David C. Chapman


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David Carpenter Chapman (9 August 1876 – 26 July 1944) was an American soldier, politician, and business leader from Knoxville, Tennessee who led the effort to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1920s and 1930s. Mount Chapman (in the park) and Chapman Highway (the section of U.S. Route 441 in South Knoxville), are named in his honor.

Early life

Chapman was born in Knoxville to John Ellis and Alice Young Chapman.[1] He attended the University of Tennessee from 1895 to 1897, but did not graduate.[1] Despite not graduating, Chapman did play football for Tennessee.[2]

Military career

In the Spanish–American War, Chapman served as a Second Lieutenant in the Third Tennessee Volunteer Infantry and was the Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier General L.W. Colby.[1] When the United States entered World War I, Governor Thomas Clark Rye selected Chapman to Description: C:\Users\JoePayne\Desktop\chapman\chapman_files\image002.jpgreorganize East Tennessee National Guard, now part of the Tennessee Military Department.[1]

The picture to the right is Officers Training Tenn. N.G. - Camp John Sevier - May 1914 - My grandfather Joseph Phillips is Bottom Right fourth from left. According to military history "Camp Sevier (South Carolina) was initially established in July 1917 to train draftees and recruits from South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee."

This picture is evidently of an encampment that was a predecessor in or near Fountain City, TN. It was taken during Gov. Ben W. Hooper's administration and is a very early picture in my collection of the formation of the Tennessee National Guard.

I found the following on a Knox County website before being taken down:

In the fall of 1918 the regiment (Fourth Tennessee Infantry) was ordered to go into encampment at Camp John Sevier near Fountain City. The rifle range was put in a good state of repair, the camp buildings and grounds prepared, and all arrangements made for the encampment October 7-22, 1918. The serious epidemic of influenza, which reached its height about that time, made it necessary to call off the encampment. After the signing of the armistice, Colonel Chapman resigned his command on November 23, 1918, and serious attempts to continue the military training with the companies were abandoned.

Granddad Phillips served in Company M, 2nd Regiment Tennessee Volunteers enlistment May 24, 1898.
Tennessee followed its tradition of volunteerism in the spring and summer of 1898.  Over 4000 men served in Tennessee's four Volunteer Infantry units.  Of the four, only the First saw combat.  The Second (Granddad Phillips') and Third were discharged before they saw action, and the Fourth served as occupying forces in Cuba after the war was officially over.  Upon re-enlisting he evidently returned with his brother Fred Phillips to the Philippines but was returned to San Francisco because of malaria.  He served with Company H, 21st Infantry.  (Pictures of my grandfather while in the Philippines.)

Chapman later became Colonel in the Fifth Tennessee Regiment, later renamed to Fourth Tennessee Regiment, before resigning on 20 November 1918.[1]

Civic leader

Chapman's father, John, began a wholesale drug company in Knoxville which David took over after his father's death.[1] In 1910 and 1911, Knoxville hosted the Appalachian Expositions, in which Chapman served on the Board of Directors for both events.[1] The purpose of both expositions was to raise awareness of natural resources of the Southern Appalachian region in the United States.[1] Chapman, as a leader of the "Appalachian Club" (a recreational society for people with summer homes in Elkmont), became involved in the effort to create a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains.[1] Additionally, Chapman was also active in various social clubs, civic clubs, and fraternal organizations in the Knoxville area.[1]  

 The video on the left is of a hike that I took to Elkmont in September of 2016.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In 1925, Tennessee Governor Austin Peay appointed Chapman as East Tennessee representative to the Tennessee State Park & Forestry Commission, an appointment that came with the urging of the Smoky Mountains Conservation Association.[1] The association voted to add the word "Great" to their name, giving rise to Great Smoky Mountains as the official and full name of the mountain range where the park would be located.[1] Negotiations started as early as 1925, which was estimated to cost US$ 10 million (US$123 million at 2008 prices)

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 and involve 6,000 private property owners, including large timber companies that owned most of the land.[2] Chapman did most of the negotiations for the land purchases, even as he raised money to buy more parcels of the park.[2] In 1927, the legislatures of North Carolina and Tennessee appropriated US$2 million (US$24.8 million at 2008 prices.) each while other donations came from individuals, groups, and school children who gave their pennies.[2] John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was even persuaded by Chapman and National Park Service Assistant Director Arno Cammerer to donate US$5 million (US$62 million at 2008 prices.) to ensure the park's success.[2]

John Toomey, Jr. was born 12 Jul 1861 at St. Lawrence Co., New York, USA, and married Elizabeth (Bettie) Phillips, daughter of Riley Phillips and Elizabeth Ann Betty Chitwood, who was born in 1874 at Scott Co., Tennessee, USA. John died on 30 Nov 1949 at Helenwood, Scott Co., Tennessee. Elizabeth (Bettie) died in 1910 at Scott Co., Tennessee, USA.

Great Uncle John Toomey, who became a State Senator, was appointed the Large Tract Purchaser for the Lands that was to become the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. To the right a clipping from The Tennessean - Nashville, TN - May 16, 1928

After years of purchasing tracts of land for timber production John Toomey was instrumental in stopping thousands of acres of timber from the ax in the name of our wonderful Smoky Mountain National Park. My mother always said that her Uncle John died land poor.

 My mother was named after John Toomey's wife Bettie (Betty) Phillips Toomey, her father's sister. John Toomey remained a bachelor after his wife Description: C:\Users\JoePayne\Desktop\chapman\chapman_files\image006.jpgpassed away in 1910. I own a copy of her Diary as transcribed by a nephew James Toomey Baker, a first cousin to my mother.

Two years later, the State of Tennessee created the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountain National Park Commission in order to purchase land for the proposed park.[1] This land was then turned over to the United States federal government for use as a national park.[1] Chapman was appointed the first commissioner, serving until 1932, but was retained as a member when a new commission was appointed later that year.[1] Chapman and the temporary commissioner, George Roby Dempster, once engaged in a fist fight over an audit that charged US$11067 (US$175 thousand at 2008 prices.) had been spent by the new commission in the last quarter of 1932 to purchase only 0.4 acres (0.16 ha).[1] Tennessee Governor Hill McAlister abolished the Park Commission and transferred its responsibilities to the Tennessee Park and Forestry Commission after the Tennessee Senate approved in April 1933.[1]

The park was officially established on 15 June 1934.[3] President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt officially dedicated the park on 2 September 1940 with Chapman, the "Father of the Park", in attendance.[1]

Personal life

Chapman was married twice, first to the former Augusta McKeldin, and later to the former Sue Johnston following Augusta's death.[1] He died in 1944 of congestive heart failure in Knoxville and is buried at Highland Memorial Cemetery.[1]


Mount Chapman, a 6,340 ft (1,930 m) peak in the park is named in his honor.[1] [2] A stretch of US 441 in South Knoxville is also named in Chapman's honor as Chapman Highway.[1] [2]

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Eighty Articles concerning the formation of efforts supporting the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.


1.    Guillaum, Ted (1998). Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains Park Commission 1927–[1931]–1937: Record Group 262. Nashville: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Accessed 6 June 2010.

2.    "Moving Mountains". 24 March 2009 Tennessee Alumnus article accessed 6 June 2010.

3.    "History of Great Smoky". OhRanger.com article accessed 6 June 2010.

External links

·         Portrait of Chapman, 1897Knaffl and Brother photograph on file at the McClung Digital Collection

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