A. J. Cudney


Cudney Lost at Sea with the sinking of the Phoebe Chapman

“John Tay went to other islands in the Pacific Ocean to carry the message. But he found it so hard to get to many of them, where ships did not call very often, that he came home to America, to ask for a ship of our own. At first the brethren did not think of building one. Instead they sent A. J. Cudney in a small ship which they bought and named the “Phoebe Chapman.” With a missionary crew of five men, Cudney started out in this ship to go to Pitcairn. Mr. Tay had gone down to Tahiti to wait for Mr. Cudney to pick him up, when they would go together to Pitcairn, and afterwards to other islands.

“The “Phoebe Chapman” sailed from Honolulu, in the Hawaiian Islands, July 31, 1888, and should have reached Tahiti in a few weeks. But nothing more was ever heard from her or the people in her. No doubt they perished in some great storm. God knew His reasons, though we do not, why Mr. Cudney and his brother missionaries should not reach their field of labor. He laid them away to rest in the bosom of old ocean, until that day when the sea shall give up her dead to receive their reward. And were they not martyrs for Jesus, as much as any who have died for Him, though they perished not under the spears or the axes of savage men, nor languished in dungeons and chains, but gave up their lives to the storm-king of the waters?

Cudney Organizes Churches in Hawaii Before Sailing for Pitcairn

On July 22, 1888, Pastor A. J. Cudney organized these nine members into the first Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hawaii. Just a few days later, on July 31, 1888, he left on a sailboat for Pitcairn Island (now famous for its place in early Adventist missions), but the ship was lost at sea and never heard from again. Because of this tragedy, the organization of the church in Hawaii was never reported to the world headquarters and was not officially recognized until its reorganization on February 22, 1896, with fifteen members.



Missionary-ship Committee for 1888

Members of committee: C. Eldridge, C. H. Jones, J. N. Loughborough, W. C. Sisley, A. T. Robinson, who reported as follows:–

Your committee appointed to take into consideration the matter of securing a ship to be used for missionary purposes, after thorough investigation on the Atlantic Coast, find that a vessel of 100 tons, Government measurement, built of white oak, with a cabin to accommodate sixteen passengers, thoroughly equipped and ready for sea, will cost between $8,000 and $9,000. Second-hand vessels of from 40 to 100 tons, and from three to five years old, could be purchased at from $2,000 to $6,000. We find that on the Pacific Coast a vessel of 75 tons, Government measurement, built of oregon pine, fully equipped and ready for service, will cost about $8,000. With steam auxiliary, the vessel will cost about $15,000. The cabin of this ship would accommodate fifteen persons.

Further than this, your committee learn that elder A. J. Cudney, who was instructed by the General Conference Committee to proceed with Brother J. I. Tay to Pitcairn Island as soon as possible, after seeking in vain to secure passage direct from San Francisco, sailed to Honolulu, from whence, after laboring a short time with the church in that place, he expected to sail to Tahiti, there to meet Brother Tay, who was to sail direct from San Francisco, at the first opportunity, from whence they hoped to find passage to Pitcairn Island. On reaching Honolulu, and finding no means of transport, Elder Cudney accepted the offer of Brother N. F. Burgess, who proposed to purchase a schooner, then offered at forced sale, if Elder Cudney would fit it up, man it, and use it in the missionary work, among the islands of the Pacific. This schooner is 45 tons’ burden, capable of accommodating ten persons besides the crew, and costs only $1,100. Brother Burgess makes no charge for the use of the vessel on this trip, and if desired, will sell it to the Conference for what it cost him. The cost of fitting up this schooner was about $900, which is to be returned to the Conference, if the vessel is sold to other parties.

Elder Cudney secured a crew, consisting of a captain, a mate, two sailors, 373–GCS 63-88 and a steward, and July 31 started for Pitcairn, intending to proceed first to Tahiti, to take on board Brother Tay, who sailed from San Francisco, July 5. We hope soon to hear of their safe arrival at Pitcairn Island. In view of these facts,–

1. We recommend that, if this vessel, after thorough examination, is found to be sound, and well-adapted to our needs, it be purchased, according to the liberal offer of Brother Burgess, and used till the work demands a larger one. [Oct. 19].

2. RESOLVED, That the General Conference express its appreciation of the generous act of Brother N. F. Burgess, of Honolulu, in providing the missionary ship for Elder Cudney to go to the islands of the Pacific; and we pray the blessing of God upon him and his, and upon the ship and her crew, and that she may have a prosperous voyage throughout [A. T. Jones, Oct. 31].



Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Daily Bulletin, November 2, 1888

21 Resolved, That the General Conference express its appreciation of the generous act of Bro. N. F. Burgess, of Honolulu, in providing, the missionary ship for Eld. Cudney to go to the Islands of the Pacific, and we pray the blessing of God upon him and his, and upon the ship and crew, and that he may give her a prosperous journey.



Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Daily Bulletin, November 6, 1889, page 3.

WHEREAS, Elder A. J. Cudney was selected to visit the brethren in Pitcairn Island, to complete the organization of a church there, and left Honolulu, H. I-, on the ship Phebe Chapman, for that purpose, July 5, 1888; and,—

WHEREAS, Nothing has “been heard from him since that time; therefore,

Resolved, That we hereby express the sense of pain we feel over the suspense arising from this lack of tidings, and the uncertainty that hangs over his fate.

Resolved, That we will use due diligence to secure, if possible, some tidings concerning him after his departure from Honolulu.

Resolved, That we tender to his family our sympathy in their afflicting circumstances.



General Conference Committee, March 27?, 1889

The consideration of the Ship bought be Eld. Cudney was taken up, and the following resolution was adopted.

Resolved, That N.F.Burgess be paid the amount which he advanced for the purchase of the Sch. Phebe Chapman, That Mrs Capt. Lovel be paid the wages of Capt. Lovel, less the amount which she has already received on account. That the wages of officer and crew be paid to their legal representatives, and that their time calculated from the time of their engagement to the longest reasonable time required to make passage from Honolulu to their port of destination.



Help For Mrs. Cudney



Further Notes About A. J. Cudney

  • President of the Nebraska Conference, 1886
  • Organized the first church in Hawaii.
  • mr-and-mrs-cudney

    — Source, Review and Herald, June 28, 1951, page 17

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