Pioneering Families
... with Roots in Madison County

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[Note--Illustration, etc. on Page 153, Vol.. I.] -- Click here for biography

Mr. President, Relations and Friends

The question is often asked how the Chapmans got into this Palmer Re-Union? It is easy answered: 1. Walter Palmer; 2. his son Gersham ; 3. his son Ichabod ; 4. his son Ichabod ; 5. his son Elias S.; 6. his son Sanford ; 7. his daughter Katurah Palmer, my mother, who married Col. Stephen Chapman ; 8. your humble servant, B. Franklin Chapman.

On my father's side, John Chapman, the settler, was born near London, England, a weaver by trade; while on a visit to London, he was pressed on board a man-of-war. The ship, some time afterward, visited Boston, and John availed himself of an opportunity to regain the liberty of which he had been .deprived; he fled to Wakefield, R. I., where he worked at his trade; after a while he went to Stonington, Conn., where he was captured by the charming smiles and the beautiful Sarah Brown, whom he married in February, 1709; so coming down with our genealogy, we have 1. John Chapman ; 2. his son Andrew; 3. his son Joseph; 4. his son Stephen; 5. his son B. Franklin Chapman, etc.

Chapman is a Saxon name, and is derived from trades or occupations; and the name itself indicates labor, not ease;, strength, not weakness.

Walter Palmer and John Chapman were both Englishmen, and both settled in Stonington, Conn., but at different periods of time, and, many of their descendants were educated in the same school-house; and a large number of the families emigrated about the same time, just prior to the war of 1812, to the towns of Lenox and Manlius, in central New York, where many of their families yet reside.

If I shall mention the name of "Columbus," do not think that I am to navigate all the unknown paths of the sea; if mention "our forefathers," do not think that I am to go through all their trials and sufferings, or fight all the battles of the Revolution.

The discovery of America, however, was one of the greatest events that had occurred since the downfall of the Roman Empire;  and a greater number of coincidences are said to have occurred about the time the old world was introduced to the new world. Among them was the discovery of the art of printing, the use of gunpowder, the mariner's compass, the improvement in navigation, the revival of philosophy and literature, and the introduction of the Protestant religion.

Columbus was a volunteer, and begged the privilege from kings and queens of crossing the ocean to find a new continent. Not so with our forefathers; they were driven from England by the religious tyranny under the reign of the Tudors and the Stuarts. They came to this country not to gain wealth nor honor, but with a full knowledge of the perils of the sea, with its unknown paths to travel, and the toils and sufferings they would encounter in landing among cruel savages of the forest; they braved it all for. the privilege of worshipping God according to their own conscience.

The moment they landed they formed themselves into a civil body politic for the purpose of framing just laws, ordinances and constitutions; it was a voluntary confederation of independent men instituting a government for the good of the governed.

The axe came in contact with the forest; log cabins were raised, the families increased and multiplied, and every little hamlet was a republic by itself. Schools in log school-houses; teachers were self-educated, they had no colleges or seminaries of learning; they had fewer books, but knew better what was in them than we do to-day.

We remember, and recount with pride, the mighty battles of the Revolution, from the first gun at Lexington to the last shot at Yorktown, wherein the principle of self-government was firmly established, and that brains and not blood was to rule our country.

During a life of activity and toil it has been my privilege to see quite a considerable portion of our own country, and whether riding on a canal boat, in a stage coach, on a steamboat, or in a swift-moving train on a railroad, the mighty sweep of vision, taking in the hills, the long range of mountains, the valleys, the lakes, the rivers, the broad fields of grain, the meadows, the magnificent rich prairies with their flocks and herds, the illimitable fields of corn, the forest, dwellings, villages and cities, upon the right hand and the left, presents a panorama to the eye more beautiful than language can describe or tongue can tell; and add to this the great inventions springing up like magic from a thousand brains in our own country, like the steam-engine and steamboat by Fulton, which made its first trip a few miles up the Hudson; and the distinguished men on board made and published a certificate that it was propelled up stream and against the current at the rate of four miles an hour.

Compare it with the magnificent steamers of to-day on our lakes and rivers, and our ocean steamers ploughing their thousand paths across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; the cotton gin by Whitney, followed by the power-loom, by which a new product, cotton, was brought into the market, and to-day it is supplying the world with clothing; the telegraph and cable by Morse, which, to-day, if put in one continuous line would spin its way seven times around this globe; it is distributing news and business matters to every part of the inhabitable world with the exact rapidity of lightning; the power press by Hoe, which will print twenty thousand newspapers an hour; the sewing-machine by Howe, the poor cobbler, who invented the stitch and was unable for many months to raise sufficient funds to get a patent; the reaper and mower by McCormick, by which farming is made easy; the telephone and electric lights by Edison, the telephone relieving every branch of business of much of its arduous labor, and the electric light throwing the light of the sun into a shade, and converting darkness into light; the railroad by Stephenson, an Englishman; this is the great civilizer of the world, it passes over the plains and tunnels the mountains, it fills up the valleys, it leaps over the rivers, it slays down the forests, and plants civilization wherever it goes; wherever it stops almost every industry in life instantly springs up and is planted there.

Fortunate, indeed, was it that our forefathers were men of thought and brains; they were honest men and had convictions of their own, and to-day we are reaping the benefit of their bold act in fleeing from tyranny in the old world and planting freedom in the new world.

To-day the words of Loch, Pluto, Milton, Shakespeare, Emerson, Bryant, Longfellow, and a host of others, belong to the world. Chinese walls and national boundaries are of no account when a thought seeks passage.

English Gatling guns and her ponderous steel cannons, lately introduced before Alexandria, by which a cannon ball could be thrown with such force as to pass through a solid plate of wrought iron fifteen inches in thickness at the distance of three miles, and yet go on miles beyond in its path of death and destruction, will virtually put an end to wars as a means of settling national difficulties. International laws are fast spreading over continents; their tendency will be to bring all nations nearer together as one government, one people, and to use one universal language.

And what a glorious thought is it for us to-day, at this Palmer Re-Union, to know that the Palmer blood is on the farm and in the work-shops; it is in every trade and industry, in all the learned professions, in poets, orators and authors, in a president, governors, cabinets, legislators, and upon the bench, throughout our country; we have our relatives and kinsmen here to-day from South America, Mexico, and almost every State in the Union.

Oh! glorious the thought, that the Palmer blood and patriotism was in the Revolution from Bunker Hill to Yorktown, by which the principle of free government was firmly established! Glorious the thought that it was in the War of 1812, and upon this very battle-ground where we stand to-day, by which the freedom of the seas and the rights of the American sailor was forever secured! Glorious the thought that it was in the last great struggle for human rights, where prejudice had to yield to humanity; where freedom won and slavery fell!

Source: Addresses, poems, proceedings of the second Palmer family re-union held at Stonington, Conn., August 10, 11 & 12, 1882, the ancestral home of Walter Palmer, the pilgrim of 1629, under the auspices of the Palmer Re-union Association.  Jamaica, L.I., N.Y.: Noyes F. Palmer, 1882, pp. 66-70.



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