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Chapman family: 1st row, left to right: Sarah Jessie, William, Emeline Sarah. 2nd row, left to right: George Milton, William Eugene, Mervyn Austin, Alan Melvyn.

Photo courtesy of Shirley Tarburton from the private collection of W.M. Chapman.

Chapman, William (1894–1990) and Emeline Sarah (Smith) (1896–1983); later Edith Alexandra (Speck) (1901–1992)

By Shirley Tarburton

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Shirley Tarburton, M.Litt. (Distinction) (University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia) retired in 2008 after 40 years teaching church-school (mainly high school but including eight years at university). An Australian, she has taught in four mission fields, Australia, and New Zealand. She has authored five books and co-authored one on church history, biography and family history, as well as several magazine articles. She is married to Dr. Michael Tarburton with two adult children and four grandchildren.

 

First Published: January 29, 2020

William Chapman was a member of a pioneer Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) family in Western Australia (WA), was a missionary in the Cook Islands, then spent twenty years serving at Carmel College, followed by pastoring a large area of south-west Western Australia and raising up a church at Bunbury, WA.

Early Years

William Chapman (Will) and his twin, Henry, were born June 29, 1894, at Lowden, WA,1 the eldest of the eight children of George Hambledon Chapman (1867–1941)2 and his wife, Sarah Jane Ann (Gibbs) (1868–1950).3 Will had six brothers and one sister. Henry married Alice Maud Broxup in 1917 and died in 1970. George Thomas (1896–1982) married Lillian May Davies in 1916 and worked for the SDA Church Health Foods as a manager in Australia and the United States. Herbert Edward (1898–1971) married Mary Thomas Burrows in 1920. Harold Alfred (1900–1972) married Clara Louisa Burrows in 1924. Lewis Jesse (1902–1913) died young. Eva (1906–1957) worked for the SDA Church for six years prior to her marriage to Maxwell Walker North in 1932. Allen James (1909–1987) married Gladys Agnes Blechynden in 1932.4

Will grew up in the family home, “Woodland,” in Upper Preston, WA. When he was five, his parents became Seventh-day Adventists through reading Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, by Uriah Smith, which they had purchased in 1897 from Fred Reekie, an early SDA literature evangelist in Western Australia. Also joining the church as the result of reading books purchased from Reekie were Will’s aunt Ellen Chandler and her husband, and his two uncles, Edward and Alfred Chapman and their families. A church was built on a corner of the Chapman farm, and by the time Will was ready to start school, a one-room schoolhouse had also been built so the children could attend church school.5

Also raised in the Chapman home after 1909 were the orphaned sons of William’s uncle Alfred (Chapman) and aunt Mary (who was a half sister of William’s mother): Ernest (1895–1922), who became a missionary to India, Walter (1897–1974), a missionary to the Pacific Island contract workers in North Queensland, and Charles (1904–1989), a farmer.6

Education

Will Chapman commenced his schooling in the church school on their farm, then, in 1911, continued his studies at the Darling Range School (now Carmel College), an SDA boarding school 135 miles (220 kilometers) north of Upper Preston, just east of Perth.7 He was baptized, aged 17, in November 1911.8 After graduating in November 1915, Chapman crossed the country to study at the Australasian Missionary College,9 at Avondale, where he undertook the ministerial course, paying his way through by cutting timber railway sleepers (railroad ties).10 He graduated two years later and immediately commenced work in the South Australian Conference (August 1917)11 as an associate of H. C. Harker in a tent evangelistic series at Kensington in Adelaide.12

Marriage and Family

While Chapman was studying at the Darling Range School, the principal was William J. Smith (1867–1955), whose family included Emeline Sarah, two years younger (born October 6, 1896) than Will, and a friendship grew between them. At the end of 1916 the Smith family transferred to Sydney, and Will and Sarah’s friendship developed into love.13

The Smiths were from New Zealand, and had been converted in 1892 through the ministry of Pastor Farnsworth.14 Pastor Smith had been a schoolteacher, spending four years (two of them as principal) at the (SDA) Pukekura Training Institute near Cambridge, North New Zealand.15 He and his wife, Eliza (Wall, 1857–1924), had five children besides Sarah: Harold Fuller (1889–1916, married Estelle Baird 1915), Wilfrid Thomas (1890–1965, married Ivy Isobel Rudge 1913), Lilian Ethel (1892–1934), Mabel Eliza Mary (1894–1941, married Benjamin A. Jones 1919), and Vesta Alice Marion (1899–1929, married Victor Northcote Rudge 1924).16

