The borough of Chapman, located on the west branch of the Monocacy Creek is the smallest, yet one of the most interesting boroughs in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
The town derives its name from William Chapman who was born in 1816 on the plains of Waterloo, at Mr. Toneshau, France. His father, William, was born in the parish of St. Teath, in Cornwall England and was a slater in the Delabole Quarries, owned by Lord Thomas Avery. Lord Avery outfitted a company of ninety men for battle. William was a lieutenant in the company. He was severely wounded in battle and taken to Mt. Tonenshau where his wife Elizabeth, who traveled there to be with him when she heard of his injuries, nursed him back to health. It was there that William Chapman was born. Both parents died in their native Cornwall.
William Chapman was raised in Cornwall and from the age of seven worked in the slate quarries where his father worked. He later secured employment in Devonshire, England where quarries were opened by Sir John Francis. William was later persuaded to work at Penn River Quarries in Wales, where Sir John Francis was Superintendent. He remained there for seven years and saved a sizable sum of money.
In the spring of 1842, William Chapman sailed for America aboard the vessel Hindoo. Upon his arrival in Easton, Pennsylvania, he presented his letters of recommendation to Mr. Erie, attorney-at-law. He went to Delaware Water Gap where a small quarry was in operation. After exploring the slate fields, he leased property in Northampton County which he later purchased and began the Chapman Slate Company.
William Chapman married Emily Carry who was born in South Carolina and educated in Baltimore, Maryland. William and Emily had seven daughters and four sons. Chapman was a staunch Democrat, a devout Episcopalian, and an active member of the Masons. He died on December 13, 1902.
The honorable Richard Chapman was born in Meadrose, Cornwall, England in 1840 and was the half-brother of William. In 1862, he came to America and settled in Pen Argyl, where he served as superintendent of the Pennsylvania Slate Quarry. In 1866, he became the superintendent of the Chapman Slate Quarry. Mr. Chapman was active in public matters, serving two terms in the Lower House of the State Legislature, on the local school board, town council, and two terms as chief burgess of the borough. He was also a delegate to the Democratic Convention. His grand Victorian home still graces the southern entrance to the borough on Main Street.
While Quarrying operations began about 1850, the borough was incorporated on October 25, 1865.
The quarry brought skilled slaters from Northern Wales, Cornwall, and Devon, along with laborers from Italy, into the gentle farmlands of eastern Pennsylvania. Chapman was a classic company town populated almost entirely by Chapman Slate employees. They lived in company-owned homes and bought goods at a company-owned store. The borough once boasted two churches, a school, a post office, a hotel, and a railroad station. Today, only the Chapman Quarries United Methodist Church remains.
Borough Hall was donated by the Slate Company and consists of a single meeting room and three small jail cells, complete with slate “potties”. The meeting room is used for monthly Borough Council meetings, while the jail is only used as needed!
At the peak of operations, the Chapman Slate Quarry produced about 10,000 squares of slate annually which equates to over 1,000,000 ft², enough to cover 23 acres.
The slate from Chapman Quarries is of a superior quality, dark blue in color, hard, close-grained, and tough. It absorbs no moisture and will not fade, discolor, or decompose. It was considered the best material for roofs at the time and is still found on many buildings in the borough. Many buildings on the east coast were built using slate from Chapman Quarries, including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the State Capitol buildings in Albany, NY and Hartford, CT.
The descendants of William Chapman sold the Chapman Slate Company on October 27th, 1944 to the Chapman Jones Corporation. Mr. Owen Jones, a principal investor in the corporation, was the quarry superintendent from 1928 until the sale. The Chapman Slate Quarries ceased operations in October, 1959, putting the last 25 slaters out of work.
Today, the “Hole”, now filled with water, the slate factory stack, and mountains of waste slate are all that is left of the former Chapman Quarries Slate Co.
The Borough of Chapman is very much alive. Its homes still look much like they did at the turn of the century and a few descendents of workers still reside in town. Everyone who lives in Chapman Borough knows that this is the town that slate built.
Researched and Written by Rev. Kenneth Klingborg