David Chapman (1894-1953)

chapman_david_srA very happy birthday to my great-grandfather, David Chapman, who would have been 120 today. I wish I could have met him, but he died before I was born. In photos, he strikes me as a quiet and gentle man. He was born on this date in 1894 in Elbridge, in Onondaga County, New York, the youngest of six children. He never knew his mother; she died when he was a baby. His father was a farmer who leased land in Camillus and Elbridge.

David married when he was nineteen and his bride, Ina Case, was just fifteen. Together they raised four children, and together they grieved when their youngest daughter Mertie died. She was hit by a car in front of her house when she was just seven years old.

He worked for the New York State Highway Department for 32 years and was a member of the Camillus Methodist Church. A solid, upstanding guy, apparently. But interestingly, David also rode an Indian motorcycle. In April of 1916, just two months before Ina gave birth to their first child, he acquired the Indian. This seems like a daring, slightly reckless purchase to make right before becoming a parent. I like to think of him tearing up the roads around Camillus and Elbridge, escaping for just a little while the cares and concerns of providing for his family.

My mother never knew about the Indian; she was just a kid when David died. I learned of it from a local newspaper. I wish I had known about it while my great-grandmother was alive, I would have loved to ask her what her reaction was when David brought it home!

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