In 1865, William Booth left the Methodist ministry to preach as an independent evangelist in the slums of London’s East End. When he realized his many converts didn’t feel at home in churches, Booth set up Christian Mission Centers.
In 1878, Booth adopted the name The Salvation Army for his organization. Missions became “Corps”; members, “Soldiers”; ministers, “Officers”; and Booth himself, “General.”
The early Army met in tents, theatres, dance halls, and outdoors. At first, the Army was persecuted for its unconventional worship traditions. Despite this persecution, the Army successfully attacked social ills – hunger, homelessness, and poverty- while preaching the gospel of Christ to all.
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 Commissioner George Scott Railton and seven “hallelujah lassies” to begin work in New York City by helping the poor and combining Gospel preaching with social work.
By 1889, the Army made its way to Texas with the arrival of Adam Janelli in Dallas. Janelli was a Captain in the Italian Navy who had seen the Army’s work in Calcutta, India. A few months later, a band of four young women led by Captain Hattie French came to Houston, bringing music and a message. They charged no admission fees. Instead, they were seen and heard on the street corners with their musical instruments – a banjo, concertina, drum, and guitar. Such was the start of The Salvation Army of Houston.
Today, The Salvation Army flag flies in 126 countries. International Headquarters is located in London, England and the present General is André Cox. The Salvation Army continues to work where the need is greatest, motivated by its faith in God and its love for all people.