Alfred B. Chapman


Alfred Beck Chapman, one of the founders of Orange, was born September 6, 1829 in Greensboro, Alabama. His grandfather, Robert Hett Chapman, was born in Orange, New Jersey, studied theology and was a pastor from 1796 to 1812, at which time he became president of the University of North Carolina until 1816. His father attended the University of North Carolina.

Alfred Beck Chapman's maternal grandfather was a colonel in the United States Army, and Chapman graduated 29th in his class at West Point in 1854. Upon graduation from West Point Chapman was assigned to the First Regiment of Dragoons in Florida. His various postings eventually brought him in the late 1850's to California.
Alfred B Chapman

Law Experience

Chapman resigned from the army in 1859, having achieved the rank of major, and married Mary Scott, daughter of a prominent Los Angeles attorney. He studied law with her father, Jonathan R. Scott and was admitted to the bar in California. In 1863 Chapman became city attorney of Los Angeles, and in 1868 he was elected district attorney of Los Angeles County. He went into partnership with a boyhood friend, Andrew Glassell (first president of the Los Angeles Bar Association) when the latter arrived in 1866. Col. George H. Smith, a former Confederate Army officer and brother-in-law of Glassell, later joined the firm. Chapman and Glassell are best known in Orange County for being founders of the city of Orange. Their law practice was confined chiefly to real estate transactions and they made their fortunes by handling the large partition suits. Chapman was the businessman of the firm. He would take his compensation in land, and nearly every final decree in partition would find that Glassell and Chapman had acquired acreage.

The firm represented the Yorba and Peralta families in the partitioning of Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana in 1867-68, and had received for a portion of their fees certain grants of land in the partition. He joined with one of his partners, Andrew Glassell, to develop a new community, Richland, which would eventually be named Orange. They hired the land surveyor, Frank Lecouvrier of Los Angeles to map this tract, to which they gave the name Richland Farm District. Richland was the name of the Virginia plantation owned by the father of Andrew Glassell in the 1830's.

A large transaction by Chapman was the purchase of confiscated Verdugo property at its foreclosure sale in 1869. Along with Andrew Glassell and two additional partners, Chapman brought the legal suit that resulted in "The Great Partition of 1871," one of the most famous land trials in Southern California. Not wanting to leave Julio Verdugo homeless, Chapman quit-claimed 200 acres to the aging man, including his adobe.


Chapman continued to practice law until 1880. After retirement he devoted full time to managing his 700-acre rancho in the upper San Gabriel valley, a portion of the Santa Anita grant, and became involved in citrus production. He would remarry after the death of his first wife in 1883. He had six children by his first marriage, and one child by his second marriage to Mary L. Stephens, daughter of a pioneer California attorney and judge.

Chapman died at his residence on January 16, 1915.