The Salvation Army in Vicksburg, Mississippi

It took two attempts to get The Salvation Army started in the River City.  The first attempt was in September 1887 when Captain and Mrs. James T. Cumbie arrived in Vicksburg.  The work was difficult and the little outpost was forced to close sixteen months later in March, 1889.
In 1902, The Salvation Army made its second attempt to “invade” Vicksburg.  With the exception of a small headquarters on Washington Street, little is known about the activities between 1902 and 1908 until the work was mentioned briefly in a letter:
“No town in the south receives better support according to size, and no place the public more friendly.

Captain and Mrs. Belcher have been here nearly 18 months, and are godly, capable officers, and they are assisted temporarily by Captain and Mrs. Winsett.

They are talking of getting a hall (place of worship and meeting) in the center of the business district, and that may help matters some.”
It’s interesting to note that the total expenditures for The Salvation Army in Vicksburg were $1976.25.

The “Army” would relocate three times prior to June 1, 1932, when it moved into the Historic Duff Green Mansion.

By 1936, things were looking up according to this May 23, 1936 article in the War Cry (a Salvation Army magazine): “… Salvation Army in Vicksburg has ‘gone navy.’ Something locally new in Salvation Army warfare is the boat which Captain and Mrs. Garthwaite are using to carry the gospel story to people living along the canal and banks of the Mississippi River, some of them in houseboats, within ten miles of Vicksburg. The boat was purchased for the Army by the united efforts of the churches of the city. … [Every Thursday] they visit … In the evening open air meetings are held at designated points… About 100 hundred families a week are contacted in this way.”

The Vicksburg Corps even operated two outposts in Germania (1948) and Clarksdale (1959).
In the ensuing years, The Salvation Army has experienced periods of great success and great struggle.  But through the years, it has endeared itself to the citizens of Vicksburg.  Whether the floods of 1927 and 1993, two World Wars, a Great Depression, or more recently during the great tragedies of Katrina and Rita; The Salvation Army strives to continue its mission with “Heart to God and Hand to Man.”

The Salvation Army History


William Booth, Founder of The Salvation Army

East London, 1865

In 1865, William Booth, a young Methodist minister, walked through the streets of London’s East End.  Moved by the degradation of the poor, and the filth of inner city life, he stopped and proclaimed, “There is heaven in East London for everyone.”  Few people took notice of the tall, thin man.  He gave up his circuit ministry and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.

Booth decided to founded the East London Christian Mission. The mission grew slowly. But Booth’s faith in God remained undaunted.  His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the fancy churches of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship.

In May of 1878, Booth summoned his son, Bramwell, and his good friend, George Railton, to read a proof of the Christian Mission’s annual report. At the top it read: THE CHRISTIAN MISSION is A VOLUNTEER ARMY. Bramwell strongly objected to this wording – he was not a volunteer; he was “regular”, compelled to do God’s work. So, in a flash of inspiration, Booth crossed out “Volunteer” and wrote “Salvation.” The Salvation Army was born.

On To America

The first successful work in the United States rested on the shoulders of a 17-year-old girl. In the spring of 1879, the newly named Salvation Army in London was so small that all the workers knew each other personally. Eliza Shirley, then 16, joined the Christian Mission and was appointed an evangelist at one of the “stations.”

At first her parents, Amos and Annie Shirley, were not sure they approved. Shortly thereafter, Amos, an experienced silk weaver, left for America, and readily found a position in Philadelphia.

When he sent for his wife and daughter, Eliza did not want to leave the Army behind. Her father’s description of the ungodliness he found there convinced her that the Army was needed and she wrote to the General and asked his permission to start the work in America. By this time she had been commissioned a lieutenant and was doing well in her home corps of Coventry.

William Booth was not sure the country was ready for opening and in his reply he reminded her of her call to officership and the possibilities of service before her where she was, but added: “…If you must go and if you should start the work, start it on the principles of The Salvation Army, and if it is a success, we may see our way to take it over” Captain Elijah Cadman, her superior officer, presented 100 penny song books to take with her.

By the time they reached Philadelphia, her mother shared her desire to begin Army work. They walked the streets looking for an affordable meeting place, finally settling on an abandoned chair factory. The family worked together to clean it up and get it ready for the opening meeting. Posters announced the appearance of “Two Hallelujah Females.” Though they had no standard uniform, no drums, none of the glitter which later served to attract a crowd, people flocked out of curiosity to their open air meetings, until the police told them they couldn’t gather on the street any more. They found a vacant lot several blocks away, but afterwards no one followed their march to the hall.

Providence arrived in the form of a tar barrel fire set by some boys on their lot. When the Shirleys saw the lot at last filled with people watching the firemen, they proceeded with a meeting. Their trophy was Reddy, the worst drunk in the area. When the people saw Reddy march to the hall, they followed to see what they would do with him. News of Reddy’s conversion reached not only the local papers, but up and down the coast, and a friend sent Booth a copy of the paper.

Shortly after this the Shirleys opened up another hall in West Philadelphia. When Amos’s employer told him he had to choose between his job and the Army, he chose the Army.

The reply of General Booth to the news of American success was the promotion of the Shirleys to Captain and the promise to send George Scott Railton to the country to take charge.  In 1887, George Scott Railton and eight young women arrived in New York and proclaimed the “invasion” of America.  He was slightly embarrassed to find Captain Amos Shirley there to welcome him.

Mission Statement of The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.
Its message is based on the Bible.
Its ministry is motivated by the love of God.
Its mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.