Asheville Archives: Salvation Army establishes a local chapter, 1890

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: A view of Pack Square, circa 1892, around the time the Salvation Army would have established its new branch in the city. Photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections, Pack Memorial Library

On Dec. 11, 1890, the Asheville Daily Citizen announced that the Salvation Army was establishing a local branch in the old opera hall located in the courthouse. The new chapter was spearheaded by Capt. F.L. Sawyer, with plans for an initial service the following week, Dec. 17. According to the article, the gathering would feature song and prayer, along with “an exhortation to sinners.”

“We were attracted here, partly by the fact that there are large numbers of people coming and going here all the time,” Sawyer told the paper. “These people are so busy when here that they have not time to go to church and we hope to attract them by our peculiar modes.”

Originally from Quebec, Sawyer shared his backstory with the Asheville Daily Citizen. A former cabinetmaker and self-described “drinking man … leading a low life,” he found religion in 1886 before joining the Salvation Army the following year. His family disapproved of his decision and ultimately disinherited him.

“We often meet with persecution,” Sawyer proclaimed. Since joining the organization, he reported being arrested nine times “by sinful people, whose sins we were disturbing[.]” Such abuse, he continued, made the Salvation Army “like Christ, Paul and Peter. We are ‘thought little of and spat upon.’”

Still new to Asheville, Sawyer had arrived in the city on Nov. 20 “dressed in citizens’ clothes,” he stated. “We often have to do this when making arrangements for establishing ourselves in a place, as people will not listen to us if we appear in uniform, when on that kind of business.”

According to Sawyer, since its launch in 1865, the Salvation Army had established branches in 445 cities in the U.S. with 1,125 officers. The new chapter leader credited a Mrs. Maudlin of West Asheville with helping to establish the city’s local branch.

The Asheville Daily Citizen concluded the article with additional background on the organization, noting how it “afforded an immunity from a sad life to women in extreme poverty” and had established specific branches to look after prisoners. “One of the Army’s strongest holds has always been among the criminal classes,” the paper wrote.

Editor’s note: Peculiarities of spelling and punctuation are preserved from the original documents.


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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One thought on “Asheville Archives: Salvation Army establishes a local chapter, 1890

  1. Lou

    Certainly hope they pay their fair share of taxes…nope? Didn’t think so. #AbolishOrganizedReligion #SmashthePatriarchy

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