Dr. Thomas Luce Chapman: Longmeadow Doc

Portrait of Dr. Thomas L. Chapman, courtesy of Longmeadow (MA) Historical Society

Portrait of Dr. Thomas L. Chapman, courtesy of Longmeadow (MA) Historical Society

Thomas Luce Chapman was born on the 10th of February 1817.  When his mother, Tabitha, died, his father returned to his native Connecticut, leaving 5 year-old Thomas with Tabitha’s sister in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he grew up.

Chapman originally studied to be a missionary, but during a prayer meeting, lightning from a severe thunderstorm shattered the church, killing one and injuring others, including Chapman who was badly burned.  It was during his recovery that he was drawn to the practice of medicine.  He enrolled in the Berkshire Medical Institute, graduating in 1842. The Longmeadow Historical Society has his diploma from that institution.

At the urging of a childhood friend, who was then a physician practicing in Springfield, Chapman set up practice in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  In a few years, however, he was off to California.  He left on 5 February 1849 in the steamer S.S. Crescent City bound for the village of Chagres on the Isthmus of Panama.  He carried with him a letter of recommendation from Rev. Samuel Wolcott of Longmeadow, which is now at the Museum of Springfield History.

While thousands of other 49’ers were stranded at Panama awaiting passage up the Pacific coast, Chapman hired on as the ship’s physician on the S.S. Oregon, bound for San Francisco and arrived on April 1st.  By August, he had been elected to serve on the Sacramento City Council, a position which he resigned on the 5th of January 1850 and headed for home.  The Museum of Springfield History has a letter accepting his resignation from that City Council. 

Once he returned to Longmeadow, Dr. Thomas Luce Chapman tended to the care of Longmeadow residents for nearly thirty years.  He married Charlotte Langdon in December and they lived on Longmeadow Street in a house that still stands at #788.  Their only child, Charlotte “Lillie” Chapman, died shortly before her 6th birthday in 1858.  Dr. Chapman was elected to the state senate in 1863 and he served the town of Longmeadow in several other capacities.

His wife died in 1874.  He remarried two years later to Mary Dorcas Chapin of Springfield.  She was the daughter of Marvin Chapin, proprietor of the Massasoit Hotel.  Photos of this wedding can be found at the Museum of Springfield History.

He retired from his medical practice and moved to Mattoon Street, Springfield in 1879, but still retained his connections with the Longmeadow church and people. A newspaper article related that “his gentle nature made him a favorite with children, and he appeared on the streets almost daily, driving with his nieces, children of Rev. D. A. Reed.”  He and his wife were among the chief promoters of the Home for Aged Women in Springfield.

Thomas Chapman passed away in 1889 and his portrait hangs in the Storrs House of the Longmeadow Historical Society.

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