Biography of Melvin C. Chapman
Alameda County, CA Biographies





MELVIN C. CHAPMAN
The consensus of public opinion places Melvin C. Chapman as one of the most distinguished citizens of Oakland, where he has resided for more than a half century, during forty five years of which he has been engaged in the practice of law. That he is one of the most eminent members of the California bar is indicated in the high opinion entertained for him by his fellow members of the profession who for the past eighteen years have honored him with the presidency of the Alameda County Bar Association. Mr. Chapman comes to the Pacific coast from Illinois, his birth having occurred in Westfield, Bureau county, that state, on the 5th of September, 1850. In the paternal line he traces his ancestry back to Robert Chapman, a native of England, who came to the colonies in 1637 and was one of the original settlers of Saybrook, Connecticut, occupying a home there that is still in the possession of his descendants. Members of the family participated in the war of the Revolution, the War of 1812 and in the Civil war. The parents of Melvin C. Chapman were Charles de Grasse and Cynthia (Palmer) Chapman, the latter, like her husband, being a representative of a family long established in this country.

Melvin C. Chapman was but five years of age when in 1855 his parents removed from Westfield, Illinois, to Chicago, where he acquired his preliminary education in the public schools, while later he entered Onorga Seminary and was graduated in 1868. A year later he arrived in California and soon afterward established a real estate business in San Francisco, where he remained until 1876, when he came to Oakland. For five years thereafter he continued in the real estate business in this city and then disposed of his interests along that line in order to take up the study of law. Following his admission to the bar he formed a partnership with Roscoe Havens, but after eight months this association was discontinued and Mr. Chapman practiced alone until June, 1910, when he was joined by E. E. Trefethen in a partnership that has since been maintained. They have offices in the Oakland Bank building and are accorded an extensive clientele. For a half century Mr. Chapman has been a representative of the Oakland bar, honored by reason of his capability and his close conformity to the highest ethical standards of the profession. He has always prepared his cases with great thoroughness and care, is clear in his reasoning, logical in his deductions and forceful in the presentation of a cause. No higher testimonial of the respect and esteem entertained for him by members of the legal fraternity could be given than the fact that he has been elected eighteen times to the presidency of the Alameda County Bar Association. He was formerly president of the Tribune Publishing Company and in many ways has ben identified with those enterprises and movements which have been of inestimable benefit to the community.

An outstanding factor in the life record of Melvin C. Chapman was his service as mayor of the city. Elected to the office, he gave to Oakland an administration that was characterized by notable progress and improvement. Its beautiful water park will ever be a monument to his progressiveness and his public spirit. Constantly alert to apportunities for adding to the beauty of Oakland, he conceived the idea of securing this park for the city and used his personal and official influence in securing a deed from the Oakland Water Front Company. It was largely his persuasive force with Leland Stanford and the late Mr. Huntington that brought about the transfer to Oakland of the beautiful Lake Merritt, now a celebrated water park and one of the most attractive districts of the city or the East Bay region, the estimated value of this property being more than one million dollars. The work of developing this property was carried on under the direction of Mayor Chapman and his fellow townsmen owe to him a debt of gratitude for what he has accomplished in this connection. Again his public service reached a high point of efficiency when in 1887 he became a member of the state legislature, giving his support, as always, to every measure that made for progress, development and improvement.

On the 21st of December, 1887, in Oakland, Mr. Chapman was united in marriage to Miss Lillian Childs, who has passed away. Their son, Melvin C. Jr., is now practicing law in connection with his father as a partner in the firm of Chapman, Trefethen & Chapman.

Melvin C. Chapman has passed the seventy seventh milestone on life's journey but is still a most active factor in the world's work, being found at his office every day attending to his professional duties, which are both extensive and important in character. His life has ever been purposeful and his activities resultant. The same qualities which have made him a notably successful member of the bar have led to achievement in the field of public activity and Oakland has reason to point with pride to him as one of her representative men.

From:
History of Alameda County, California
BY: Frank Clinton Merritt
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago, Ill 1928


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