Southern Historical Center Preserves KY & TN Treasures

National Museum Day puts the Spotlight on The Salvation Army’s Preservation Efforts

As spring begins to feel a bit like summer and people plan their vacations, the nation celebrates National Museum day on May 18.  The Historical Center for The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory – comprising 15 Southern states and the District of Columbia – is a gem of a museum ready to accommodate any traveler with a desire to learn more about The Salvation Army’s fascinating history in the Southern United States.

Michael Nagy has been with the Southern Historical Center for 21 years. For the past 13 years, he has served as Director and Archivist.

“The Historical Center is located at the Evangeline Booth College, which is the officer training college which is primarily for the Southern Territory and we are here in Atlanta.  Our mission is to collect and describe, preserve and interpret physical objects or artifacts or archives that deal with the history of The Salvation Army.  So, we have an educational mission and a historical preservation mission.  We have on our site a museum and an archive research facility for individuals to contact us for access to information or documents.  They can also come here to visit the museum and the other exhibits or they can do research here themselves when we have regular

visiting hours,” Michael Nagy, Director and Archivist of The Historical Center, said.

For history buffs from Kentucky, the museum has intriguing information featuring the Kentucky Mountain Brigade – a group of brave individuals who helped The Salvation Army understand how to adapt their mission to rural settings.

“One of the things we talk about in our museum narrative is the adaptation and change that The Salvation Army had to undergo when it came to this part of the country.   It developed in England and was very urban and had sort of grown up in cities and towns around the urban poor but when it came to the southern United States, there were a few cities but they were rather small.  And so it had to adapt itself to rural conditions and one of those very early attempts to do that was something they called the Kentucky Mountain Brigade.   We have some photographs and articles related to that and what that was right after the turn of the century, early 1900’s, Nagy said.

The efforts of those ministers led to many innovations in caring for those in need.

The Southern Historical Center’s Hall reveals some of The Salvation Army’s treasures within the museum.

“There was terrible violence in the Kentucky mountains they called ‘the feuding families.’  News about this had reached the eastern newspapers about these feuds that had been longstanding and ongoing.  The Salvation Army felt like they wanted to do something and go to those places so they sent out these men who basically went out on horseback into these rural areas to minister and have meetings with the families.  They found some success but they didn’t always have a permanent remedy but it sort of paved the way and they learned how to reach rural communities, which was something they didn’t really know how to do at that time.  Some of the early leaders of the Army said we should go there – it’s sort of the same idea we have now with disaster services.  Let’s figure out what we can do and it was a precursor to the famous donut girls of WWI where they see a war – 10 to 15 years later – and decided, okay, here’s a situation where no one would walk in there, so let’s go there,” Nagy said.

Another interesting Kentucky-themed archive features the historical importance of The Salvation Army’s maternity homes.

“We have records of pretty much any current and former institution or unit or corps. One of those types of places that we have records of is The Salvation Army maternity homes starting all the way back to the late 1800’s through to the late 1980’s, early 1990’s.  One of the largest of those maternity homes was in Louisville.  We don’t have the adoption records or the case files but we do have historical records about what they did. That whole mode of service for unwed mothers that doesn’t really exist anymore,” Nagy said.

For visitors with an interest in Tennessee history, the Southern Historical Center has a vast amount of information about Brigadier Gertrude Purdue.

“In our history, she was most known for her service in Memphis.  There is a Purdue Center of Hope there in Memphis and she was very well known for being a community leader along with her husband, William Purdue.  She was instrumental in getting together some of the church and civic organizations to work on community reconciliation type issues after the assignation of the Reverend Martin Luther King in Memphis.  In addition she continued in her retirement to stay there and was very, very active in the shelters and feeding programs and other things,” Nagy said.

The Salvation Army’s Donut Girls followed the example of the Kentucky Mountain Brigade in their fearlessness to bring ministry to those in need.

Brigadier Gertrude Purdue was also instrumental in another ministry that many people are unaware is tied to The Salvation Army – the United Service Organization (USO), a nonprofit group that provides live entertainment, such as comedians and musicians, and other programs to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

“Previous to that time of coming to Memphis, Brigadier Purdue was one of the people in the USO program.  A lot of people don’t know that The Salvation Army was instrument al in being one of the lead organizers of the USO.  The USO is now a separate nonprofit from The Salvation Army but when it was created it was sort of a co-op and The Salvation Army lent personnel and facilities and all types of things to the USO throughout World War II all the way up to the Vietnam War.  So she was active in that ministry as well.  Her legacy in Tennessee is huge and we have some of her papers and documents and things about Memphis that are specific to her,” Nagy said.

