Friday, August 20, 2021

The circumstances of Henry Chapman's demise

Only the top part of the inscribed "Henry" was visible when "Cloudy Daze" photographed Henry Chapman's tombstone at Lucas County's Last Chance Cemetery some years ago and posted the resulting image to Find a Grave.

A son of Union Township pioneers Simeon B. and Sarah Jane (Mitchell) Chapman, Henry was born in Union Township on July 25, 1858, and had just celebrated his 17th birthday when he was killed on Aug. 24, 1875, near Derby.

The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye of Aug. 26, 1875, reported his death as follows in a brief item headlined "Fatal Accident: A Young Man Killed by the Caving in of a Sand Bank" which reads as follows:

"Derby, Iowa, August 24 --- Henry Chapman, aged twenty years, was killed at this place about four o'clock this afternoon by the caving in of a sand bank where he was getting sand. His father, Simeon Chapman, is well known, is an old settler and lives in town."

The village of Derby was brand new in 1875 and it probably was the recently installed telegraph line that allowed the news of Henry's death to spread so fast and so widely. It would appear that his parents had just recently moved from their farm to a new home in the village.

The Chariton Leader of Aug. 28 included a little more information in its report:

"We are sorry to learn of the sad and terrible death of Henry Chapman, of Derby, a young man, 20 years of age, son of our old acquaintance Simeon B. Chapman. It seems that the young man was engaged in getting out sand for his father, and that on Tuesday afternoon, while his father had gone to town with a load, the young man remained in the bank to get out another load by the time his father returned. When Mr. Chapman got back with his team he was alarmed at observing a large amount of dirt and sand that had caved in and upon digging down his worst fears were realized by finding his son lifeless beneath it. To the sorrowing parents and friends of the youth, we extend our sympathies."

By now young Henry has been forgotten except by a few family historians. It's been 146 years after all. But thanks to digitalized newspaper archives we know the circumstances of his death.

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