Biography of Mrs. Lavinia (Gates) Chapman

Mrs. Lavinia (Gates) Chapman. One of the most interesting personalities and entertaining conversationalists among the older residents of Ottawa County is Mrs. Lavinia (Gates) Chapman, one of Minneapolis’ most esteemed and admired ladies, whose actual life experiences are, to some extent, the basis of her published volume of “Pioneer Short Stories,” which book deserves a place in every library, and especially in those designed to preserve the true annals of one of the most trying periods in the progress of civilization in the West. Surrounded as she now is by every creature comfort and protected by stable laws in every right, she can recall a time when such was not the case and when she lived through slow-passing days, weeks and months of keen anxiety not only for herself but for her husband and little children. Notwithstanding those days of hardship and danger, Mrs. Chapman at present is an example of business capacity and mental poise far beyond the ordinary.

Mrs. Chapman was born in Central New York, June 20, 1835. Her parents were S. S. and Mary Ann (Pratt) Gates, and on both sides she is of Revolutionary stock. Her maternal grandfather, Maj. John Pratt, who died in 1820, was an officer in the Revolutionary war, and Gen. Horatio Gates, who captured Burgoyne and his army in 1777, was an uncle of Mrs. Chapman’s father. The Gates family came to the American colonies from England and gradually spread over New England and into New York and in the course of years to states further westward.

S. S. Gates, father of Mrs. Chapman, was born in 1806 in Vermont and was reared and married there and in early manhood was a school teacher. For some years he was in the livestock business in New York and then went to Pennsylvania and established a general store at Albion in Erie County, which he discontinued several years later when he entered into railroad contracting. He was a man of much business enterprise and before leaving Pennsylvania for Wisconsin he built a portion of the Allegheny Railroad, by contract, and afterward was a contractor in Wisconsin and built the first bridge at the Dells and under his contract had a charter for the tolls for thirty years.

In 1867 Mr. Gates visited Kansas to see his daughter, Mrs. Chapman, and was on his way to make a second visit when he was set upon by robbers and wounded and his property stolen. He recovered $1,175 worth of bonds and recuperated sufficiently to assist in capturing one of his assailants but before the final trial, after threats on his life had been made, he was murdered in Sauk County on September 13, 1869. He had long been a member of the Masonic fraternity, and while independent in politics he had strong convictions as to political principles and cast his vote as his own judgment suggested.

S. S. Gates married Mary Ann Pratt, who was born in Vermont in 1809 and died in Wisconsin in 1849. To this marriage the following children were born: Oscar Jerome, who died at Perris in Riverside County, California, was a dentist; Le Roy, who died of tuberculosis in a sanitarium in California, was a photographer and an author of merit; Arabella D., the wife of Ira Gibson, who now resided on his farm near San Francisco, died on the ocean while returning from Europe; Lavinia, who was the fourth born in the family; Irene Rosalia, who was the wife of a Mr. Vaughn, died in California, as did her husband, both of them having been artists in photography; and Gertrude Elizabeth, who died in the spring of 1914 at Tulsa, Oklahoma, is survived by her husband, Willis Winterring, who is in the real estate business at Tulsa.

Lavinia Gates attended the public schools and an academy at Albion, Pennsylvania, and after the family moved to Wisconsin she taught several terms of school, her mental gifts being noticeable even in girlhood. In 1851, at Dell Creek, Wisconsin, she was united in marriage with Stephen B. Chapman, who was born at Akron, Ohio, May 29, 1829. He died on his farm at Lindsey, Kansas, November 29, 1907. He moved to Adams County, Wisconsin, from Ohio, and after marriage Mr. and Mrs. Chapman resided on his farm until 1859, when they decided to remove to Kansas. After much preparation they bravely set out and spent the first winter at Dozier’s Landing, Missouri, and when spring opened they proceeded on their way and on May 12, 1860, crossed the line into Kansas.

Mr. Chapman shortly afterward completed the purchase of an Indian claim located in Douglas County, three miles from Baldwin City, and the family lived on it until 1863, at no time being very secure as to either life or property, but positively in danger after the raid of Quantrill’s guerillas, who advanced to Lindsey. Mrs. Chapman prevailed on her husband to move farther into the state as a protective measure, but subsequently both Mr. and Mrs. Chapman secured homesteads of 160 acres. It was during this critical time in the progress of the war that Mr. Chapman and other brave men turned out in state organizations for defense against the irresponsible guerillas, and Mr. Chapman served as an orderly sergeant in Captain Bell’s company. He was a staunch supporter of the Federal government, was a republican in politics and for a long period served as a justice of the peace.

Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Chapman: Mary L., who is the wife of Ledrig Shlotze, a farmer near Bennington, Kansas; Irena, the wife of Abner Wallace, who had been foreman of the repair department of the Santa Fe Railroad for the past twenty-five years at Okarche, Oklahoma; Oscar, who was born in 1856, was a merchant and lost his life by violence in California in 1909; Rosa, who is the wife of Samuel Emery, a retired farmer at Minneapolis, Kansas; Lillie, who is the wife of George A. Spink, who resided at No. 2001 North Oakley Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. Both she and husband are attorneys. She attended the Fort Scott Normal School and afterward taught school in Minneapolis, Kansas, and later received her degree in law from the Chicago Law School, graduating at the head of a class of forty students, being a lady of brilliant intellectual gifts. Nellie is the youngest of Mrs. Chapman’s children. She is the wife of Rev. G. I. Wanans, who is a minister of the Free Methodist Church at McPherson, Kansas, formerly occupying the same position in the Methodist Episcopal body. For two terms he was register of deeds at Manhattan, Kansas.

Mrs. Chapman owned a large amount of valuable property in Kansas, this including the 320 acres near Lindsey, above mentioned, her comfortable residence on Third Street, Minneapolis, the dwelling adjoining, together with two productive business buildings on Second Street. She had always taken great interest in public movements along the line of progress and reform and early united with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and was the first local president of this organization at Minneapolis, and she belongs also to the Woman’s Relief Corps. For sixty years she had been an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as was also Mr. Chapman, who was a class leader, and both were among the founders and charter members of this church in Ottawa County. Mrs. Chapman still maintains a cheerful outlook on life and keeps pleasantly busy with her business, church, family, charitable and social interests, and it is by no means unlikely that from her facile pen may come other entertaining stories.

Chapman, Gates,

Biography, Women,

Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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