Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History
Archives and Manuscripts
The Chapin Family Collection
R. Al Spence
Linear feet of shelf space occupied 3.5
Archival Boxes 4
Scope and Content Note
The Chapin Family collection consists primarily of legal documents, land deeds, bills and receipts, inventories, and some correspondence to and from the Chapin family. The collection, which occupies 3.5 linear feet of shelf space, contains documents beginning in 1676 and continues through 1915 with the greatest concentration in the 18th and early 19th century. While the collection is concerned primarily with the Chapin family, it does contain several non-Chapin names that were included within the Chapin collection.
The collection is organized into the following groups:
(1) Chapin family members, which are organized alphabetically by first name;
(2) miscellaneous Chapin family documents, filed in chronological order;
(3) Chapin-Cooley material (which are records concerned with the South Hadley Canal); (4) Ariel Cooley material (seven files);
(5) the papers of non-Chapin individuals, which are alphabetized by last name; and
(6) oversized materials which contain documents too large for the standard collection.
Additional materials of Chester Wms. Chapin, Enoch Chapin and Josiah Chapin may be found in the Springfield Bound Volumes Collection.
The remainder of this guide contains individual biographies (listed in the same order as the collection is organized), descriptions of materials, and the container list for the collection.
Description of Contents
Abel Chapin was born in 1700 and died in 1772. His grandson was a revolutionary commander of the 20th company of West Springfield (see Maj. Moses Chapin). The majority of papers are deeds that run from 1725-1771. His last will and testament (1772), was written only two months before his death. The remaining material is promissory notes, receipts and miscellaneous papers.
Colonel Abel Chapin was born in 1756 and died in 1831. He was the son of Captain Ephraim Chapin (1729-1805), and the brother of Captain Ephraim Chapin (1759-1806). He served in the French and Indian War, as well as Shays’ Rebellion. In 1785, Colonel Chapin built a house on Chicopee Street where he fatted cows for the Bringham and New York market. The house still stands today.
The papers of Colonel Chapin consist of only five documents. The most impressive one is a declaration from the Massachusetts General Court announcing his selection as tax collector (1780). The rest of the documents include a promissory note (1793), receipt (1792), land surveys and deeds with no dates, and his last will and testament. (see also oversized materials, box 4)
Arthur Nash Chapin lived from 1850-1914. He was the son of Enoch Cooley Chapin. During his life, he was Street Commissioner and Tax Collector (of South Hadley ?). His papers include four documents concerning the estate of Julia Curtis (1905-1908). There are two land deeds (1874 and 1885), and an evaluation of Harriet Chapin’s estate (n.d.) who was the wife of Enoch Cooley Chapin. (see also oversized materials, box 4)
Chester Williams Chapin was born in 1798, and died at age 85 in 1883. He was selectman in the 1840’s, and also was the recipient of St. Gauden’s statue “The Puritan.”
Chester was an important businessman active in the transportation sector. In 1831, he started a steamboat operation that monopolized passage between Hartford and Springfield. In 1844, he sold the steamboat company and invested it in the Hartford and New Haven Railroad Co. He was chosen president of the Connecticut River Railroad Company in 1850.
The papers are mostly bills and receipts. There are two letters (1861 and 1862) from other employees of the New York and New Haven Railroad Co. There are also two letters concerning the stocks of the company (1851 and 1853). (see also oversized materials, box 4 and Springfield Bound Volumes Collection.)
Dormer Chapin was born in 1781 and died in 1870. He was the son of Phineas and Sabrina (Wright) Chapin. He was a town selectman. All fourteen documents are land deeds from 1807-1835.
Deacon Enoch Chapin was born in 1784 and died in 1864. He married Lydia (Cooley) Chapin, who was the daughter of Ariel Cooley, and was first married to Gordon Chapin (see Gordon Chapin). Enoch and Ariel Cooley were business partners until Cooley’s death in 1822. They were in charge of the operations on the South Hadley Canal (see Ariel Cooley and the South Hadley Canal). He was the father of Enoch Cooley Chapin (see Enoch Cooley Chapin).
The majority of the papers are receipts, promissory notes and bills of Deacon Chapin (1823-1828). A significant part of this folder is the correspondence, which contains seven letters in all. There are two letters Enoch wrote to his son’s wife Harriet Chapin (4 June and 16 June 1859), letters to religious leaders William Tyler and S. Osgood (1831 and n.d.), and a letter from Ariel Cooley (1821).