Will and Sarah were married in Wahroonga, NSW, on September 26, 1918.17 Five children were born into their family. Their first child, William Eugene, was born in Renmark on September 28, 191918 (died February 7, 2010).19 Mervyn Austin was born August 13, 1921, in Rarotonga, Cook Islands20 (died May 31, 2013).21 Sarah Jessie was born July 24, 1923, in Atiu, Cook Islands,22 and married Robert William Hall in 1946.23 George Milton was born in Subiaco, Perth, WA, on May 1, 1926,24 and Allan Melvin was born in Carmel, WA, on September 27, 1929.25 He died June 20, 2018.26

Career

After his marriage Chapman continued ministering in the South Australian Conference, and was stationed at Renmark.27 He sold denominational books, using the opportunity to meet the people, then partnered with Erwin Roennfeldt in running an outreach program.28 In April 1920 Chapman was asked to work at Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. He and Sarah with their 11-month-old son left Sydney on August 13, 1920, and established themselves on the island by the end of the year.29 After working there for under a year, they were asked, in September 1921, to transfer to the unentered island of Atiu.30 They had already left Aitutaki for Rarotonga for the birth of their second child in August,31 so they sailed for Atiu on November 2.32 The family was welcomed, and after a few weeks Chapman was requested to take over the local school, which he did.33 He was joined on Atiu by H. A. Hill, and together they organized a large Sabbath School, baptizing seven converts by mid-1922.34

After Hill left, the Chapmans were very isolated. They had no way of getting off the island between visits of the trading ship, which could be five months apart. Will busied himself visiting between the villages and their 900 inhabitants, and building a church.35 In the middle of 1923 Sarah gave birth on Atiu to their only daughter.36 However, their isolation protected them from an outbreak of influenza that swept the rest of the group, although it prevented the anticipated visit of Hill and his wife.37 They left Atiu in April 1924 for a time of rest and recuperation in Rarotonga before spending the last few months of their term of service back on Aitutake.38 While in Rarotonga, word was received of the death of Sarah’s mother. In September 1924 they packed up and sailed for Sydney, where they spent some time with Sarah’s father (who had the joy of meeting two new grandchildren!).39 Will was immediately pressed into service at the South New South Wales Conference camp meeting at Blacktown, representing the mission field.40

On November 2 they left for Western Australia to visit Will’s family, whom he had not seen for eight years.41 While there, they visited Darling Range School (then called West Australian Missionary College) at Carmel, where Will and Sarah had first met. He was invited to speak to the students on several occasions, and his presentations were greatly enjoyed.42 As their furlough was nearing its end, early in 1925, Will was invited to join the staff at the school, to teach Bible and math and to manage the farm,43 drawing on his experience teaching in the Cook Islands, and farming with his father before he left home.44 This was to be a temporary appointment, to enable the family to be fully refreshed, but lasted for twenty years.45 He was also asked to be the deputy principal, and this consecrated service was deeply appreciated and long remembered.46

Over that time he rejuvenated the vegetable gardens and orchard, turning the latter into a financial asset, growing nine varieties of citrus, pome, and stone fruits. They fetched premium prices in the Perth markets,47 and the money generated greatly assisted the college.48 During the war years (1941–1944) fertilizer became unobtainable, yet the orchard produced bountifully, and 18,145 bushels of fruit were sold, bringing the school £9,407.49

This was a settled time for the Chapmans. Their youngest two children were born into the family during their early years at Carmel, and all five children were able to have the advantage of SDA schooling. The Chapman home was a welcoming one and was often filled with young people.50 Their days began and ended with family worship, of which music, prayer, and reading the Bible (especially the Psalms) were favorite components.51

Will played the tenor horn and loved music. He started the first college band, which generated the Perth Advent Band in 1936,52 another of his lasting legacies. For much of the time that he was on the college staff he was also the camp superintendent for the annual conference camp meeting in Perth.53

