Samuel M. Chapman, 1839-1907 (Guide to Microfilm) [RG2974.AM]


RG2974.AM: Samuel M. Chapman, 1839-1907

Papers: 1866-1906
Plattsmouth, Cass County, Neb.: Lawyer; judge; politician
Size: 10 rolls of microfilm


Samuel M. Chapman was born in Blairsville, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, on October 28, 1839. He was the fifth of eight children born to Joseph Chapman and Elizabeth Pollack. Other children in the Chapman family were Thomas P., James P., John W., Jane, Joseph M. (Samuel’s twin brother), Mary H., and Washington H.

Samuel’s father was a farmer and in 1843 moved the family to Iowa Territory. Samuel grew to manhood near Burlington and later attended Yellow Springs College at Kossuth, Iowa. In April 1861, while in college, he enlisted in Company E, First Iowa Infantry serving three months. Completing his service he re-enlisted in Company K, Fourteenth Iowa Infantry, and served three years before returning to Iowa where he received his discharge.

In early 1865 Samuel came to Plattsmouth, Nebraska Territory. He studied law under Turner M. Marquett and was admitted to the bar on October 30, 1866. In March 1867 Chapman entered into law partnership with Samuel Maxwell. This relationship was terminated in 1873 when Maxwell moved to Fremont, Nebraska. (The Maxwell Papers are in the Nebraska State Historical Society, and also have been microfilmed under the auspices of the National Historical Publications Commission.) After 1873 Chapman was associated in Plattsmouth with a number of lawyers, including A L. Sprague, and Allan D. Beeson. Chapman served as a collector for eastern creditors, mainly farm machinery firms, for many years. In part the importance of his papers relate to this work. In addition Chapman’s correspondence reveals significant friendships with Nebraskans on a national and state level in matters relating to the Republican Party.

Chapman was an active member of the Republican Party. He served in the State Senate in 1875 ad 1877 and was chairman of the Judiciary Committee during both of these terms. In 1885 he was elected judge of the 2nd District and served in that capacity for ten years. In 1895 he returned to private practice and remained in Plattsmouth until his death on January 5, 1907.

Chapman was married twice. On October 14, 1869 he married Sarah E. Putnam, of Ludlow, Vermont. Four children were born to this union: Harriet E., Emeline, who died in infancy, Thomas P., and Sarah. His wife died on February 11, 1880. Samuel married Agnes D. Samson in June 1883. Children from this marriage were: Samuel M., Helen H., John R., Joseph, and Clement.


The Samuel M. Chapman Papers were given to the Nebraska State Historical Society by the Chapman family. No other collection of Chapman material in known to exist.

The papers consist of approximately 10,000 pieces. The bulk of the material relates to collections made by Chapman for eastern creditors, and judicial and political activities within Nebraska from 1866 to 1906. An examination of the letters reveals that Chapman corresponded with many prominent Nebraskans including: James E. Boyd, Charles F. Manderson, Samuel Maxwell, J. Sterling Morton, Algernon S. Paddock, Alvin Saunders, John Milton Thayer, Edward K. Valentine, Charles Henry Van Wyck, Arthur J. Weaver, and officials of the Missouri Pacific Railway Company and the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company. Many of these correspondents were prominent political figures in Nebraska and wrote to Chapman about Republican party activities. These included appointment of various officials, control of party delegations, comments on various elections, political delegations, comments on various elections, political developments within Cass County and other associated affairs.

The papers are divided into three series. The largest series is incoming letters which consist of eight rolls of microfilm. Included on Roll 1 is a partial calendar for the papers covering the years 1864-1903. Series two consists of six press copy books as follows: February 1880-June 1882; May 1894-August 1896; September 1897-December 1898; July 1899-February 1902; January 1904-December 1904; and December 1904-November 1906. There are a number of letters which Chapman wrote which were filmed prior to the press copy books.

Many of the press copy books are difficult to read. Those pages which could not be read or were judged illegible were not filmed.

Series three consists of miscellaneous material which was extracted from the papers. These included circular letters and other related material which did not significantly relate to Chapman of his life’s work.

All of the papers are in chronological order. Dated but incomplete letters were retained in their proper order. Undated and complete/incomplete letters were placed at the end of the dated material. A number of invoices and miscellaneous papers were also included.

Letters where the month and year only were indicated were placed at the end of the particular month. Letters which had only the year of origin were inserted at the end of that year. Dates which were supplied by the project staff are enclosed by brackets.

Editorial comments and film targets were purposely kept to a minimum. The placement of documents was made to coincide as much as possible with the manner in which a person would view the original papers. Only one page of a document appears on a frame. There are 11,715 frames on the ten rolls of film. If a letter was on two sides of a sheet of paper, two frames were utilized. For each additional page of a letter one more frame was used.

An automatic numbering device is in the lower right hand corner of the frame. Every exposure was given a number. Targets noting the appropriate year were inserted in the papers and these were given numbers.

Letters which are obviously torn or in some way altered from their original appearance were filmed without any target noting their conditions. Endorsements and enclosures are indicated by placing a target beneath the appropriate documents. Endorsements were filmed before a letter and enclosures after the document to which it pertains.

Occasionally there is a check mark or the symbol “ansd” on letters. These were apparently placed by Chapman or his associates as an indication that a letter had been answered. There are a number of letters which were given a number by Chapman. The sequence of this system was destroyed when the papers were arranged in chronological order. A number of enclosures have become separated or are missing from their original letters. This fact has not been noted when it occurs.

This microfilm meets standards established by the National Historical Publications Commission, General Services Administration and was produced with its assistance in 1966. The microfilm is available through Interlibrary Loan.