As a museum, the staff at the Southern Historical Center stands ready for any historical challenge that may come their way but Nagy has come be able to anticipate many requests.

“Probably the most typical types of requests we get from people are either for information about individuals who were in The Salvation Army or about their local Salvation Army in their city.  Usually that would be the Corps there but there may be other things in the city that The Salvation Army does.  We are definitely one of the resources that I would suggest people contact because we have access to files that we keep on each local unit of The Salvation Army – things that are accumulated over the years, programs and newsletters and clippings of newspapers and, of course, ‘The War Cry’ – The Salvation Army’s publication that is much like The Southern Spirit is now.  ‘The War Cry’ in the early days of this territory from the 1920’s to the 60’s was actually published in separate editions for each of the territories so they had a lot more local type information than you find in the territorial papers now,” Nagy said.

The Salvation Army’s Kentucky Mountain Brigade served an important role in the beginning disaster relief efforts.

Researching locally can also reap valuable information.

“We’ve got a lot of resources but I would also encourage them to seek out other resources locally because often times local historical societies or public libraries and such have newspaper coverage which The Salvation Army has always been eager to get coverage in.  So there may be information in those collections,” Nagy said.

If an individual, family or Corps has information they would like to submit to the Southern Historical Center, the director of the facility is eager to communicate with them.

“We do not have an official means to get those types of materials, which are often called ephemera.  For historical purposes they were created for an event or a one-time thing where the people would read it and get rid of it quickly.  We want to keep them for a long time so we always encourage people to send us things as they happen or set things aside and periodically send them to us and many often do.  We try to let the cadets know that because they are going to be commissioned as Salvation Army officers.   We impart to them that we want to know about what they are doing in their local activities once they leave here so whenever they become leaders of the local unit or what have you, then we encourage them to send things back to us,” Nagy said.

Sometimes a lack of information can be frustrating but the Southern Historical Center has a future remedy for that problem.

“In The Salvation Army history class they have here, they have a project that involves them using the local Corps archives that we have here to see.  Some of the students often times become frustrated by the lack of information.  I always use this as an opportunity to say ‘Well look.  See this is what happens when we don’t get a lot from a place.  We would encourage you to build these up as you go on and let other people know what was going on at the time you were there,’” Nagy said.

The Salvation Army’s Louisville Maternity Homes helped mothers and children before government programs were available.

Michael Nagy has a lot of history himself with the Southern Historical Center.

“I have been here for 21 years as of May 19th.  I’ve been the director since 2005.  Prior to that time, they had officers here as director of the historical center but they transitioned it to an employee position.  I’ve been the director for 13 years.  I’ve done a lot of things here.  I started out to being the person to get the collections in order.  They had done a lot of gathering of things and exhibits and they were building the museum but in the background they had gathered a large volume of materials that were not well organized.  So, that was the original reason I was hired but then over time, I transitioned to various positions,” Nagy said.

The history of The Salvation Army is a passion for the Director and he wants readers to understand how they are a part of it.

“When people think of The Salvation Army history, often they think of William Booth.  They think of London or they think of New York and the origin of the Christmas Kettles but really, the history of The Salvation Army is everything that you just did.  The things that happened a day ago or a week ago, those activities that people are putting on, what’s going on at the local levels with shelters, the rehab programs, the disaster work, all of that documentation that we want to someday see that are things that are of importance to save and preserve and are important to collect and share for later.  I always say that history was yesterday but it is also today.  So that’s what I would want people to know, that what they are doing in The Salvation Army is history,” Nagy said.

If you are interested in visiting the Southern Historical Center, located at 1032 Metropolitan Parkway, SW, Atlanta, GA 30310, call 404-752-7578 or email or  It is typically open for tours and research when the Evangeline Booth College campus is open:  9 to 12 and 1 to 4, Monday through Friday.  The staff is very small, so it is advisable to contact them before your visit to ensure you can be accommodated.

Brigadier Gertrude Purdue with Colonel Sanders supporting The Salvation Army in Memphis. All photos courtesy of The Salvation Army Southern Historical Center.

