A Brief History of The Salvation Army
William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852. His crusade was to win the lost multitudes of London to Christ. He went into the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit and took his message to the people. His fervor led to disagreement with the leaders of the church in London. They preferred traditional measures. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England conducting evangelistic meetings. His wife, Catherine, was a major force in The Salvation Army movement.
In1865, William Booth was invited to hold a series of evangelistic meetings inthe east end of London. He set up a tent in a Quaker graveyard and his services became an instant success. This proved to be the end of his wanderings as an independent traveling evangelist. His renown as a religious leader spread throughout London. His followers were a vigorous group dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women.
Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards were among Booth’s first converts to Christianity. His congregations were desperately poor. He preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead them to Christ and to link them to a church for further spiritual guidance. Even though they were converted, churches did not accept Booth’s followers because of what they had been. Booth gave their lives direction in a spiritual manner and put them to work to save others who were like themselves. They too preached and sang in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.
In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers. By 1874, the numbers had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists. They served under the name “The Christian Mission.” Booth assumed the title of a General Superintendent. His followers called him “General.” Known as the “Hallelujah Army,’” the converts spread out of the east end of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities.
Booth was reading a printer’s proof of the 1878 Annual Report when the noticed the statement, ‘”The Christian Mission under the Superintendent of the Rev. William Booth is a volunteer army. He crossed out the words “Volunteer Army’” and penned in “Salvation Army’” From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army which was adopted in August of that same year.
Converts became soldiers of Christ and are known as Salvationists. They launched an offensive throughout the British Isles. In some instances there were real battles as organized gangs mocked and attacked soldiers as they went about their work. In spite of the violence and persecution, some 250,000 persons were converted under the ministry of the Salvationists between 1881 and 1885.
Meanwhile, the Army was gaining a foothold in the United States. Lieutenant Eliza Shirley had left England to join her parents who had migrated to America earlier in search of work. She held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in America in Philadelphia in 1879. The Salvationists were received enthusiastically. Shirley wrote to General Booth begging for reinforcements. None were available at first. Glowing reports of the work in Philadelphia convinced Booth to send an official group to pioneer the work in America in 1880.
On March 10, 1880, Commissioner George Scott Railton and seven women officers knelt on the dockside at Battery Park in New York City to give thanks for their safe arrival. This was their first official street meeting held in the United States. These pioneers were met with similar unfriendly actions, as those in Great Britain. They were ridiculed, arrested and attacked. Several officers and soldiers even gave their lives.
Three years later, Railton and the seven “Hallelujah Lassies”‘ had expanded their operation into California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
President Grover Cleveland received a delegation of Salvation Army officers in 1886 and gave the organization a warm personal endorsement. This was the first recognition from the White House that was to be followed by similar receptions from succeeding presidents of the United States.
History of The Salvation Army in Texas
Adam Janelli, a Dallas advertising man, laid the groundwork for The Salvation Army’s work in Texas.
Janelli had been a ship captain in the Italian navy. While on a trip to Calcutta, he attended a Salvation Army meeting and was touched by the message he heard. As a result, he became a loyal advocate for The Salvation Army until his death many years later.
In 1888, Janelli came to America and settled in Texas. He got the attention of the rough citizens of the frontier town of Dallas when, attired in a Salvation Army uniform, he took up a position on a downtown street corner and began sharing the gospel message.
Every time Janelli had any degree of success with his street meetings, he would send a long and earnest letter to the organization’s international headquarters in London asking that officers be sent to Texas to lead the work. The letter barrage got so thick that The Salvation Army’s work was officially opened in Texas in 1889.
History of The Salvation Army in San Antonio
The Salvation Army expanded to the United States in 1880; beginning its service in San Antonio in 1889, meeting in a second story hall of the old Joske’s building on Losoya Street.
In 1907, the Corps building was located at 112 S. Flores, later moving to a site on Alamo Plaza where the Landmark Building is now located. In September 1909 local businessman, George W. Brackenridge, donated property for use as a Rescue Home (the beginning of The Salvation Army Home and Hospital for Girls). As the activities of the Army increased, the Corps building was moved to an old school building at Avenue E and 4th Street and later relocated to 315 Commerce Street. In 1914 a nursery was added to the Home and Hospital for Girls.
From 1941 to 1960, the Corps was located at Elm and 5th Streets. The constantly expanding program made it possible to construct the Social Services Welfare Center at 226 Nolan in 1960.
In 1973, Colonels Donald and Wesley Peacock decided to retire and offered the Peacock Military Academy, located adjacent to Woodlawn Lake, to The Salvation Army to use for more needed programs. For a small token of exchange, The Salvation Army acquired the 20-acre Peacock Center where it now operates the Citadel Corps (Church) (1978), a Senior Nutrition Center, Boys & Girls Club, the William Booth Garden Apartments (1980), the Catherine Booth Garden Apartments (2008) and the Wesley Peacock House, historical site of the Peacock Military Academy.
In 1997 The Salvation Army expanded its programming with the addition of the Hope Center. The Hope Center offers the Women and Family Emergency Shelters, Scattered Sites, Senior Nutrition Program, The Goslinowski Social Services Center, Center of Hope Corps and the Administration offices.
The Southside programs moved to their new location in October 2010 offering the Southside community of San Antonio an After-School Care Program, Senior Nutrition Program, a gymnasium and the revitalized Mission Corps.
Today The Salvation Army San Antonio helps thousands each year with the support of the local community.