There are also many papers concerning Deacon Chapin’s wife Lydia. Her last will and testament is included (1850). There are many papers concerning her estate (1850-1855) and a document challenging her last will and testament by Mary Ann and Theodore Chapin, as well as a paper dealing with Lydia’s inheritance from her father’s estate (1822).
The remaining papers are a court summons for Enoch to appear in court (1829), a claim against Deacon Chapin for damages incurred on the South Hadley Canal (1826), a fire insurance policy (1834), and a business letter from S. Bunnell (n.d.).
Enoch Cooley Chapin was the son of Deacon Enoch Chapin and Lydia Cooley Chapin. He was born in 1812 and died in 1858. Judging from a letter written by his father Deacon Enoch, Enoch Cooley attended college in 1829. The letter doesn’t state the institution. Enoch Cooley and his brother Ogden Nash had some type of business together (advertising bills, 1853). Enoch C. married Harriet Jenks Abbe, daughter of John Abbe.
There is a wide range of material on Enoch C. Chapin. The most interesting is a deed for land in Iowa that Enoch C. purchased. It was part of the Federal Government’s Homestead Act, and was signed by Franklin Pierce (1855). There are documents concerning legal trouble between Enoch Cooley and Mary Ann Chapin. There is a summons to court (1855) and a deed (1853). Also included is a record of Enoch Cooley’s share of his wife’s estate.
Capt. Ephraim Chapin I lived from 1729 to 1805. He married Jemima Chapin and fathered eight children including Ephraim, Jr. (see Ephraim Chapin II). Ephraim Chapin was captain of a company in the French and Indian War, was at Ticonderoga in 1777, and was captain of a company of Col. Ruggles Woodbridge’s regiment in 1778. He wife, Jemima, was famous for her role in Shays’ Rebellion.
His files are joined with, and overlap with his son’s (Ephraim, Jr.). Together their four files contain land deeds, plus a last will and testament. The material dates from 1753 to 1807.
Capt. Ephraim Chapin II was born in 1759 and died in 1806. He married Mary Smith of Granby. Of his seven children, three have files in the Chapin collection. There are Chester Wms. Chapin, Erastus Chapin, and Giles Smith Chapin.
Ephraim Chapin, Jr.’s files are together with his father, Ephraim, Sr. Together their four files contain almost entirely land deeds, plus a last will and testament. The material dates from 1753 to 1807.
Captain Erastus Chapin was born in 1783 and died in 1852. He was the son of Captain Ephraim Chapin, and grandson to Colonel Abel Chapin. Erastus was involved in coach lines between Springfield and Southbridge, MA, and Springfield, MA and Providence, R.I. In 1830 he moved to New York to establish a restaurant. He married Ulrica Chapin, daughter of Captain Phineas Chapin.
There are 13 manuscripts contained in this folder. Two of them are contracts forming partnerships and seven are land deeds.
George Chapin was born 1722 and died 1782. He married Thankful Sikes, and was father to 13 children. This file is shared with George’s son, Solomon Chapin (see Solomon Chapin). His file consists mainly of transactions with his sons’ Solomon and Daniel between the years 1756-1782. There are mainly deeds, as well as his last will and testament in his file.
Giles Smith Chapin, later known as Deacon Giles Chapin, was born in 1787 and died in 1865. His file is shared with his son, Giles S. Chapin, Jr. (see Giles S. Chapin, Jr.). As a farmer he raised and fatted cattle for market. A member of the board of selectmen of Springfield and Chicopee for several years, and a member of the legislature in 1851 from Chicopee. He served as delegate to the Ecclesiastical Council in 1863. He was married to Betsy Chapman of Ellington, CT, and was father to three sons and four daughters. His file, together with his son’s, contain a mortgage deed and legal documents dating from 1814 to 1882.
Giles S. Chapin, Jr. shares the same file with his father, Giles Smith Chapin (see Giles Smith Chapin). He was born in 1821 and died in 1884 in Chicopee. He married Sarah Zama Severance of Chicopee. Their one son, Giles S. Chapin III, died on May 22, 1875 at age 17. Sarah would later marry Marshall Pease of Chicopee after the death of her first husband.
This file, shared with his father, contains mainly deeds and legal documents dating from 1814 to 1882. (see also oversized materials, box 4)
Harvey Chapin, later Colonel Harvey Chapin, was born 1787 and died 1877, four days short of 90. He married Hannah Chapin, daughter of Phineas and Sabrina Chapin (see Phineas Chapin II). He was postmaster of Springfield in the Tyler and Polk administrations, and a member of the Massachusetts Senate. He was a selectman, assessor, surveyor, deputy jailor of Hampden County, and colonel commanding the First Regiment, fourth division of the Massachusetts militia. His file consists mainly of eight deeds dating from 1821-1835.