In addition to the physical facility, The Historical Center has a website for the public to search records and to obtain a variety of information –  The “Random Images” button provides an easy way to browse the collection. Each “Random Images” page displays images from the records online. If an image catches your interest, simply click the thumbnail to view a larger version of the image and read information about it.

For an in-depth look at the Southern Historical Center, read Michael Nagy’s article at

Camp Paradise Valley Changes Lives

Annie Catron, her parents and sister, at Annie’s Dedication at The Salvation Army of Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

United Way Leader’s Path to Community Service Began in The Salvation Army

As a child, Letha “Annie” Catron didn’t think of her upbringing in The Salvation Army Corps as anything more than a place of love and safety.  Now she sees things through an adult’s eyes and understands that those experiences positively changed her life and served as a foundation for personal growth and community service.

As Catron steps in to a leadership role in the United Way, she is grateful for all the lessons she learned in The Salvation Army of Hopkinsville, Kentucky – as a Corps member, a Camp Paradise Valley camper, and as an Advisory Board member.

“The Salvation Army is one of our agencies of the United Way so I am taking on another facet of helping them.  The United Way of the Pennyrile helps improve the lives of Kentuckians every day,” Catron said of her new job with the United Way.

Until mid-April, Catron’s professional life revolved around journalism as the assistant news director at WKDZ in Cadiz, Kentucky.

“On the 16th of April, I’ll be officially taking over as the executive director of the United Way of the Pennyrile which serves four counties – Caldwell, Trigg, Christian and Todd.  I’m very excited about it,” Catron said.

Attending Camp Paradise Valley and the Corps, led to Catron’s understanding that the hand of God is active in all the experiences of our life.  It also led her to feeling open about opportunities to serve.

“About three weeks before this position opened, I was on my way to a conference for Kiwanis and I had just got to thinking about the good works that are done through the United Way organization and how it would be really cool if I could do something to help full time so obviously He was listening and put this there because I hadn’t even considered it until somebody approached me: ‘Hey I think you’d be perfect for this job. Would you consider applying for it?’” Catron said.

In October 2017, Catron began serving as President of the Hopkinsville Kiwanis Club.

Annie Catron is part of this group Easter photograph at The Salvation Army of Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

“Kiwanis has a mission of improving the lives of children, one community at a time and I think that goes along very well with The Salvation Army’s mission of helping a community to thrive and of helping those most in need in that community.  For me, those two missions are almost the same because if you can help the children in a community, then in generations, you’ve broken that poverty cycle.  We talk about that a lot on the Advisory Board because of the Pathway of Hope program,” Catron said.

The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope initiative provides individualized services to families with children who desire to take action to address the root causes of poverty. By helping families overcome challenges like unemployment, unstable housing, and lack of education, The Salvation Army leads families toward increased stability and, ultimately, self-sufficiency.

“It’s about breaking that cycle of poverty so if you can send a kid to camp and help them to realize that there are other things out there then maybe a kid that has nothing else gets to spend this week in a place where they’re the focus.  They get to have fun and they don’t have to worry about when they are going to get to eat or where they are going to sleep that night, then you have helped improve their life,” Catron said.

Annie Catron’s passion for her work helping others comes from her own life experiences in The Salvation Army.

“I grew up in the church.  My parents were married there in 1980.  Then in 2000 on their twentieth anniversary they renewed their vows. My dad found the Captain that married them and he came back to perform the ceremony.  So there is very much a history there.  My mom attended the children’s chapel and I have pictures of that.  So I have very fond memories of growing up in The Salvation Army and Easter egg hunts on the campus and attending Sunday school.  I was probably about 10, 11, 12, when I attended Camp Paradise Valley in 1994 to 1996,” Catron said.

What she learned at Camp Paradise Valley ultimately led to her interest in a career in journalism.

This close up of the Easter photograph shows Annie Catron in the center.

“I had normal camp activities, games, making bracelets but I remember one night we were gathered to do some worship and the service reminded you of your purpose in life.  I remember I enjoyed people telling stories.  That is how I got into journalism to help people tell their stories,” Catron said.

This passion for helping people to tell their stories led Catron to studying journalism at Lindsey Wilson College.  Her education then lead to her becoming a reporter and a news director in Kentucky and Missouri, where she covered every aspect of community life.

