Chapman was born on September 6, 1829, in Greensboro, Alabama. His grandfather, Robert Hett Chapman, was born in Orange, New Jersey, studied theology and was a pastor from 1796 to 1812, at which time he became president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill until 1816. His father attended the University of North Carolina.
His various postings eventually brought him in the late 1850s to California. Chapman resigned from the army in 1859, having achieved the rank of a lieutenant or a major, and came to California. He married Mary Scott, the daughter of Los Angeles attorney Jonathan R. Scott, with whom he studied law. In 1861 he set up a partnership with C.E. Thom.
He had six children by his first marriage to Mary Scott. He married again after her death in 1883, and had one child by his second marriage to Mary L. Stephens, daughter of a pioneer California attorney and judge.
Chapman died on January 16, 1915, at the age of 88 in his residence near Sunny Slope in the San Gabriel Valley, "the result of heart failure following a severe cold." Survivors were his wife and children A.S. Chapman and Richard H. Chapman of Los Angeles, William Chapman of Spokane, Washington, and Mrs. L.C. Lantz, Mrs. Charles Lantz and Mrs. Evelyn L. Johnson, all of Los Angeles.
In 1863 Chapman became city attorney of Los Angeles, replacing Myer J. Newmark, who resigned, and in 1868 he was elected district attorney of Los Angeles County. He went into partnership with a boyhood friend, Andrew Glassell, when the latter arrived in Los Angeles in 1866. Colonel George H. Smith, a former Confederate Army officer and brother-in-law of Glassell, joined the firm in 1870. Their law practice was confined chiefly to real estate transactions, and they made their fortunes by handling the large partition suits. Chapman was the businessman of the firm. He took his compensation in land, and nearly every final decree in partition would find that Glassell & Chapman had acquired more property.
Chapman and Glassell are best known in Orange County for being founders of Orange, California. The firm represented the Yorba and Peralta families in the partitioning of Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana in 1867, and had received for a portion of their fees certain large parcels of land in the partition. He joined with one of his partners, Andrew Glassell, to develop a new community, Richland (which would eventually be named Orange). They hired the land surveyor, Frank Lecouvrier of Los Angeles, to map this tract, which they called Richland Farm District. 'Richland' was originally the name of the Virginia plantation owned by the father of Andrew Glassell in the 1830s.
A large transaction by Chapman and Glassell was the legal suit known as "The Great Partition of 1871", brought against the Verdugo Rancho San Rafael properties on the Los Angeles River and in the Verdugo Mountains. The legal fees were again paid in substantial land transfers. He at one time also owned "practically all the land" where Glendale, California, and the suburb of Tropico were established.
Chapman continued to practice law until 1880. After retirement, he devoted full-time to managing his 700-acre (2.8 km2) rancho in the upper San Gabriel Valley, a portion of the Rancho Santa Anita grant, and became involved in citrus production.
- Alfred B. Chapman (1829-1915) City of Orange History
- Samuel Armor (1921) History of Orange County, California, Historic Record Co, Los Angeles
- James Miller Guinn (1915) A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs
- "Pioneer Dies at Ripe Age," Los Angeles Times, January 17, 1915, page II-11
- Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials 1850–1938, Municipal Reference Library, March 1938, reprinted 1946
- District Attorney 1863-1864 & 1867-1869
- "Adobes of Rancho San Rafael," laokay.com
- "Orange Boom," Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1961, page 19]
Myer J. Newmark
|Los Angeles City Attorney
James H. Lader