What’s in a Name: Chapin Street

Eric Baker Samuel Austin Chapin, for whom Chapin Street is named, traced his ancestry to, and shared his name with Deacon Samuel Chapin, who played a prominent role in the unfolding history of the Pilgrims in America. The deacon is the subject of this Saint-Gaudens statue in Springfield, Mass.

Chapin Street recalls Samuel Austin Chapin who owned a tract of land in Alameda that bore his family’s name. Early maps show the tract cheek-on-jowl with the Mastick Tract, which centered on the San Francisco and Alameda Railroad’s Mastick Station near today’s Lincoln Avenue and Constitution Way. Chapin lived in San Francisco for a time and trusted attorney Edwin Mastick with his legal affairs. When Chapin passed away in 1890, Mastick served as one of the will’s executors. 

Chapin’s paternal lineage spins an interesting tale. His five-time great-grandfather Samuel Chapin arrived in this country about 1630. In 1881, another of Deacon Samuel’s descendants, Congressman Chester W. Chapin, commissioned sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens to produce a work memorializing this ancestor. The sculpture, most commonly known as “The Puritan,” still presides over Merrick Park in Springfield, Mass. 

While still a young man, Samuel traveled to the Michigan Territories with his family in 1831. They settled at White Pigeon. The Black Hawk War broke out a year later. Samuel joined the fray. By the time the brief war was over, he found himself wearing a brigadier general’s star for his bravery in action. 

Samuel came to California in 1850. The call of silver lured him from San Francisco to Nevada. He spent some time promoting a pair of silver mines, but he found the lumber business more enticing. He returned to Massachusetts. In 1890 he decided to take a trip back  to California. He died while on that trip.

“A pioneer to Michigan and California, A Brig. Gen’l of the Mich. State Militia & for thirty y’rs a leading member of the 1. Cong’l Ch. San Francisco. Later a citizen of Norton, Mass. He died on the way to visit scenes of early life,” his gravestone in Uxbridge, Mass., reads.