“I always had an interest in writing. It was at Camp Paradise Valley that I realized the importance of storytelling because you can preach to kids all day long but when you start telling stories that they can relate to, you really engage them and I feel like that is what happened at camp.  So, there were stories that as a 10-year-old I could relate to and I thought I could do that, so I worked on the school newspaper in high school. I worked on the yearbook.  It trickled from having that experience at camp.  Then I entered the field of journalism and I’ve been doing it for ten years now,” Catron said.

Catron has some good stories about her own life as well.

“I’ve known several Captains since I’ve been back in the area but it wasn’t until Captain José Marquez asked me to serve on the Advisory Board that I told him a little bit of my history with The Salvation Army.  After a board meeting in the new chapel, I informed him that I was in a picture they have hanging up there.  It’s an Easter picture after a service. Everybody gathered behind the building there on East Seventh Street and just the whole congregation is in the picture.  I’m sitting on Ursula Ellis’ lap. She works here in the office.  She was my adopted mother if my mother couldn’t find me, I was usually with Ursula.  My sister and my parents are in the picture.  It was one big happy moment for the congregation and to see that hanging there, and to know that even though I hadn’t attended in a while, to know I am still part of the church family there.  I am probably about six or seven in that picture so it would be right after we came back.  My father was in the Army and we lived at Fort Knox.  My parents are both from Hopkinsville so when he got out, they moved back,” Catron said.

As a reporter and news director, Annie Catron has media expertise that is a great resource for her community service.

Growing up in The Salvation Army and attending Camp Paradise Valley has made Catron passionate about promoting all the good that happens through the organization’s programs, especially the transformational experience that summer camp can be for a child.

“I would just encourage everyone that if your local Salvation Army has a camp where you can help send kids there, then your sponsoring a child will make an important difference in their lives.  Our church will do a taco dinner fundraiser in a couple of weeks. That’s their way of helping to fund kids that will go to camp. So be aware and help. It’s not just The Salvation Army though, it’s all camps.  At camp, a kid can spend a week and they are the focus.  There will be someone there attentive to them and they are going to help them be a better person in the end,” Catron said.

Summer Camp is also a great place for kids to make a God connection while being with people who love and care about you.

“Camp is a great opportunity, which is why the Kiwanis Club, which I currently serve as president of, donates to The Salvation Army to help fund the scholarships there and sponsor camp trips.  But beyond that I think that any contact with the church is going to help because you grow as a person and grow in your love for God.  That’s part of the mission with The Salvation Army,” Catron said.

In her new leadership role with the United Way of the Pennyrile, she is hoping to revisit Camp Paradise Valley.

“Based on conversations I’ve had with the Captain (José Marquez), it has changed drastically in the last 20 years.  He’s invited me to come back when I have some free time and hopefully I’ll do that soon,” Catron said.

Media expertise is a useful skill in the non-profit world and Catron looks forward to helping the area’s residents with her knowledge.

The Salvation Army has been “Doing the Most Good” serving Hopkinsville, Kentucky, since 1914.

“Serving on the Advisory Board is a way for me to give back to an organization that had helped me in my formative years.  My experience with the media will be very handy for them when we get to a place where we are starting our campaign for a new building.  Hearing the monthly reports of the need in our community and then having experienced in Kiwanis the community leadership program we have here, it just hit home that there is so much to do in our community, so much need that is still here,” Catron said.

As the new leader of the United Way of the Pennyrile, Annie Catron is bursting with ideas of how to meet those needs.

“When I was approached about applying for the United Way position, it just reminded me there are other ways I can do good in our community.  So having been on The Salvation Army Advisory Board for a year and being a member of Kiwanis since 2010, I just kind of knew it was there and if there were interested in having me I was interested in helping them.  Through the United Way, I can help not only The Salvation Army, as one of the partner agencies, but the other 19 partner agencies in our four county area,” Catron said.

For additional information about the United Way of the Pennyrile, visit  If you are interested in volunteering or donating to The Salvation Army, go to for additional information.

Music Improves Mind, Body and Spirit

As Funding for Music in Schools Decreases, The Salvation Army Increases Music Instruction

“Music in our Schools” month is celebrated in March as a way to shine a light on how music helps the body, the mind and the spirit work together. Sadly, the increased focus on the three R’s – reading, writing, arithmetic – in schools has caused funding cuts in art and music education, leaving children with few creative outlets during and after the school day.

At Camp Paradise Valley campers learn to sing in a choir.

