Sunday, April 27, 2014


© Kathy Duncan, 2014

This is the story of my great-grandparents told in the few pictures that they left behind.

First, the pictures taken of Willie Sargent Chapman and Mary Charlotte "Maggie" Cawthon at about the time they married on 24 Dec 1889 in Mt. Pleasant, Titus County, Texas.

Willie Sargent Chapman Sr.

Willie Sargent Chapman Sr. was the son of Martha Frances (Meadows) and Abner Chapman, who had removed from Marion County, Georgia to Titus County, Texas prior to the Civil War.

Mary Charlotte "Maggie" Cawthon

Mary Charlotte Cawthon was the daughter of Susan Jane (Mason) and Rutherford Porter Cawthon. She was called "Maggie." for most of her life.

In these portraits they look so young and healthy - with their whole lives ahead of them.

Only a couple of years later this photograph (below) was taken at Willie's instance and over the objections of Maggie. She had been at the creek doing laundry when an iterinent photographer appeared at their place. She was upset because she did not have time to fix her hair. How lucky we are that Willie insisted on this photograph being taken any way because it is the only surviving photograph of them together.

Willie Sargent and Mary Charlotte "Maggie" (Cawthon) Chapman

A few short years of hard work were beginning to take their toll. Both of them look leaner, a bit pinch faced, and work worn. Willie Sargent Chapman Sr. died a few years later in 1893 in a hunting accident, leaving Maggie a widow with two small children. Photographs became a luxury she would no longer be able to afford. Maggie and the children spent the next several years living with one relative or another. At one point, they lived in Mt. Pleasant, Texas with Maggie's mother-in-law, Martha Frances (Meadows) Chapman, widow of Abner Chapman.

Martha Frances (Meadows) Chapman

At another point, Maggie and the children lived with Maggie's brother Willie Porter Cawthon and his wife in Collin County, Texas. When Willie Porter Cawthon went blind, Maggie and her children returned to her mother-in-law's in Mt. Pleasant, Texas.

Willie Porter and Maggie Cawthon

Fortunately, Maggie's brother Jesse Franklin Cawthon stepped in and financed additional photographs over the years. He was a bachelor, living in a small cabin in Spokane, Washington. He wrote regularly to Maggie and on several occasions enclosed money for her to have portraits made of her or the children. He was convinced that he would always be a bachelor and would not have much use for his money.

Jesse Franklin Cawthon

This photograph (above) was taken of Jesse Franklin Cawthon in his cabin. "Uncle Jesse" eventually, however, married "Aunt Clara."

Clara, wife of Jesse F. Cawathon

This photograph (above) of Clara Cawthon was taken in my grandfather W.S. Chapman Jr.'s home in Avery, Texas. But back to the photographs that Uncle Jesse Cawthon made possible.

Willie Sargent Chapman Jr. and Mattie (Chapman) Schuler

This is a photograph (above) of Maggie's two children: Willie Sargent "Bill" Chapman Jr. and Mattie (Chapman) Schuler.

Left to right: Willie S., Maggie, and Mattie Chapman

This photograph (above) was taken of the three them  - Bill, Maggie, and Mattie - probably within a few years of the time that Maggie's brother Willie Porter Cawthon died.

Willie Sargent "Bill" Chapman Jr. and Maggie (Cawthon) Chapman

Mary Charlotte "Maggie" Chapman

These two photographs (above) were probably made near the time that Willie Sargent "Bill" Chapman Jr. was drafted into World War I.

Willie Sargent "Bill" Chapman Jr.

This is a photograph of Willie Sargent "Bill" Chapman in his World War I uniform. Prior to leaving for basic training, he took his mother to live with his sister Mattie (Chapman) Schuler. 

Back row left to right: Mattie (Chapman) Schuler and Maggie (Cawthon) Chapman

This is the last photograph that I have of Maggie (Cawthon) Chapman, taken with her daughter Mattie (Chapman) Schuler and Mattie's children. This picture would have been made some time prior to Maggie's death in 1918. While at the Schuler's, Maggie contracted measles and died. Willie Sargent Chapman Jr. also contracted the measles and had to postpone his entry into the service for a few weeks. Prior to leaving for Ft. Hood, he purchased a tombstone for his parents and had it erected in Damascus Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant, Texas.

Many years later, W. S. "Bill" Chapman Jr. had curbing added around his parents plot. Their tombstone had to be moved out of the way and then returned. In the process, it was turned around so that Willie Sargent Chapman's name is over Maggie, and Maggie's name is over Willie's. My grandfather often grieved over this, saying that once he was gone there would be no one left who knew the difference. 


© Kathy Duncan, 2014

As newspapers continue to be digitalized, we can recover information about family events that have been lost in our oral traditions. Little is known of  Rev. Duncan H. Selph's son Washington Selph. He was named after his eldest brother who died as an infant. He, in turn, also died young. This event from his early childhood is a particularly poignant account of one evening in the life of the Selph family household.

