Christ salvation

Salvation Army in the Sault. Soup and song since 1894

This week, Remember This tells us how the Salvation Army began in Sault Ste. Mary and Steelton

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Mary Public Library:

Whenever the Salvation Army is mentioned, it probably conjures up a number of different thoughts for each person.

Although “army” may mean different things to different people, their goal has always been to find ways to help others.

The Salvation Army is a Christian society that originated in London, England in the mid-1850s to fight “sin, alcohol and poverty” in the London slums.

Gaining respect for their efforts to help others, they gradually spread across the world to become known as a “spiritual organization with a social conscience, combining religion with social work”. With a structure that mimics the British Army, members are called privates and officers use the same titles as the military.

In Sault Ste. Marie, the group’s first meeting was held on April 9, 1894, and was led by Captain Agnes Worr. This meeting was held outdoors, but a tent was later erected on vacant land at the northwest corner of Queen and Elgin streets (where the Cochrane-Dunlop Building would later be built).

It was thought that an outdoor meeting would appeal to people who would not attend a church building.

From this humble beginning Captain Worr continued to try to strengthen the Salvation Army and establish it locally, but after facing many difficulties the work was suspended in 1897.

After about five years, Captain John LeCouq reopened army work. One of the first tasks in 1902 was to erect a permanent structure on Spring Street, known as the barracks. This first building, constructed at a cost of $5,000, was then demolished to make way for its replacement in 1912, located just south of the original barracks. The cost of the new Citadel was $18,500.

In 1903 a corps was established at Steelton under Captain Edith Meader. The Steelton Corps met in various locations including the West End (Steelton) Public Library before finding a more permanent location on Wellington Street.

As well as being a permanent meeting space for the Corps, the Spring Street Citadel provided much-needed space that they could use to provide assistance to those in town who needed it, whether for meals, clothes or toys for children. However, by the 1960s it was clear they needed more space, so plans were made to find a new location and begin the process of building a new Citadel.

Land has been found on John Street and plans have been drawn up. On April 15, 1967, Jerry Ryckman, chairman of the building committee, was photographed at the groundbreaking ceremony and construction began immediately.

The new Salvation Army Citadel held its grand opening in January 1968. With the new building in place, the Sault Ste. Marie and Steelton Corps officially merged in 1970.

The old Spring Street Citadel was kept open as a social center, hospitality club and food bank. The thrift store has also been moved from Brock Street. In August 1996, the building was put on the market and a new location for the thrift store and food bank was sought.

Salvation Army kettles are a familiar sight at Christmas – but do you know how they started?

According to a December 24, 1963 Sault Star article, a shipwreck occurred near San Francisco in 1894. The Salvation Army was caring for the survivors when their supplies ran low.

A female member grabbed a soup kettle and walked to a busy street corner and put up a sign saying, ‘Keep the kettle boiling’.

People appreciated his efforts and started dropping coins into the kettle. She was able to collect enough money to acquire more food for the survivors. As a result of this successful venture, the kettle became a permanent symbol of the Salvation Army’s Christmas efforts as it continued to help the needy.

The money raised was used to create Christmas baskets for families in need. Once their physical needs were met, toys were found for the children.

Another of the fundraising methods used is the annual Red Shield campaign which takes place during the month of May and over the years the local Citadel has run many successful campaigns. Money collected over the past few years has been used to help victims of fires, floods or other disasters, as well as to provide food and clothing.

In addition to its efforts on behalf of the needy, The Salvation Army has always been well known for its music.

The Salvation Army Band helped create Christmas cheer by playing Christmas carols and getting people into the Christmas spirit. The band and the kettle have become familiar sights on the streets of Sault Ste. Mary before Christmas.

In addition to the Salvation Army Band, the Steelton Quartet gained popularity with their gospel singing. Formed in 1961, the original group consisted of three brothers, Garfield, Jerry and Bob Ryckman as well as Stan Metcalf. With some changes in members during the 1970s, the band eventually formed to include John Evans, Darrell Collar, Bob Ryckman and Garfield Ryckman.

The quartet continued to sing and entertain residents of Sault Ste. Marie, as well as to audiences across Canada and the United States, until their music concerts concluded with their farewell concert in February 1983.

Even though the world may have seen many changes over the years, the message of The Salvation Army remains the same, they find practical ways to help those in need in the community, both physically and spiritually.

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie’s Public Library and its archives offer SooToday readers a glimpse into the city’s past.

To find out more about what the public library has to offer, go to and search for other Columns here