Mr John Henry Chapman

John Henry Chapman

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:

Grave
© Bob Knuckle, Dundas Ontario, Canada

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.


Courtesy: Steve Coombes, UK

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:

IN
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

Notes

Notes
  1. Norman Courts was married to Lillian (b. 1889) and raised a family. He later moved back to Alberta and lived in Medicine Hat. He died in 1964.
  2. Confusion over date: some sources state they were wed on 26 December 1911 whilst a contemporary news report states they were wed on Christmas Day.
  3. The portrayal of newlyweds travelling Second Class in the movie A Night to Remember was modelled after the Chapmans.
 

Pictures

John Henry Chapman
(1912) 
JOHN HENRY CHAPMAN
 

Articles and Stories

West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser (1912) 
Western Morning News (1912) 
Western Morning News (1912) 
Unidentified Newspaper 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Sheila Pearce said:

    I have previously used the message board,but have been off line for a few months owing to a house move. Mr John Henry Chapman was my gr.uncle. He & his wife lost their lives on their honeymoon vogage.I have postcards sent from Queenstown to my mother& my aunt, also some of the effects noted in the records. My new e mail address is

  2. Hydie Cheung said:

    Hello, Sheila. I have read about some stories about your great uncle and aunt. Do you still have the postcards now? - Hydie

  3. George Behe said:

    Hi, Sheila! Nice to see you here again! :-) I'm still plugging away on my project and would like to thank you once again for your kindness and for all the help you've given me in the past. Take care, my friend. Sincerely, George

  4. Dennis Smith said:

    Hi All, Did anyone in the UK watch "Country File" on BBC TV on Sunday morning? (Sounds off topic, but it's not). John Craven , the presentor, was in St. Neots in Cornwall and was interviewing a local historian and she took him to the memorial to Sara Elizabeth and John Henry Chapman. She told the story of what happened prior to the sinking. According to her John had left Sara in the UK while he went to the USA or Canada because Saras' mother was ill, anyway Saras mum died and he came back to the UK to take her back accross the pond on the Titanic. Now here is the rub, as the ship was... Read full post

  5. Bob Godfrey said:

    I had the TV on in the background and wasn't paying any attention to the prog until I caught the word 'Titanic', and then of course I started listening! The real story can be found in the recollections of Emily Richards. As a fellow Cornishwoman, she had made friends with the Chapmans and they, along with Emily's family, waited as a group until boat 4 was loading. When it became clear that her husband would have to stay behind, Sara made the decision to stay with him. So there's a kernel of truth in the TV version, but only insofar as Sara chose to die with her husband rather than live... Read full post

  6. Dennis Smith said:

    Cheers Bob, That is what I had read had happened, but when you hear a story from a reputed historian it's got to make you think. Again thanks Bob Best wishes and Rgds Dennis

  7. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    >>That is what I had read had happened, but when you hear a story from a reputed historian it's got to make you think.

  8. Matthew D. Chapman said:

    My parents and I think They were desendants from us. I think they stayed together too late and were crushed by the funnel when it fell as depicted in ANTR as anyone would know that the Chapmans were portrayed

  9. Lester Mitcham said:

    Matthew, Unless they had children before they married it seems unlikely that your family could be descended from John and Sara Chapman. I understand they were on their honeymoon. You might however be related to them through other family members. Unfortunately the URL links on this web-site are not presently working, so I cannot see who received monies from the MANSION HOUSE TITANIC RELIEF FUND or read the PROBATE REPORT for John's death.

  10. Bob Godfrey said:

    The honeymoon couple in ANTR (the Clarkes) were 'composite characters', there to represent all of the 2nd Class (and all of the young couples) on board. They weren't intended to represent any particular real people, though Mrs Clarke's refusal to be separated from her husband with the comment "We started out together and we'll finish together" were taken from Lightoller's recollection of an American couple on the boat deck. But even if the Clarkes had been based on the Chapmans, their death scene came from the screenwriter's imagination rather than any factual account of the sinking. No... Read full post

  11. Matthew D. Chapman said:

    Let me rephrase that. I meant to say Distant distant relatives

  12. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    Hello Bob You wrote, 'American couple.' I also thought that however, someone pointed out that western, which was the exact word used, meant western England.

