Heroes: Elijah Cadman

by in Action, Features, Sliding Gallery

Hero: Commissioner Elijah Cadman
Years Fighting: 1876-1927
Hero ID: Fiery ‘Lijah
Mission: Pioneer TSA within England and around the world
Strength: Sacrifice, Innovation, Commitment

Some heroes start as ordinary people. Some start by being exposed to crazy chemicals or bio-engineered insects. You’d be hard pressed to find a heroic man whose life began so terribly as this month’s hero – Elijah Cadman.

Elijah Cadman was born in 1843 into extreme poverty in Coventry, England. He was the last born of 5 and the runt of the litter – never growing to more than an even 5 feet. As a toddler, Elijah’s father died from alcoholism, leaving the family with little to no resources. His grandmother scraped together enough to pay his school fees, but the rough and tough boy stole the money and skipped out of school. (Yeah remember, this is the ‘before’ part – not encouraging you to skip school!)

Because of his small size, before the age of 6 Elijah was recruited as a chimney sweep. He would wake up at 4am and spend his days inching up and down small chimney holes-sometimes as small as 9 inches square. The work was hazardous to the health (think breathing in soot all day) and extremely dangerous. He was often beaten by his boss, paid very little, and even worse, was made to drink and smoke daily. Are there any 6 year olds in your life? Can you imagine them being forced to work such hours, be treated so horribly and encouraged to wreck their bodies and flirt with addiction?

It’s not surprising then that Elijah grew into a surly character. He was moved to a neighboring town in Rugby to try and straighten him out a little. However, the teen only became even more a rebel – starting a gang of like-minded friends and often having run-ins with the police.

Despite this, Elijah managed decently well for himself. He became part-owner of a successful chimney sweep business and a boxing saloon – where he was often winning fights in the ring himself with his knock-out right upper cut. Don’t let the 5 foot stature throw you off – he was known throughout town for his fighting and drinking abilities. You would not want to tick this guy off or meet him in a dark alley.

One day, Elijah and a friend went to take in a public hanging – a spectator sport back then in England. As the man was brought out and the rowdy crowd grew silent, a friend whispered to Elijah “that’s what you’ll come to ‘Lijah, one day”. The struggle of the man deeply moved him. Suddenly, the crowd, the guilty man, the fighting, the drinking, every part of his life he had once reveled and pleasured in became repulsive.

Soon after, Elijah was intrigued by the words of a street preacher he went to hear with the intent to harass him. After weeks of wrestling through the convicting words he was hearing and attending church meetings, Elijah finally surrender his life to Christ. Know what the first thing he did as a part of his ‘new life in Christ?’ He took a hammer to his boxing saloon and demolished the fighting ring! He handed over the keys and never looked back, exclaiming “I’m going to fight for God, not the Devil!” Wow, talk about out with the old, in with the new!

Unable to read (all those years skipping out of school), he hired a young boy to read the Bible to him and committed large sections to memory. He immediately took to the streets, pubs, and market places preaching about Jesus. Soon, he married a Christian woman, who was good enough to teach him to read at the age of 22.

It wasn’t long before Elijah heard about the Christian Mission William Booth was running in the East End of London. He packed up his bags, sold his house and chimney sweep business and headed for the big city. He fell in love with the work there, despite the fact that he had no guarantee of salary or home. Billy Booth quickly recognized the gifts of Cadman and posted him to Hackney in East London. Frequently abused, made the target of local gangs, and threatened to have his throat cut, Elijah was never discouraged. Instead, many alcoholics, addicts and poor came to know Jesus through this mans daring and bravery – visiting the slums by day and street preaching at night.

