Monday, December 13, 2010

Former Gadsden Resident Memorialized in Apalachicola

Dr. Alvin W. Chapman
Dr. Alvin Wentworth Chapman, who lived in Quincy from around 1835 to 1847, is remembered today in Apalachicola at one of the most beautiful botanical gardens to be found in any small city in the South.

A native of Massachusetts who was educated at Amherst, Dr. Chapman moved South after he graduated college and arrived in Marianna in 1834. He practiced medicine there for one year before moving to Quincy where he opened a medical practice in 1835.

Chapman had always been fascinated with nature, but after arriving in Florida he cultivated the friendship of Hardy Bryan Croom. Croom was the owner of a plantation along the Jackson County side of the Apalachicola River opposite Gadsden County's Aspalaga Bluff (just south of today's I-10 bridge). As he traveled back and forth between his plantation and Tallahassee, Croom noticed groves of a unique type of tree growing at Aspalaga Bluff. He invested further and as a result is credited with "officially" discovering and naming the Florida Torreya tree, one of the rarest trees in the world.

Chapman Botanical Garden
Through his association with Croom, Chapman found his fascination with the plant life of the South growing more and more intense. After Croom's tragic death in a shipwreck, Chapman devoted his life to exploring the flora of the South and became one of America's premier botanists.

He lived in Quincy until 1847 when he relocated to Apalachicola, where he became a friend of Dr. John Gorrie (inventor of a process for artificial refrigeration and making ice). In 1860 he published the first edition of his landmark book, Flora of the Southern States. The book is still a fixture on the shelves of those interested in the rare plants of the South.

Chapman died in 1899 and is buried at Chestnut Cemetery in Apalachicola. Honoring his life and dedication to the unique plants of the South, the city is now home to the Chapman Botanical Garden. Located adjacent to Orman House Historic State Park and Apalachicola's beautiful Three Soldiers Monument, the garden features winding pathways, a butterfly garden, unique plantings, footbridges and more. It is a very nice tribute to the man for whom it is named and is one of the finest botanical gardens to be found in any small city in America.

To learn more about the garden, please visit

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