In 1865 William Booth, a young minister, left the "Methodist New Connexion" in order to begin a mission in the poverty-ridden London East End. With his wife, Catherine, he "reached for the worst off," rather than cultivate the comfortable middle class.
In 1878, by a fortunate inspiration, the name was changed from the "Christian Mission" to "The Salvation Army." Immediately, the movement captured the public imagination. Incorporating paramilitary ranks and uniforms, the movement spread throughout the British Isles. In 1880 the first missionary, George Scott Railton, was sent to New York. With the aid of seven untutored "lassies," The Salvation Army was soon on its way along the East Coast.
Work in the West Begins
Meanwhile, conditions around San Francisco's Barbary Coast begged for a religious revival. Some sincere Christians, feeling that Booth's organization was needed, asked for officers to be sent there to form their group into the first corps in the West. Aided by reinforcements from England and new converts, Major Alfred Wells and Captain Henry Stillwell founded the vibrant, innovative Army that is today's Western Territory. In ten years there were 67 corps, or churches, spreading north to Seattle, south to San Diego, and east to Montana and Utah.
The West now encompasses the 13 western states as well as the Marshall Islands, Guam and Micronesia. Led by its Territorial Commander, Commissioner Philip Swyers, the territory enters the new millennium with more than 300 corps community centers and numerous social service units.
The basic social services developed by William Booth have remained an outward visible expression of the Army's strong religious principles. In addition, new programs that address contemporary needs have been established. Among these are disaster relief services, day care centers, summer camps, holiday assistance, services for senior citizens, hospitals and medical facilities, shelters for battered wives and children, family and career counseling, vocational training, correctional services, and drug rehabilitation.
Today, The Salvation Army ministers in 120 countries worldwide, and the Gospel is preached by its officers in over 100 languages.
Additional historical information can be found on The Salvation Army's National website.