The Chapman History


Jesse Chapman (1790’s – 1830’s)


Jesse Chapman was born in the late 1790’s (1797-1799) in present day Alabama.[1] We know absolutely nothing about his parents except that they lived on the frontier during chaotic times.  Alabama was disputed territory being claimed by the US, Spain, Britain and various Indian tribes.  Life would have been very difficult.

Jesse[2] first appears in the census of 1820 in Perry County[3], Alabama.  He likely married Mary Polly McCrady on September 25, 1820.[4] She, however, probably died within the first couple of years of their marriage and Jesse remarried Rhody (Rhoda) Sweeten[5] on June 10, 1823 (Her brother/father?, Eli Sweeten, signed her marriage bond on June 7, 1823).

Jesse and Rhody’s first son, James M. (Martin?), was born about a year later (1824-25) in Alabama.[6] The family soon moved (1825-28)[7] to Hardeman County, Tennessee, following the purchase of the land by the United States from the Choctaw Indians.  Rhody’s uncle, Dutton Sweeten, had also moved to Hardeman County.[8] By the 1830 Census, Jesse and Rhody have five children—James (age 5-6), an unnamed daughter, an unnamed son (possibly Alexander)[9], Eli (age 1-2) and Jesse (age 1).

By the 1840 census, Rhody is listed as the head of the household.  Jesse had evidently died (around the age of forty) between 1838-40, since three of the children are under the age of five.  In addition to the previous five, Rhody now has Rachel (age 4), an unnamed daughter and an unnamed son for a total of eight.

By the 1850 census, Rhody (listed as age 47), Jesse (listed as age 18, probably 19) and Rachel (listed as age 14) are living with James and Mary.[10] Rhody dies during the 1850’s and the burial places of Jesse and Rhody are currently unknown (likely on or near the family farm in Hardeman County, TN).

The only remaining information about Rhody is a civil lawsuit she file in Tippah County,[11] MS, in March 1850:

Tippah Co., MS, Case 3136: Rhoda Chapman versus Eli Sweeten and Marion Sweeten.[12] Chapman claimed a slave, Sukey (age 38-40) and her child, Sarah (age 6 months) were taken by Eli and Marion Sweeten.

Rhoda Chapman was likely Eli’s sister, Dutton’s niece and Marion’s cousin. The outcome of the suite is unknown.   A similar case occurred in Tippah County the previous fall:

Tippah Co., MS, Case 3081: Samuel M. Sweeton versus Eli M. Sweeton.  September 1849 case regarding a slave named Burrell, age 35. Samuel states that slave was wrongfully taken by Eli and Marion Sweeton. Eli was Dutton Sweeton’s nephew. Marion was Dutton’s son. Samuel’s relationship is unknown. The outcome of the suite is unknown.[13]

James M. Chapman (1824/25-1880’s)

James M. Chapman was born in Perry County, AL, but grew up on the frontier in Hardeman County, TN.  He married Mary M. Bieber (born around 1828 in North Carolina) in September 1845 in Hardeman County, TN.  He was around twenty and she was seventeen.  Mary was the daughter of Henry B. Bieber and Amelia Miller.  Henry and Amelia had moved from North Carolina to Hardeman County in 1844 and was living near the Chapmans according to the 1850 Census.  A year later, Henry Thomas Chapman is born on July 23, 1846.  By the 1850 census three children have been born into the family—Henry (4), Jesse (2), and Nancy (11 months).[14] James’ mother Rhody and his sister Rachel and brother Jesse are also living with the family.  Both James and Jesse have “farming” listed as their occupations.  The 1850 Census:

James                                    (24)

Mary                                    (22)

Henry                                    (4)

Jesse                                    (2)

Nancy                                    (11 months)

Rhody                                    (47)

Rachel                        (14)

Jesse                                    (18)

By the 1860 census, James and Mary are living in District 10 of Hardeman County with nine children having been born into the family.  Of an interesting note, James R., who was born in 1854-55, was born in Mississippi—all the rest having been born in Tennessee.  The family may have been visiting relatives in Tippah County when James R. was born—perhaps the Sweetens, Rhody’s family.  The family is listed as follows in the 1860 Census:

