Henry Chapman (American politician)

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Henry Chapman
Henry Chapman, 1804–1891.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1859
Preceded bySamuel C. Bradshaw
Succeeded byHenry C. Longnecker
Personal details
Born(1804-02-04)February 4, 1804
Newtown, Pennsylvania
DiedApril 11, 1891(1891-04-11) (aged 87)
Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Political partyDemocratic

Henry Chapman (February 4, 1804 – April 11, 1891) was an American politician from Pennsylvania who served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district from 1857 to 1859.

Biography and career[edit]

Henry Chapman was born in Newtown, Pennsylvania, the son of Abraham Chapman, a lawyer, and Elizabeth Meredith, the daughter of a lawyer.[1] He attended Doylestown Academy and Doctor Gummere's private boys' school near Burlington, New Jersey. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1825 and commenced practice in Doylestown. He served as a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate for the 6th district from 1843 to 1846.[2] He was a judge of the fifteenth judicial district from 1845 to 1849.

Chapman was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth Congress. He declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1858. He served as judge of the Bucks County Court in 1861. He retired in 1871. He died at "Frosterley," near Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He is interred at the Doylestown Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.[3]

In 1844, he built the James-Lorah House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.[4]

Personal life and family[edit]

Chapman's first wife was Rebecca Stewart (1800–1837).[1][5] Their children were Elizabeth, Mary Rebecca, Henry A., and Thomas Stewart. Elizabeth married the diplomat Colonel Timothy Bigelow Lawrence, son of the extremely wealthy Abbott Lawrence.[6] Mary Rebecca married William Robert Mercer, son of Colonel John Francis Mercer, son of former Maryland governor John Francis Mercer. Upon Lawrence's early death, the childless Elizabeth inherited and moved in with the Mercer family, lavishly supporting their children, especially Henry Chapman Mercer who became her travelling companion.[7][8][9]

Chapman's second wife was Nancy Findlay Shunk, daughter of Governor Francis R. Shunk and Jane, who herself was the daughter of Governor William Findlay. Their children were Fanny and Arthur.[9] Nancy's sister Elizabeth married Congressman Charles Brown, their children included a future state Attorney General Francis Shunk Brown.[10]

The two half-sisters, Elizabeth and Fanny, would be the role models for Madeleine Lee and Sybil Ross in the Henry Adams novel Democracy.[11] James Michener, who grew up as next-door neighbors to the Mercers in Doylestown, claims Elizabeth "can be taken as the prototype for many of [Henry James'] heroines."[9] A similar claim has been made about Michener's novels also.[5]


  1. ^ a b Davis, William Watts Hart (1905). History of Bucks county, Pennsylvania, from the discovery of the Delaware to the present time. Volume 3. The Lewis Publishing Co. p. 380.
  2. ^ "Pennsylvania State Senate - Henry Chapman Biography". www.legis.state.pa.us. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Henry Chapman". www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Sue Binkley Tatem (2009). The Michener Companion. Xlibris Corporation. p. 205. (Tatem spells the name Rebecca Steward.)
  6. ^ Perhaps his best-known grandchild is Percival Lowell.
  7. ^ Mary Selden Kennedy (1911). Seldens of Virginia and Allied Families. Volume 1. Frank Allaben Genealogical Company. pp. 503–5.
  8. ^ Cleota Reed (1987). Henry Chapman Mercer and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  9. ^ a b c Gemmill, Helen Hartman (1983). E. L. The Bread Box Paper: A biography of Elizabeth Chapman Lawrence. Dorrance & Company and The Bucks County Historical Society. Introduction by James Michener.
  10. ^ Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Volume 1. Heritage Books. p. 102.
  11. ^ J. C. Levenson, ed. (1982). The Letters of Henry Adams. Volume II 1868-1885. Harvard University Press. p. 502.

External links[edit]

Pennsylvania State Senate
Preceded by
William Hiester
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate, 6th district
Succeeded by
Josiah Rich
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Samuel C. Bradshaw
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
Henry C. Longnecker