"Badly Burnt - Little Washington Selph, youngest son of Rev. D.H. Selph, President of the Baptist Female College, was badly burned, last Wednesday evening. Dr. Selph was at prayer-meeting and Mrs. Selph had just left the room for a few minutes, when the little fellow, in endeavoring to get something out of a bureau drawer, upset a candle against himself. His linen waist instantly took fire, and in a moment the upper portion of his person was wrapped in flames. His screams brought Miss Fickle to the rescue, and she promptly extinguished the blaze, by throwing her shawl around him. He is very painfully burned on the chest, throat, and face: but Dr. T.S. Smith, who was called in to attend him, thinks no serious or permanent injury will result from it."
[Source: The Weekly Caucasian; Lexington, Lafayette Co., MO; 28 Oct 1871]


© Kathy Duncan, 2014

Information continues to present itself through the digitalization of America's newspapers. Through them, we can continue to flesh out our ancestors. Such is the case with Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph's election as President of the Baptist Female College at Lexington, Lafayette Co., Missouri.

In 1870 he was the president of Union University in Murfreeboro, Tennessee. With his health in decline, he evidently thought it prudent to seek out a position at a smaller educational instituion, so he accepted the appointment at the Baptist Female College in Lexington, Missouri and relocated his family.

The following announcement in the Lexington newspaper heralded his new appointment:

"The Rev. Duncan H. Selph, A.M., professor of moral philosophy and theology of Union University, at Murfreesboro', Tenn., was yesterday chosen as president of the Baptist Female College, and will be here at once to assume the duties of his place. His faculty is not yet, fully chosen but will be, and announced, in a few days. It is proper to say, however, that Miss Mary Frank Hawkins, and Miss Gabriella Hawkins, both of this city, and for years identified with that school, it is expected, will each have a place in it. President D.H. Selph for many years conducted one of the most successful female colleges at Danville, Ky."
[Source: The Weekly Caucasian; Lexington, Lafayette Co., MO., 30 July 1870]

The follow up article was rich in biographical detail:

The Baptist Female College  
Its New President 

"We have already announced that Rev Duncan H. Selph, A.M., has been elected President of the Baptist Female College in this place. We have now the pleasure to announce that Mr. Selph has definitely accepted the position, and is actively at work in preparations for the ensuing session. The Board of Trustees have not been hasty in their selection, and we consider that they have both acted fortunately and wisely in refusing to fill the vacancy until it was found possible to secure the services of such a teacher as they have.

"Mr. Selph is a native of North Carolina but in early life emigrated to Tennessee, and graduated with distinction at the institution of which he subsequently became President - Union University at Murfreesboro. His first active labor was with Madison College, Tennessee, which has built up under his labors and acquired much celebrity. Since that time, and indeed before that, in humbler positions, he has been energetically engaged in fostering and maturing educational interests, the most prominent of which was the Baptist Female College at Danville, Ky., which he carried through the whole extent of the war, with honor and profit. From this institution he went to the Presidency of his Alma Mater, in Tennessee; succeeded in saving the property from passing out of the hands of the original owners, and securing it for time to come. Ill-health, consequent to unusual labor, and desire to enter a field in which the better to superintend the education of his children, induced him to resign that position, against the protests of the friends of the University, and in the face of an enlarged salary.

"We hope our people will extend to President Selph a cordial welcome, and express their gratification at his accession to our society, by granting him a liberal share of their patronage. He is still young, and capable of great effort in building up the institution over which he presides, to a higher standard than it has ever attained.

"We understand that the new President will shortly return to the East in order to secure a full outfit for the College. The furniture and pianos will be entirely new, and of the most modern patterns. We have not heard the names of the corps of teachers selected, but we expect to be enabled to publish full particulars in our next issue. We congratulate the friends of the Baptist College upon the favorable prospect before them."
[Source: The Weekly Caucasian; Lexington, Lafayette Co., MO; 13 Aug 1870]

Fortunately, the Lexington papers reprinted the article that was published in Mufreesboro, Tennessee newspaper, announcing Rev Duncan H. Selph's departure: 

"President D. H. Selph - The gentleman who has been President of Union University has accepted the Presidency of the Baptist Female College at Lexington, Mo.

"President Selph has labored long in our midst for the advancement of our schools, and while he may have felt it his duty to leave us, it is to be regretted that one so gifted and energetic could not be retained in our midst. He is a zealous and working friend of schools, and possesses superior talents as a teacher. A true christian and upright gentleman, his counsel and teachings cannot fail of being beneficial to students, and we commend him to the people of Lexington as an instructor worthy of any position that the may be placed, and one in whom every trust may be reposed. [Murfreesboro (Tenn.,) Paper."
[Source: The Weekly Caucasian; Lexington, Lafayette Co. MO.; 10 Sept 1870]

Regrettably, the poor health that forced Rev. Duncan H. Selph to preside over a smaller school continued to plague him, and he died a few years later.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Nathaniel Holcomb III House on YouTube

Here is a link to a slide show of the house Nathaniel Holomb III  built in Granby, CT for those of us who cannot travel to see it. Lots of pictures of the interior.