JOHN WILBUR CHAPMAN
1859 - 1918
John Wilbur Chapman was born
in Richmond, Indiana, on June 17, 1859. His
parents Alexander H. and Lorinda Chapman prepared
him for a life of Christian ministry. The
young man felt he could never pinpoint a date
for his conversion, but did make public his
acknowledgement of Christ at age seventeen.
In 1876 Chapman joined the
Richmond Presbyterian Church and later that
year left to attend Oberlin College. After
one year at Oberlin, Chapman transferred to
Lake Forest University where he received his
B.A. in 1879. His seminary years, 1879-1882,
were spent at Lane Theological Seminary in
Cincinnati, during which time he was ordained
on April 13, 1881.
The young minister married
Irene Steddon, in May 1882, prior to assuming
his first pastorate. Chapman's first child,
Bertha Irene, was born on April 1, 1886, which
was followed a month later by his wife's death.
The minister then married Agnes Pruyn Strain
on November 4, 1888. She bore Chapman four
children: Robert (who died in infancy), John
Wilbur, Jr., Alexander Hamilton, and Agnes
Pruyn. Chapman's second wife died June 25,
1907. He married his third and last wife Mabel
Cornelia Moulton on August 30, 1910.
Chapman led several churches
prior to his full time evangelistic efforts.
The following churches came under Chapman's
care from 1882 until 1902: College Corner
Presbyterian Church (Ohio) and Liberty Presbyterian
Church (Indiana), 1882; Dutch Reformed Church
(Schuylerville, NY), 1883-1885; First Reformed
Church (Albany, NY), 1885-1890; Bethany Presbyterian
(Philadelphia, PA), 1890-1892, 1896-1899;
Fourth Presbyterian Church (New York City,
Chapman began his evangelistic
work full time in 1893, preaching with D.
L. Moody at the World's Fair and conducting
many meetings on his own. He hired William
Ashley "Billy" Sunday as an advance
man, thus giving him his start in evangelism.
At this same time, the evangelist Sol C. Dickey
set up a Bible Conference Center in Winona
Lake, Indiana. This center held lifelong interest
to Chapman along with the others he helped
develop in Montreat, North Carolina, and Stony
Brook, Long Island, New York.
After returning to the active
pastorate for a short time, at the end of
1895, Chapman was appointed Corresponding
Secretary of the Presbyterian General Assembly's
Committee on Evangelism. He directed the activities
of fifty-one evangelists in 470 cities and
also found time to write one of his numerous
books, Present Day Evangelism. In 1905, John
H. Converse, a wealthy Presbyterian layman,
offered to underwrite Chapman's expenses if
he would return to full time evangelistic
work. Converse also set up a trust fund to
provide monies even after his own death.
From 1904-1909 Chapman began
to develop and promote a new method of urban
evangelism. His idea was to hold several meetings
throughout a city simultaneously, thereby
reaching more people and stirring more hearts
to enter into Christian service. The first
city to try Chapman's theory was Pittsburgh
in 1904. The city was divided into nine districts
with nine meeting places as the revival was
conducted. Chapman took the central position
and his assistants the rest. Another campaign
was planned and executed in Syracuse, New
York, in 1906; however, there were still unfinished
details to be worked out for the method to
be widely accepted.
Charles McCallon Alexander,
world famous song leader, who had been traveling
with R. A. Torrey, joined with Chapman in
1907. The two men became a team and formed
the "Chapman-Alexander Simultaneous Campaign."
Enjoying the benefits of both their influences,
the men were able to build a large group of
evangelists and song leaders to assist them
in the large city-wide campaigns.
The first joint campaign
was held in Philadelphia from March 12 to
April 19, 1908. The city was divided into
forty-two districts with twenty-one teams
of evangelist-musicians. Three weeks were
spent in each half of the city with estimates
of eight thousand conversions. The following
revival held in Boston from January 26 to
February 17, 1909, is considered to be Chapman's
most successful. The city was divided into
twenty-seven districts and recorded seven
The first Chapman-Alexander
worldwide campaign left Vancouver, British
Columbia, on March 26, 1909, and returned
November 26. Stops along the way included:
Melbourne, Sydney, Ipswitch, Brisbane, Adelaide,
Ballarat, Bendigo, and Townsville in Australia;
Manila in the Philippines; Hong Kong, Kowloon,
Canton, Shanghai, Hankow, Peking and Tientsin
in China; Seoul, Korea; Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo,
and Yokohama in Japan.
Chapman continued his non-stop
evangelistic efforts in both the United States
and Europe in 1910, including a very successful
Chicago meeting from October 16 to November
27. However, Chapman's technique of mass evangelism
lost much of its popularity. A series of unsuccessful
campaigns were conducted in Bangor and Portland,
Maine, and Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. Chapman
was not credited with the failures, and so
from 1912 on all the revivals were mass meetings
led by Chapman.
Many services were conducted
by the evangelist in the next couple of year
in Australia, Scotland, Ireland, India, New
Zealand, and the United States, averaging
three to five sermons a day in many places.
His career as evangelist ended with the Chapman-Alexander
campaign January 6 to February 13, 1918.
The Presbyterian General Assembly elected
him Moderator in May 1918. The strenuous routine
required for the position combined with all
the energy expended during his campaigns created
a collapse of Chapman's health. He was forced
to undergo emergency surgery for gallstones
on December 23 and died on December 25, 1918.