The West Began with Gifford and Quality Leadership


LT. COLONEL–for 12 years Gifford was in command of the New England Province, where he conceived the idea of youth councils.


by Frances Dingman – 

“A man having a distinctive Salvation Army personality” said the 1921 Western War Cry headline introducing Lt. Commissioner Adam Gifford to the Western Territory.

For almost 20 years the 11 Western states and Hawaii had been administered from Chicago. Though most of the important decisions rested with National Commander Evangeline Booth, it was decided that a lieutenant commissioner should be in charge of this area, subject to her direction.

Distances and communication being what they were, this had to be someone she could trust implicitly. She recommended Gifford, a valued friend, seasoned with many years of important service.

Converted at 19

Adam Gifford was born in Scotland in 1863, later immigrating with his family to Pittsburgh, Penn. With some other boys he followed a Salvation Army street procession to the hall through curiosity, remaining because of their interpretation of Jesus Christ and Christianity. Soundly converted, he was sent out as a field officer at the age of 19.

At his first appointment, in Pittsburgh, local officials passed an ordinance forbidding street meetings. The young lieutenant defied it and was sent to jail. He fought this case through and won. In 1885 he and Lt. Amanda Adams were married, and as captains moved to Meriden, Conn.

Trouble in the streets

The year 1886 found them at six different posts in New England. Later, in Philadelphia, the Mayor used 100 police and several patrol wagons to get the Salvationists out of town. For seven weeks the persecution persisted. Mrs. Gifford was among those arrested when they were taken to jail, along with their 27 drums. Gifford carried the case to the State Courts, vindicated the Army’s rights and shamed the mayor for his actions.

It is difficult to imagine the hardships young officers endured in those days. Gifford barely escaped a lynch mob in Rockford, Conn. Poverty was constantly with them. When an infant son died, he had to dress and bury the child himself, in a donated grave.

He succeeded eminently in several divisional appointments, including the Washington-Oregon Division. Army work was established in many cities; soldiers enrolled and officers sent out. Moreover, he never left a command in debt.

The Giffords spent 12 years in command of the New England Province, with headquarters in Boston. While there he conceived the idea of bringing the young people together for counsel and guidance. Out of these gatherings have grown the Youth Councils of the present day.

Wife constant in service

Though never starring on the platform, his wife served constantly by his side, in the office and inspecting Army work out in the field. The development of fresh-air camps for mothers and children, and the winter relief work for the poor, as well as wartime activities, came under her supervision. During the terribly cold winter of 1918, the Army managed to get a supply of coal. Mrs. Gifford would, driving her own car, take packages of coal to the neediest families. Often she did not return until midnight. Those they visited looked upon her and her assistant as angels.

TRUSTED FRIEND–National Commander Evangeline Booth depended upon Gifford for advice and counsel in major decisions.

Get set–go!

Then came the orders to move west. Adding a few more staff in Chicago, the special train car held 23: ten officers and their children, and some employees. Gifford set about organizing the business of the new territory. All the staff camped in the new headquarters at 115 Valencia Street (later 101 Valencia) several weeks until quarters could be secured. The Chief Secretary was Colonel Bernard Turner.

Gifford had inherited five geographic divisions: Hawaiian Islands, Northern California/Nevada; Southern Pacific; Northern Pacific, and Intermountain, as well as “Oriental” (Japanese Division with a Chinese department) and Scandinavian.

By Christmas 1920, the Staff Band, under Captain Ernest “Dutch” Higgins, had made its first appearance. The Western War Cry, edited by Lt. Colonel Ashley Pebbles, began publishing January 1; Finance and Property were busy from the first, and the Trade Department was set up with all due speed.

Commander Booth wrote to Gifford in June 1921, “…I note with pleasure and appreciation what you say about the excellent attendance of the public meetings, and the very noticeable improvement in the matter of uniform…I realize what a hard pull is before you, and only regret that I am so far away that it is impossible to give you a lift as often as I should like to do.”

Territory has good foundation

Of course the corps and much of the social work in the territory were in place by 1920. There were 142 corps and 83 outposts listed in the 1921 Disposition of Forces. The Western Training College, Brig. Andrew Crawford, principal, commissioned the aptly named Pioneer Session in 1921.

Gifford gets around

The Territorial Commander launched a whirlwind of activity throughout the large territory. During his first year in office he traveled thousands of miles to all areas, giving messages of encouragement and seeking trouble spots. Salvationists of the West served valiantly in the great Pueblo flood disaster of 1921.

In November 1922, in goggles and scarf, Gifford flew from San Francisco to Sacramento in a DeHaviland U.S. Army observation plane. Though Commander Booth had misgivings, Gifford enjoyed the experience greatly, and vainly urged his nervous colleagues to try air travel. “I like the mode of traveling through the clouds,” he said. “It would be entirely satisfactory to me if I could travel to all my appointments in the same manner. I wish we had a hangar on the roof of THQ for the benefit of the Chief Secretary, whose name should have been ‘Get There Turner.'”

Inspired by the deeds of the old-time Charioteers and Mounted Cavalcade, Gifford sent modern day Charioteers in a brightly-painted bus to roam the territory up to Seattle and as far south as El Paso, preaching the Gospel. Adjutant and Mrs. John Naton headed a number of officers who took turns with this force for several years, winning many souls for the Lord.

Times of trial

There were personal trials while he was undertaking the demanding task of organizing a territory. A letter of encouragement from Commander Booth in February 1923 says, “It has not only given me great concern, but it has distressed me very much to hear of your very severe illness and breakdown. I think, with you, that it was largely due to a much too-heavy program…I am building up my hopes upon what you say of the improvement in your condition.”

Gifford’s wife, too, was in ill health, and was promoted to Glory in 1924. He apparently rallied and was back in form by 1926, when Booth saw fit to promote him to full commissioner.

As a new venture, territorial leadership training camps in 1929, ’30 and ’31 drew in many young people in their teens. The work and example of their leaders made a marked influence, for many of these young people became leading officers of the territory.

Gifford family

The Giffords raised three sons. Edward Rudy “Rudd” Gifford was a promising young officer who had served as divisional youth secretary in the Washington Division as well as territorial young people’s secretary and commander of the Inland Empire Division. Rudd’s wife was the former Lt. Kathleen Holz. His untimely death at 40 in a 1935 auto accident was a real blow to the territory as well as to the family. Camp Cougar, in the Northwest Division, was renamed Camp Gifford in his honor.

Ranson Gifford, the second son, went bravely with the Salvationists who served in France during World War I. At age 17, he drove ambulances and served with the older men at the front lines. His golden tenor voice made him a favorite soloist of Commander Booth, who chose him to record her compositions. His wife, the former Ruth Starr, was promoted to Glory in 1938, and he later married Lt. Linnea Goode, daughter of Major and Mrs. Richard Goode of the Scandinavian Division. Gifford during his career commanded four Western divisions and retired as a lieutenant colonel in the position of staff secretary. The third son, Teddy, was an officer for a brief time and then worked as a radio announcer.

Leaves lasting mark

When slightly over retirement age, Gifford suffered a stroke during the Welcome of Cadets in September 1931. Within a week he had been promoted to Glory.

Commissioner Gifford was big in his field because he produced results. He was even bigger in that he had the highest standards of Christianity, and lived up to them. His funeral marked the passing of one of the Old Guard, long identified with the Army’s early history and growth in this country.

Sources: Western War Cry, Marching to Glory by Edward McKinley; collection of Harry Sparks; museum files.

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