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134 Years Ago

'The Fighting Sweep'

Elijah Cadman: First Salvation Army 'Captain'

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Cadman was known as 'Fiery Elijah.'
Cadman was known as 'Fiery Elijah.'
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The want ads called for 2,000 men and women to join a "Hallelujah Army" in Whitby, England. The speaker was listed as one "Captain Cadman." Elijah Cadman worked as an evangelist for William Booth, superintendent of The Christian Mission. When Booth came to Whitby, Cadman's ad read: "The General of the Hallelujah Army Is Coming to Whitby to Review the Troops. Great Battles Will Be Fought!"

It was 1878, the year The Christian Mission became The Salvation Army. So Cadman was its first "captain," and he was the first to call Booth "General."

Born in 1843, Elijah was drinking heavily, smoking tobacco, and working as a chimney sweep by the age of 6. His small stature made him perfect for the job; he literally climbed up the chimneys, scraping off the caked-on soot as he went.

As a teen, Elijah became the leader of a pack of reckless youths and a boxer known for being able to "fight like a devil and drink like a fish."

Then one day, he and his tough friends went to a public hanging. A friend said, "That's what you'll come to, 'Lijah, one day."

Shaken, Elijah gave up drinking on the spot. But he had one more battle to fight-against his own sinful heart. He listened to street evangelists and even went to church at Wesleyan Chapel. But he wasn't changed until he spent a long night in desperate prayer.

By morning, "the storm in his heart and mind ceased. Elijah was a converted man-and knew it."

He plunged into his new mission, fighting just has hard as he ever had in a boxing ring. He preached outdoors, where people threw mud, bricks, and stones at this "five-foot-nothing" firebrand.

One day his brother-in-law brought him a red songbook compiled by Rev. William Booth. Thrilled by the songs, Elijah went to Whitechapel in London to hear Booth preach.

Booth invited him to join the Mission. Elijah, who had given up his boxing salon to please his Lord, gladly gave up his chimney sweep business for a life of sacrifice as a preacher. He became a world campaigner known as "Fiery Elijah," described by one newspaper in Newfoundland as "really sincere about the soul business, and in it for all he's worth."

Material and quotations are from "Fighting Sweep: The Adventure of Elijah Cadman" by Major H. Benjamin Blackwell, on The Salvation Army's International Heritage Centre website.

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