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Chapman J. French Papers, 1903-1951 (Ms2009-034)

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2009-034


  • 1903 - 1951


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Chapman J. French Papers must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Biographical Information

Chapman Johnston French, son of Charles D. and Annie C. Johnston French, was born August 15, 1880. He graduated from Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) in 1902 and soon thereafter became employed by the Norfolk & Western Railway as a civil engineer. He served for many years as resident engineer at Narrows, Virginia, where he lived with his wife Lela Lee Weatherly French. Later, the couple moved to Roanoke, where French served in the Engineering Department. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and several fraternal organizations, including the Elks and the Knights of Pythias. French retired in 1950. Following Lela's death, French married Mildred Greer. Chapman J. French died at Troutdale, Virginia on July 6, 1964.

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

The Chapman J. French Papers were purchased by Special Collections in 2009. The papers had been part of a larger group of railroad-related materials compiled by a collector, then sold to a dealer (see "separated material" section).

Related Material

Special Collections holds several other manuscript collections and books relating to the Norfolk & Western Railway. Consult the Guide to Manuscript Sources for Railroad History Research and the library's catalog.

General Physical Description note

4 containers; 1.5 cu. ft.


Papers of Chapman J. French, civil engineer employed by Norfolk & Western Railway from 1903 to 1950. Includes correspondence, memoranda, working notes, and specifications for projects as well as company and engineering department procedures.


This collection contains the papers of Chapman J. French, a civil engineer employed by the Norfolk & Western Railway during the first half of the twentieth century. The collection contains such items as correspondence, memoranda, working notes, and specifications for both specific projects and the engineering department's procedures and administration, and other aspects of railway operations. The collection includes documentation on topics relating to construction of railways and associated structures but also includes many papers relating to legal agreements, property acquisition, rights of way, and court cases. Included among the papers are a number of property plat maps and track diagrams, as well as a sizable collection of blank forms used in various aspects of the company's operation--particularly contracts and agreements. A large portion of the material is devoted to legal issues associated with rights of way and electric wire crossings; geographical areas substantially represented within the papers include Columbus, Ohio; Narrows, Virginia; Norfolk, Virginia; and Portsmouth, Ohio.

A set of French's personal papers includes a 1917 N&W-issued pamphlet, "Hints on Health and First Aid;" correspondence regarding French's purchase of a hair restorative; several letters regarding the Virginian Railway's sale of buildings at Narrows to French's parents; a 1919 flyer regarding a proposed Virginia Tech alumni war memorial building, letters regarding various coal purchases made by French; and several pieces of assorted correspondence.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Chapman J. French Papers commenced and was completed in March 2009.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US