Edward Chapman

Edward Chapman was born in Louisiana and was 27 years old at the legislative session. He listed himself in the Council records as a lawyer from Lawrence. He told the Howard Committee that he moved to Kansas December 28, 1854 and lived continuously in Kansas thereafter. [Howard Committee, 134] A free-state settler in Lawrence remembered Chapman well:

"About this time there came, for the first time, to our city, a Mr. Chapman. He had been employed by Mr. Jenkins about his hotel, in Kansas City. He made his first appearance here with a wagon and one yoke of oxen, and commenced cutting and hauling out logs for the house where afterwards Gen. Lane shot Mr. Jenkins. Chapman was employed by Mr. Jenkins, who owned the team and found the groceries to improve his claim, which he had made previous to our arrival. Mr. C. afterwards turned traitor to his employer, and claimed for himself a part of the city. He soon after sold his interest to Dr. J.N.O.P. Wood (or Alphabet Wood, as he was sometimes called for short), for a consideration. This Dr. Wood afterward, with several other outsiders, obtained possession of no small part of our city lots. His name appears often on our records, and this is the way it came about.

Hay Tents in Lawrence 1855

Chapman came to the hay tents to threaten Charles Robinson's life.

"Chapman was a short, thick-set man, with not a very pleasing countenance, with a hair lip, causing an impediment in his speech. He also had an ungovernable temper. One day Gov. Robinson made some remarks about him, at which he was very angry. So he went to his cabin and hid his long dirk knife in his bosom, and then came over to our hay tents to kill the Governor. I was present at the time. The Governor kept perfectly cool, and so managed him as to quiet his rage, and they parted by shaking hands, and the Governor promised to call at his cabin to see his wife, who was a very amiable woman.

"Chapman came to my tent one day and told me that he had filed on that claim in Washington, for a home, and had got his papers for it, and that it would of no use for me to try to keep it. He kept working away at his house with commendable industry, and after a few days I abandoned the claim with the everlasting fortune, and moved my tent over the ravine into town...

"The contest was kept up until some time during the next summer, with several exciting incidents occurring, the chief of which are these: Chapman was arrested in the fall for stopping our surveys. He sometime early in the winter sold out his interest to "Alphabet Wood," who consolidated with the other outside interests, and made a general right for a part of the town. Wood brought in considerable money, it was reported, which helped them to keep up the contest." [Clark, Joseph Savage, Expanded Version on KSHS Website]

John Speer, editor of a Lawrence newspaper, said Chapman's reputation for a belligerent approach to free-staters was the reason he was picked to run for the Council. [Speer, Accuracy, 60ff.] Chapman was the only member of the Bogus Legislature to join the abortive attempt to form a National Democratic Party in June 1855 under the leadership of James H. Lane. The other legislators uniformly opposed a fusion of pro-slavery and free-state Democrats and in the end, formed the Law and Order Party in reaction to the formation of the Free State Party by the other side. [Charles Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 143]

Chapman was a violent man and it is no surprise that he ended his time in Kansas accused of the murder of George Wilson, a newcomer from South Carolina, in late summer 1856. Sara Robinson wrote that Wilson refused to pay one dollar of the four-dollar fee for a wagon and team he had rented from Chapman's employer, Jenkins, in Kansas City. In her version of the story, Wilson and his daughter were boarding the stage to Westport. As the stage was about to depart, Chapman asked again for the dollar and when refused, struck Wilson with a heavy stick. After his wound was dressed, and against the advice of bystanders, Wilson continued his journey to Westport, and died soon after reaching there. Chapman was examined before a justice at Lecompton, and released on bail of $3,500. [Sara Robinson, Interior and Exterior, Ch. 22] John Speer's version was more dramatic:

"...as soon as [Chapman] could spare time from his legislative duties, he murdered Geo. Wilson, of North Carolina, by a blow from a club, while Wilson's daughter of sixteen sat by his side in a buggy. Wilson's death right then was only prevented by that child seizing the whip and reins and driving to Westport, Mo. (thirty-five miles), where she appealed to the Odd Fellows, who ministered to him till his death, and buried him with the honors of the order; and the murderer, Chapman, afterward went to the penitentiary by the way of Iowa, and still later to that place, 'With all his crimes broad blown as May; And how his audit stands, who knows save Heaven? But in our circumstance and course of thought, 'Tis heavy with him.'" [Speer, Accuracy, loc.cit.]

The evidence of Chapman's guilt was sufficient to satisfy his fellow legislators when they sent a committee to Governor Geary. The Governor's minute book records:

January 13, 1857 "...A Committee from the Council of the Legislative Assembly also visited the Executive, asking information respecting the resignation of Edward Chapman, a member of the Council, who stands accused before the legal tribunals of the charge of murder in the first degree, committed in the town of Lawrence. The Governor communicated to this committee certain information touching the charge against Chapman, and placed in their hands papers upon the subject, which they embodied in a report to the Council, which proving satisfactory to that body, the seat of Chapman was declared vacant...." [Geary, Minutes,KHC4:687]

Charles Clark