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 William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked 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, instead taking his message to the people. His fervor led to disagreement with church leaders in London, who preferred traditional methods. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England, conducting evangelistic meetings. His wife, Catherine, could accurately be called a co-founder of The Salvation Army.

In 1865, William Booth was invited to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in the 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 though out London, and he attracted followers who were dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women.

Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth’s first converts to Christianity. To congregations who were desperately poor, he preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead people to Christ and link them to a church for further spiritual guidance.

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Many churches, however, did not accept Booth’s followers because of their past. So Booth continued giving his new converts spiritual direction, challenging them to save others like themselves. Soon, they too were preaching and singing in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.

In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers, but by 1874, the number had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists, all serving under the name “The Christian Mission.” Booth assumed the title of general superintendent, with his followers calling 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 he noticed the statement “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.” Crossing out the words “volunteer army,” he penned in “Salvation Army.” From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army.

From that point, converts became soldiers of Christ and were known then, as now, as Salvationists. They launched an offensive throughout the British Isles, in some cases facing real battles as organized gangs mocked and attacked them. In spite of violence and persecution, some 250,000 people were converted under the ministry of The Salvation Army between 1881 and 1885.

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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 for work. In 1879, she held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in America, in Philadelphia. 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, however, eventually convinced Booth, in 1880, to send an official group to pioneer the work in America.

In February 1880 George Scott Railton, the first officer to hold the rank of commissioner, led a group of seven women to expand The Salvation Army in Philadelphia and extend it to New York City and beyond. Soon corps were opened throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In November 1880 Railton moved westward and began Salvation Army work in St. Louis, Missouri, probably seeking a more centralized location. In 1881, Booth called Railton to return to England and sent Major Thomas E. Moore to lead The Salvation Army in America. Much of Railton’s work was reorganized including withdrawing from the Midwest until 1885.

In 1885 Commissioner Frank Smith, commander for the U.S. at the time, gave Captain and Mrs. William Evans $25 to start Salvation Army operations in Chicago. The couple worked diligently to create a highly successful Salvation Army ministry in the Midwest. 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 and would be followed by similar receptions from succeeding presidents.

By 1899 more than five dozen corps had been opened in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri–the states which now comprise the Central Territory.

General Booth’s death in 1912 was a great loss to The Salvation Army. However, he had laid a firm foundation even his death could not deter the ministry’s onward march.

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The Salvation Army underwent many changes during its first 40 years as states were added to the union and as the population shifted westward and southward. Initially, all states west of Michigan, Indiana and the Mississippi River were designated the Department of the West. The creation of this department in 1905, with headquarters in Chicago, was a forecast of growth and expansion for the Army. Continuing to grow, The Salvation Army subdivided the country into the Eastern, Central and Western territories by 1920. Six years later, the Central and Eastern territories were so large they divided once again, creating the fourth U.S. territory, the Southern Territory. With a more concentrated geographical area The Salvation Army’s work in the Midwest flourished.

From its early years The Salvation Army began many social service programs which have shaped its ministry and identity up to the present. In 1888 the first Midwestern rescue home for unwed mothers was opened in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Later The Salvation Army operated hospitals for unwed mothers throughout the country. These hospitals were phased out in the 1980s due to changing mores and increasingly costly demands for hospital administration. Also in the 1880s, The Salvation Army established hotels for homeless men, allowing them to pay a few cents per night for warm, safe lodging. These hotels developed into a comprehensive alcoholic recovery programs by 1897 and now are known as harbor light centers and adult rehabilitation centers. During the Great Depression, The Salvation Army opened large feeding centers in major metropolitan areas, feeding thousands of people per day despite a decline in donations. Today, food pantries and feeding programs continue to operate throughout the Central Territory.

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Music has been an integral part of The Salvation Army from its very beginning. When Commissioner George Scott Railton and the seven women officers stepped off the ship in New York Harbor they sang hymns to attract a crowd and announce The Salvation Army’s arrival in the United States. Music frequently has been used in The Salvation Army to attract attention, communicate the message of the gospel and bring an air of enthusiasm to Salvation Army meetings. Singing and/or performing instrumental music on street corners has become a hallmark of The Salvation Army. The first officially recognized Salvation Army brass band in the United States was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Although The Salvation Army continues its tradition of brass bands, many Salvation Army corps also have developed contemporary bands, choral groups, interpretive dance troupes and other modern musical expressions to keep pace with the country’s changing culture and musical tastes. One of the best known Salvation Army bands in the world is the Chicago Staff Band, comprised of Salvationists from the Chicago land area who perform professional-quality brass music.

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The Salvation Army is well known for providing summer camps for children, especially in urban areas.  It is believed that the first Salvation Army camp was held in Kansas City, Missouri, when 20 tents were pitched in Fairmont Park in the summer of 1897.

The Chicago area camps also resulted in another Salvation Army innovation: the establishment of advisory boards consisting of prominent business and community leaders who voluntarily give advice and guidance, increase public awareness of The Salvation Army’s purpose and programs, raise funds, recruit other volunteers and give hands-on assistance. Beginning with a seven-member board in 1904, The Salvation Army has developed advisory boards and other advisory organizations devoted to specific purposes and programs around the world. Today there are more than 71,000 advisory organization members in the United States.

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Publishing also has been important to The Salvation Army from its inception in England. William Booth and his wife Catherine both wrote prolifically to proclaim the gospel message, to instruct and to encourage new converts and to communicate The Salvation Army’s purpose and mission. From the adoption of the name The Salvation Army, the movement’s official publication has been known as The War Cry. The name The War Cry also was adopted for the magazine in the United States. In 1880 the pioneer of The Salvation Army in the United States, Commissioner George Scott Railton, published a small newsletter titled Salvation News. After moving to St. Louis, Railton published the first American issue of The War Cry in January 1881. From 1920 to 1970, each U.S. territory published its own individual version of The War Cry, reporting regional, national and international Salvation Army news and providing inspirational and evangelistic articles. In 1970 The Salvation Army’s National Headquarters began publishing one nationwide edition of The War Cry, and each territory developed a distinctive territorial newsletter to report on events in their geographical areas.

Throughout The Salvation Army’s more than 100 years in the Midwest, countless Salvationists have made exceptional contributions to humanity, the organization’s development and the growth and strength of the Christian Church. Seven men and two women from the Central Territory have received the Order of the Founder, The Salvation Army’s highest award. This award is given to those that follow in the Founder’s footsteps to change the world.

The Salvation Army has a rich, exciting heritage in the Central Territory.  Feel free to explore further by clicking on the links to The Salvation Army’s international and national home pages. Also examine the varied services provided by The Salvation Army by clicking on the links for disaster services and for programs and services. Just as important as what The Salvation Army has accomplished in the past or is doing in the present is its strong vision for the future. This is The Salvation Army of the new millennium!

Source: www.salvationarmyusa.org     Source: http://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/usc/history