Japhet Chapin was born in 1760 and died in 1822. Japhet was a farmer and lumber manufacturer. He also served in Captain Ephraim Chapin’s company in 1778. There are ten papers in his folder. Nine of the documents are land deeds (1791-1812) and one is a probate record (1824).
John Chapin was born 1674 and died in 1759. He married Sarah Bridgeman of Northampton, and was father to eight children. He was in the expedition against Louisburg, Cape Breton, in 1745. His file consists of deeds, an inventory, and his last will and testament; and dates from 1722 to 1755.
Major Moses Chapin was born in 1762 and died in 1824. Major Chapin married Colonel Abel Chapin’s sister Keiyee Chapin. Major Chapin served several terms in the General Court and held local offices in Springfield for twenty-five years. Papers included in the collection are letters from a Mr. Dwight (1787) and from Edward Pynchon (1813). There is also a book which Moses used to keep a record of taxes that he collected. The rest of the documents are deeds (1802-1817), receipts (1791-1821), estate papers (1825-1831), and a business agreement with Peter Donavan (1814).
Phineas Chapin I lived from 1715 to 1788. He married Bethiah Chapin and fathered six children including Phineas Chapin II (see Phineas Chapin II). His file contains deeds dating from 1753 to 1783.
Phineas Chapin II was born 1747 and died 1821. He married Sabrina Wright, and was father to twelve children including Phineas III (see Phineas Chapin III). He was very active and influential in public business. He was at Ticonderoga in 1777. His two files contain inventories, a last will and testament, and deeds dating from 1768 to 1821. Oversized materials contain his commission as Constable and Collector for Springfield.
Phineas Chapin III was born 1792 in Chicopee and died in 1857 in Clarksburg, W. VA. He was a graduate of Williams College. He studied and practiced law, was clerk of Harrison Co. court house, and an elder in the Presbyterian Church. His documents are few. They include deeds and legal documents from 1820 to 1834.
Solomon Chapin, who shares the file with his father George Chapin (see George Chapin), was born in 1751 and died in 1820. He married Vashti Chapin of West Springfield, and was father to five children. Included in his file are mainly transactions with his father George and brother Daniel dating from 1782 to 1808.
Chapin and Cooley represents the proprietors of the South Hadley Canal. The South Hadley Canal was one of the first major canals in the country. It was completed in 1795, and ran until 1862. The canal was built by the proprietors of the locks and canals on the Connecticut River. The original contract (1794), plus the contract to lower the floors of the locks by Ariel Cooley (1804), are contained in this folder.
This section contains four files of mainly bills and receipts. Other documents include one of the original land purchases (1794), a letter asking for payment of damages received on the canal (1826) and receipts of passage costs through the canal. (see oversized materials) (see also Deacon Enoch Chapin)
Lieutenant Ariel Cooley was born in 1756 and died in 1822. He was an engineer whose works include Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia, and a dam on the James River in Pennsylvania. Locally he built and operated the South Hadley Canal (see Chapin and Cooley). It appears that Lt. Cooley had a business association with Deacon Enoch Chapin (see also Chapin and Cooley, and Deacon Enoch Chapin). It appears that they were the operators of the South Hadley Canal.
Lt. Cooley is well represented in the collection. An estimated 50 percent of the papers are deeds and contracts. Of these documents, almost all of them are for the sale of land. There is also a large number of bills and receipts. It is thought that these papers are from business transactions. In his miscellaneous folder, there are several interesting documents. One is the building of a dam on the James River (1819). Two documents are concerned with Lt. Cooley’s purchases of two other companies (1815 and 1822). Finally, the last folder contains material on Lt. Cooley’s estate. His files span from 1791 to 1831.
John Abbe was born in 1788 and died in 1862. He married Electa Chapin (her second marriage), and his daughter Harriet Jenks married Enoch Cooley Chapin. There are only a few papers in his folder. Three deeds (1816-1826) constitute most of the folder, plus an agreement of Abbe’s heirs to his estate (1862), and a few miscellaneous papers.
Daniel Gillett, Jr. died in 1824 at age 42. He was wed in 1807 to Edith (last name unknown), and was father to three children. He was apparently connected with the South Hadley Canal in some way. Information on Daniel Gillett is very scarce. His two files contain several personal and business letters, as well as deeds and business documents spanning from 1815 to 1827.
