It did not take much to gather a big crowd in downtown Hamilton, especially if the Salvation Army was involved.
Such was the case during the afternoon of October 29, 1885 when the Salvation Army was scheduled to lay the cornerstone of their new barracks at the corner of James Street South and Hunter street.
To attract a crowd to the ceremony, the members of the Salvation Army paraded through the downtown streets, leading what eventually became a rather large crowd:
“The army with banners flying and drums beating and tambourines jingling and everybody singing marched towards the corner of James and Hunter and halted in front of the new temple.”1
1 “The Salvation Temple : How the Cornerstone Was Laid.”
Hamilton Spectator. October 20, 1885.
Once at the site of the barracks, the Army members became silent as prayer were sad before the ceremony began:
“Then there was more singing, and every member of the army who had a handkerchief waved it enthusiastically, and those who didn’t have handkerchiefs, waved their hands. The song which roused this enthusiasm was one which was evidently written for such an occasion. Its chorus, which was sung over and over again, ran thus:
‘Lord, to Thee, we give this building;
Let Thy light within it shine;
Let Thy glory be its gilding;
Seal it now forever thine.’ ”1
One old gentleman carrying a banner was “guyed” (teased) by youth watching from a roof across the street:
“This roused the old gentleman’s wrath or pity or indignation, and his defiantly hurled a volley of ‘hallelujahs,’ ‘amens,’ and ‘Praise the Lords,’ at them every now and again. The effect was rather funny, and not a little startling to people unacquainted with army methods.”
The wife of Commissioner Coombes was described in the Spectator as“a pale-faced, slender woman, evidently of nervous temperament”
The Spectator reporter had a slight quibble about was being dedicated:
“It was not a cornerstone at all, but the large, ornamental piece of sandstone over the main entrance. It bears the following inscription :
‘Erected to God’s Glory
By Gen. Wm. Booth, A. D. 1885’
“When the stone was fixed into position, a chorus of ‘hallelujahs’ was vociferated from a hundred throats.
“But the proceedings were not yet over. It was a religious service and therefore it was necessary to have a collection taken. Soldiers and hallelujah lasses moved through the crowd with caps and tambourines into which small coins were dropped – not unmixed with bits of mortar and tin, of which a plentiful supply was gladly contributed by youths on the housetops.”1