The name behind these initials was never made public. However, after matching town vital statistics, old town maps, and old newspaper clippings, it may very well have been:
He was one of the Chapman family, one of the first pioneer settlers in town. He was the son of David Chapman, Jr who was born in Newmarket. His grandfather was Newmarket Revolutionary soldier David Chapman, Sr.
John was very active in the Methodist Church (whose origins began with Reverend Brodhead – the same man who preached Sunday School from the old wooden church and warehouse on the wharf.) The early census records do not list street addresses; however, his father’s neighbors would have lived in Lamprey River Village, and John Francis Chapman would have attended the old school at South & South Main Streets.
When married and living with a family of his own, he was a bootmaker by trade, living on Spring Street. Prior to the Civil War John F Chapman was a solid abolitionist and strong supporter of temperance. And he apparently was not averse to farm labor—even in his later years, according to the Newmarket Advertiser’s recognition of his 79th birthday as shown in the above article.
The most telling clue to his identity was printed in the July 13th 1895 edition of the paper under “Bits of Local History:
Our valued correspondent, John F. Chapman, whose contributions are read with interest by old residents as well as by the younger generation, sends us the following, by request:”
The rest of the article is Chapman’s description of Revolutionary War Soldier David Watson’s military funeral in September 1855—a funeral Chapman witnessed firsthand.
We think we’ve found our J.F.C.
The final clues can be found in his obituary in March 1897 printed here.
Among other facts, it reports that he learned the shoemaker’s trade from a Quaker in Lynn, Mass in 1833-34, and worked at the trade all his life. As he was born in 1813, he would have been long out of school and 20 years old during his apprenticeship.
As a boy he showed a great interest in all things of truth and prosperity. He was fascinated in the old circuit preachers who would visit the town, as he often took care of their horses for them…. Mr. Chapman was a very well-informed man, and no one could tell more of the work of the past, both town and church, than he. He watched the growth of his native town and was always interested in its welfare….