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Sentimental Sunday: Joseph Chapple (1902-1966)

It’s Sentimental Sunday, and this daily blogging prompt allows genealogy bloggers a chance to focus on a sentimental story or memory about an ancestor, or a wonderful family tradition.

Joseph Chapple in New York Summer 1947

I had the pleasure of visually introducing my maternal grandfather, Joseph Chapple, to the World Wide Web community on Wordless Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Joseph is the son of Louis and Carrie Blanton Chapple. He was born in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas on June 2, 1902.

Even though he was born in the city of Eagle Lake, according to the April 1910 United Stated Federal Census, at age 7.5, he was living at 1609 Saulnier Street in Houston’s 4th Ward – Freedman’s Town community with his parents. Joseph’s baby brother, Lewis, was born October 19, 1910, but died a month later from lung complications. Baby Lewis’ death certificate indicates that his death took place at the family’s home at 815 Schwartz Street in Houston’s 5th Ward community. It is this death certificate that confirms the year, Grandpa Chapple came to live, work, and raise his family until his death in this area of Houston.

According to the Social Security application Joseph filed on March 12, 1937 below, he was employed by Texas & Northern Railway as a Blacksmith Helper at the Englewood Yard, one of the largest Hump yards in the United States.

He worked as a Blacksmith Helper for many years. When the older white gentleman he worked with retired, he applied for the position but was denied the job. The reason they gave for turning him down was — a Blacksmith was a white man’s job! So instead of the company recognizing him as a competent and skilled Blacksmith, they decided to hire a white college graduate for the job. Then expected Joseph to teach him everything and “show him the ropes.” When he refused to be a master teacher to someone with no experience who was to be his boss, the company closed the blacksmith shop. Little did they know closing the shop was not a problem. Because of his excellent work records, Joseph was able to transfer to the Creosote Yard where he spent his days applying creosote to train track cross-ties. He remained in the Creosote Yard until he fell off of a ladder and broke his back while painting the garage apartment he built behind his home. This fall forced him into retirement. According to the letter I received from the Railroad Retirement Board in 1994, he worked 111 service months before 1937, and continued working in the railroad industry until 1958. When he retired, he received full Railroad Retirement until his death.

Joseph met, fell in love, and married Estella Smith on 23 May 1921. I’m not sure when they met, but how they met was probably due to them both living in the 5th Ward community. It is also possible they met by association. Estella’s father, Richard Smith, worked at the same railroad yard Joseph did for years too. Regardless of how they met, they married and from that union came six births — 2 miscarriages and four children – Ella Louise, Joseph Lee, Estella, and my mom, Carrie. Unfortunately, at age 26, Estella died from Tuberculosis on July 30, 1930, and left Joseph with four young children to raise. With the help of his beloved mother, Carrie (Blanton) Chapple, all of his kids grew up happy and healthy despite the loss of their mother.

When I ask family members to recall their fondest memories of Joseph, they said:
“He had a great sense of humor!”
“He was known throughout the community for being a very reliable and honest man.”
“He sure did love his mother.”
“He was an excellent cook!”
“He was trustworthy – a man of his word.”

Grandpa Joseph Chapple was indeed a favorite of mine and his death on 23 August 1966, was very sudden! He died 28 days before my 7th birthday and the week before his death; we spent an afternoon together eating cotton candy. He introduced me to this sugary treat and then spent the whole time laughing at me as I complained and pouted about how the stuff melted in my mouth before I had a chance to really chew and enjoy it. Today when I see a bag of cotton candy, I’m reminded of my wonderful last day with Grandpa Joseph Chapple!

If you have  — Joseph Chapple — in your family tree (especially if he’s a native Texan and lived in Houston until his death in 1966) let me hear from you because —  I’m Claiming Kin!