Roll 1

This roll pertains to collections Chapman made for eastern creditors. Many of these firms were farm implement companies in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Correspondence relates to determining the location of various debtors, collection of chattel mortgages, and possible legal action against people owing money. In connection with the collection business, there are a number of letters from Nebraskans stating why they can not pay their incumbrances. Other correspondents direct themselves to inquiries about land in the state and various legal and court-related activities within Nebraska.

Roll 2
1874-September 1875

This roll is a continuation of correspondence regarding eastern creditors. Collections are from a number of states including New York, Texas, Michigan, Iowa, and Indiana. In response from demands by Chapman to people to pay their debts, a number of letters relate why farmers can not pay their bills. Many Nebraskans were plagued by grasshoppers. Other letters describe farming conditions in Nebraska and reveal current prices for certain grain crops. Algernon S. Paddock and William A. Pollock write about political developments in Nebraska. J. R. Plummer, Texas, writes a series of letters commenting on agricultural conditions in that state.

Roll 3
October 1875-July 1877

This roll pertains to collections Chapman made for various eastern creditors and routine legal affairs of his law firm. Included among the topics of finance are inquiries about the progress of certain collections, and various legal actions associated with debtors. Creditors include farm implements companies, sewing machine firms, and wholesale hardware concerns. Chapman’s legal affairs center on specific cases and various court proceedings. Samuel Maxwell, George Dorsey, Algernon S. Paddock, John R. Clark, and Church Howe, are Nebraska politicians who correspond with Chapman. Their interests include appointments to various offices, the Republican National Convention of 1876, activities within the Greenback Party and some mention of Cass County political affairs.

Roll 4
August 1877-July 1879

Correspondence on this roll continues to concentrate on collections, foreclosures and other activities of Chapman on behalf of eastern creditors. Other matters of interest are occasional mention of rates on chattel mortgages and duration of the loans. Many Nebraskans write to Chapman for legal assistance, including payment of land taxes. In 1878, A. L. Sprague, former associate of Chapman, writes and invites him to come to Central City, Nebraska, where there is a large volume of legal work. In 1879 several correspondents write about political patronage and various Cass County activities.

Roll 5
August 1879-December 1887

This roll consists of letters relating to various political developments within Nebraska from 1879 to 1887. Included among the correspondents are Lionel C. Burr, R. G. Doom, Samuel Maxwell, Church Howe, Charles F. Manderson, George D. Meiklejohn, Algernon S. Paddock, Edward K. Valentine, Alvin Saunders and Arthur J. Weaver. Topics of interest include political patronage; control of republican convention delegations; the 1880 Republican Convention in Chicago; speculation that Chapman may receive a federal judicial post in Utah; affairs relating to Nebraska’s 2nd Judicial District; and Chapman’s possible candidacy for United States Congress in 1888. There are a number of letters dealing with legal activities in Nebraska and some comment on railroad affairs in the state.

Roll 6
January 1888-September 1896

This roll pertains to political affairs in Nebraska and the nation. Samuel Maxwell, William V. Allen, Lionel C. Burr, Daniel H. Wheeler, James E. Boyd, Algernon S. Paddock, J. Sterling Morton, George W. Clark, John E. Watson, John M. Thurston, William McKinley and Jesse B. Strode are prominent public figures who write to Chapman. A variety of political topics are discussed including: appointment of postmasters and district judges; comments on the election of 1892; letters from Morton on the silver question; county and state political developments in 1894; and aspects of the 1896 campaign, including Populism and silver. Interspersed throughout the collection are letters relating to legal cases, decisions, possible suits and related actions. There are a number of letters relating to railroad passes.

Roll 7
October 1896-June 1901

The correspondence on this roll pertains mainly to legal cases and political activities in the state and nation. The extent of Chapman’s thriving law practice is revealed by the numerous letters seeking legal advice, claim collections, probate of wills and deeds, insurance litigation and corporate counsel.

Samuel Maxwell, Jesse B. Strode, John C. Watson, Monroe L. Hayward, John M. Thurston and J. Sterling Morton, discuss state politics the silver issue, Populism, and Bryanism as they correspond with Chapman. The Nebraska Telephone Company cancelled Chapman’s complimentary telephone service, because he was unable to maintain Republican support for the company in 1897. B. A. Gibson explains the difference between Colorado and Nebraska law practice, while Samuel Maxwell writes of the nation’s economic situation in 1897-1898. In the correspondence of 1899 there is a discussion of a Democrat-Populist ticket, and John W. Dixon predicts the defeat of Bryan in 1900.

Roll 8
July 1901-1903 and undated

This roll is a continuation of the correspondence that pertains to Chapman’s practice of law. Much of the material has been received from clients and friends, who discuss various legal problems affecting their business and personal lives.

Part of this roll consists of undated and incomplete letters received by Chapman and relates to various affairs, including eastern creditors, previously mentioned in the roll notes. The remainder of this roll contains outgoing correspondence written by Chapman, and in many cases there are replies to communications written to him, 1872-1900.

Roll 9

The contents of this roll are a continuation of Chapman’s outgoing correspondence. These letters concern legal questions, judicial cases, political affairs, and business matters. The greater part of the roll is composed of press copy books, 1880-1882, 1894-1896, and 1897-1898. Some of the pages in the press copy books have faded and are difficult to read. Pages which were judged illegible were not microfilmed.

Roll 10

The final roll of Chapman material is composed of press copy books and miscellaneous material. The correspondence concerns Chapman’s business affairs, legal matters, and political interests: 1899-1901, and 1904-1906. Some pages in the books have not been filmed because of their illegibility. The roll is concluded with a number of legal briefs, land deeds and election certificates.

Revised 12-09-2008 TMM

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