Barney Chapman never met a stranger. Whether he was roaming the streets of Rome or branding cattle on his ranch in northeast Texas, Mr. Chapman treated everyone like family.
“My dad never measured a person’s success by money or material possessions. He measured a person’s success by what type of individual they were. He never met a stranger and he loved talking business, cattle, ranching, history, and of course anything Roman! The man was a walking wealth of knowledge in just about any field,” said son I. B. Trey Chapman III.
The beloved cowboy and businessman passed away on Feb. 17 at his ranch north of Clarksville surrounded by his children.
“My dad lived his entire life serving his family, the Lord and helping his friends succeed in their dreams. He wanted everyone to be successful at whatever they choose to do in life,” said Chapman III. “He gave his time tirelessly to others for many reasons but the main reason is he just loved life and people.”
For many in Lamar and Red River counties, they will remember Mr. Chapman for his kind heart and passion for helping others. However, you wouldn’t have known it by looking at him but Mr. Chapman was also an extremely successful businessman.
“Nobody would have known Barney’s wealth by meeting him,” said former Detroit FFA Advisor Brandon. “He never looked down on anyone and he was always fair and unbiased. He never wanted the attention even when he deserved it.”
Mr. Chapman got into the Dairy Queen business in 1963 and was involved in the development and construction of over 250 franchises in four states and five countries.
In 2006, he was honored by the Texas Dairy Queen Operators’ Council with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award and at one time, he was International Dairy Queen’s largest franchisee with 101 Dairy Queen restaurants.
“There is no way we could list all of his personal and business accomplishments. We would literally have to write a book about Barney Chapman with 100 plus chapters. Everyone would truly be shocked if we listed just half of his successes. We will just say he was successful at anything he wanted to achieve,” said Chapman III.
Barney Chapman with son I.B. Trey Chapman III
Barney Chapman with brother, John Chapman
He also owned various other restaurant concepts including Taco Plaza, Churches Fried Chickens, a handful of full service restaurants and he even created a concept he named ‘Big Top.’
“Big Top was a fresh burger joint built to look like a big red circus tent,” said Chapman III. “We served fresh dipped corn dogs, onion rings, french fries, burgers and more.”
And while many may have thought such a businessman might wear a suit and tie each day, it was a cowboy hat and jeans Mr. Chapman was most comfortable in.
“Barney was known for wearing his large cowboy hats and his tall boots,” said Allen. “He wore them proudly along with his Chapman family brand on most anything he put on.”
“I first met Barney when he hired one of my students to work at the Chapman Family Ranch one summer,” said Allen. “The student wanted to show a heifer at the Red River County Fair and they wanted me to come out and select one for him to show. We drove around for hours looking at cattle, listening to Barney brag and boast about his cattle’s genetics, his bulls, and his family. He was proud of all three but his family was his greatest pride.”
Allen said when they found the calf they wanted, they negotiated a price and Mr. Chapman told them to come back in two weeks and the calf would be ready for them.
“When we went to pick the calf up, we loaded her up and when it came time to settle the payment, Barney refused. He wanted to help any student that wanted to be involved in agriculture. He even told us that if we needed help with feeding her, all we had to do was ask.”
The next fall the student and heifer won their class and when it came to the auction time, Mr. Chapman proudly sat in the grown and bought the heifer back.
“When I went to thank him for all his support, he told me that the Chapman Ranch would be the only one to add that heifer to their herd,” said Allen. “From that moment on, I became a fan of Barney Chapman and Barney became a proud supporter of the Detroit FFA.”
Over the years, Mr. Chapman attended many banquets, auctions, and fundraisers hosted by the Detroit FFA and bought numerous heifers at the Red River County Fair. Allen said he would never miss one of their FFA fundraiser auctions and he would always leave a large donation anonymously.
“He never wanted the praise, he just wanted to help out our students and our program,” added Allen. “And if he was ever out of town during the auction, he would always call and tell us an amount to spend on an item and then donate it back to the Chapter and to sell it again.”
Mr. Chapman was not only a big supporter of local FFA Chapters in northeast Texas, but he was also a big supporter of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. Those who knew him would always see him at the parade and he always donated to the calf scramble.
“The more I got to know him, he told me of his trips to Italy and his adventures owning multiple Dairy Queen establishments,” said Allen. “Every year he invited me to the round-up on the ranch to work calves and eat the Dutch oven cooking. I regret I never got to attend,” said Allen.
The yearly “round-ups” were famous in these parts with many traveling from all over to attend. Over several days they’d gather and brand cattle, have chuck wagons for cowboy cooking, big cowboy fires and serve cowboy coffee.
“It first started on our ranches back in the late 1800s. We’ve been doing the round-ups at various ranches throughout the years. They got really popular at the Aledo Ranch and one year we had over 800 folks attend,” said Chapman III.
The Chapman family can trace some branches back to land grants in 1844 in Texas. Mr. Chapman’s great-grandfather, Bill, came to Texas after serving in the Confederate cavalry during the Civil War and bought ranches across the state.
In an interview with Fort Worth Texas magazine, Mr. Chapman explained that his great-grandfather ended up settling in Deaf Smith County in the Panhandle where his father, I.B. Chapman Sr., lived for 10 years — in a dugout.
“My grandfather (Dad’s father) started Quality Meat & Provision Co. Inc. in Fort Worth in 1933 and operated it until he died in 1961. Dad and his brother, John, began operating it and that’s when Dad recognized the Dairy Queen potential when he saw the quantity of meat being ordered for the restaurants,” said Chapman III.
Mr. Chapman was also very close to the Mennonite community near his ranch near Clarksville. So much so, that he organized special trips to Rome and Israel just for them. His funeral was held at the Mennonite Church which was the first time they have done that for someone who was not a member.
There is no denying Mr. Chapman loved life and lived it to the fullest; a trait he has passed onto his children who will continue to carry on his legacy.
“I will always remember Barney not only for his smile as big as his hat but for his heart, his generosity, and the love he had for agriculture and his family,” said Allen.
“My dad was my hero and I will miss him daily,” said Chapman III. “But as he and my Uncle John would say ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on’.”