Chapman Family Cemetary Research and Restoration

Thanks to a grant from the Southern Maryland Historical Area Consortium, the Friends of Chapman State Park are working to research and restore the Chapman Family Cemetery.  Volunteers are needed to do further research on and restoration of this site.

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headstoneSummary, “Documentation of the Chapman Family Cemetery.”

The cultural landscape of Southern Maryland is rapidly disappearing because of development pressures in the area and the inevitable loss of physical evidence with the passage of time.  Old family cemeteries provide a record of the people who lived here, and connect us to their story.

THE CHAPMAN FAMILY CEMETERY

The property was purchased by Nathaniel Chapman circa 1740.   Son of a wealthy Virginia landowner and business man, Nathaniel built an impressive home on the shore of the Potomac below and slightly east of the current Mt. Aventine mansion. He and his wife Constantina raised their six children here.

The cemetery sits on a grassy knoll, surrounded by woodland, in an unenclosed clearing at the edge of the field below Mt. Aventine. It is located near the site of the original Chapman home.  The location is accessible from the shoreline trail and is marked on the trail map.  The first recorded burial was in 1773 and the last was in 1900.

Four standing stones remain, facing east as was the custom of the time.  Each has a corresponding footstone carved with the deceased’s initials.

Note: Pearson #1 (1725-1784) was the second generation of Chapmans to own the plantation.   Pearson #2 (1803-1877) was his grandson and the builder of Mt. Aventine.

 

headstone2Graves with headstones are:

  1. Matilda L. A. Chapman, wife of JNC. S. Chapman b. Nov. 18, 1799, d. March 25, 1874 (Matilda was the sister of Pearson #2 and the wife of John Chapman.. She had no children.)
  2. John S. Chapman, b. 1792, d. Oct 1, 1841. (The headstone has a carving of the Masonic emblem and significant text as yet not deciphered. Although his surname was Chapman, he is not believed to be related to the Virginia/Maryland Chapmans. He practiced law.)
  3. S. M. Chapman, “Our Mother.” The birth and death dates 1807-1870 are partially obscured and the stone is broken. (Mary Sigismunda Alexander Chapman, wife of Pearson #2. They had eleven children);
  4. Pearson Chapman, b. Sept. 7, 1803, d. May 10, 1877. (Pearson #2 is credited with designing and building the current house and developing the plantation into a prosperous business.)

Records of other burials include:

  1. Matilda Louise Chapman, b. 1772, d. 1773 (infant daughter of the Pearson #1 and Susanna Chapman);
  2. Gustavus Alexander Chapman, b. 1779, d. 1780 (son of  Pearson #1 and Susanna Chapman};
  3. Pearson Chapman, b. June 24, 1725, d. July 31, 1784. (Pearson #1, son of Nathaniel and Constantina the original owners of the Maryland property “Grymes Ditch,” and grandfather of the Pearson #2 who built the current Mount Aventine.  He was a Captain in the Maryland Division in the Revolutionary War);
  4. Susanna Pearson Alexander, b. April 12, 1744, d. Sept. 30, 1815 (wife of Pearson #1);
  5. Nathaniel Chapman, b. 1767, d. unknown. ( Son of Pearson #1);
  6. George Chapman, b. February 24, 1820, d. Dec. 29, 1840.( Brother of Pearson #2);
  7. William Brown Chapman, b. Oct. 3, 1871, d. Oct. 13, 1871;
  8. Nathaniel Chapman CSA, b. 1842, d. not recorded (son of Pearson #2 and Sigismunda. Physician with CSA who later practiced medicine at Mt. Aventine and in Washington, D.C.);
  9. Infant daughter of Helen Pearson Chapman, b. July 1900, d. July 1900.

NOTE:  These records were originally compiled by Elmer Biles, an amateur historian and volunteer.   

GROUND PENETRATING RADAR SURVEY (GPR)

A GPR survey of the site was performed in May, 2019 by Mr. Matt Turner of GeoModel, Inc., Leesburg, Va.  A geologist by training, Mr. Turner has been conducting ground GPR surveys nationwide and internationally for over twenty years.  Possible grave sites are identified by locating specific anomalies in the soil.

headstone3The photo shows the location of the possible graves as identified by the GPR survey.

The results of the GPR survey and the records from burial records are consistent and indicate 13 to 15 burials on the site.

The Friends have taken steps to make the site more accessible to visitors and help protect the site for further investigation.

Corner fences were installed to mark the area of the central burial field containing the headstones and those located by GPR.  New signage has been installed to help tell the story of the people buried here.

Burial places of Native Americans and of the enslaved people who help build the plantation are not yet known.  Additional investigation would undoubtedly provide opportunities for interesting discoveries and a more complete picture of life during this era.

More research and investigation is needed to help complete the picture of this interesting place and its role in our cultural history. 

PLEASE VISIT TODAY!

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