James                                    (36)                        1824

Mary                                    (32)                        1828

Henry T.                        (14)                        1846

Jesse                                    (12)                        1848

Nancy                                    (12)                        1849

Louizon                        (9)                        1851

Francis                        (7)                        1853

James (R)                        (5)                        1855            (born in MS)

Eli                                    (3)                        1857

Thomas                        (2)                        1859

Infant                                    (1 month)            1860

According to the 1860 census, Eli (James’ brother) was living next door.  Eli had married Mary’s sister Equilla Bieber in March of 1850.  Equilla had been previously married to Benjamin H. W. Portis on June 20, 1842.  They had three children together—Jeremiah Franklin Portis (Apr. 19, 1843 – Oct. 7, 1920; born in NC); Henry Clay Portis (Nov. 19, 1844 – Sep. 21, 1907; born in Ripley, MS); and Levinia Elenor Portis (Dec. 28, 1846 – Nov. 1, 1927; born in Ripley, MS).[15] By 1860 Eli and Equilla have William W. (1851), John B. (1853), Jesse Tigg (1856 – Sept 28, 1940), Mary Ann (1857), and Eli S. (1859).

Nothing is known about James and Mary during the Civil War.[16] Their oldest son Henry Thomas, however, became involved in the conflict.  In the 1870 census, the family is still living in Hardeman County, district 10.  Equilla lived next door, perhaps having moved there due to a divorce from Eli.[17] Henry Thomas had married and was living with James and Mary.  He and his wife had a son two years old (James).  James and Mary are listed as having eight children—it appears that the infant from the 1860 census had died.  The Census of 1870 has:

James                                    (50)

Mary                                    (45)

Thomas                        (22)

Mar (?)                        (20)             Thomas’ wife.

Jessy                                    (21)

Nancy[18] (18)

L                                    (16)

Frances                        (14)

John                                     (12)

David                                    (10)

S                                    (8)

J                                    (2)            Most likely Thomas and Mary’s son.

Sometime in 1871-72[19], the family moved near Covington in Tipton County, TN.  Equilla Chapman moved her family to Tipton County as well with the 1880 Census listing her as “divorced” from Eli.  The 1880 census lists J.M. and Mary as living in District 1 of Tipton County (which included the county seat of Covington).  They have a son Chad (?), age 15, and a son George (listed as having paralysis), age 10, along with two grandchildren living with them.  The 1880 Census:

J.M.                                    (55)

M.M                                    (53)

Chad (?)                        (15)

George                         (10)

E.M. Hightower            (8)            Granddaughter

J.R. Hightower            (4)            Grandson

Nancy Sanford            (27)            Servant             (African American)

Eva                                    (3)                                    (African American)

Minnie                                    (2)                                    (African American)

We do not know when James and Mary died.  Their places of burial are also unknown,

although their son Eli and Mary’s sister, Equilla (tombstone picture at the right), are both buried in the Townsend Cemetery just north of Covington in Tipton County, Tennessee.

Henry Thomas Chapman (July 23, 1846—May 3, 1928)

Henry Thomas was the firstborn son of James and Mary Chapman, having been born on July 23, 1846, in Hardeman County, Tennessee.  He was named after his maternal grandfather, Henry B. Bieber.  He was just about old enough to work on the family farm when the Civil War broke out.  Family tradition states that Henry Thomas joined the Confederate Calvary when he was just sixteen, more likely seventeen.  The following is historical information on the cavalry unit of which he was a part:

15th (Stewart’s-Logwood’s) Cavalry Regiment [also called 2nd Organization or 15th Consolidated] was assembled at Oxford, Mississippi, in February, 1864. It was organized by consolidating part of the 15th (Stewart’s) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, Street’s Mississippi Cavalry Battalion, and the 16th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. The unit served in R.V. Richardson’s and E.W. Rucker’s Brigade, skirmished in Mississippi and Georgia, then returned to Mississippi and fought at Harrisburg . Later it moved to Tennessee and saw action at Memphis, Franklin, and Nashville. Only 75 men came back from Hood’s operations, and in February, 1865, the regiment was ordered to Alabama where it surrendered in May 1865. The field officers were Colonels Thomas H. Logwood and Francis M. Stewart, and Major Solomon G. Street.

