The Two Mrs. Chapmans

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By Louise Chapman’s death in 1993, many regarded her as the Mrs. J. B. Chapman. And yet the wife of Chapman’s youth, the mother of his seven children, and his companion for 37 years was Maud Frederick. The two women who graced his life in marriage were pioneers: Maud as an early revival and home missions worker, Louise as a missionary and church leader. They shared characteristics but lived very different lives.

 

Maud Frederick Chapman

Maud Frederick was born on her grandfather’s farm near Longview, Texas, on December 3, 1880. Her mother died when Maud was six. Her father moved his family of small children to Palestine, Texas, where she attended public school. At 15, she was sent to a school in Waco. She entered the state teacher’s college at Huntsville at 17, finished a one-year course, then became a schoolteacher.

 

She was influenced by Methodist revivalists in spite of a Baptist heritage. Her conversion, at 16, was in a meeting led by the famed Methodist preacher Sam Jones. Maud was baptized and joined a Baptist church. She became a Methodist in 1899, however, after being sanctified under Will Huff’s ministry. Her new pastor, John Paul, was a popular Holiness leader.

 

She met J. B. Chapman in early 1902. A young preacher, he was holding a revival in Troup, where she was visiting. Her diary does not mention their first meeting, but that spring she joined the Chapman-Tetrick evangelistic party for several weeks. The diary soon mentioned “Brother Jimmie.” That fall and winter, she taught school at Iron Bluff and White’s Chapel, quitting a month before C. B. Jernigan performed their wedding service on February 18, 1903. Her new husband preached later that very night. The next day, they took a train to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and started a revival.

 

Their early marriage was spent in Oklahoma, briefly in Phillips, then at Durant, where they planted a church. Poverty was the lot of early Nazarene home missionaries, but Maud’s photograph shows a spirited woman.

 

Lois was born in Durant. Other babies followed: James (who died at five months), then Grace, Harold, Brilhart, Gertrude, and Paul.

 

The years brought other changes. In 1904, their group, the Independent Holiness Church, became part of the Holiness Church of the Christ, which united in turn with the Nazarenes in 1908. J. B. Chapman’s star gradually rose: president of the HCC’s General Council, then Nazarene district superintendent, president of colleges in Arkansas and Texas, pastor of Bethany First Church, editor of the Herald of Holiness, and in 1928, general superintendent. They relocated their home often. There was also grief: Brilhart died young, at 25.

 

Because of Maud Chapman’s maternal duties, she and her husband were apart frequently as he spoke to churches and camps, and later presided over assemblies. She went with him when possible, but they were separated for 10 months in 1931 when he visited districts around the world. “Never again” he vowed upon his return. After that, she always travelled with him overseas–to Japan, Asia, the Mideast, Europe, and the West Indies between 1933 and 1940.

 

While J. B. Chapman enjoyed the quality of his wife’s testimonies, her ministry grew wider than the local church. She spoke to groups about Nazarene missions after visiting the fields. She also influenced his ministry of words: he never published his own writing until she first read and approved it, and she gauged his sermon when he preached and signaled if it should end. He ended prematurely once when she accidentally coughed.

 

Maud Chapman grew ill in California in 1940. After she improved they went to their next appointments in Oklahoma, but she developed pneumonia and died in Oklahoma City on February 14. She was buried in Bethany .

 

J. B. Chapman wrote a few days later: “My wife always wanted a home. [Each time] we thought we were settled. . .God, in His providence, stirred up our nest. . .[This] was always a sacrifice to her, and in delirium during her last sickness, she would still murmur, ‘I want a home.’ Thank God, she has found it now, even though it was her lot to be a pilgrim and a stranger upon this earth.” His book, My Wife, was a vehicle for his grief and a tribune to her life and their marriage.

 

Louise Robinson Chapman

Two years later, J. B. Chapman married Louise Robinson, Chapman’s wives shared a common piety and deep love for the church, but their lives differed significantly. Maud, married 37 years, died relatively young. Louise lived to 100 but was single for all but 5 years. She was an independent woman most of her life, and the church in a real sense washer family.

 

Louise Robinson was born October 9, 1892, in a log cabin near La Center, Washington. Her family was unchurched, but she was converted in her senior year of high school in a country Baptist church. She taught school for four years. She united with the Nazarenes and perceived a clear call to preach in 1915.

 

She entered Northwest Nazarene College the next year, where she was befriended and influenced by president H. Orton Wiley and dean Olive Winchester. She struggled to claim the grace of entire sanctification but was unable until she accepted God’s call to be a missionary in Africa. She graduated with honors in June 1920, was ordained to the ministry that summer by R. T. Williams, and left for Africa in October. Audrey Williamson has noted that Louise Robinson’s career can be understood only from the standpoint of one who took, with utmost seriousness, the ordination charge: “Take thou authority.”

 

Louise was stationed at Sabie, Transvaal, for four years. In 1924, she went to Endzingeni, Swaziland, to superintend the Girls’ Training School. There she eventually cared for hundreds of young women. Some of her students became evangelists and Bible teachers, others preachers’ spouses. She instructed them in English and Zulu, led their Bible studies, and taught practical skills. When the buildings were no longer sufficient, she constructed new ones. By 1930 she was helping train preachers at the Men’s Training School. She pastored the local church at different periods and for many years supervised about 15 outstations in the area. Evangelism was her favorite task. “Africa is all I see,” she wrote, “and her people are, to me, the most beautiful of all the tribes of earth.”

 

Louise Robinson returned to the United States on furlough in 1940. World war delayed her return to Africa. She married J. B. Chapman on June 20, 1942, ending her missionary career. She was nearly 50.

 

She brought to her marriage a convivial personality and shared with Chapman the storyteller’s art, passion for evangelism, and a common experience in the preaching life. She traveled with him constantly and spoke on missions at assemblies where he presided. She was with him when he died at their home at Indian Lake in Michigan in July 1947. For her, the marriage was all too brief.

 

In 1948, she was elected president of the Nazarene Foreign Missionary Society. Every bit of Louise Chapman’s preaching skills and missionary experience were poured into that job in the next 16 years as she planned, organized, promoted, and spoke. NFMS membership tripled during her tenure, rising to over 225,000. She visited the fields, built the Alabaster program, and throughout her presidency served on the General Board.

 

Her advocacy of missions continued in retirement. She continued visiting mission areas until her health no longer permitted. At Casa Robles, the missionary retirement center where she settled, she was united with friends of many years standing. Her mind was filled with cherished memories, her years with J. B. Chapman among the dearest. She died at 100 on April 12, 1993. Her published writings included Africa, O, Africa (1945), partly autobiographical: The Problem of Africa (1952): and Footprints in Africa (1959).

 

Stan Ingersol is manager of the Nazarene archives at the International Headquarters of the Church of the Nazarene.

 

Ingersol, S. (December, 1994). The two Mrs. Chapmans Herald of Holiness, 36–37.

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