Mr John Henry Chapman was born at Parson's Park Farmhouse in St Neot, Liskeard, Cornwall, England in late 1875, later being baptised on 1 January 1876.
He was the son of James Chapman (1841-1921), a farm labourer and bailiff, and Isabella Wilton (1841-1927), both natives of Cornwall who were married in 1868.
He came from a family of six children (two boys and four girls) and his siblings were: Dorcas (b. 1868), William James (b. 1870), Catherine Sarah (b. 1873), Sidonia (b. 1875) and Mehetabel (1877-1878).
John first appears on the 1881 census, still at the home of his birth, Parson's Park Farmhouse. The family had moved to Trethewey (?) in St Neot by the time of the 1891 census and John was still described as a schoolboy at the time. When the 1901 census was conducted the family were residing at the same address and John was by now working as a farmer alongside his father.
Chapman emigrated in 1906 with a friend, Norman Courts (b. 1884) (1) also of Liskeard. They initially settled in Alberta before relocating across the border to Spokane, Washington in 1910, both working at Fairmount Cemetery; a number of other acquaintances from their home village also lived in the area. Chapman was shown on the 1910 census living beside Courts at an unspecified address in Five Mile Township, West Spokane and was described as a cemetery labourer. He later made his home with a cousin, Andrew Wilton, of 0609 1-2 Monroe Street in Spokane.
Chapman had left behind a sweetheart in Cornwall, Sarah Elizabeth Lawry (b. 1882) but had corresponded with her the whole time he was abroad. After leaving Spokane in November 1911 Mr Chapman crossed the Atlantic, reaching his native Cornwall where he and Miss Lowry were wed on Christmas Day 1911 (2) at the Wesleyan Chapel. At that time his elderly parents were residing at Carpaun in Dobwalls, St Neot.
Mr and Mrs Chapman boarded the Titanic at Southampton as second class passengers (ticket number 29037 which cost £26, purchased from George & Co of Liskeard). Sources differ over the eventual destination of the couple; one unidentified newspaper states that they were headed to Mr Chapman's home (1-2 Monroe Street) in Spokane whilst another states they were destined for the home of Mrs Chapman's brother William in Fitzburgh, Dane, Wisconsin; it is possible they were travelling to Spokane via Wisconsin. Whilst aboard the couple became friendly with Mr Samuel James Hocking of Devon and several others from Cornwall, including Mrs Emily Richards and her family and Mr James Vivian Drew and his family.
On the night of the sinking, according to Mrs Emily Richards, the Chapmans, the Drews, Hockings and Richards all waited on the deck together as the evacuation was taking place. The Drews later became separated from the main crowd and the remainder in the party were escorted to lifeboat 4 which was being filled from A-deck promenade. Mrs Chapman was reportedly following behind Mrs Richards as she began her climb into the boat but, realising her husband would not be allowed to accompany her said 'Goodbye Mrs Richards, if John can't go, I won't go either' before stepping back and rejoining her husband.
Mr and Mrs Chapman both died in the sinking. The body of John Henry Chapman was subsequently recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and was buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 10 May 1912. On his body, among other items, was his wife's handbag and their marriage certificate:
NO. 17. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 30-40. HAIR, DARK.
CLOTHING - Grey overcoat; brown suit; handkerchief, "J. Chapman."
EFFECTS - Lady's hand bag; gold watch, chain and locket; gold watch, chain and badge; £63 10s. in gold; 13s. 7d. in silver and copper; $2 in paper and silver, ect.; letter; baggage receipt; keys; tie clip; pipe; nail cleaner; baggage insurance; marriage certificate.
NAME - JOHN H. CHAPMAN.
The gold watch found on Mr Chapman's body, with the hands frozen at 1.45 am, was exhibited for the first time in 2009 at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall.
His estate, valued at £206, 1s, 11d, was administered to his father on 15 August 1912. His elderly parents remained in St Neot, both dying in the 1920s.
The couple are remembered on a family headstone in St Neot's Cemetery:
LOVING MEMORY OF
JOHN HENRY CHAPMAN
AGED 35 YEARS
ALSO OF HIS WIFE
SARAH ELIZABETH CHAPMAN
AGED 30 YEARS
WHO LOST THEIR LIVES THROUGH THE
SINKING OF THE TITANIC IN 1912.
PEACE, PERFECT PEACE