In 1944 Will retired from the college54 and reentered evangelism.55 He was appointed to Bunbury, closer to his childhood home, being given pastoral responsibility in the Bunbury-Busselton district of Western Australia.56 There he was initially associated with Stanley O. Jean-Louis, the ministerial appointee to Busselton.57 During 1945 he and Stan between them prepared ten candidates for baptism.58 He established the first SDA church company in this area and cared for all the members in the southwestern part of the state until 1955.59 The congregations under his care during this time were Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Collie, Boyanup, Boyup Brook, Margaret River, Kulikup, and Harvey, necessitating extensive travel. Will did a lot of visiting, particularly to those who were sick or afflicted, bringing cheer and encouragement.60

Retirement

Chapman retired on January 1, 1955,61 and he and Sarah built a home at Wellington Mill, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from Bunbury, where they established a large garden and planted an orchard.62 These provided them with an abundance of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, which they freely shared with family and those in need.63 Here they enjoyed almost ten happy years. Between 1943 and 1953 all their children had married, and they eventually had 21 grandchildren, who brought them much joy.64 Will and Sarah donated freely for building churches, for needs in the mission field and those close at hand. He led out in building a church at Wellington Mill after they moved there.65

Final Years and Death

In 1964 Sarah suffered a severe stroke. She recovered, but they decided it was time to move closer to medical care. They sold their property and in 1965 moved to the Sherwin Lodge Adventist Retirement Village in Rossmoyne, Perth,66 which had opened in 1963.67 When a church was organized there in 1971, Will Chapman was appointed to be the senior elder.68 They lived there for 18 years, a highlight being their diamond wedding anniversary in 1978.69 After 64 years of marriage, Sarah died in Rossmoyne on May 1, 1983.70

The following year (1984), on October 1, Will married Edith Alexandra (nee Fury) Speck (born August 27, 1901 in Ingham, Queensland), the widow of Pastor David A. Speck.71 They had five years together before Will died at Sherwin Lodge on July 16, 1990, aged 96.72 Edith died almost two years later, on April 22, 1992, at Royal Perth Hospital.73

In memory of William Chapman, his family established a fund to benefit Carmel College graduates taking ministerial training at Avondale College—a fitting memorial to a man whose life was dedicated to God’s service and who passed his values onto his children and grandchildren, at least 11 of whom also dedicated their lives to the service of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.74

Sources

Adams, C. S. “Chapman, William.” Australasian Record, September 22, 1990.

“At the close . . .” Australasian Record, April 19, 1920.

Blair, R.E.G. “Never Too Old.” Australasian Record, November 22, 1971.

Bone, H. G. “Chapman, Edith.” Australasian Record, June 13, 1992.

“Brother and Sister William Chapman . . .” Australasian Record, June 23, 1924.

“Brother and Sister William Chapman . . .” Australasian Record, November 10, 1924.

“Brother W. Chapman and family . . .” Australasian Record, October 20, 1924.

“Brother W. Chapman . . .” Australasian Record, April 6, 1925.

Butler, Nellie H. “Building at Darling Range School.” Australasian Record, April 27, 1925.

———. “Darling Range School.” Australasian Record, January 5, 1925.

Chapman, M. “Life Sketch of Emeline (Smith) Chapman.” Australasian Record, July 9, 1983.

Chapman, M. A. “Chapman–Speck.” Australasian Record, November 10, 1984.

Chapman, W. “A Lonely Mission Station in Eastern Polynesia.” Australasian Record, September 3, 1923.

———. “News from Aitutaki, Cook Islands.” Australasian Record, February 7, 1921.

Chapman, William. “Seed on Good Ground.” Australasian Record, October 29, 1983.

Chapman, Wm. “The Entering of Atiu.” Australasian Record, June 26, 1922.

“Closing Exercises at Darling Range School.” Australasian Record, February 7, 1916.

Drinkall, G.W.W. “How Beautiful Are the Feet . . .” Australasian Record, January 19, 1985.

Futon J. E. “The South New South Wales Camp-meeting.” Australasian Record, November 3, 1924.

Goods, Steve, and Murray Chapman. “Chapman, William Eugene . . .” Australasian Record, April 30, 2011.

Hardy, Norm, and Clark Riggins, “Chapman, Allan Melvin . . .” Australasian Record, August 25, 2018.

Kranz, A.F.J. “Western Australian Missionary College.” Australasian Record, October 8, 1945.

