Wathen, Chapez

Chapeze Wathen, a descendant of an old and honored family of Kentucky and a distinguished lawyer and popular citizen of Owensboro, was born in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, February 10, 1858. His father, Benedict Wathen, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, August 15, 1801, and came to Kentucky with his parents when he was quite young. He received his primary education in Washington County; graduated from the Medical Department of Transylvania University and located at Hardinsburg, Breckinridge County, where he was a leading practicing physician for many years. Later he bought a farm, on which he spent the closing years of a useful life. This farm was known as Mount Merino, and upon it Dr. Wathen and his brother Richard, who was also a physician, established a high grade literary school, which they conducted, greatly to the advantage of the community. The matrimonial alliances of these two brothers were of a very unusual nature, in that they married four sisters. Benedict married Elizabeth Chapeze, and after her death married her sister, Eulalie Fleget Chapeze (mother); while Dr. Richard Wathen first married Susan Chapeze, a sister of Benedict’s two wives, who died, and then he married Mary Chapeze, another sister; and thus four sisters were the wives of two brothers. The Wathens are descendants of English parentage.

Eulalie Chapeze (mother of Chapeze Wathen) is a native of Bardstown, Kentucky; was educated principally at St. Catherine Academy in Washington County and is now living in Breckinridge County in the seventy-first year of her age.

Benjamin Chapeze (grandfather) was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and received his education in the Catholic schools. When he came to Kentucky he followed farming for a while, studying law in the meantime. His pursuit of legal knowledge was made under difficulties, taking his books and notes to the field with him and studying at odd times. He was duly admitted to the bar in 1815 and located in Shepherdsville, where he practiced for two years; then went to Elizabethtown and was there two years. In 1820 he removed to Bardstown and practiced in Nelson, Meade, Hardin, Bullitt, Breckinridge, Spencer, Washington and Marion Counties, where he had a large clientele and was exceedingly popular on account of his splendid ability, unquestioned integrity and great force of character. He was known as “the Honest Lawyer,” a very rare compliment in those days. He was very much of a gentleman—neat in dress, courteous and genial in manner and of fine personal attractions. He cared little for politics, but was twice an “Old Court” representative of Nelson County in the Legislature and a colleague of Ben Hardin. He afterward affiliated with the Jackson Republicans, who were called Democrats, and who, in Kentucky, had been for the most part, “New Court” men. In 1828 he was a presidential elector on the Jackson ticket, and was more or less prominent in state and national politics during the remainder of his brilliant career. In September, 1839, he defended a man charged with murder in Elizabethtown and, after speaking for two hours, he was overcome by exhaustion. The doctors were called and advised bleeding, and the little strength he had left was thus taken from him and he died nine days later, September 26, 1839, He died in the full confidence of the Catholic religion. Benjamin Chapeze was married May 7, 1812, to Elizabeth Shepherd, daughter of Adam Shepherd, an early settler, who was the first man who ventured to live outside of a fort in Bullitt County. The town of Shepherdsville, on Salt River, was named in his honor.

Dr. Henry Chapeze (great-grandfather) was a native of France, who came to America during the Revolution, and held the post of surgeon in the patriot army and after the war he married Sarah Kenny, a lady of Irish birth, and located in Bardstown, where he died in 1810.

Chapeze Wathen, a worthy descendant of a noble ancestry, was educated at St. Joseph College, Bardstown, and in the law department of the University of Louisville, from which latter institution he was graduated in March, 1881. He located in Brandenburg, and, after practicing alone for four years, was then associated with J. M. Richardson for eight years. He was Commonwealth Attorney of the then Sixth now Ninth Judicial District, from August, 1886, until 1893, this long term having been made possible by the new Constitution, and his excellent service for the state called forth the highest praise from the people.

In the spring of 1893 Mr. Wathen removed to Owensboro, a city in which he was by no means a stranger, his reputation as a dignified and capable lawyer and an elegant, courteous gentleman having preceded him. He found many friends, and has made many new ones in his new home and has also found a field of labor quite congenial to his taste.

Mr. Wathen was married January 15, 1891, to Mary Fairleigh, daughter of James Fairleigh of Brandenburg. They have two daughters, Jane Murray and Eulalie. Mr. Wathen is a member of the Catholic Church and Mrs. Wathen is a Presbyterian

Source: Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. John M. Gresham Company, Chicago, Philadelphia, 1896.