  13. Bob Godfrey said:

    Hallo, Michael. Lightoller's words were "evidently from the Western States". Over here we don't have States. We would refer to 'the West country' or perhaps 'the Western Counties'.

  14. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    Hello Bob, Well this theory came from an English researcher who told me said that. Odd that another Englishman would not catch the 'states' thing unless that term sometimes used in certain parts of the country. I have an English friend that uses the word 'lawyer' and another who uses 'soliciter'.

  15. Bob Godfrey said:

    Well, Michael, I can only assure you that we don't have any Western States over here, and I'd be amazed if any English person would assert otherwise. Thanks to Hollywood, the Americanisation of standard English is well advanced, but it's still selective. We haven't yet got round (not gotten round, note ) to calling our pounds dollars or our counties states. Not in the West country nor in any other part of England I have live in over the past nearly 60 years. 'Lawyer', by the way, is as traditional a term here as in the US, but we rarely use the word 'attorney',... Read full post

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  16. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    Hello Bob Well since one English person says it correct and another English person says it is not correct, I guess it's better to let English people debate the nuances of their dialect. I will say, the word lawyer, was not always common on your side of the pond. Agatha Christie once mentioned that when talking about the denouement of one of her books. I see it is used more frequently now, but apparently it was not always so.

  17. Bob Godfrey said:

    Michael, we're not discussing the nuances of dialect here, but the interpretation of a book written in standard English. During his Gold Rush episode, Lightoller writes of teaming up with a group which included two Americans from the Black Hills. He refers to them as "our Western States men". So we do know that Lightoller used that term to mean just what we would expect it to mean, and was well qualified to recognise the characteristics of Westerners. And he surely recognised them on the boat deck that night. .

  18. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    Hello Bob, Actually if you throw away dialect and other spurious details- you are working with an account written well over 20 years later. Did he mention this couple in 1912 letters, accounts, or testimony? How can we be sure this was not some flourish he decided to add to the story? I've read certain things in his book that I don't think happened the way he remembered it. So we should not take every word he writes as fact! Going back to dialect, since he was exposed to Americans- can you be sure that he did not take to calling certain parts of England- 'Western states'? We just don't... Read full post

  19. Bob Godfrey said:

    I certainly agree, Michael, that an autobiography can be populated to some extent with composite characters, more representative than real. But I have no doubt whatsoever that Lightoller was describing this particular couple (whether real or imagined) as natives of the American West. Lightoller was a well-travelled man and knew his geography. We know that elsewhere in the same publication he used the term 'Western States' correctly to signify a region of your country. We can be equally certain that he knew that there are no 'Western States' in his own country, either on the ground or in... Read full post

  20. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    Yes, I see that you are immovable in your position as well, which is your prerogative. We just have to accept that dialect is constantly changing and that if the event with the couple did happen, which there is 50-50 possibility that it did not, he was not entirely clear. If you can find exact evidence- than that can put the matter to rest. I think another person from England commented a few years ago on this, and said the may have a been a British couple as well. I am sure it is here somewhere on the board. Goodness knows what thread it is under.

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Steve Coombes, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK

References and Sources

White Star Line (1912.) Record of Bodies and Effects (Passengers and Crew S.S. "Titanic") Recovered by Cable Steamer "MacKay Bennett" Including Bodies Buried at Sea and Bodies Delivered at Morgue in Halifax, N.S. Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Halifax, N.S., Manuscript Group 100, Vol. 229, No. 3d, Accession 1976-191, 76 pp., unpaged. (#17)
British Census 1881
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/4735451/Titanic-pocket-watch-which-stopped-when-owner-fell-into-sea-is-on-display-for-first-time.html
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2016) John Henry Chapman (ref: #373, last updated: 8th August 2016, accessed 4th July 2020 03:55:48 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/john-henry-chapman.html