The Start of a Movement
William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Jesus Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.
Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his messgae 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, would accurately be called cofounder 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 throughout London, and attracted followers who were dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women.
Theives, 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 peo[le to Christ and link them to a church for further spiritual guidence.
Early Salvationists were subject to violence and ridicule. Publications of the day, such as the 1885 issue of Puck, poked fun at their uniforms and methods. William Booth continued giving his new converts spititual 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.
The Salvation Army in the United States
In the 1880s The Salvation Army began to gain a foothold in the United States. Lieutenant Eliza Shirley had left England to join her parents, who had migrated to America earlier to search for work. 1n 1879, she held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in America, in Philidelphia. The Salvationists were recieved 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 March of 1880 the first Commissioner and 7 officers made it to New York City. At their first official street meeting, these pioneers were met with unfriendly actions, as they had in Great Britain. They were ridiculed, arrested, and attacked. Several officers and soldiers even gave their lives. Three years later their operation had expanded 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.
The Janesville Salvation Army
In 1885, the Janesville Gazette reported that a branch of The Salvation Army was being established in Janesville. Its first location was in rented quarters in the Cannon Block (221-223 W. Milwaukee St.). In 1909, The Salvation Army purchased a building at 101 N. Main St. for its headquarters. By 1936, the old building was in poor condition and funds were raised to erect a new building on the same site. By 1977, the North Main St. location was also in disrepair, and The Salvation Army decided to build a brand new community center away from downtown Janesville. The new building at 514 Sutherland Ave. was completed in 1978 and continues to serve the organization today.