Lemke, L.D.A. “Chapman.” Australasian Record, January 12, 1942.

Louis, S.O.J. “A Picturesque Baptism.” Australasian Record, January 28, 1946.

Lyndon, F. E. “Eastern Polynesian Mission.” Australasian Record, January 23, 1922.

Maberly, F. T. “Life Sketch of Brother Walter Chapman.” Australasian Record, August 12, 1974.

Martin, A. W. “The West Australian Missionary College.” Australasian Record, January 12, 1948.

McMahon, B. H. “The ‘Golden West.’ ” Australasian Record, June 21, 1943.

“New Home for Aged Opens in W. A.” Australasian Record, August 26, 1963.

“Notes from South Australia.” Australasian Record, May 6, 1918.

“Pastor W. J. Smith . . .” Australasian Record, December 11, 1916.

Price, E. Bruce. “Life-sketch of Pastor Erwin Erhardt Roenfelt.” Australasian Record, November 7, 1987.

Reynolds, Richard, and Don Fehlberg. “Chapman, Pastor Mervyn Austin . . .” Australasian Record, August 2, 2014.

Richards, W. J. “Chapman.” Australasian Record, May 1, 1950.

Scragg, W.M.R. “Young People’s Programme, Perth Camp.” Australasian Record, April 13, 1936.

Tarburton, Shirley. A Book of Beginnings. Longburn, NZ: Desktop Publishing, Longburn Adventist College, 1988.

Taylor, F. L. “Hall–Chapman.” Australasian Record, July 8, 1946.

“Two of the . . . ,” Australasian Record, October 7, 1918.

William Chapman Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Chapman, William.” Document: “Biographical Information.”

William Chapman Sustentation Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Chapman, William.” Document: “Sustentation Application.”

Zeunert, Eric. “Sixty Wonderful Years Together.” Australasian Record, February 5, 1979.

Notes

  1. C. S. Adams, “Chapman, William,” Australasian Record, September 22, 1990, 12.

  2. L.D.A. Lemke, “Chapman,” Australasian Record, January 12, 1942, 7.

  3. W. J. Richards, “Chapman,” Australasian Record, May 1, 1950, 7.

  4. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017.

  5. William Chapman, “Seed on Good Ground,” Australasian Record, October 29, 1983, 3.

  6. F. T. Maberly, “Life Sketch of Brother Walter Chapman,” Australasian Record, August 12, 1974, 11; Murray Chapman, email to author, April 3, 2019.

  7. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017.

  8. William Chapman Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives (Folder: “Chapman, William”; Document: “Biographical Information”).

  9. “Closing Exercises at Darling Range School,” Australasian Record, February 7, 1916, 7.

  10. Adams, 12, 13.

  11. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  12. “Notes from South Australia,” Australasian Record, May 6, 1918, 6.

  13. “Pastor W. J. Smith . . . ,” Australasian Record, December 11, 1916, 8.

  14. W. J. Smith, “A Picture from the Past,” Australasian Record, April 25, 1955, 7, 8.

  15. Shirley Tarburton, A Book of Beginnings (Longburn, NZ: Desktop Publishing, Longburn Adventist College, 1988), 17.

  16. Marriage notices and obituaries in Australasian Records and NSW and Victorian BDM indexes.

  17. “Two of the . . . ,” Australasian Record, October 7, 1918, 8.

  18. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  19. Steve Goods and Murray Chapman, “Chapman, William Eugene . . . ,” Australasian Record, April 30, 2011, 22.

  20. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  21. Richard Reynolds and Don Fehlberg, “Chapman, Pastor Mervyn Austin . . . ,” Australasian Record, August 2, 2014, 22.

  22. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  23. F. L. Taylor, “Hall–Chapman,” Australasian Record, July 8, 1946, 7.

  24. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  25. Ibid.

  26. Norm Hardy and Clark Riggins, “Chapman, Allan Melvin . . . ,” Australasian Record, August 25, 2018, 20.

  27. “At the close . . . ,” Australasian Record, April 19, 1920, 8.

  28. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017; E. Bruce Price, “Life-sketch of Pastor Erwin Erhardt Roenfelt,” Australasian Record, November 7, 1987, 13.

