“Thank God, we are advancing in Oklahoma,” said Salvation Army Adjutant Alfred Harris just over a year after the infamous Oklahoma Land Run of 1889.
“I received a letter from our beloved Commissioner stating that I might open a station in Oklahoma and put an officer in charge.”
Like thousands of others, The Salvation Army sought a home in Oklahoma and traveled to the Oklahoma Territory by way of a wagon road. The Salvation Army has been a vital part of Oklahoma City history since.
The Oklahoma Land Run, held April 22, 1889, saw Oklahoma City and Guthrie rise up out of the plains with cities of around 10,000 people in literally half a day.
At noon on April 22, 1889, the Oklahoma Land Run brought people streaming into the area. That morning, the resident population of Guthrie was nothing; before sundown it was at least 10,000 as thousands flocked to the newly opened lands in Oklahoma Territory.
By the second week, schools had opened and were being taught by volunteers paid by pupils’ parents until regular school districts could be established. Within one month,Oklahoma City had five banks and six papers.
The city also had its first Salvation Army.
On Oct. 18, 1900, with a $50 grant from the City of Oklahoma City, The Salvation Army put up its first permanent shelter, a large tent, to serve to the hungry and those in need of aid.
By 1903, The Salvation Army Headquarters was secured at 106 E. Reno Street(where the Chesapeake Arena now sits).
From the early pages of the state’s history, The Salvation Army has been noted for the service they provided.
As early as 1912, The Salvation Army placed red kettles on the street corners during Christmas, and, according to a news clipping from that year, “…three kettles were placed… at Harvey and Main Streets, and The Salvation Army netted $69.38 during the Christmas season. According to Captain J.E. Atkins, the total amount raised for Christmas efforts was approximately $250.”
With that $250, some 75 families were given Christmas baskets of roast beef, potatoes, bread, apples, oranges, canned goods, preserves, graham crackers, butter, coffee and sugar.
In 1921, The Salvation Army Oklahoma Division was established after Salvation Army centers were opened statewide. Oklahoma City today continues to be the site of the Divisional Headquarters for the Oklahoma/Arkansas Division.
In Oklahoma City, The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command carries on the pioneering spirit of the Sooners and the Land Run by offering aid, shelter, food, hope, prayer and companionship to Oklahomans in need.
With two emergency shelters, four senior centers, a food pantry and food kitchen as well as two Boys and Girls Club and social services, The Salvation Army in Central Oklahoma touches every age group, demographic and race in the city.
“The Salvation Army continues to work toward ‘Doing the Most Good,’ and with the help of generous donors and volunteers, we’ve touched the lives of those who had nowhere to turn.
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