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Salvation Army in Kansas

Iola Salvation Army Band In 1852 William Booth, an English minister, and his wife Catherine, set out on a campaign to bring the lost back to Christ. Booth wandered the streets of London preaching to any who would listen. He took up permanent ministry in London’s East End in 1856. His ministry was controversial because many of his converts were thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards. Booth quickly gathered members and volunteers to his mission under the name of The Christian Mission. These members were out on the streets, preaching the word. In 1878 the army gained its official title as the Salvation Army. Just two years later it sent its first missionaries over to America. In 1886 President Grover Cleveland recognized the word of the Salvation Army.

The salvationists’ welcome in America was mixed, but mostly positive. When they reached Kansas around 1888 they were not welcomed. Many Kansans considered them crazed. Early members such as Boston Corbett, who attempted to shoot the Kansas speaker of the house, A. W. Smith, didn’t help that image.

Despite these rough beginnings the Salvation Army has become commonplace in all major cities in Kansas, and offers services such as welfare offices, rehabilitation centers, summer camps, stores, and visitation programs to hospitals. The army commonly used bands and music to attract potential converts. The song, “Jim and Me,” was used early on to attract members.

The story sir, why really, now
I haven’t much to say,
If you had called a year ago,
And then again today;
No need or any word to tell,
For your own eyes could see
Just what the Army and the Lord
Has done for Jim and me.
A year ago I hadn’t flour
To make a loaf of bread,
And many a night the little ones
Went hungry to their bed.
Just peep into the closet sir,
There’s sugar and flour and tea
And that is what the Army and the Lord
Has done for Jim and me.
The pail that holds the milk sir,
He used to fill with beer,
He hasn’t spent a cent for beer
For now for nearly a year
He pays his debts, he’s well and strong
He’s kind as can be,
That is what the Army and the Lord
Has done for Jim and Me.

The army’s early costume consisted of a red knit jacket for women, and a shirt of the same color and material for men, with “Salvation Army” printed across the breast. The organization distributed pamphlets that warned citizens to only donate to those salvationists who wore the proper army bands and caps. Today salvationists are known for their bell ringing efforts to raise funds over the Christmas holiday. Their thrift stores serve as adult rehabilitation centers and allow people with limited means to purchase reasonably priced goods with dignity and people with no funds can obtain voucher to receive items at no cost. There are Salvation Army thrift stores located across Kansas.

Entry: Salvation Army in Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: August 2010

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.