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Louis H. Chapman, commissioner of water and light of Kansas City, Kansas, is the man chiefly responsible for bringing these municipally owned plants to a perfection of service where they completely justify the management and control by the city. Mr. Chapman is an expert electrician and general engineer, and has achieved a significant success through his own energies and ambitions. He has been a resident of Kansas the greater part of the time since 1886.
He was born at Hartford, Connecticut, June 17, 1873, the youngest of the nine children of John Oliver and Louisa E. (Smart) Chapman. His parents were both natives of Connecticut. John O. Chapman was master mechanic of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railway, but gave up that position and brought his family west to Iowa in 1881. Here he became master mechanic of the Iowa Division of the Chicago Northwestern Railway, with headquarters at Clinton. In 1884 he moved his family to Kansas City, Kansas, and accepted a similar position with the Union Pacific Railway. While in service he was injured, and in 1888 was compelled to give up his position. After that he spent much of his time in travel, and in 1892 removed to Chicago, where he died in April, 1893. He enjoyed large responsibilities, was paid a corresponding salary, but spent most of it liberally to provide home and advantages to his large family of children. He had educated himself, since he came of a family in only moderate circumstances. He belonged to the Masonic lodge and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, but found his greatest delight in his home circle. His widow died in Kansas City, Kansas, in February, 1913.
Louis H. Chapman was thirteen years of age when his father was incapacitated and being the youngest of the family he did not receive the advantages given to the older children in the way of education. He attended common schools in Connecticut, Iowa, and a private school in Kansas City, Kansas. Most of his education he gained by laborious study at night after a day’s employment. His first position was as a messenger boy at the stockyards for the Fowler Packing Company. Later he was at work in the lard department of Armour & Company. In 1889 going to Chicago he found work with the Chicago Northwestern Railway, and for a time was a fireman on the elevated railroad. His next position was trimming lamps at $1.75 a day for the electric light department of Armour & Company, and after six months he was given charge of a gang of workmen at $90 a month. During those early years much of his wages went to support his invalid father and his mother.
On December 16, 1892, Mr. Chapman married Miss Carlotta Drought. Her father, E. S. W. Drought, was a prominent man in Kansas. In 1893 Mr. Chapman became connected with the Commonwealth Edison Company of Chicago as a repair man. He showed such ability as a workman and such responsibility that at the end of six months he was placed in charge of the department with ninety men under him. In April, 1895, having resigned this position, he returned to Kansas City, Kansas, and installed the electric plant at the Kansas City stockyards, being appointed master mechanic of that company. He held that position until 1913, when Mayor Green appointed him commissioner of water and light of the municipality. The light and water plant of Kansas City, Kansas, were taken over by the city government some five or six years ago, and both departments have been placed on a paying basis by Mr. Chapman. As commissioner he has supervision of the labor of 230 men employed in the two departments.
In politics he is a republican, but the only public office he has ever held is the one in which he is now engaged. He is a member of the Scottish Rite bodies of Masonry, belongs to Abdallah Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Leavenworth, and is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He takes much delight in outdoor sports, and aside from his work and profession most of his time is spent in his own home. He and Mrs. Chapman are active members of the Episcopal Church. He also belongs to the Mercantile and Union clubs of Kansas City, Kansas.