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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Review Volume of Biographical Sketches of The Leading Citizens of Hampshire County, Massachusetts published by Biographical Review Publishing Company in 1896.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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DWIGHT PARKER CLAPP, a merchant of New York, whose family resides in Belchertown, was born in this town, November 22, 1834. He is a descendant of Captain Roger Clapp, who emigrated from England to the Colony of Massachusetts Bay by the ship “Mary and John,” and settled in Dorchester, Mass., in the year 1630. Captain Clapp in time became one of the foremost men in the colony. He was for many years Commandant of the fort in Boston Harbor, and was buried with military honors in the King’s Chapel burial-ground at Boston in the year 1690. His descendants for two or three generations were closely identified with Colonial affairs; and for an extended account of them the reader is referred to a work entitled “Memories of Roger Clapp,” which was issued by David Clapp in 1844, and may be found in the rooms of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Mr. Clapp’s father, James Harvey Clapp, who was born at Northampton, March 5, 1792, was son of Ebenezer Clapp, who was born in the same town in 1730. Ebenezer Clapp was a son of Ebenezer, whose birth occurred in 1707. Ebenezer, Sr., was a son of Samuel Clapp, who, born at Northampton in 1677, died in 1761. Samuel Clapp was a son of Preserved Clapp, who, born at Dorchester, November 23, 1643, died September 20, 1720. Preserved Clapp was a son of the original ancestor of the family in America, Captain Roger Clapp, as above mentioned. Preserved Clapp moved to Northampton in early life, and purchased land, upon which he settled, becoming one of the first settlers of that town, where he engaged in agriculture. He was Captain of the town, Representative to the General Court, and Ruling Elder in the church. His son Samuel inherited the homestead, where he resided his entire life. His third wife, who was Mary Sheldon, of Dorchester, together with the Rev. John Williams, was carried into captivity by the Indians of Deerfield in 1704. Ebenezer Clapp, who succeeded to his father’s property, served as a soldier in Captain Phineas Stevens’s company during the French and Indian War, and fought at “Number Four,” now Charlestown, N.H., in 1746. He was succeeded in turn by his son Ebenezer, Jr., who married Nancy Tileston, of Dorchester, and moved to Pittsfield, where he died.

James Harvey Clapp, subsequent to completing his education, which was obtained in the common schools, settled at Belchertown in 1812, and married Marilla D., daughter of the Rev. John Francis, of Pittsfield, in 1815. Their eight children, were: Juliet; John Francis, who founded the Belchertown Public Library; Ann Sophia; Everett; Jane Marilla; James Henry; Edward Lyman; and Dwight Parker. James Harvey Clapp was prominent in public affairs, having served the town as a Selectman, and having been County Commissioner, and a Representative to the legislature for three terms. He was one of the proprietors of the old Boston and Albany stage line. A man of the most rigid integrity, he had the sincere respect of the entire community. His decease occurred in his eightieth year, on April 23, 1871.

Dwight Parker Clapp was very carefully educated, as were his brothers and sisters, in the common schools and the Monson Academy. Upon finishing his education, he immediately entered mercantile life in New York City, becoming a very prominent and successful merchant. In 1865 he wedded Miss Illie Crawford, of Cleveland, Ohio. Their only daughter, Illie Crawford Clapp, who was born in Brooklyn, is now the wife of William Burr Hill, a very successful attorney of that city, having one son, William Burr Hill, Jr., whose birth occurred in May, 1892. The children of James Harvey Clapp have always shown an affectionate interest in the welfare of their native town, of which the magnificent public library, founded by John Francis Clapp, is ample testimony.

John Francis Clapp, eldest son of James Harvey Clapp and founder of the Clapp Memorial Library, was born in Belchertown in the year 1818. By his will, probated in Brooklyn, N.Y., August 8, 1882, he bequeathed in trust to his brothers, Everett and Dwight P. Clapp, the sum of forty thousand dollars for the purpose of establishing a public library in his native town. By judicious investments the trustees increased the legacy to nearly forty-seven thousand dollars. The library building was commenced in the summer of 1883, and finished in 1887. A charter was granted the Clapp Memorial Library Corporation by the Massachusetts legislature on March 31 of the same year. The library was dedicated on June 30, and opened to the public on the following September 1.

The library grounds have a frontage of two hundred and thirty-eight feet on South Main Street and a depth of two hundred and sixty-eight feet. The building, which is in the form of a Latin cross, is one hundred and two feet in length and from forty to fifty-five feet in breadth, with an octagonal tower at the junction of the cross section and main building sixty-five feet in height. It consists of a basement and two stories, and is built of Longmeadow brownstone, the roof and tower being covered with red tiling. A reading-room and stage are on the first floor, and are so arranged that they can all be thrown into one large auditorium, twenty-six feet in height and capable of seating five hundred persons. On the second floor there is a directors’ room, and in the basement a room for classes. The present shelf capacity is fifteen thousand volumes, which, with slight alteration, can be increased to thirty thousand. At the north and south ends of the building are two large and beautiful memorial windows. The north window, presented by Mrs. Susan M. D. Bridgman in memory of her husband, Calvin Bridgman, who bequeathed four thousand dollars for the support of a public library, represents music. The south window was presented by Everett, Edward, and Dwight P. Clapp in memory of their brother, the subject being literature, and the figure symbolical of thought and repose.

The library now contains six thousand volumes, besides numerous periodicals and newspapers of the day, and is open daily in the afternoon to the reading public. It is an imposing structure, the main feature of the town, and a monument to the generous founder and his sympathetic and noble-minded brothers, who have shown in various ways the interest they take in the welfare of their native village, all of whom are successful merchants in the metropolis. Everett, Edward, and Dwight P. have fine country residences for the purpose of spending the summer months with their families on their native heath.

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This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in the Biographical Review Volume of Biographical Sketches of The Leading Citizens of Hampshire County, Massachusetts published in 1896. 

View additional Hampshire County, Massachusetts family biographies here: Hampshire County, Massachusetts Biographies

View a map of 1901 Hampshire County, Massachusetts here: Hampshire County Massachusetts Map

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