Civil War records reveal that Henry Thomas joined the 15th Consolidated Cavalry, Company E (his tombstone reads Company D), which was organized in Tippah County, Mississippi, on October 1, 1863.  Many of the company had previously served in Street’s Mississippi Cavalry Battalion (Henry, however, is not listed as being in Street’s unit).  If Henry joined at that time, he was just over 17 years old.  Several of Henry’s relatives had moved to Tippah County including the Sweetens and possibly an uncle (Alexander Chapman).  Henry’s younger brother James had been born in Mississippi in 1855.

We know very little about Henry’s service in the Civil War.  When he died in 1928, his letters from the war was given to his son Jessie and nothing is known of what happened to them.

Family legend says that Henry met Mary Serena Orlina Millikin when he came to inform her of her husband’s death the last year of the Civil War.  Mary was the daughter of Randolph Millikin (sometimes spelled Milegan or Millegan) and Sarah Jones, who moved to Tippah County from Alabama in the 1840’s (since both Nancy and Mary are listed as having been born in MS).  In the 1850’s Census, Randolph had the following family:

Randolph                        (26)

Sarah                                    (26)

Nancy                                    (5)

Mary                                    (3)

Nancy Jones (?)            (23)  Very likely Sarah’s sister.

In the 1860 Census the Millikins are living in Tishomingo County, MS.  Randolph and Sarah are both listed as having been born in AL (Randolph in 1823 and Sarah in 1825).  The 1860 Census:

Randolph                        (36)

Sarah                                    (34)

Nancy                                    (15)

Sarena O.                        (12)

Milus                                    (3)

Rhoda A.                        (5 months)

RuAnna Jones            (53)            Most likely Sarah’s mom.

The Millikins likely moved back to Tippah County during the Civil War for Mary marries William Pryor Davis in Tippah County on March 27, 1864.  After William’s death, Mary married Henry Thomas sometime between 1865 and early 1868.  Henry Thomas returned to Hardeman County following the war with his new bride and they had James Randolph Chapman on March 11, 1869.[20]

In the early 1870’s, Henry and Mary moved to Tippah County, Mississippi, where Mary’s family was living.  They very likely moved about the same time James and Mary moved to Tipton County, Tennessee (very likely in 1871).  Henry and Mary would eventually have nine children, with six surviving into adulthood (this according to the 1900 census)[21]:

James Randolph (Jim)             b. 11 Mar 1869              d. 10 July 1930

Minnie Florence                         b. 19 August 1876              d. 22 Feb. 1963

Jessie M.                                      b. 30 Jan 1878              d. 1948

Serena Beulah                          b. Jan. 1881              d.

Nara M.                                      b. Jan 1884                          d.

Hugh Thomas                          b. 30 August 1886              d. 24 January 1942

Henry eventually purchased land in eastern Tippah County near the Hatchie River where he farmed and raised his family.  By the 1880 Census Henry and Serena are living in District 4 and have the following children:

Thos                        33

Sarena            32

James                        11

Minnie                        3

Jesse M.            2

Henry Thomas’ (Tom’s) occupation is listed as a miller and farmer.  Sarena is listed as “keeping house.”  James is listed as being “Maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled” and is not able to write.

According to family tradition,[22] Henry and Mary moved to Arkansas in the early 1880’s due to difficult economic times in Tippah County.  While in Arkansas, Henry Thomas believed an African American had insulted his wife Mary.  He threw the man into a well.  Believing he had killed the man (it later was discovered that the man had not died).  Henry fled back to Mississippi, crossing the Mississippi River on horseback.  Mary and the children returned to Mississippi by train (Hugh was a baby and became very sick while returning on the train) around 1887.

In the 1900 Census three children are still living with Henry Thomas and Sarena:

Henry T.            53             (July 1846)

Sarena            52             (Oct. 1847)

Jesse M.            22             (Jan. 1878)

Nara M.            16            (Jan. 1884)

Hugh T.            13             (Aug. 1886)

The 1910 Census has two grandchildren living with Henry Thomas and Sarena.  Henry is listed as a “survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy.”  The names are as follows:

Henry T.            63

Sarena O.            62

Clovis C. (?)            12 (Grandchild)

Ola M.            (?)            7   (Grandchild)

The last census to list Henry and Sarena is the 1920 Census.  The names are as follows:

Henry                        73

Sarena O.            71

Olgie (?)            (?)

