WITHIN a year I became an
officer in the Salvation Army, and was stationed at the Richmond Street
barracks in Toronto.
The meetings began
suddenly to take on an added note of interest.
It was a note of
merriment, and was furnished by a young woman who came regularly and
always sat in the same seat.
It didn’t take me long to
discover that she came to the services solely to see me. This sounds
like conceit. It isn’t.
She thought I was the
funniest thing she ever saw or heard. She came to laugh at my queer,
broken speech and my comic make-up.
The Army uniform I
wore—also my hair. It was long and black and glossy. I was proud of it.
When I found what I stood
for in the young woman’s mind, I-
Well—I thought of
To most people who sized
me up, my make-up was like my old bronck’s—one big laugh in itself.
When he showed what he
could do, the laugh turned into respect.
I would show this young
woman what I could do.
I made her acquaintance.
I went to her house. I met other young men there. I entered the race.
I became a frequent
visitor at her home—too frequent, according to her step-mother’s
The old lady herself met
me at the door one day.
I braced myself and spoke
as pleasantly as I knew how.
“Is Miss Rebecca in?”
“Miss Rebecca Rooney,”
came the reply in her rich Irish brogue, “will never be in again—to
She slammed the door in
I stood there, shook my
fist at the door and registered a vow.
“Rebecca will be at home
to me, not some day, but every day—at my home!”
I kept my vow.
I was in the running
about two years.
But, like Buckskin, I
We were married in
Orangeville, Ontario, and ever since Rebecca has been at my home.
It is a good home, for
she has made it that, as she has made a good wife and a good mother to
the five children born to us.
While with the Salvation
Army, part of my time was given to special work.
When a corps was in need
of money I was sent out to some place where I could collect a crowd. I
did it by telling of my life as a savage and as a denizen of the
I often raised
considerable sums this way.
It was this special work
that led me to feel I might do some good as an evangelist.
So I left the Army and
started work in the rescue missions. I found it interesting,
illuminating and sometimes amusing.
In the Jerry McCauley
Mission, New York City, where the wrecks wash in, I once got my hands
onto a well-soaked piece of driftwood. Two weeks afterward when the new
life within him had in a degree pushed off the old, tattered garments
and some of the marks of dissipation, he spoke in the meeting. He said
but little, but it, with his glowing countenance, was convincing.
“Boys,” he wound up, “I’m
not what I was two weeks ago to-night. Then I didn’t give a d—n whether
I went to hell or not."
He said it with perfect
sincerity, unconscious of the language he used. The old habits of speech
still clung to him as broken shackles to an escaped convict.
That man eventually
became a successful pastor in a western town.
It was in St.
Bartholomew’s Mission, New York, that I again got my hands on one of the
lowest of bums. He was among the men who came to the meeting for a cup
of coffee and a sandwich. He was also looking for a lodging ticket.
I singled him out as I
used to single out a buffalo from the herd, and I soon had him down on
his knees at the seekers bench.
Colonel Hadley, was a kind-hearted, but gruff-speaking man. In his usual
harsh way, he came out with:
“What do you want here?”
“I want t’ git saved,”
whined the bum.
“Pray then!” thundered
“I don’t know how, sir,”
whimpered the penitent. “Ever ask your mother for a piece of bread and
butter? That’s how to ask God for what you want. Now, ask him!”
commanded the militant colonel. The bum prayed:
“God!—but I want som’thin’.
Give it here.”
He did his best there on
his knees, the colonel standing over him. When the poor old outcast was
about to give up in despair, the mentor again thundered, “Pray more
The penitent pounded the
bench with his fists and cried out:
“Oh, God save me! Why th’
h—l don’t ye save me?” •
And He did. That man
became an effective worker in the mission.
During my mission work I
kept up my studying. I worked alone in my school of hard knocks, until I
made myself fit to be ordained.
I became associate pastor
of the First Free Baptist Church, of Buffalo, N. Y., and afterwards
acting pastor of the Second Free Baptist Church. After that I went to
Woonsocket, R. I., where with the Reverend William Sheafe Chase, now
Canon Chase, we established a Rescue Mission. Later I returned to
Buffalo, N. Y., where, after a rigid examination, I became a
My first pastorate was in
Akron, N. Y. While there I was also missionary to the Tonawanda
reservation of Seneca Indians.
From Akron I was called
to the South Presbyterian Church of Buffalo.