Chapman, Robert Martin (1810–unknown)

By: David L. Fisher

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 15, 2016

Robert Martin Chapman, Episcopalian missionary, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, on April 10, 1810. He became a deacon in 1838 at St. Stephen's Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Early that year he corresponded with Mirabeau B. Lamar, then the vice president of Texas, and informed him of his desire to establish an academy in the republic. In October 1838 Chapman gained an appointment as foreign missionary of the Protestant Episcopal Church to Texas, where he arrived in late November. He boarded in Houston with the family of Col. William Fairfax Gray, a prominent settler and active layman of the church. In return for this assistance, he tutored the family children. Chapman spent most of his time in Houston, where he held church services in the Capitol, though he also ministered in Galveston and traveled to Velasco and Quintana. In March 1839 Gray circulated a petition to organize an Episcopal congregation in Houston, and Chapman presided over the first parish meeting on April 1, 1839. The vestry elected during this meeting formed the foundation of Christ Church in Houston, the second Episcopal church in Texas. During this time Rev. Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of the Southwest, conducted the first visitation of a high Episcopal church official to the Republic of Texas. While in Texas, Chapman opened the Senate five times, held services for nine burials, solemnized five marriages, and baptized two children. He left Texas in June of 1839 apparently discouraged and unable to cope with the conditions of frontier life.

Lawrence L. Brown, The Episcopal Church in Texas, 1838–1874 (Austin: Church Historical Society, 1963). E. Clowes Chorley, "The Missionary March of the American Episcopal Church," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, June 1933. Marguerite Johnston, Houston, The Unknown City, 1836–1946 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Andrew Forest Muir, "William Fairfax Gray," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, December 1959. DuBose Murphy, "Early Days of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 34 (April 1931). DuBose Murphy, Short History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Texas (Dallas: Turner, 1935). Rupert N. Richardson, Texas: The Lone Star State (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1943; 4th ed., with Ernest Wallace and Adrian N. Anderson, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1981).

  • Religion
  • Protestant Episcopal
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David L. Fisher, “Chapman, Robert Martin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 15, 2016

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