When in his second posting in a town called Whitby, Cadman cleverly used the culture of the time to attract people to meetings. People were expecting, at any moment, for England to become involved in the Russo-Turkish war. Cadman marched through the streets with a banner declaring:


2,000 Men and Women Wanted To join the HALLELUJAH ARMY That is attacking the Devil’s Kingdom. Every Sunday In St. Hilda’s Hall, at 11a.m., 3 and 6.30 p.m. Led by Captain Cadman from London, Evangelist of the CHRISTIAN MISSION”

People read the first few lines, assumed war was breaking out, and followed Elijah into the meeting hall where there was no recruiting sergeant, but a preacher! Even after they discovered this was a spiritual war call, they were intrigued by the daring of the tiny preacher man who spoke their language and used their terms to explain God’s kingdom. Later, when William Booth was coming to visit and lead meetings, Cadman put up posters saying:


This was the first time William Booth was ever referred to as “the General”, and a preacher ever referred to as “Captain”. All this battle talk terminology started the name change that would lead The Christian Mission to be called The Salvation Army. And Elijah Cadman was it’s first self-proclaimed Captain. Later, it was he who wrote General Booth insisting on designing some kind of uniform for The Salvation Army saying “I would like to wear a suit of clothes that would let everyone know I meant war to the teeth and salvation for the world”. Elijah Cadman worked as an officer of The Salvation Army well into his 70′s, traveling the world to preach on almost every continent. He was especially effective ministering to dejected, addicted, and abusive men. He ran The City Colony for many years- a homeless shelter that offered food and lodging in exchange for a days work. This ‘fiery’ man, as he was known, gave everything he had, every moment of his life to serving God and thousands were rescued and brought to Jesus because of it.


R-U a part of The Salvation Army? If so, this stuff is in your D.N.A- it’s part of your spiritual tree! Tap into it. Let it speak and breathe life into you. Wake up from your trance. Dust yourself off.

Do yourself a favour. Sit down for a minute. Turn off your cell phone and ipod and reflect for a couple minutes of ‘you’ time to do some soul searching. Answering these questions below will help give you a sense of purpose in your life.

  • What’s your beginning? Are you haunted and held back/captive by a past filled with shame, rage, fighting, addiction? As Elijah Cadman’s life clearly shows you DO NOT have to be defined by what you have done. Jesus is a TRANSFORMER and you do not have to be the same person today that you were yesterday. Look God’s unmatchable, nonsensical grace and love in the face and BE CHANGED. Don’t let your past actions determine your future.
  • What do you value in this life? Money, success, relationships, possessions? If you’re flirting with these things you’re walking down a road that leads to emptiness. Elijah was a successful businessman, and yet when he discovered Jesus, he sold everything he had, left every comfort and followed God. If he were here right now he would tell you, as he told many others, that it was worth it a thousand times over….and that’s before he reached the heavenly gates! What passions do you need to reject, what hobbies/identities do you need to take a hammer to and demolish, what success do you need to sell, what comfort do you have to reject in your life to align yourself with God’s will?
  • Have you engaged in spiritual warfare in your neighborhood? Do you pray over it? Do you pray for the people in it? Do you even know your neighbours? Do you even know there’s a spiritual war going on right now? We’ve gone out into our neighbourhood prayer walking with The Salvation Army flag (there’s even a facebook group with this name!). You just walk around with a giant flag, knock on doors and pray for people.
  • Elijah Cadman was an innovator. He used publicity and extreme tactics to reach out to others and attract them to Jesus. What kind of battle tactics has God given you for reaching others? Ask God to give you a vision, dream, idea of a way to help others know of and follow him. If God gives you an idea to reach people for Him, get out and DO IT!
  • The Army is looking for innovators today – post a response to Send The Fire’s Million dollar Challenge

See previous Heroes Episodes:
Frederick | Joe | Donut Girls | Eliza Shirley | Sarah Beaty | James Barker | Abolitionist Trio

Fight against injustice // Fight hard // Fight with love

:: by Heidi Adams of Triton, NL
I’m a Salvation Army youth pastor and enjoy unicycling, playing the ukulele and singing off-key, loving Jesus, making the world a better place, and refusing to grow up. Check out Just Youth.

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