An African American extended family poses for a photograph, circa 1870.  Graphic rendering of the text Rising Free, Free Persons of Color

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20th Century

From the Youngstown Telegram (Youngstown, Ohio), 7 January 1907

"Aged Colored Artist Killed By a Train"1

Afrolumens is grateful to Charles Anderson Robinson for the submission of the following old newspaper clipping about his third great grandfather.  Mr. Robinson is a family historian with the distinction of having eleven ancestors who served with the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War.  He has also done much research into the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League, of which his ancestor, William Nesbit, was president.  The Nesbit and Chaplin families were joined when John Chaplin's daughter, Florence, married Charles, son of William Nesbit.  The close family connection may be illustrated by the fact that when Huntingdon County formed a chapter of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League, John G. Chaplin was its first president.2    For our article about John G. Chaplin's life and accomplishments, click here.

drawn image of John G. Chaplin as an aged man.John G. Chaplin, the well known colored artist and portrait painter of 1314 Ford avenue, was struck and instantly killed Saturday evening, about 6:30 o'clock by passenger train 211 on the Pennsylvania. The accident occurred a short distance east of Haselton and the head of the unfortunate man was crushed.

Mr. Chaplin was 79 years of age3 4 and for a number of years his sight has been very poor. For this reason it is thought that he probably lost his way after dark and becoming bewildered wandered onto the track. Knowing his feebleness, his family became anxious by his prolonged absence and the police were notified. The search resulted in his body being found at Gillen's morgue where it was taken after the accident.

Mr. Chaplin has been a resident of this city for the past ten years and was noted as an artist which calling he followed to the day of his death.  Several paintings done by him have received much notice and he was awarded first prize at the Louisiana exposition for a painting exhibited there.

He leaves beside his widow, five daughters, Mrs. R. A Kerr of Foster street and Mrs. Albert Johnston of Crossman avenue, this city,; Mrs. Charles Nesbit of Altoona, Pa., Mrs. Richard Wagner of Rochester, Pa., Mrs. Charles Robinson of Beaver Falls, Pa., one son Charles Chaplin of Washington, D.C.

Services attending the funeral will be held at 2 o'clock Tuesday afternoon at the residence, 1314 Ford avenue.5


1. Charles Robinson writes "The article of my third great-grandfather, John Chaplin, I found In the library in Youngstown, Ohio, which is where he and his wife Hannah spent the last days of his life. The paper, I believe, was the Youngstown Telegram, dated Monday, January 7th 1907. The Huntingdon [Pennsylvania] Historical Society has several of his paintings hanging In their library. He was a very good portrait painter. I have some photos of some of his paintings. In his lifetime he painted hundreds of paintings. A few years ago I went to Altoona to view a painting of his that was on display there at an antique shop during a Black History Month affair." The death of John G. Chaplin was also reported in the Youngstown Vindicator, 6 January 1907. (Charles Anderson Robinson, email correspondence to the Afrolumens Project, 20, 22, 30 January 2006)

Photograph of John G. Chaplin. 2. "Another County Equal Rights League," The Christian Recorder, 18 March 1865.

3. John G. Chaplin was born in 1828, in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.  Mr Robinson notes "The Chaplins have been In Huntingdon as far back as 1810. I located Levi Sr.'s father (grandfather of John G. Chaplin) in the 1810 census record and his name was Van Chaplin.  As to when the Chaplins first located In Huntingdon, I'm not really sure, as there is a lot of speculation among old family members, and I am still on the search for lots of answers." (Charles Anderson Robinson, email correspondence to the Afrolumens Project, 24 January 2006)

4.  John Chaplin is found in the 1860 census of Huntingdon County, living in the eastern half of the Borough of Huntingdon.  He is listed as "John Chapman," age 33, mulatto, and his occupation is listed as "barber." He is listed with his wife Hannah, son Charles, age 7, and daughters Anie Eliza, age 3, and Florence, six months. Also in the Chaplin household is Hannah's mother, Maria Penlow, age 60, and Ellen Molson, age 15. (1860 U.S. Census, Huntingdon Borough, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, p. 338-339; The relationship of Maria Penlow to Hannah is from Nancy Shedd, "Program on John G. Chaplin for the Huntingdon Historical Society, May 1, 1984," typescript, n.p., submitted by Charles Robinson.)

5.  For a photo of John G. Chaplin, click here.  This is believed to be the photograph upon which the newspaper drawing was based. Photograph submitted by Charles Robinson.

See also: Life of John G. Chaplin


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