  29. W. Chapman, “News from Aitutaki, Cook Islands,” Australasian Record, February 7, 1921, 4.

  30. F. E. Lyndon, “Eastern Polynesian Mission,” Australasian Record, January 23, 1922, 3.

  31. William Chapman Biographical Records; Wm. Chapman, “The Entering of Atiu,” Australasian Record, June 26, 1922, 4.

  32. Ibid.

  33. Ibid.

  34. F. E. Lyndon, “Eastern Polynesian Mission,” Australasian Record, January 23, 1922, 3.

  35. W. Chapman, “A Lonely Mission Station in Eastern Polynesia,” Australasian Record, September 3, 1923, 3.

  36. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  37. H. A. Hill, “A Visit to Mauke, Cook Islands,” Australasian Record, December 10, 1923, 3.

  38. “Brother and Sister William Chapman . . . ,” Australasian Record, June 23, 1924, 8.

  39. “Brother W. Chapman and family . . . ,” Australasian Record, October 20, 1924, 8.

  40. J. E. Futon, “The South New South Wales Camp-meeting,” Australasian Record, November 3, 1924, 8.

  41. “Brother and Sister William Chapman . . . ,” Australasian Record, November 10, 1924, 8.

  42. Nellie H. Butler, “Darling Range School,” Australasian Record, January 5, 1925, 5.

  43. “Brother W. Chapman . . . ,” Australasian Record, April 6, 1925, 8; Nellie H. Butler, “Building at Darling Range School,” Australasian Record, April 27, 1925, 3.

  44. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  45. Ibid.; Adams, 12, 13.

  46. Ibid.

  47. B. H. McMahon, “The ‘Golden West,’ ” Australasian Record, June 21, 1943, 3,4.

  48. A. W. Martin, “The West Australian Missionary College,” Australasian Record, January 12, 1948, 3.

  49. A.F.J. Kranz, “Western Australian Missionary College,” Australasian Record, October 8, 1945, 25,26.

  50. Eric Zeunert, “Sixty Wonderful Years Together,” Australasian Record, February 5, 1979, 3.

  51. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017.

  52. Ibid.; W.M.R. Scragg, “Young People’s Programme, Perth Camp,” Australasian Record, April 13, 1936, 5.

  53. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017.

  54. Kranz, 25-26.

  55. William Chapman Biographical Records.

  56. S.O.J. Louis, “A Picturesque Baptism,” Australasian Record, January 28, 1946, 8.

  57. B. H. McMahon, “Itinerating in West Australia on Home Commission and M. V. Work,” Australasian Record, August 12, 1946, 3.

  58. Louis.

  59. Adams, 12, 13.

  60. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017.

  61. “William Chapman Sustentation Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives (Folder: “Chapman, William”; Document: “Sustentation Application”).

  62. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017.

  63. Ibid.

  64. Adams, 12, 13.

  65. Murray Chapman, email to author, October 23, 2017.

  66. Ibid.

  67. “New Home for Aged Opens in W. A.,” Australasian Record, August 26, 1963, 4-5.

  68. R.E.G. Blair, “Never Too Old,” Australasian Record, November 22, 1971, 13.

  69. Eric Zeunert, “Sixty Wonderful Years Together,” Australasian Record, February 5, 1979, 3.

  70. M. Chapman, “Life Sketch of Emeline (Smith) Chapman,” Australasian Record, July 9, 1983, 12.

  71. M. A. Chapman, “Chapman-Speck,” Australasian Record, November 10, 1984, 14.

  72. Adams, 12, 13.

  73. H. G. Bone, “Chapman, Edith,” Australasian Record, June 13, 1992, 13.

  74. Adams, 12, 13; G.W.W. Drinkall, “How Beautiful Are the Feet . . .” Australasian Record, January 19, 1985, 5.

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Tarburton, Shirley. "Chapman, William (1894–1990) and Emeline Sarah (Smith) (1896–1983); later Edith Alexandra (Speck) (1901–1992)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed May 21, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A7UI.

Tarburton, Shirley. "Chapman, William (1894–1990) and Emeline Sarah (Smith) (1896–1983); later Edith Alexandra (Speck) (1901–1992)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access May 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A7UI.

Tarburton, Shirley (2020, January 29). Chapman, William (1894–1990) and Emeline Sarah (Smith) (1896–1983); later Edith Alexandra (Speck) (1901–1992). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A7UI.