A Brief History of the Clearwater Corps

     Clearwater was a rather sleepy little town of scarcely 4,000 inhabitants when, in March 1926, The Salvation Army "opened fire". The invading force consisted of two dedicated women officers, Captain Clara Bivans and Captain Florence Jones.(Various documents identify the assistant officers as Captain Eva Jones and Captain M. Jones).

     Arriving from West Palm Beach, where they had left revival fires burning, they placed a notice in The Clearwater Sun for March 22, 1926, announcing the opening meeting on the following day (Tuesday) in the American Legion hall. Four days later, the same newspaper, under the general heading "Churches", listed the times for the Sunday meetings. These included Sunday school at the Largo Detention Home at 10:30 a.m., County Jail service at 2:00 p.m., a street service in front of the Western Union office at 7:00 p.m., and the evening meeting at the American Legion hall at 8:00 p.m.

     The corps grew quickly. Several families associated themselves with the corps, including the Cones, the Walkers, the Adriansons, the McMullens and the Touchtons. Eulie Touchton was the first Corps Sergeant Major and Mrs. Nellie Cone was installed as the first Home League Secretary. David Thomas McMullen was commissioned the first Bandmaster.

     Early reports indicate that meeting attendances averaged about fifty-five, and that there were seekers at the mercy seat almost every week.

     Within a year, a building specifically designed for The Salvation Army was erected at the corner of Booth and Laura streets. Designed by Daniel Kearner, a retired U.S. Army captain and local architect, it was constructed largely by soldiers and adherents of the Corps. It included a chapel (seating 72), two classrooms, a small office and facilities for feeding transients.

     This building housed the corps programs until 1948, when a new and larger facility was constructed at North Garden Avenue and Franklin Street. It was the intention of the then commanding officer, Sr. Major Fred F. Fox, that the new building eventually would become the youth hall, and that a senior hall would be built on the same property.  This plan never came to fruition.

     But the corps continued to grow.  Some of the new soldiers were local converts, while others moved from the North to Clearwater.  Among the reinforcements from Michigan, Illinois and other parts of the country were the Rowlands, the Udens, the Stewarts, the Wades, the Floyds, and the McNeils.  Many of these family members strengthened the band and songsters.

     In 1950 Commissioner John J. Allan, then Chief of the Staff, and Mrs. Allan retired and spent a part of each year in Clearwater. They became soldiers of the corps, and the Commissioner was appointed corps treasurer.  They were among the first of many scores of retired officers to settle in Clearwater and to take up soldiership in the corps.

     The plan to construct another building on the Garden Avenue property was abandoned when, in 1962, the First Christian Church at 400 North Fort Harrison, with its chapel seating 330 persons, became available. Participating in the dedication on April 22, 1962 were the twenty-four voice songster brigade and the eighteen-piece corps band, along with the Territorial Commander - Commissioner William Davidson, and the Corps Officers, Major and Mrs. Fred Smith.

     New soldiers were local converts, while others moved from the North to Clearwater.  Among  the reinforcements from Michigan, Illinois and other parts of the country were the Rowlands, the Udens, the Stewarts, the Wades, the Floyds,and the McNeils. Many of these family members strengthened  the band and the songsters.

     A further move, again necessitated by the growth of the corps, took place in 1990 with the Corps' relocation to its present site at 1625 North Belcher Road. The chapel seats 385, with overflow rooms that bring the total capacity to more than 700. A new wing, accommodating space for community service programs, was dedicated in 1997.

     The Senior Band has approximately 40 members - the Songster Brigade, has approximately 51 members. In addition, the corps boasts a strong Community Care Ministry program, a large Home League, an active Men's Club, Club 316 Youth Character Building activities and a School of Music.

     A comprehensive array of social services are available to the community through our Mallory/Powell Social Services Campus on Druid and Highland as well as through our Tarpon Outreach center in Tarpon Springs.

     Looking back on the history of The Salvation Army in Upper Pinellas County, we give thanks and praise to God for His leading in the past, His guidance in the present and His promise for the future.