The Salvation Army understands the importance of music to the overall health and well-being of children and is doing all it can to make up for the dwindling music education in schools.

“We’ve always had music happening on Sundays but now we are extending those programs out. We are doing this to reach out to the community and to provide music education at no cost in several different ways.  For instance, in Nashville, we have an after school care program. Since the kids are already there, why not reach out through systems that are already in place. Also, we have word of mouth. This happens a lot. We encourage the kids in the Sunday programs to bring their friends from school and their neighborhoods. Most parents are very happy to do that because their children can learn a skill for free,” said Dr. Joel Collier, Divisional Music Director of The Salvation Army, Kentucky-Tennessee Division.

Music education provides many benefits to children.  It fosters confidence, teaches discipline and promotes group responsibility.

“I view music education as a tool. I recognize that as I have kids walking through the door that the vast majority won’t be professional musicians. But that’s not the goal. The goal is a dedication to showing up and practice and being involved. We teach the skill of perseverance. These are skills that are transferable to other areas of their lives, like math homework.  More exciting than that is that learning the basics of music theory reinforces math skills.  The more advanced the music theory, the more connections with math. Music and math are common double majors,” Collier said.

Learning to play a band instrument is part of the Camp Paradise Valley experience.

Listening to music improves certain functions of the brain, but actually playing music enhances spatial reasoning. Studies show that students with better spatial reasoning skills tend to do better at mathematics.

“Talking about music skills, I directly reference skills they already have like fractions. Then it becomes second nature to them, like half notes and quarter notes,” Collier said.

Growing the number of music programs in the Division and ensuring they continue is important to Dr. Collier.

“Many of our programs are still new but two programs stand out to me. The Richmond, Kentucky, program is one of them. In Richmond, they are teaching brass, piano, guitar and voice with the help of students from Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Music.  Nearly a dozen university students come over and teach.  Even after these students graduate, the program will continue. It’s a partnership that will last,” Collier said.

The Salvation Army’s local music programs increase a child’s appreciation for the arts.

Another new music program is causing excitement as well.

“The second program is in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Magness Potter Campus.  It is an afterschool program that already exists. We saw an opportunity to directly reach out to the students who are already there,” Collier said.

The Salvation Army Magness Potter Community Center coordinates over 15 collaborating private and public social service providers offering a variety of services to this community of more than 10,000 people, particularly economically disadvantaged families and at-risk youth.

“There is an old Salvation Army saying:  ‘If you teach a kid to blow a horn, he won’t blow a safe’.  The time factor to learn a musical skill and the amount of time they have to put into practicing it is a direct deterrent to bad habits,” Collier said.

Studies show that making music with others reduces risky behavior. For instance, students who participate in organized music lessons such as band or orchestra have lower levels of substance abuse. This is something Dr. Collier can personally attest to:

“I have never smoked.  Habits that involve smoke would damage my lungs and my voice,” Collier said.

His personal experience is not something he shies away from sharing with his students. His faith is a big part of why he promotes the benefits of a musical life.

“We are not shy about this being a religious experience.  We pray before we begin our lessons and we pray after out lessons,” Collier said.

Learning to play an instrument helps develop skills beyond music.

After completing his first summer as director of the Conservatory at Camp Paradise Valley, Dr. Collier couldn’t be more excited about the next one.

“We had a very excellent year and I am so happy with the progress the kids made in especially the Senior Conservatory. For this summer, we will keep the same disciplines but are expecting an increase in the number of participants and we are expecting a lot of returning students. We are excited about our partnership with Eastern Kentucky University. We will be adding up to three weekend performances away from the facility,” Collier said.

Music education is a passion for The Salvation Army, as it is for Dr. Collier, for a variety of reasons.

“I think it is important for people to understand that music education is not simply to train someone to be a professional musician but to learn to be an appreciator of the arts. In college, many of my fellow band members had majors in other fields,” Collier explained these fields were medical, scientific, and the humanities.

Playing the guitar is a creative outlet students will enjoy throughout their life.

Dr. Collier said that learning music promotes ability and that music students learn a desire to create good work instead of average work. This goal can then be applied to all subjects of study.

As “Music in Our Schools” Month is celebrated in March, The Salvation Army rejoices every day that music study helps create a positive attitude toward learning that develops the whole child – mind, body and spirit – including a child’s imagination, a God-given gift.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to for additional information.