John Otis Skeele was born in 1817 and died in 1871. He was the son of Otis and Kezia (Chapin) Skeele (see Otis Skeele). John remained a bachelor throughout his life. He was apparently involved with some type of school as there are several references to it in his writings. His collection consists of a single journal (unbound and in two folders) which is a thorough account of approximately five years of his life.
Otis Skeele was born in 1791 in Middle Hadden, Connecticut and died in 1870 in Willimansett, Massachusetts. He married Kezia Chapin, daughter of Moses and Kezia Chapin (see Maj. Moses Chapin). He was the son of Dr. Amos Skeele, an influential figure of his day. He fathered all of his five children from his first wife. His second marriage after Kezia’s death was to Clarissa Fowler Otis in 1851.
His two files contain numerous deeds and legal documents as well as receipts, bills and inventories. There are also personal letters including one very touching letter to his son, John, in Chesapeake City, Maryland. His documents span from 1818 to 1865.
Box # Folder # Contents
1 1 Abel Chapin 1725 – 1756
2 Abel Chapin 1758 – 1772
3 Col. Abel Chapin 1780 – 1820
4 Arthur N. Chapin 1885 – 1908
5 Chester Wms. Chapin Correspondence re: railroads 1844 – 1867
6 Chester Wms. Chapin 1839 – 1853
7 Chester Wms. Chapin — Scraps from his books
8 Dormer Chapin 1807 – 1857
9 Deacon Enoch Chapin 1820 – 1825
10 Deacon Enoch Chapin 1826 – 1829
11 Deacon Enoch Chapin 1831 – 1859
12 Enoch C. Chapin 1829 – 1863
13 Capt. Ephraim Chapin & his son, Ephraim Chapin, Jr., 1753-1779
14 Capt. Ephraim Chapin & his son, Ephraim Chapin, Jr., 1780-1782
15 Capt. Ephraim Chapin & his son, Ephraim Chapin, Jr., 1783-1788
16 Capt. Ephraim Chapin & his son, Ephraim Chapin, Jr., 1790-1807
17 Erastus Chapin 1811-1825
18 George Chapin and his son, Solomon Chapin, 1756 – 1782
19 Giles Smith Chapin and his son, Giles S. Chapin, Jr., 1814 – 1882
20 Harvey Chapin, 1821 – 1835
21 Japhet Chapin, 1786 – 1824
22 John Chapin, 1722 – 1755
Box 2 1 Major Moses Chapin, 1787 – 1831
2 Phineas Chapin I, 1753 – 1783
3 Phineas Chapin II, 1768 – 1790
4 Phineas Chapin II, 1791 – 1821
5 Phineas Chapin III, 1820 – 1834
6 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1676 – 1712
7 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1730’s – 1770’s
8 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1780’s – 1790’s
9 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1800 – 1810’s
10 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1820’s
11 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1830’s
12 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1840’s – 1850’s
13 Miscellaneous Chapin, 1860’s – 1915
14 Miscellaneous Chapin, no dates
15 Miscellaneous Chapin, incomplete deeds and manuscripts
Box 3 1 Chapin and Cooley, mainly 1824
2 Chapin and Cooley, mainly 1824
3 Chapin and Cooley, mainly 1824
4 Chapin and Cooley, other than 1824
5 Ariel Cooley, contracts and deeds 1804 – 1822
6 Ariel Cooley, contracts and deeds 1791 – 1830
7 Ariel Cooley, bills and receipts 1817 – 1830
8 Ariel Cooley, bills and receipts 1822 – 1824
9 Ariel Cooley, estates papers 1822 – 1824
10 Ariel Cooley, estates papers 1822 – 1831
11 Ariel Cooley, miscellaneous papers 1814 – 1829
12 Miscellaneous Cooley, various dates
13 John Abbe, 1811 – 1826
14 Daniel Gillet, Jr., 1815 – 1823
15 Daniel Gillet, Jr., 1823 – 1827
16 John Otis Skeele, 1838 – 1843
17 John Otis Skeele, 1838 – 1843
18 Otis Skeele, 1818 – 1864
19 Otis Skeele, 1818 – 1864
20 Non-Chapin names
Box 4 1 Oversized material of Enoch Chapin and Ariel Cooley
2 Oversized material of Col. Abel Chapin, Arthur N. Chapin, Giles S. Chapin, Jr. and Phineas Chapin II
3 Miscellaneous oversized material, (1 of 3)
4 Miscellaneous oversized material, Account Books (2 of 3)
5 Miscellaneous oversized material, School Book (3 of 3)