Myrtle                        (?) (Granddaughter)

Thurman (?)            (?) (Great Grandchild)

Sarena passed away on Saturday, September 10, 1921, and was buried at Criswell Cemetery near Pine Grove, MS.  The obituary in the Southern Sentinel (Ripley’s newpaper) read, CHAPMAN, MRS. H. THOMAS (091521) died Saturday.

After Sarena’s death, Henry Thomas moved in with his son’s family, Hugh and Mary Chapman.  Mary’s father, Albert Ralph, had also moved in with the family.  “Tom” and “Alb” often got into arguments, to the delight of the grandchildren.

One famous family tale was the time Henry Thomas killed a bear barehanded.  Henry was walking from Memphis to Tippah County at night when he walked right into a black bear that attacked him.  According to family tradition, Henry was so scared he grabbed the black bear and literally squeezed it to death.

Henry passed away seven years after Sarena on Tuesday, May 3, 1928.  His obituary in the Southern Sentinel read, CHAPMAN, W. TOM (050328) died Tues., age 82 / buried, in Criswell Cem. / his children are Hugh, Jess, Jim, Mrs. R.D. Montgomery, Mrs. W.A. Mullikin, Mrs. Beulah Turner.

Hugh Thomas Chapman (August 30, 1886—January 24, 1942)

Hugh Thomas was the youngest child of Henry and Mary Chapman, having been born on August 30, 1886 in Tippah County, Mississippi.  He was named after his father (unknown why “Hugh” was chosen).

Hugh grew up on the farm in eastern Tippah County and married Mary Ellen Ralph on July 26, 1906.  The wedding was performed by Andrew Crockett Vandiver, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church.   Mary was the daughter of Albert and Sarah Ralph, who had moved to Tippah County from Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Hugh and Mary lived in the Clear Creek Community until Jan. 31, 1918, when his father sold the land and bought 460 acres in the Chapman Community.  Hugh and Mary moved along with his father and lived on the place until Hugh’s mother died. Following her death, Hugh bought the land from his father and made it his home with his father until his father’s death in 1928.

About 1920, Hugh and Mary gave land to build a black church and school, which reverted back to them when the school disbanded. On Sept. 14, 1927, they gave five acres of land to build a four-room grade school. This building burned in 1933, and that summer, school was held under a brush arbor.

Hugh and Mary would eventually have nine children:

Georgia (b. 1908; d. )

Gladys (b. 1909; d.

Hollis Randolph (b. 1911; d. May 11, 2000)

Clytee (b. 1914; d. Jan. 5, 2004)

Hugh Ralph (b. Jan. 6, 1915; d. June 11, 1995)

Inez (b. Feb. 15, 1919)

Valsie (b. July 22, 1921)

W.M. (b. Nov. 5, 1924)

Millikin (b. Nov. 25, 1926; d. Aug. 16, 2004)

This photograph was taken around 1920.  Pictured are Georgia (standing in the back), Gladys (to the left of Hugh), Hollis (in the middle), Clytee (seated on the front), Hugh Ralph (sitting in Hugh’s lap) and Inez (infant being held by Mary).

Treaty with the Chickasaw or

The Great Chickasaw Cession
19 October 1818 (25)

In this treaty, the Chickasaw ceded what was to become known as West Tennessee or, in other words, all of their land west of the western waters of the Tennessee River. Only a few small Chickasaw tracts or reservations avoided cession at that time.

…the Chickasaw Nation of Indians cede . . . the land lying north of the south boundary of the State of Tennessee. . . Beginning on the Tennessee River, about thirty-five miles by water below Colonel George Colbert‘s ferry, where the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude strikes the same; thence west, with the said degree of north latitude, to where it cuts the Mississippi River at or near Chickasaw bluffs; thence up the said Mississippi River, to the mouth of the Tennessee River; thence up the Tennessee River to the beginning.

All West Tennessee Counties were formed from land ceded in this Great Chickasaw Cession.

