Chapman Cemetery Memories, Mt Olive Township - Macoupin County IL -
Memories contributed by Carla Hunter
Macoupin County Illinois
Mt Olive Township
T7N R6W Section 10
Location From Interstate 55 at Exit 44 go east to Route 66 (frontage road) - take this south approximately one mile - Cemetery is on the west side of road.
Partial Listing of Chapman Cemetery Donated by - Rick Doty
Whoever desecrated the Chapman Cemetery a few years ago was after the beautiful wrought iron fence which they evidently dragged off with a chain to their pick up truck. I suspect there were adults involved in that crime. I am thankful my mother didn't live to see that.
I will never forget the day that she, my sister, and I first found that cemetery and her ancestors' graves. We were on a trip by car back to Florida after visiting in Peoria, where we used to live. Every time we would drive through the area, always on a tight schedule, she would say, wistfully, that her grandmother always spoke of her childhood there, and that her folks were buried around there somewhere. Her grandmother was Charlotte Chapman Rowett Tansey, the daughter of Major Fletcher Harris Chapman and Celia Burns Chapman. She was a writer and she told her grandchildren so many wonderful stories about the family and the history of the area. Because I grew up with the same stories passed down to me, many of the people in that graveyard were quite real to me, too.
I happened to look up from the highway and see a sign that said "Chapman". I told Mother, and she pulled over. We jumped out, ran up, and searched til we found that lovely old iron fence and the graves that were sheltered within and around it. Celia Davenport Chapman, her husband Richard, both born in Tyrell County, North Carolina. I remembered the story about his getting caught in a hurricane at sea while captaining a boat, how his hair came lose from his queue and nearly blinded him. He reached for the tar bucket and "glued" it back. After that he always wore it unfashionably short, determining that a man should never wear a fashion that hindered his work.
And there, in 1968 or 69, we found him, in the sacred family plot on his old farm. I was a teenager, and I can't adequately describe how thrilling it was to find this tangible connection to that part of my family, and, moreover, to see my mother's joy.
Years and years later, I was able to revisit, and the sight I saw was nothing like my first sight, I can tell you. The sad thing is that even if we were able to replace the decorative wrought iron, it would no doubt disappear in much the same way again.
Fletcher Chapman's first wife and the mother of his two eldest daughters, died very young, and her tombstone is so shattered that it's hard to read now. It looked like the truck drove right over it. I think it was broken before, not in so many pieces that you wouldn't know whose stone it was. It's not listed in the tally of those buried there. Her name was Sarah McCreery, from Orange County, New York. She died in 1857, leaving little Ida and Emily. During the Civil War, he met my GGGM, Celia Burns, of Dublin, Ireland, on the steps of the Courthouse in Carlinville, and they had Charlotte, who graduated from Blackburn College and married General Rowett's brother, Joe, who was many years her senior.
Standing in the cemetery about three years ago, I remembered the words Charlotte wrote in 1942, "Both Father and Mother are buried in what used to be the Chapman family cemetery several miles from Staunton, on the old Chapman farm. A new town had grown up much nearer, Mount Olive, a coal town, and Mount Olive took over the cemetery and when I last was in touch, kept it in good order. I used to grieve because it was so far away, or perhaps I was so far away from it. But I have perceived that it is not important." I expect she meant that there was no point in continuing to grieve over the fact that she was too far away to be able to visit the cemetery anymore.
I'm grateful that the cemetery is still beautifully maintained, and I just wish we had the ability to prevent the kind of callous destruction that some people commit. It's difficult enough to do that in a city cemetery with regular police patrol, let alone in a rural area that is a magnet to some teens.
I get emotional on this subject, as I'm sure we all do.
Carla Hunter Southwick New Jersey
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