A brief history

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,” 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 encompasses 13 states as well as the Marshall Islands, Guam and Micronesia. The territory includes more than 300 Corps Community Centers and numerous Service Centers and Service Extension Units.

Social Services

William Booth's ministry recognized the interdependence of material emotional, and spiritual needs. In addition to preaching the Gospel, Booth became involved in providing food and shelter for the hungry and homeless and alcohol rehabilitation for the addicted.

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 more than 130 countries worldwide, and the Gospel is preached by its officers in 115 languages. 

Additional historical information can be found on both The Salvation Army's National and The Salvation Army International web sites.