History of Fulton Heights Citadel

The Salvation Army began its work in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 25, 1883 – the first corps in Michigan.  Mr. James Lowe of Grand Rapids had returned from a vacation in Canada where he had received a copy of the Canadian “War Cry,” the SA’s periodical.  After reading the contents of that “War Cry” issue, he was said to have commented, “This is what we need and want in Grand Rapids.”  Because of Mr. Lowe’s love for mission work, he lost no time upon his return to Grand Rapids in contacting friends to finance the work.  The Salvation Army appointed a “scout” to the area and with this individual’s assistance the Army work was begun.

A suitable place for holding meetings was found on the north side.  A plaque designates the location on the Amway Grand Hotel in downtown GR. Because the corps work was initiated in November, an old stove was purchased to heat the hall.  A number of kerosene lamps were hung around the sides of the building to provide light – not adequately, but all that was affordable.  Seats were constructed of boards and a Bass Drum was purchased.  The hall was decorated with coarse bunting flags which were standard in Army Halls of the time.

Officers were then appointed, Captain Jane McCraken and Lieutenant Jennie Hall to officially open the work of The Salvation Army in Grand Rapids.  A “few cheap rooms” were found for the girls to live in.  The two officers arrived in Grand Rapids with an old trunk and a suitcase – all of their possessions.  The only means of transportation from the station to their lodging was a horse-drawn car.  It is unclear from the record whether they had the five cents required or not, however, a drayman was engaged to carry the luggage to the new quarters.  The drayman was Mr. Casey DeBlond.  When he delivered the baggage upstairs to the lodging rooms, something happened that frightened him so that he ran out the back door without his money.  Casey was a drinking man with a family that received very little of his support.  Apparently when he learned that this was the Army, he wanted no part of it.

Drawn by the Holy Spirit, Casey returned to the first official SA meeting, perhaps more out of curiosity.  He was so convicted that he became the first convert, first soldier of The Salvation Army in Grand Rapids, saved his money and cared for his family from that moment on.  His favorite chorus was “We’ll Work ’til Jesus Calls and then Be Gathered Home.”

The early Army in Grand Rapids featured open air meetings and evangelism, believing they should go out in the “highways and the byways” to reach the lost.  The daily newspaper of the time was the Democrat.  City laws were printed stating that The Salvation Army could march, play tambourines, etc. during the week, but never on Sunday.  Disregarding this, the officers and soldiers felt it was God’s will for them to share the message they possessed with the masses, they defied the law.  The police took them to jail, kept the men and told the women to go home.  The women said, “We are the Army, too, so here we stay!”  The services were transferred from the Hall and the street corner to the jail.  They sang and prayed until the officials hurried the trial.  Mr. James Lowe, who had stayed close to the Army, told them what to say and what not to say.  They won the case and the right to preach the Gospel.

In nine years, The Salvation Army had three corps in Grand Rapids and a “Rescue Home.”  On February 26, 1963 the SA Memorial Auditorium was dedicated.  The auditorium served as the home for the GR Citadel Corps.  The current Fulton Heights Citadel facility located at 1235 E. Fulton was dedicated in 1998 with General Eva Burrows (R) in attendance for the dedication service.

Grand Rapids Salvation Army Band @1884… ancestral line of the present day Grand Rapids Fulton Heights Citadel Band

[1] According to the historical record, the words “cheap rooms” is used by the anonymous writer of the document.