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William and Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army in London in 1865 to serve the spiritual and physical needs of the lower and working classes. Based on John Wesley’s theology of perfectionism and influenced by Phoebe Palmer’s holiness doctrine, the Salvation Army brought its Christian mission to America in 1880. The Salvation Army opened its first West Virginia ‘‘corps’’ or church in Wheeling in 1883. As industrialization brought thousands of workers to the timber and mining industries between 1880 and 1920, the Army extended itself throughout the state. Early salvationists rode horses and trains and drove up riverbeds to take the gospel to the small towns and timber and coal camps. By 1906, there were six corps in the state. The number grew to 11 in 1916 and to 18 in 1926.

During this time, the Salvation Army expanded its evangelical mission to include social services and gained adherents among all classes through its charity work. In 1912, former governor William A. MacCorkle became active in the Salvation Army. When he died in 1930, MacCorkle left his Charleston mansion, Sunrise, to the Salvation Army. The Army gained worldwide attention during World War I when Salvation Army ‘‘lassies’’ served doughnuts and coffee and provided aid to soldiers serving in Europe. Following the war, ‘‘Doughnut Day’’ fundraisers were held in West Virginia to raise money for the Salvation Army.

The Army has provided emergency relief throughout West Virginia, particularly following mine disasters. Today, the Salvation Army continues to serve the spiritual and welfare needs of West Virginians, providing food and clothing to those in need.

This Article was written by Connie Park Rice

Last Revised on July 14, 2022

Related Articles


Satterlee, Allen. Sweeping through the Land: A History of the Salvation Army in the Southern United States. Atlanta: The Salvation Army Supplies, 1989.

Salvation Army District & Regional Records. Alexandria, VA The Salvation Army Archives & Research Center. Salvation Army National Headquarters.

Cite This Article

Rice, Connie Park "Salvation Army." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 July 2022. Web. 17 June 2024.


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