Biography of Judge Matthew Chapman

JUDGE MATTHEW CHAPMAN. A man’s life-work is the measure of his success, and he is truly the most successful man who, turning his powers into the channel of an honorable purpose, accomplishes the object of his endeavor. He who weds himself to a great principle lays the foundation of a successful life. In the study of every man’s life we find some mainspring of action-something that he lives for. In Judge Matthew Chapman it seems to have been an ambition to make the best use of his native and acquired powers, and to develop in himself a true manhood. In all the walks of public life he served his county with zealous fidelity, and expects to pass his declining days with those among whom he has grown gray in honorable usefulness. The Judge was born in Henry County, Tennessee, March 7, 1822, to the union of Benjamin and Mary (Cavett) Chapman, natives of Tennessee. In 1830 the parents came to Missouri, and although they first settled in St. Louis, they remained there but a short time, and 1831 found them located near Ozark, Christian County. There they passed the remainder of their days, the mother dying in 1870 and the father two years later, when seventy-two years of age. The father was a successful farmer and stockraiser and was a well known and influential man in his day, serving as judge of the county court of Greene County for twelve years. In politics he was a warm supporter of Democratic principles, and in religion he was a Baptist nearly all his life. Honorable and upright in every walk of life, no better man ever found his home in this county. Early in life he was considerable of a hunter and as the woods abounded in game he had no trouble in supplying the table with meat. In those days he made shoes for the family out of hides tanned by himself and his wife spun flax and wove the clothing for the family. The latter lived to be over eighty years of age. Four children were born to his marriage, our subject being the eldest. The others were: J. G., who resides at Harrison, Arkansas; Stanford, who makes his home at Billings; and C. E., who died about five years ago. By a previous marriage to a Mr. Smart, Mrs. Chapman became the mother of five children, as follows: S., E., William C., Harry G., and one whose name is unknown. The Chapman family came to this country at a period antedating the Revolution, in which some of the members fought for independence. Later others were soldiers in the War of 1812.

Judge Matthew Chapman was about ten years of age when he made the trip by wagon from Tennessee to Missouri, and he received his education in the schools of Greene County. Like his ancestors he chose agricultural pursuits as his calling in life, and on the 16th of August, 1844, he married Miss Rachel A. Horn, who was born January 1, 1827, and who was the daughter of Thomas Horn, an early sheriff of Greene County. This union resulted in the birth of nine children, as follows: Mary J., who is living; William B., a farmer of this county; Thomas H., deceased; Mary E., wife of George Wills; Alice, wife of Chas. Wills; Douglas J., who is living in this county; Benjamin M., who is living in this county; James died in California; and Emma, the wife of A. Madding. The mother of these children died on the 24th of October, 1870, and Judge Chapman selected his second wife in the person of Mrs. Mary. A. Horn, a native of Tennessee, born December 30, 1831, and the daughter of William S. Wilkes. of the Big Bend State. To this union one daughter, Hattie, has been born. Agricultural pursuits have been our subject’s principal occupation through life, and he has made a success at it. In connection with farming he is also raising considerable stock. Like his father he advocates the principles of the Democrats, and was appointed to office by that party, in 1872. Ten years later, or in 1882, he was elected to the office of probate and county judge, and served in that capacity with zealous fidelity. His judicial qualifications were of the first order, enabling him with comparative ease to follow the thread of law through all the subtleties of complicated legal questions. He located on the farm where he now lives in 1845, and is a man well and favorably known all over this and Greene County, being one of the oldest pioneers of this section. Although he had but a limited education in youth he was always of an inquiring turn of mind and a great reader, and possessing a clear, logical mind, capable of broad generalization, his grasp of any subject was thoroughly comprehensive and exhaustive. He is one of the most prominent men of the county.

William S. Wilkes, father of Mrs. Chapman, was born in Virginia in 1807, and was married to Miss Hannah B. Moore, a native of Kentucky, born in 1810. Shortly after their marriage they settled in Tennessee, but later, in 1841, came to Greene County and settled near Ozark. There they passed the remainder of their days. Ten children were born to their marriage, but only three are now living: Sarah, now Mrs. John A. Gibson; Mary A., who first married James K. Horn, by whom she had four children, as follows: William T., Martha E., Emma E. and Addie, all living. The third child born to Mr. and Mrs. Horn, Samuel A., is living in Cooper County. The parents were members of the Christian Church, and the father was a Democrat in politics. Mrs. Chapman was born in Marshall County, Tennessee, and was young when she came to this county. Two of her brothers, Thomas and Jonathan, were soldiers in the Civil War, and the former died from wounds received at the battle of Pea Ridge. Those of her brothers and sisters who are deceased are Mary, Joseph, Jonathan, Elizabeth, Emma, Martha and Thomas.



A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region: comprising a condensed general history, a brief descriptive history of each county, and numerous biographical sketches of prominent citizens of such counties. Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers Publishers. 1894.

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