Rounded Rectangle: Text Box: William Rogers Chapman (1855-1935)  was perhaps the most prominent name in Bethel from 1887 until well after his death—his “legend” partly carried on by a Gould Academy musical club named for him.  Dr. William Rogers Chapman was named for his father, Rev. William Rogers Chapman ( 1812-1855).
Even a brief discussion of Bethel's history would be incomplete without mentioning William Rogers Chapman (1855-1935) impresario, conductor, organist, and composer, who founded and directed the Maine Music Festivals (1897-1926.) For many years, he was director of the Rubenstein and Apollo Clubs of New York City. Like Dr. Gehring, but for different reasons, Chapman brought many to Bethel, including some of the nation's best known opera stars. They came to visit him during summer vacations and to attend picnics given for the members of the Maine Music Festival at Chapman residences in the Mayville section of town and overlooking the common in Bethel Village.
His widely celebrated  musical and organizing accomplishments plus his flamboyant life style captured the attention of  audiences in New York, Maine and Bethel.  As well as in many other towns in cities where Music Festival choruses and Rubenstein clubs formed.  Seventy-two Maine towns and cities in Maine were at one time or another Music Festival Chorus participants.  Eighteen cities and towns outside of Maine formed Musical Festival Choruses.
Highlights -1855 to 1897

William Rogers Chapman was born August 4, 1855 in Hanover, Massachusetts. His father was Rev. William Rogers Chapman, a Bethel native, and his mother was Emily Bishop Chapman of Haverhill, Mass.  
After his father’s death in 1855, his mother and sisters moved to Bethel . 
As a boy Chapman attended Bethel schools, received much home schooling from his mother and  attended Gould Academy.  
The family of four lived together at their home in Mayville until 1863 when his oldest sister, Emily, married Louis Valentine son of William Jacob Valentine, Fordham, New York.  
In 1868, his mother married William Valentine, her daughter’s father-in-law and the entire Chapman family moved to Fordham. 
In Fordham, when he was 14, Chapman  contracted some form of eye disease or infection that made him blind.  Although he miraculously recovered his sight, he continued to  be plagued by weak eyes.
Through his mother’s love of music and piano, Chapman learned to play and became increasingly skillful on the keyboard.  Sebastian  Bach Mills was Chapman’s first professional music teacher.  He studied organ with Dr. Henry Stephen Cutler.  By 1871, when Chapman was 15, he was practicing 13 hours a day  and playing the organ at a country church in Mamaroneck, Long Island for five hundred dollars a year.
In 1872 Chapman went to Steinway Hall in New York City to hear Anton Rubenstein, the Russian pianist (founder of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory) , play while he was on tour in the United States.  It was this meeting with the great pianist that prompted him later to name the first women’s choral club in New York City, the Rubenstein Club. 
Also in 1872 he entered the American Conservatory of Music to study piano and organ—training to be a concert pianist.  His sister, Mary, was also a conservatory student, one year ahead of her brother.
Chapman made his first concert appearance at Steinway Hall as a conservatory pupil that same year.  From that time on he continued to give concerts, mostly in churches and billing himself as “Chapman Grand Concert” or W.R. Chapman’s Grand Concert”.
In the summer of 1875, he was able to tour Europe with letters of introduction from his New York instructors.  Berlin and Leipzig were primary destinations, but he visited England, Belgium, Switzerland, France and “gave several concerts”.  His  biography notes here that he was still having eye trouble and had to frequently rest his eyes.
After his return from Europe in 1875, he met Emma Faulkner of Chicago through family connections, the girl he would marry two years later.  At this time he was still living at home with the Valentines in Fordham. He was 20 years old.
Chapman received an appointment as teacher of music in three New York City public school in 1876. He began a ten years teaching career which would find him teaching at 13 public schools in New York City. 
On July 19, 1877, William Rogers Chapman married Emma Louisa Faulkner in Chicago. After the ceremony they visited Niagara Falls and the White Mountains before returning to their home in Fordham.  On their wedding trip they visited the Shelburne, New Hampshire, estate of William K. Aston.  Years later the couple would buy the estate and live their prior to returning to Bethel.

The Bethel Journals PO Box 763  Bethel, Maine 04217


Bethel — Maine —  New York City

The Maestro

William Rogers Chapman

Portrait from Ministry of Music.

The Chapmans of Bethel, Maine


The first William Rogers Chapman was the son of Timothy Chapman who had been born February 17, 1783, in Methuen, Mass.  Timothy Chapman’s father, Rev. Eliphaz Chapman, was the first of this Chapman family to move to and settle in Bethel, then called Sudbury Canada.  The Chapman family lived on the north side of the Androscoggin River.  Timothy  became a farmer, had a fine eye for real estate deals and was best known in later years for his accounts of early life in Bethel. 

Timothy married three times and had fourteen children.  Betsy  Barker was his first wife; she had seven children.  William Rogers Chapman was their fourth child; he was born in Bethel on February 26, 1812.

William Rogers Chapman was tutored for college by a Rev. Jonas Burnham of Bridgton after he completed grade schools in Bethel.  He entered Bowdoin in 1833 but after two years left for Dartmouth College where he graduated in 1837.  He taught school in Wakefield, New Hampshire and then at the Bethel Academy (later Gould’s Academy) before he entered the Andover theological seminary. Here he met his future wife, Emily Irene Bishop,

May 16, 1842, the couple were married at South Hadley, Mass., and went to live in Boston. 

Although he started his theological course at Andover, Mr. Chapman completed it at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1840. He was ordained over the Garden Street Chapel church in Boston in 1841.

Emily  Bishop was of the family of “the Bishops of Ipswich not only were ‘lords of the soil’ and holders of great estates but they had family connections of standing and wealth in large cities.”

Emily Bishop’s parents were Earl Bishop, junior, and Emily Irene Woodward Bishop, of Haverhill, Mass. Emily Irene Bishop was born July 2, 1822, in New York City where her father “was a musician of recognized ability”.

The Chapman’s first child, a daughter, Emily, was born in  Boston August 31, 1843. Their second daughter, Mary Josephine Victoria, was born in October 1850 in Great Britain while the Chapmans were touring in Europe.  Their third child, William Rogers Chapman, was born August 4, 1855 in Hanover, Mass.

The father, Rev William Rogers Chapman, had  been declining in health since 1849 when his physician had ordered a trip abroad to rest. They returned from Europe in December 1850 to Aurora, New York and the Presbyterian Church there. As his health further incapacitated him, he was dismissed in 1854 and moved to Hanover, Mass. However, he suffered continued paralysis and died October 25, 1855 without ever knowing his son, whom he had asked to me named for him.

After his funeral, his remains were buried a Chapman plot in Riverside Cemetery in Bethel. His widow, Emily, and their three children moved to a new home in Mayville in Bethel. After her second husband’s death, Emily lived there again until her death January 8, 1890.

A family friend from Boston, Cyrus Field, helped the family with considerable financial support and provided Emily with an endowment.  Her father-in-law, Timothy Chapman, purchased their house in Bethel and had the improvements made to accommodate her family.

Source: Ministry of Music, The Life of William Rogers Chapman, Mina Holway Caswell, 1938





April 20, 2012