James Randolph Chapman (March 11, 1869—July 10, 1930)

James Randolph was the oldest of Henry Thomas and Mary Sarena’s children.  He first married Rosa A. Saylors, daughter of Amos Allen Saylors and Mary F. Hall, on June 28, 1896.  James was twenty seven and Rose was nineteen when they got married.  Four children were born to this union:  Clovis Randolph (June 16, 1897—Jan. 11, 1952) and Rose Gertrude Chapman (Feb. 28, 1905—Aug. 10, 1905).  Two other daughters marry and move to Arkansas.  Rosa died on February 28, 1905 at the age of twenty-eight.  Her obituary in the Southern Sentinel reads, “CHAPMAN, MRS. ROSA (Obit. SENTINEL March 30, 1905) died Feb. 28, age 28 years / buried in Criswell Cemetery / leaves husband and 4 Children.

James married a second time in 1907 to Susie Mauney, the daughter of Cepth Mauney and Elizabeth Neill.  James and Susie had eight children together (James’ obituary lists nine):  Tom Hugh (1910), Charles (1912), Ilene (1914), Fanny (1915), Beulah Mae (1917), Jesse (1923), Gaston (1926), Marlin (1927).

James died on July 10, 1930 at the age of 61.  His obituary in the Southern Sentinel reads, “CHAPMAN, JIM (071030) died Tuesday, age 60 / buried at Bethel / Son of late Tom Chapman / married first to Rose Saylors / children are Clovis and two daughters in Arkansas / children by second marriage are Ellis, Tom Hugh, Junior, Charlie, Jess, Gaston, Ilene, Fannie, Mae. James was buried at the Bethel Church of Christ cemetery.

A Brief and Approximate History of the Chapman Church of Christ

It seems that religious services were conducted at the present location of the Chapman Church of Christ as far back as 1897 when two men, a Mr. Copland and Mr. Shrigley, conducted a series of meetings here. For many years services were conducted in various places throughout the community, in brush arbors, and the old Chapman school house. A building called Bethel was used for a good many years and then through lack of interest and leadership the work was discontinued.

In 1926 a few brethren met at the old building “Bethel”, cleaned and cleared away the rubbish, did repairs on the building, and with a Brother Chess Cranford preaching, they met for worship and organized the Church according to the New Testament pattern.

In 1927 Brother Edward Craddock conducted the first Gospel meeting for these brethren with great interest and numerical results. Following this, Brethren Hugo McCord and J.D. Tant conducted evangelistic meetings and the church grew in number, in favor with God and man.

About this time Brother W.R. Willcut came for a meeting and continued to return for monthly appointments until his death in a car accident in the early 1940’s. It is estimated that Brother Willcut did more for the cause in this area than any other man during the critical years.

In 1938 the brethren built the first building of the Chapman Church of Christ at the present location. Brethren Frank Mauney and Homer Mauney seems to have taken the lead in this building. Brother Willcut held the first meeting in the new building.

In 1949 Brother O.D. McKendree came for his first “Revival” and from all reports it really was a Revival of interest and zeal. Brother McKendree is due much credit for the growth and progress that has been seen in recent years.

In 1949 the building was remodeled and classrooms added. Steady growth has been the order since that time. The Church grew to the extent that in 1965 it became necessary to once again enlarge. At this time the building was bricked, three classrooms and the baptistry added.

In 1967 the church had grown to the extent that a full time preacher was needed and a new three bedroom brick preacher’s home was built and paid for the same year.

The first full time minister to live in the community was Brother Richard Chandler. In August of 1969, Brother Lester B. Coats and family moved into the community to assist the work and continues until this time.

One of the truly great steps of the Lord’s Church at Chapman was the appointment of Elders and Deacons on August 2, 1970. In 1971 we began and completed a beautiful new modern three hundred eighty-six seat auditorium which will be adequate for years to come. Our prayers are now that we may grow and prosper in number and love for one another as the Lord expects.

