In this fourth column on the history of Chapman Borough, I am recalling an interview with the late Mr. Joseph George, who was a highly respected resident of the borough and an expert on the Chapman Slate Quarry.
The George family, like many of Chapman’s early residents, had its roots in the quarry district of Cornwall, England, where quarries were productive for 400 years. Over the generations, seven men have carried the name Joseph George.
In today’s column, we continue to “remember” life in the Borough of Chapman, when the slate industry prospered in the small Northampton County community. I was fortunate to gain a vivid picture of Chapman a number of years ago when I interviewed lifelong residents; unfortunately, most of these fine people are no longer with us.
In this second column, I am visiting a very unique community, the Borough of Chapman. William Chapman, a native slater of Cornwall, England, came to America in 1842 and organized the Chapman Slate Company in the community that bears his name. After extensive research, he purchased an area in Northampton County containing prime slate deposits. Thus was born the Chapman Slate Company. The quarry began operations in 1850.
Mr. Don Levonian was raised in Wynnewood and graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1972, where he was on the track team and was a school photographer. Kobe Bryant, NBA star, was also a graduate.
“I had a keen interest in chemistry. The school had excellent teachers and resources and gave me a great education,” Don says.
Today, I’m up in the Borough of Chapman. Chapman is part of the Northampton Area School District. Probably most of our loyal readers have never visited the quaint community with a population of 200 citizens.
Last year the borough observed its 150th anniversary. This writer was happy to participate in the anniversary celebration.
Fourteen years ago, I spent considerable time researching the community’s history and wrote numerous columns for a weekly newspaper. I thought our readers would enjoy reading about the interesting history of Chapman.
On June 4, 2016, my wife and I attended the 100th anniversary of the Buzzi Unicem Cement plant in Stockertown. Most of my readers recall when the plant was named Hercules Cement.
Today Buzzi Unicem is one of the five remaining plants in the Lehigh Valley. Over time, 30 cement companies that operated 60 plants have called the Valley home.
The plant, as the other plants, uses the stone from the Jacksonburg vein of cement rock that graces Northampton and Lehigh counties in Pennsylvania and Warren County in New Jersey. There is abundant raw material here for another century.
Mrs. JoAnne Temprine was reared in Allentown, graduating from Dieruff High School in 1976. She was captain of the newly formed volleyball squad, which had a great season, ranking No. 3 in the state. She later graduated from Kutztown State College in 1981 with a degree in business administration, specializing in accounting.
JoAnne also continued her volleyball skills at Kutztown, recalling, “The school provided me an excellent education for my future endeavors.”
In 2016, two cement companies are observing milestones in history. I was fortunate to be invited to the 150th anniversary of Saylor Cement, 1866-2016, by Essroc of Nazareth, which continues to honor the Saylor name, and Buzzi-Unicem of Stockertown, which was Hercules Cement.
David Saylor, a local boy, saw the future of cement in the Lehigh Valley when he and some friends founded the Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company in Coplay. They utilized the abundant supply of cement rock in the area.
Mr. Todd Wesner was born in Reading. As a youth, he moved to New Jersey, Massachusetts and later back to Pennsylvania. His stepfather was a vice president with M.C.I., so the moves were job related.
Mr. Wesner completed his education at Lower Pottsgrove High School in 1981 and started his cement career at Evansville with an independent contractor, who operated the bulk silos and packhouse at the plant. In 1990, he was hired by the former Allentown Cement Co., now owned by Lehigh Heidelberg.
Recently, I visited the office of the Northampton Borough Municipal Authority. My friend, NBMA Manager Steve Kerbacher, gave me an interesting page of the authority’s history, taken from an anniversary booklet published by the authority. Most of our readers know the authority not only provides water for Northampton, but also to our friendly neighboring communities.
The document states: