Mission print shop, Pape'ete. The original photo does not have names attached but the individuals are possibly (L-R): Paul Deane, an early convert who assisted Chapman in the press, Cora Chapman, Elliott Chapman.

Photo courtesy of Adventist Heritage Centre, Australia.

Chapman, Elliott Colby (1866–1945)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 2, 2022

Elliott Chapman and his wife, Cora, were missionaries to Tahiti and Australia.

Early Life

Elliott Colby Chapman (otherwise known as Elliot) was born on September 16, 1866, at Vallejo in California to Thomas Matthias Chapman and Mary Sophronia (Colby) Chapman.1 His father was a farmer at nearby Sonoma employing two young laborers and a Chinese cook.2 Elliott’s siblings were Edwin Arnold (b. 1859), Archie Thomas (b. 1861), Harry Eugene (b. 1862), Alice Mary (b. 1868), Phebe Miller (b. 1870), and Lucy Mary (b. 1878).3

Under Elder John Loughborough’s ministry, Thomas and Mary Chapman were among the first in California to join the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Elliott himself, as a teenager, was the first student to enter dormitory living at Healdsburg Academy. In those halls, he spent four years furthering his education and then began a printing apprenticeship at Pacific Press Publishing Company in Oakland.4 Six years later, on October 28, 1891, he married Cora Mary Peoples at Sonoma. The ceremony was conducted by Elder Milton Wilcox.5

Overseas Mission Service

Twelve months after their marriage, Elliott and Cora were appointed to assist in pioneering some mission work in the South Pacific. Originally it was thought best to locate in Fiji and use Elliott’s printing skills there. However, plans were changed, and they established themselves in Tahiti. They sailed on the second voyage of the “Pitcairn,” leaving San Francisco on January 17, 1893, and arriving in Tahiti via Pitcairn Island on April 6 after an uneventful trip.6

A printing press was shipped by a larger vessel from America, arriving in September. In the meantime, language study was undertaken, and locals were engaged to do translation work in readiness for when the press was operational. First, Elliott printed a small primer for use in their school. Two eight-page tracts were printed together with a forty-page booklet titled Truth Found, translated from one brochure authored by Elder Joseph Waggoner. Ten selections from Hymns and Tunes were also translated and issued as the Tahitian mission’s first song book. Elliott lamented the quality of his helpers, writing “those who come the nearest to being scholars in the Tahitian are, as a rule, better versed in catching fish than in catching the mistakes in our proof sheets.” And he had no praise for what he called the “wilting climate.”7 Having accumulated a large quantity of printed literature in the Tahitian language, Elliott and Cora made a journey by horse and cart from their home in Pape’ete in the northwest of the island to Tautira in the far east, following the narrow coastal road and distributing their printed message as they travelled through the villages. They also took with them a book titled Portfolio of Life that contained a small manikin of the human internal organs and pictures of a diseased lung and stomach caused by smoking and alcohol drinking. Crowds gathered around to see the graphic lesson and were fascinated by it. When a group gathered, Cora would sing hymns to them. They were well received wherever they visited.8 When in Pape’ete, Cora taught a few youngsters in her home.9

When the “Pitcairn” called at Tahiti in mid-1895 during its fourth voyage, Elliott and Cora boarded to return to California because of Cora’s poor health. The round trip took them via the Cook Islands, Niue Island, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa,10 and they arrived back at the Oakland docks in December 1895.11

Elliott and Cora settled back into Oakland, California.12 It was there that their only child, Marjorie Bernice, was born in 1897.13 Their health revived sufficiently to accept a second mission appointment. In 1900, they sailed to Australia to take charge of the printing work being done on the campus of the Avondale School for Christian Workers at Cooranbong, New South Wales. When they arrived, Elliott found the enterprise was a small-scale printing works in a section of the carpenter’s shop. He labored in these cramped quarters for seven years, printing church periodicals and books in eight different languages. Finally, in 1907, a large separate building was erected for what was known as Avondale Press, and it was equipped with better machinery and training up to 12 students each year in the trade. Some students eventually served on little printing presses in Southeast Asia and South Pacific Island missions.14

Amid the excellent reports of the printing enterprise, there was disturbing news about Cora’s health. She had contracted tuberculosis. In 1906, some treatment was sought in the Sydney Sanitarium15 and the following year, in desperation, Elliott and Cora camped for periods in the fresh air of the nearby Wattagan hills.16 In mid-1908, they opted to return to California for further treatment, boarding the S. S. “Manuka” on August 3.17

Back in California

The Chapman family once again settled in Oakland, California, where Elliott developed his own printing establishment that proved to be successful.18 In 1927, he generously transferred the business to the Golden Gate Academy, Berkeley, in order to teach those who wished to learn his trade.19 For a decade he served on the faculty in the Industrial Department as the instructor in the skills of printing, retiring in 1937.20

Elliott appeared to be in good health until he suddenly passed away on February 18, 1945. The previous day he had taught his usual Sabbath School class at Loma Linda, Los Angeles, without showing any discomfort.21 He was laid to rest in the Montecito Memorial Park at nearby Colton.22 Cora herself had experienced a remarkable healing after returning to her homeland. She passed away in San Bernardino on May 7, 1954, at the age of 82 and was laid to rest between Elliott and where daughter Marjorie would be buried two years later.23

Sources

A, C.E. “A School Teacher Accepting the Message.” Union Conference Record, April 2, 1906.

“A telegram from Oakland…” ARH, December 17, 1895.

“Brother and Sister E.C. Chapman…” Union Conference Record, August 17, 1908.

Cady, B[enjamin] J. “News from the Ship Pitcairn.” Bible Echo, August 1, 1893.

Chapman, Elliott. “Notes from Tahiti.” Bible Echo, May 21, 1894.

Chapman, Elliot. “Printing in Tahiti.” Bible Echo, April 30, 1894.

Chapman, E[lliott] C. “The Avondale Press and Dedicatory Service.” Union Conference Record, May 13, 1907.

Chapman, Elliott and Cora. “Tahiti.” Bible Echo, June 18, 1894.

Christie Thompson Diary. Avondale University College Archives, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box No: 123. Document: “Christie Thompson Diary.”

“Cora Mary (Peoples) Chapman.” Find A Grave.com, 2015. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152617828/cora-mary-chapman.

“Elliot C. Chapman.” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZ3T-KBC.

“Elliot Colby Chapman.” Find A Grave Memorial.com, 2015. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152617739/elliot-colby-chapman.

“Elliott Colby Chapman.” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VNF6-848.

“Elliott Colby Chapman.” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/K6SZ-R1P.

“Elliott Colby Chapman.” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MNXQ-FHL.

“Elliott Colby Chapman.” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MV2H-QZP.

“Elliott C[olby] Chapman.” Pacific Union Recorder, April 25, 1945.

Gates, E[dward] H. “The Polynesian Mission Field.” The Home Missionary, January 1895.

O[lsen], O[le] A. “Movements of the Pitcairn.” ARH, October 22, 1895.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. Various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Notes

  1. “Elliot Colby Chapman,” Find A Grave Memorial.com, 2015, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152617739/elliot-colby-chapman.

  2. “Elliott Colby Chapman,” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MNXQ-FHL.

  3. “Elliott Colby Chapman,” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/K6SZ-R1P.

  4. “Elliott C[olby] Chapman,” Pacific Union Recorder 44, no. 38 (April 25, 1945): 14.

  5. “Elliot C. Chapman,” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZ3T-KBC.

  6. B[enjamin] J. Cady, “News from the Ship Pitcairn,” Bible Echo, August 1, 1893, 253.

  7. Elliot Chapman, “Printing in Tahiti,” Bible Echo, April 30, 1894, 134.

  8. Elliott and Cora Chapman, “Tahiti,” Bible Echo, June 18, 1894, 190-191.

  9. Elliott Chapman, “Notes from Tahiti,” Bible Echo, May 21, 1894, 158.

  10. O[le] A. O[lsen], “Movements of the Pitcairn,” ARH, October 22, 1895, 681-682.

  11. “A telegram from Oakland…” ARH, December 17, 1895, 816.

  12. “Elliott Colby Chapman,” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VNF6-848.

  13. “Elliott Colby Chapman,” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/K6SZ-R1P.

  14. E[lliott] C. Chapman, “The Avondale Press and Dedicatory Service,” Union Conference Record, May 13, 1907, 6-8.

  15. C.E.A, “A School Teacher Accepting the Message,” Union Conference Record, April 2, 1906, 7.

  16. Christie Thompson Diary, Avondale University College Archives, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box No: 123. Document: “Christie Thompson Diary.”

  17. “Brother and Sister E.C. Chapman…” Union Conference Record, August 17, 1908, 7.

  18. “Elliott Colby Chapman,” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MV2H-QZP.

  19. “Elliott C[olby] Chapman,” Pacific Union Recorder, April 25, 1945, 14.

  20. E.g., “Golden Gate Academy,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1928), 263.

  21. “Elliott C[olby] Chapman,” Pacific Union Recorder, April 25, 1945, 14.

  22. “Elliot Colby Chapman,” Find A Grave Memorial.com, 2015, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152617739/elliot-colby-chapman.

  23. “Cora Mary (Peoples) Chapman,” Find A Grave Memorial.com, 2015, accessed June 5, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152617828/cora-mary-chapman.

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Hook, Milton. "Chapman, Elliott Colby (1866–1945)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 02, 2022. Accessed December 01, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=1IM0.

Hook, Milton. "Chapman, Elliott Colby (1866–1945)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 02, 2022. Date of access December 01, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=1IM0.

Hook, Milton (2022, January 02). Chapman, Elliott Colby (1866–1945). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved December 01, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=1IM0.