Toward the close of a bright spring afternoon in March, 1907, at the Center Cemetery in Manchester, in a
grave banked with beautiful flowers, surrounded by a small gathering of grief-stricken relatives and friends,
Maro S. Chapman was laid at rest. Since that time, much has been written and printed on the long and useful
career of the deceased; lawyer, doctor, clergyman, banker, editor, layman, friend and adversary, in Manchester
and Hartford, have joined with one voice in tributes sincere, hearty and eloquent, but still the article which
can do full justice to the life of Maro S. Chapman has not yet appeared.
The broad humanity of Mr. Chapman, his generous nature, which so often found expression in his willingness to extend assistance to others who were less fortunate than he, his delightful companionship during social hours, of which he showed no tendency to confine to a limited circle, but seemed willing and anxious to share with all, his warm greeting and genial manner, his indomitable energy and vigor in all his enterprises, equally powerful whether in establishing rapid transit in town in the face of obstacles, or when engaged in keen business competition -- a just and faithful estimate of the man who possessed these characteristics and many more fully as meritorious, can hardly come from any single writer's pen.
It was not altogether Mr. Chapman's business success which made him such a powerful factor in the town and city where most of his life was spent, although success in large enterprises usually brings power. He has had commercial contemporaries, who achieved as much in business as he, but who, when their accounts were closed for the last time, did not leave, as did Mr. Chapman, a town in mourning, and people of all ranks and stations expressing heartfelt eulogies. Mr. Chapman did not allow success to form a barrier between him and his fellow-men; from his view-point, all other conditions being equal, a man was a man, be he wage earner or employer, and entitled to the consideration and regard due a man. This consideration Mr. Chapman freely and cheerfully gave, honestly and earnestly, not at all patronizingly, but with a frankness which rang true. A faithful worker in Mr. Chapman's employ, whether superintendent of the trolley line or the most humble day laborer in the repair gang on the tracks, was sure of a kindly greeting and cheerful word from him, and this delightful characteristic in such a busy man won for him more loyal friends than he ever realized. Few men held so firm a place in the esteem of their employees, and if the utmost confidence and enthusiastic regard of a man's workmen are a good measure for determining the worth of an employer, high indeed was Mr. Chapman's standing with those who worked for him. Time and again, by presentations and in other ways, his workers showed their friendship and regard for him, freely expressing their gratitude for his generous treatment.
For nearly fifty years Mr. Chapman was one of the most prominent figures in the town of Manchester. He was born in East Haddam, February 13, 1839, and at the age of 18 he moved to Manchester. For three years he was clerk in the Manchester Green store, and in 1861 he enlisted in Company C, Twelfth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, and served for a year and a half in General Butler's division. As a result of this service, he became in after years an active member of the G.A.R., and was for many years commander of Drake Post, No. 4, of Manchester. Regard for the old soldier was one of his tender points; no appeal in behalf of a veteran was ever allowed to go unheeded by Mr. Chapman. This regard increased as the ranks of the Grand Army began to thin, and of late years Mr. Chapman had made it a practice to invite the members of Drake Post to his summer lodge at the crest of the hill east of Laurel Park, about which read more on our web site: here, once each year, generally in the early autumn, where the roll was called, reminiscences were exchanged, and an elaborate dinner was enjoyed. Each year, the line which limped over the hill behind the flag and an improvised drum corps, grew smaller; Drake Post will not take this march again, for, like many who attended the first of these gatherings and were missing at subsequent reunions, the host, too, has answered the final roll-call.
Shortly after the Civil War Mr. Chapman began his business career. He entered the employ of the Plimpton Envelope Company, of Hartford, and continued to live in Manchester. He was soon promoted from a place as clerk to a position as traveling salesman. Largely through Mr. Chapman's efforts the company secured the contract for the manufacture of stamped envelopes for the government in 1874, and although it was a herculean task, the company assembled a plant and filled the contract, and furthermore was able to secure the contract again at each period of renewal, in spite of competing bidders, until the present year, when a western corporation took it on at reduced figures. It was in the work of securing these contracts that Mr. Chapman achieved remarkable commercial triumphs; he showed his business mettle and earned a reputation which went far beyond the confines of the state; he made his plans carefully, and could look ahead and estimate the future, and he showed that he was an indomitable fighter where fighting was the necessity of the situation.
Soon after securing the government contract for the first time, the Plimpton company united with the Morgan Envelope company of Springfield, Mass., and this combination successfully carried on the work. In 1898 the Hartford Manufacturing company was organized, with Mr. Chapman as secretary, treasurer and general manager, and it took up the contract and held it until last year. One of the best indications of Mr. Chapman's progressive spirit is the envelope plant which he established; although not a mechanic, he knew the value of improved machinery and was quick to adopt any improvement over the old system. He surrounded himself with skilful (sic) workmen, and through their ingenuity, and the inventive ability of others with whom he had business relations, the most improved machinery known to science for making stamped envelopes was assembled in the Hartford plant. Where would-be competitors were using machines which required two, and sometimes three, operations, for producing the finished product, Mr. Chapman's plant was equipped with machinery which prepared and perfected the product with one operation. Of much value to the company, also, was Mr. Chapman's knowledge of business affairs and of men; always keen and alert, he demanded for his company fair treatment, and at the renewal periods, when bids for the government contracts were being considered, his trips to Washington were important factors in securing for the company the consideration to which it was entitled.
Mr. Chapman's monument, perhaps, is the Hartford, Manchester and Rockville tramway, which he built with his own resources and turned over to the stockholders in complete running order. This road has been of incalculable benefit to Manchester, furnishing rapid transit between the north end and south end, also transforming the town into a convenient suburb, an hour's distance from Hartford, making it possible for its residents to enjoy the fine commercial and industrial advantages of Connecticut's progressive capital. During 1896 Mr. Chapman extended the line from Manchester to Talcottville, and the following year he extended it to Rockville and built a complete power plant. He continued as president of the road until 1905, when he disposed of his holdings to the Shaw syndicate of Boston, at a large profit on the original investment.
For twelve years prior to 1897, Mr. Chapman was president of the Hartford Manila company, which operated a large paper mill in Woodland. The mill was built in 1881. The plant is now owned and operated by the Case & Marshal company. In 1905 he was elected president of the City National Bank of Hartford, and held the position until his death.
In political circles, for over quarter of a century, Mr. Chapman was a man of extraordinary influence. A quick and logical thinker, an orator of unusual ability and long experience, brilliant in debate, capable of presenting his views with remarkable clearness and vigor, loyal to his friends and perfectly willing to meet his enemies at any time, Mr. Chapman was a powerful figure in any gathering, and had all the elements of a natural political leader. For thirty years he was a member of the republican town committee in Manchester, and for fifteen years was its chairman. His record as a citizen is a conspicuous example of public spirit; he was foremost in all movements aiming to improve the community.
Webmaster's Note: In the Historical Society's
Museum Store, one of the books for sale is
entitled "Old Manchester... A Picture Book" and in that book is the page at left. It illustrates but one of the
many activities which Mr. Maro was involved with, and which is mentioned above. Click the image for a larger
view of the page.