Biography - Pleasant T. Chapman

HON. PLEASANT T. CHAPMAN. Everywhere in our broad land arise leaders of men, individuals who, from some inherent qualities which usually cannot be forecast, push their way irresistibly to the front, and in periods of financial danger and doubt skillfully guide their fellowmen to prosperity again. The Hon. Pleasant T. Chapman, ex-member of Congress and a well-known financier of Southern Illinois, has been identified with numerous enterprises of importance in this part of the state, and is a member of a family that has been connected with the interests of John county for more than a century, where he was born on a farm October 8, 1854, a son of Daniel C. and Mary Rose Chapman.

The Chapman family is of English descent, and was founded in this country by the great-grandfather of Pleasant T. Chapman, Daniel Chapman, a Revolutionary soldier, and his brother, Samuel J. Chapman, who fought through the war of 1812-14. Daniel Chapman came to Johnson county, Illinois, in the year 1800, from New York, and some years thereafter several of his sons followed him West, one of whom, also named Daniel, the grandfather of Pleasant T., came in 1818 and located on a farm four miles east of Vienna, where he spent the remainder of his life. The history of the Chapman family has been closely intertwined with that of Johnson county, and for more than one hundred years members thereof have been prominent in various walks of life. Daniel C. Chapman, the father of Pleasant T., served in the Mexican war. and on his return home was elected to the office of sheriff of Johnson county, in which he served three terms. He and his wife, who survives him, had a family of eight children, as follows: Pleasant T.; J. C., who is engaged in agricultural pursuits in Johnson county; Sidney A., deceased, who was the wife of A. G. Benson, and had four children; Mary E., the wife of J. N. Benson, assistant deputy warden of the Chester Penitentiary; Daniel L., who is deceased, left two children, and his widow, Kate, is now teaching school in East St. Louis; Estella, wife of Mayor Noel Whitehead, of Vienna, has three children; Ida C., the wife of D. W. Whittenburg, cashier of the First National Bank of Vienna, has two children; and Charles H., of Philadelphia, national bank examiner of the eastern district of Pennsylvania, has one child.

Pleasant T. Chapman attended' the common schools of his native vicinity, and all the surrounding circumstances of his youth combined in a remarkable degree to hasten the development of his character and to enable him to constantly store up that quality of knowledge which is a condition of leadership and success in a generation eminently practical and looking mainly to material results. Later he entered McKendree College, at Lebanon, Illinois, from which he was graduated with the degree of A. B. in 1876, and then began teaching school, in the meantime assiduously devoting his spare time to study of the law. He was admitted to the bar at Mount Vernon, Illinois, in 1879, when he began the practice of his profession, and during that same year was appointed county superintendent of schools, later serving four years by election to that office. In 1884 his eminent abilities were recognized by his election to the county bench, and in 1888 he was reelected to that position, and from 1890 to 1902 served as state senator from the Fifty-first district. He was then a member of the Fifty-ninth, Sixtieth and Sixty-first Congresses, being elected from the Twenty-fourth district, and his record as a member of that august body is one of which he may well feel proud. Quickly winning the confidence of its members, he became one of its wisest and most willing workers. Arduous work in the committee rooms, personal conferences with his fellow men and with the departments of the government, and careful care of the interests of even the most humble constituent, made his incumbency of his high office an eminent one and stamped him as one of his state's most conscientious legislators.

Mr. Chapman has been one of the leading financiers of this section for many years and is the oldest bank president in point of continuous service in Southern Illinois. The First National Bank, of which he is now president, was organized in 1890, having formerly been a private bank. He has served in the capacity of bank president for a quarter of a century, and for more than thirty years has been identified with the mercantile interests of Vienna. He is the owner or is interested in two thousand acres of land in Johnson county, and no important enterprise feels that its personnel of official members is complete that does not bear his name.

In 1882 Mr. Chapman was married to Miss May Copeland, formerly a teacher in the Vienna schools, daughter of John W. and Mary (Smith) Copeland, of Massac county, and three children have been born to this union: Daniel Ward, special agent for the National Fire Insurance Company, of Chicago; Marian, the wife "of Lieutenant Paul Raburg, U. S. Cavalry, located at Fort Russell; and Ralph D., who is a student in the Illinois University. Mr. and Mrs. Chapman are members of the Methodist Episcopal church, are well known in church circles, and liberal supporters of all movements of a religious or charitable nature. He is a member of the Union League Club of Chicago, and is fraternally connected with the Masons, in which he has attained to the thirty-second degree, the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Sons of the American Revolution. Mrs. Chapman is regent of the local chapter (named after the great-grandfather of Mr. Chapman) Daughters of the American Revolution and is widely known in social circles of the city.

True to his friends, loyal to his party, ardently devoted to the town of his adoption, Mr. Chapman was as much a conspicuous and faithful member of that great body of intelligent citizens who control the destinies of the country as he is today, and always has been, wise in counsel, original in conception, shrewd in management and fearless in the execution of those plans which he believes will result in prosperity to the city, the state and the nation.

The First National Bank of Vienna was organized October 7, 1890, having been preceded by a private bank of which the Hon. Pleasant T. Chapman was the president. This institution enjoys a prestige among financial concerns in Illinois rarely equaled, and is noted for the many able citizens and financiers who have been connected with it. Among these may be mentioned: Hon. P. T. Chapman, whose record it is needless to here repeat; George B. Gillespie, now senior attorney for the New York Central lines at Springfield; C. Cohn, former director and one of the original organizers, now located in San Bernardino, California, and one of the leading business men of that state; L. O. Whitnell, a former director, now Illinois attorney for the Missouri Pacific Railway; Robert Gillespie, president of the Illinois Trust Company, East St. Louis; John B. Jackson, banker at Anna, Illinois; Charles H. Chapman, national bank examiner for eastern Pennsylvania; J. F. Mackay, cashier of the Merchants State bank; William M. Grissom, president of the Merchants State Bank of Centralia, Illinois; L. O. Walker, cashier of the First National Bank of Cobden, Illinois; Richard Chapman, assistant cashier of the State Bank of Mounds. Illinois; and D. W. Chapman, assistant cashier of the City National Bank of East St. Louis. This institution is capitalized at sixty thousand dollars with a surplus of sixty thousand dollars, and the present board of directors is made up of the following well known citizens: Pleasant T. Chapman, D. W. Whittenberg (who has been a bank cashier for the past twenty-five years), W. M. Grissom of Centralia, J. P. Mackay of Centralia, J. K. Elkins, W. L. Williams and 0. H. Rhodes.

Extracted 14 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 750-752.

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