[1] Alabama became a part of the Mississippi Territory in 1798. General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians in 1814 and nearly half of the present state land was ceded to the United States.  The Alabama Territory was created in 1817 and Saint Stephens was the territorial capital from 1817 to 1819. Cahaba became the capital in 1820. Tuscaloosa served as capital starting in 1826. Montgomery became the permanent capital in 1846.  Alabama was admitted to the Union December 14, 1819.

[2] A Nicy Chapman was married in Perry County to John Lutteral on December 15, 1822.  Nicy may have been a sister to Jesse.

[3] Perry County was formed 13 December 1819 from lands acquired in the Creek Cession of 1814. Named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, federal naval hero of the War of 1812. Marion is the County seat (first named Muckle’s Ridge); site of first courthouse 1822.

[4] Perry County, AL, marriage records.

[5] Rhody would have been around twenty years old, having been born about 1803 according to the 1850 census.  A Nancy Sweaten is married to Thomas Wynn on October 7, 1820 and a Sally Sweeten is married to Stephen Williamson on November 21, 1822.  These may have been sisters to Rhody.  An “Eli Sweeten” signed Rhody’s marriage bond.  Both an Eli Sweeten Sr. and Jr. later appear in census records of Tippah County, MS.  Very likely Eli Sweeten Sr. was Rhody’s father and Dutton Sweeten Sr. was her grandfather.  The family had moved to Perry County, AL, from Sweeten’s Cove, Marion County in Eastern Tennessee between 1815-1820.

[6] The name “James” raises the question as to whether Jesse named his son in honor of his own father, a very popular practice.  Currently, we have no way of knowing.

[7] James is always listed as being born in AL (1824).  Eli, however, is always listed as having been born in TN (1828).  Thus, the family moved sometime between late 1824 and 1828.

[8] In the 1840 Census, Dutton is listed two homes away from Rhody and is between 60-70 years old.  An Eli Jr. and Sr. are living in Tippah County, MS.

[9] An Alexander Chapman married Nancy Godlin in Hardeman County, Tennessee, in July 1846 and moved to Tippah County, Mississippi, by the 1850 census, where most of Rhoda’s family—the Sweetens—had moved.  Alexander’s age matches the second son’s age in Jesse’s family.  Alexander named his first daughter “Rhody” which seems to indicate his naming her after his mother.  By 1860 Alexander had migrated to Texas.  Nothing more is known of Alexander.

[10] It is likely the two youngest children had died by 1850 since they are not listed with Rhody and the other two children.

[11] Tippah County Mississippi and Hardeman County Tennessee borders each other.  Many of the family that descended from Jesse Chapman criss-crossed between the two counties.  Tippah County was organized February 9, 1836 and was one of ten counties formed from the Chickasaw Cession.  Eli Sweeten is listed as owning property in Tippah County in 1837, just one year after the county was organized (Dutton Sweeten is also listed as well as Jesse Sweeten Jr.).

[12] Marion Sweeten married Jane E. Stringfellow in Tippah County around 1843.  Marion was born in 1819 in Dallas County, AL, which borders Perry County, AL.

[13] Both lawsuits likely stemmed from the settlement of one of the Sweeten’s estate.  No further details are known.

[14] Henry is named after his maternal grandfather (Henry Bieber) and Jesse is named for his paternal grandfather (Jesse Chapman).

[15] This information came from

[16] A James M. Chapman served in the 9 Tennessee Infantry which was organized in Jackson, TN, in 1861 but we do not know if it is the same James M. Chapman.

[17] Eli and Equilla divorce sometime after 1860.  Eli remarries and moves to Tipton County, TN.

[18] Nancy marries Mark Hightower in March 1871.  They have at least two children, a daughter E.M., and a son, J.R.  By 1880, both children are living with their grandparents in Tipton County.

[19] Eli (son of James and Mary) died March 16, 1872 and was buried at the Townsend Cemetery just north of Covington, TN.  The family obviously had moved to Tipton county prior to March of 1872.

[20] James Randolph was named after his paternal grandfather—James Chapman—and his maternal grandfather—Randolph Millikin.

[21] These children (between one to three) were likely born between James’ birth and Minnie’s birth—a seven year span.  Childhood diseased often took several children at a time during those days.

[22] From an interview with Inez Morrison, granddaughter of Henry Thomas, conducted on November 8, 2004 by Leslie Chapman.