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Joseph Chaplin was the first permanent settler of Virgil, Cortland County, NY. Chaplin originally came to Virgil on a contract to survey and build the State Road from Oxford, Chenango County to Cayuga Lake (roughly 60 miles.) The first season, Chaplin erected a house on lot 50 in 1792, later moving his family into the house in 1794. Chaplin later hired assistants to help complete construction of the road and finished in 1793-94. This was important to the outlying areas of the road, leading potential settlers to populate these areas until they eventually became small townships or even small cities.


Joseph Chaplin was born on April 10, 1755 in Windham County, Connecticut, USA. Chaplin served in the American Revolution, distinguishing himself by earning the rank of Captain. Joseph earned a pension of $8 starting on January 1st, 1828, which is roughly equivalent to $216.71 in 2019. On May 5th 1792, Joseph Chaplin was contracted to survey, project, explore, and build the 1st State Road from Oxford to Cayuga Lake. Chaplin built a house on lot 50, which he owned. Chaplin kept a cook for Chaplin & his assistants working on the road. Chaplin's family resided in Oxford while he surveyed the road, and the cutting and clearing of the road was completed in 1793-94. Joseph Chaplin married Mrs. Abigail Messenger, and they had 3 sons (Joseph, Daniel, and Benjamin Franklin Chaplin) and 4 daughters (Sally, Ruth, Marietta, and Isabella.) On April 16, 1812, Joseph Chaplin tragically drowned in the Hudson River near Coxsackie, Greene County, NY, and was never recovered. He was 57 years old at the time of his death.

For context, the main difficulty pioneers had in settling early America was the lack of roads, mills, and markets. Joseph Chaplin and his assistants provided a roughly 60 mile stretch of road to help bring new people into these small communities in the hopes of blossoming into large settlements. Joseph Chaplin also took it upon himself to plant the first seeds of various fruits soon after establishing the settlement. Joseph Chaplin was not only a pioneer in the sense of fighting for American independence in the American Revolution, but also led the way for many other pioneers and settlers to begin to move into Cortland County. Chaplin's state road work led to the development of markets, shops, trading posts, and settlements, which drew more and more travelers to settle along this 60 mi. stretch of road. One could say that Joseph Chaplin was one of the key figures responsible for shaping Cortland County into what it has become today, with towns and cities being established all along the road he was contracted to build.

Chaplin has descendants in various parts of the U.S, including Illinois, but the majority of his family chose to settle in Marathon, New York. Today, his living descendants may not all bear the last name Chaplin.

By: Jonathan Rodriguez, James LaCarruba, & Thomas Barrett

"History of Cortland County, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers: Smith H.P. (Henry Perry), 1839-1925, Ed : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming." Internet Archive. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & co., January 1, 1885. https://archive.org/details/historyofcortlan00smit/page/n8.

Mayo, Robert, and Ferdinand Moulton. Army and Navy Pension Laws, and Bounty Land Laws of the United States: Including Sundry Resolutions of Congress, from 1776 to 1852: Executed at the Department of the Interior: with an Appendix, Containing the Opinions of Attorneys General of the United States, with the Decisions, Rules, and Regulations, Adopted by Different Secretaries, Relative to the Execution of Those Laws. Washington: Printed by J.T. Towers, 1852.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 13 November 2019), memorial page for Capt Joseph Chaplin (10 Apr 1755–16 Apr 1812), Find A Grave Memorial no. 118771540, ; Maintained by Terry Chaplin (contributor 46985790) Body lost or destroyed, who reports a drowned in Hudson River.

Special thanks to Ms. Miriam J, Robbins of Spokane, Washington for assistance with research. Contact info: kidmiff@gmail.com