This is the day that … Samuel H. Hadley was born in 1842, in Morgan County, Ohio, USA.
Sam Hadley was brought up in a log cabin. “In our log cabin,” he later wrote, “I could lie on my bed and see the stars through the cracks in the roof and feel the snow sifting down upon my face in the winter time. We were lulled to sleep by the barking of foxes and the hooting of the owls in the woods…” (Down in Water Street, page 60).
And there it was he promised his God-fearing mother (a direct descendant of Rev. Jonathan Edwards) that he would never drink alcohol … but at the age of 18 that promise was broken. “It isn’t the last drink that hurts a man … or the fourth or the fifth, but the first … that’s what ruins a man” (page 64). “That first drink changed my life”, Hadley testified later.
Sam Hadley wrote from experience. For 15 years he “rarely went to bed sober”. A medical career was forsaken. He worked as an insurance man, but gambling became his mainstay … he “lied, stole, and forged cheques.” His home was shattered – his wife had left him, and all the furniture was pawned to get money to buy drink.
In fear of going to prison Hadley fled interstate and so ended up in New York. In his desperate battle with booze he eventually went to the police and asked them to lock him up so he wouldn’t succumb to temptation. That night, Tuesday, 18 April, 1882, in a lonely prison cell he fell on his knees on the stone floor and cried, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (ibid, page 70).
The following Sunday he attended the Water Street Mission – the first Rescue Mission in the world, founded by a converted convict named Jerry McAuley some ten years previous. And so it was as Jerry preached and sang –
… And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains …
the Spirit of God laid hold of 40 year-old Sam Hadley, and he came to a place of assurance in his new-found Christian faith.
Listen to his own words: “Never with mortal tongue can I describe that moment … I felt the glorious brightness of the noon-day sunshine in my heart. I felt that I was a free man. Oh, the precious feeling of safety, of freedom, of resting on Jesus! … And I have been shouting ‘Glory’ pretty much all the time since!” (page 78).
Gone was the “hell-born desire for whisky. Gone the profanity – and a few weeks later – I threw my plug (of tobacco) away … and the desire was removed” (page 80).
Four years later Hadley became successor to Jerry McAuley as Superintendent of the famous Water Street Mission in Manhattan, and there he laboured faithfully for 20 years, pointing men and women to the One “who was able to save from the guttermost to the uttermost”. And “a century later it is still a vital outreach”, reaching those who need food and shelter with the good news of the gospel.
Later Sam Hadley became an ordained Methodist minister.
He went to his reward on 9 February, 1906. The press report of his death in the New York Times of February 10, 1906 stated that Hadley’s wife stood by him “even in the dregs” and that students of sociology from around the world attended his mission to study his amazing impact on others. “It is estimated that Mr Hadley obtained 75,000 conversions during his work at the mission, a great part of them resulting in new and clean lives and profitable, happy citizenship.”
Hadley described his methods: “We generally hit a man in the stomach with a beefsteak or a loaf of bread, or both, before we pray for him.”
While suffering from the fatal effects of appendicitis a nurse saw his lips moving and listened close enough to hear him whispering, “My poor bums; who will look out for them for me?”
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.