Commandant Herbert Booth in the Bays
In January 1893, Commandant Herbert Booth ( 1862-1926), son of Wi l liam and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, paid a visit to Newfoundland. His trip included a jaunt in Conception and Trinity bays.
Following a 70-hour stormy trip from Hal i f a x , Boo t h a n d h i s entourage began a winter tour of the corps, or individual congregations. Their first stop was Bay Roberts. A contemporary newspaper reporter stated that the barracks, or place of worship, was packed to the doors.
“Row upon row of happy, healthy, smiling faces graced the platform,” the reporter added. In Newfoundland parlance, the platform in an Army barracks was called the “steps” or “scaffold.”
Booth evidently “ felt in his element.” He entered the building “with life and vim.”
The congregation “eagerly … listened as he told of the onward march of the King’s forces.” The latter phrase is a euphemism for the progress of the church in general.
The meeting concluded with what Salvationists called a “ hallelujah windup.” The reporter asked rhetorically, “Ah, who can describe it? Where is the ready writer who can properly describe with pen and ink a Bay Roberts free-and-easy?”
The reporter tried to describe the event: “ With life, energy and go, they dance unto the Lord.”
The meeting finished, the visitors’ “troubles were to begin.” The difficulty lay in available transportation.
“Locomotion is not so easy on the island as in Canada. Railroad facilities are at a discount.” They were forced “ to do the next best thing,” enlist ponies to transport them to their next appointment.
“ Newfoundland ponies are not very big of stature, but they are plucky. Yet there is at times an exception to this rule, as later developments went to prove.”
An animal was hired so the Commandant could bridge the 13 miles between Bay Roberts and Carbonear.
The pony was, according to the published report, “ rather ‘ balky’ at times.” Progress was frustratingly slow.
The party, “after many ups and downs,” reached Harbour Grace, where they enjoyed the traditional Newfoundland “cup of tea.”
They then resumed their trip to Carbonear, “ but wait! That little horse was tired and failed to see the necessity of again pulling Salvationists over snowbanks.”
Barely outside Harbour Grace, the pony “ flatly refused to go another yard.”
Alternatives were limited. Returning to Harbour Grace, the travellers boarded “another sleigh behind a better-tempered pony. This was a successful venture.”
At 5 a.m., Booth and his compatriots reached Carbonear, where “a hard, tedious day was put in.”
The Methodist minister, Rev. James, “only too pleased to see and hear the General’s son,” offered his church to the Salvationists for a “ holiness meeting.” The large building had a seating capacity of at least 1,200. Even the galleries were packed.
The congregation “ listened with rapt attention.” Commandant Booth “spoke living words, thrilling words, powerful words, as to the Army’s onward march.”
Brigadier Holland was in charge of the “meeting, which was simplicity itself. How those soldiers love each other! Love!”
Which, noted the newspaper reporter, was “evidently the strength of the Carbonear corps. When one testifies, another prays for him.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, “ five knelt at the Cross” — the altar at the front of the building — “weeping over past unfaithfulness and pleading for deliverance, which we believe they received.”
The reporter was impressed that even the Field Secretary danced. “Ah! he enjoyed himself, and no mistake.
“One cannot help but feel at home in the presence of such loyal Salvationists as these.”
Leaving Carbonear, the delegation travelled “over the barrens.” At 10: 30 a. m., they held a meeting at Hant’s Harbour.
Their next stop by sleigh was Heart’s Content.
The next day, they retraced their steps to Harbour Grace, then Brigus.
“It was a grueling, though satisfying, experience.”
Commandant Herbert Booth was impressed by what he saw and experienced. He later wrote about “a true, simple-hearted, go ahead, real Salvation Army people.”
The Salvationists had, in turn, “gained a new sense of pride in their organization’s achievements; and perhaps a loftier status in their communities by virtue of the public support accorded their Canadian Commander.”
Commandant Herbert Booth of the Salvation Army held meetings in Conception and Trinity Bays in 1893.