William, who left Hawnby Hall for America and could not get any letter answered. Most of the Chapman family have passed away since he left. We have the four grandchildren left belonging to Thomas Chapman, brother of your grandfather. Your grandfather has been dead 80 years and your father has been dead 45 years. We should be glad to see you or any of the Chapman family if you could take a tour and see the place where your ancestors lived. The house and farm are still int eh family and should be glad to accommodate you if you should come over, and we shall be glad to hear all the news about the family who lived and died in America.”

In 1880 a search was made in the Church of England records in Hawnby for the Chapman name and the following is a brief report made by the rector of that day:

“I have examined the register and found frequent mention of the name of Chapman of Hawnby Hall, viz March 22, 1761 – John, son of William Chapman, Hawnby Hall, baptized Feb. 3, 1763 – Thomas Chapman, Hawnby Hall, baptized Feb. 3, 1763 – Thomas chapman, of the Hall, died aged 75 years: It would seem that the foregoing William chapman ws the son of Thomas Chapman and the man who landed in Halifax in 1774. About the latter date a family by the name of Barr came to reside at the Hall.

In 1920 a descendant of William Chapman visited Hawnby and wrote me a letter describing conditions there. The man in question was Dr. James Howard Robinson from Northfield, Minnesota. Mr. Robinson was a grandson of Edward Chapman, who went from Point de Bute to the United States as a young man and spent a long and successful life in that country, always retaining his British citizenship. I met James Howard Robinson first in Montreal where he occupied an important position in one of our colleges. He was a charming man with many of the graces and qualities which characterize the Chapman family, and was keenly interested to learn about his grandfather’s people in Nova Scotia. I quote form his letter a description of Hawnby and a reference to Hawnby Hall, where the Chapmans lived so long:

“I found a John Robert Chapman living at Hawnby, and I visited the place formerly known as Hawnby Hall, located a quarter of a  mile west of the little village. It is now known as ‘Home Farm,’ and is occupied by a family named Coates. The walls are four feet thick, and there is yet the old kitchen with big fireplace and roof beams and stone flags on the floor. The people about seem to think that Hawnby Hall used hundreds of years ago to be a nunnery or something of that sort. There are numerous foundations about the present farm house that would seem to indicate a much larger structure than exists at present. I visited the Barrs, a family who occupied the house after the Chapmans left. In the village is the old Methodist church, with builders’ plate date 1770. I was told that John Wesley preached there once when on his way to Newcastle. Our ancestors probably worshipped in the building, which was comparatively new when they left.”

In order to bring this little sketch up to date I should say that I visited Hawnby, Helmsely, and Billsdale in 1931 and again in 1938. I was delighted with the rugged, beautiful country and yet I felt that the Yorkshiremen came to a much better country agriculturally when they left the narrow valleys and high moor of that beautiful land to settle on the Isthmus of Chignecto. This summer I wrote to a friend whom I had made over there telling him that Dr. J. Clarence Webster was about to visit Scotland and would be honoured by the University of Edinburgh. I also referred to the fact that Dr. Webster was a direct descendant of William Chapman, who in 1774 had left Hawnby for the new world. A few weeks after I was surprised to get a larger Yorkshire daily in which my letter was quoted and a column given to the history of the Chapman family. After listing some of the men of the name in England who had gone out from Hawnby to make a name for themselves, the writers spoke of the one man of that name who still lived in that beautiful little village and referred to him in the highest terms. In his description of Mr. Chapman the writer referred to his geniality, his fine character, his love of sports, and to the fact that he was the sort of person whom everybody respected and liked. It seemed he was a great cricket player, one of the best in Yorkshire, and if he had cared to leave his business to make a specialty of it, it was stated he would have been one of the best in England.

It is a great satisfaction to me, as one who has always been interested in the Yorkshire families and has followed their history closely, to see this monument erected. This is just another of the many good things that we have wanted to see done, but would not have had the initiative to accomplish had it not been for Dr. J. Clarence Webster, who, although he has spent a great part of his life in another land, will be remembered in this province long after most of us are forgotten, for his patient and untiring research into our local history and his successful efforts in erecting museums and memorials. The descendants of William Chapman, those who bear the Chapman name, as well as large numbers who are the descendants of the daughters of the family, have made great settlers in this new country and as the country has developed, have adjusted themselves to changing conditions. They have been successful as farmers, as mechanics, as businessmen, as statesmen, as clergymen, as doctors, lawyers, educators. Wherever they have been they have been almost to a man, men of fine character, of abounding energy, ability, and outstanding in their community. We are certainly under great obligation to those who have made the erection of this monument possible and enabled us thus, to pay our respects directly to William Chapman and indirectly to others of the Yorkshire group and to all those pioneers who through hard work, sacrifice, and strict adherence to high principles of religion and patriotism, have laid a foundation in this country upon which those who follow may safely build.

During Yorkshire 2000 on August 8, the Chapman family will re-dedicate the monument which has been rebuilt.