Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 34, September 1990



Ohinemuri House for the frail aged was officially opened on Saturday 21 April 1990. Nearly 200 people attended the opening and dedication service. Mrs Lauris Lee, who officially unlocked the main entrance door to Ohinemuri House, gave a short history of the project, the inspirations and how people of the district responded and became involved. The project, when part way through, was in danger of foundering because of insufficient funds. At this point the Salvation Army became involved. The combined efforts of the local community and the Salvation Army saw the project come to fruition.

By C W Malcolm

The return of the long absent Salvation Army to Paeroa to manage Ohinemuri House for the care of the aged is a milestone in history. Few in Paeroa will remember the days of sixty years ago when the Salvation Army was one of the liveliest churches in the town, its hall in Corbett Street (now the Baptist Church) crowded on Sundays, its brass band of twenty players enlivening the streets with their music and their marches. Well known names among its prominent members were Brooks, Brock, Hewson, LeManquais, Malcolm, Martin, McDonald, Reed and Underwood. It was, at times, the town's only band.

And few will know the historically recent origin of this now world-wide organisation which is a distinct phenomenon of church history. It began when the Rev. William Booth, a Minister of the Methodist Church in England was denied the use of his talents by the controlling Conference of that body. His call was to conduct great revival missions, one of which, in Cornwall, added 7,000 to the Church, but Conference confined him to the ministry of one church and ultimately closed all their church doors to him and his wife, Catherine Booth, who had shocked polite society by becoming a preacher equally as famous as her husband.

Booth started out alone in the West End of London [In Journal 35, CW Malcolm writes: "I regret that I have made a slip in stating that William Booth began his work in "the West End" of London. This should have read "the East End" with its slums and depravity, a contrast from the wealthy and fashionable West End." - E] and soon there formed around him, in 1865, the "Christian Mission". This was controlled by a Committee similar to the Methodist Conference which too often formed a brake on progress and William Booth was given full, unshackled control which has continued to this day in his successors.

By an unpremeditated and unplanned stroke of a pen the organisation became the Salvation Army in 1878, its military form evolved and its supreme head, William Booth, became its General. Incredible opposition confronted this militant religious body until its remarkable social and religious work was recognised by kings and governments as well as the general populace.

Its numbers and its stations increased with amazing rapidity. It spread world-wide by an incredible method. A man and a group of women were, under the autocratic orders of the General, despatched to commence the Army in the United States where, today, it is a vast establishment.

But the story of its beginning in New Zealand is even more remarkable. In 1882 a Miss Valpy of Dunedin, daughter of an influential pioneer, wrote to General Booth with a draft for £200, asking, "Can you see your way to send to the rescue of perishing souls in this city?" Pollard aged 20 a "Captain" and Wright aged 19, his "Lieutenant" were given 24 hours to decide whether they would accept the order to proceed steerage and virtually penniless to New Zealand. It was quite unusual to refuse such orders from the autocratic Booth and so the work was commenced in this country. William Booth visited New Zealand on four occasions between 1891 and 1905, always being granted free passage by shipping lines and railways.

Great as was William Booth, history has of late established that his eldest son, Bramwell, who succeeded his father as second General of the Salvation Army, has emerged from his father's overshadowing to stand equal with him. From the age of fifteen he was his father's second-in-command. Upon him fell the great work of organising this great movement and the greater task of establishing its financial position. During Bramwell's Generalship which ended in 1929, the expansion of the Salvation Army was phenomenal.

Under the provision of the foundation deed the General of the Army, in addition to the task of appointing all its senior officers, had the duty of nominating his successor. In 1929, taking advantage of Bramwell Booth's illness from overwork, his territorial commanders met, declared him unfit, deposed him, and instituted a system for electing all future Generals. Since that unfortunate event a succession of eleven generals has been elected and the Army's own statistics have shown a steady decline in the numbers of its officers and candidates for officership. King George showed his reaction to the removal of Bramwell Booth from office and the shadow it cast over his work by immediately creating him a Companion of Honour.

Return of Salvation Army to Paeroa
Return of Salvation Army to Paeroa
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 34, September 1990
Return of Salvation Army to Paeroa

General Bramwell Booth died shortly after he had been deposed by the High Council and then was seen the esteem in which he was held by the people both of the Salvation Army and the general populace. His funeral procession through the streets of London held up the great city's traffic for three hours, from 11 30am till 2 30pm and was witnessed by such crowds as, it was said, had not been seen since the funeral of the great Duke of Wellington.

The long procession contained units from every branch of the Salvation Army's social and religious activities and it was so long that the sections were interspersed with no fewer than fifteen of the Army's famous brass bands. London mourned the passing of this great and remarkable man who, with his great father, had built the Salvation Army into an organisation winning world-wide approbation.

The Salvation Army commenced in Paeroa in 1896 when two young men, Captain Macaulay and Lieutenant Green, were sent to find a building in which to conduct their services and to establish their "church" with the assistance of their one member, the well known Frederick LeManquais who had moved to Paeroa from Thames.Its reappearance in Paeroa in this year, 1990, could be the promise of a new beginning. It is a reminder of the great religious and social work that has won it universal approval and which began when William Booth stood alone on Mile End Road in London where his statue stands today.

A detailed history of the Salvation Army in Paeroa appears in Journal number 17 [see Journal 17: Salvation Army in Paeroa - E].