BEGINNING OF HIS CAREER.
When Mr. Moody arrived in Chicago, he carried letters of introduction to a number of merchants in the boot and shoe line, this being the only class of business with which he was familiar, he had little trouble in securing a situation with a Mr. Wiswall. He conducted a flourishing store on Lake Street. The young Yankee soon made his influence felt, there was a hustle about him which pleased his employer and caused his fellow clerks to look on in astonishment. He earned every cent of salary that was paid him and it was raised more than once in a few years in which he remained in the business. He introduced new ideas constantly. In those days it was the habit of clerks to sit around and read the papers when no customers were within, this young Moody never did. If no buyers appeared at the store he went out after them, he beat about the hotels, depots and other places where he was likely to fall in with merchants from the country. When he found them he had a faculty of persuading them that the goods which he sold were far superior in every respect to the goods sold by other people in the same line of business, and that the methods and business integrity of his firm was the superior of all. It is the general impression of all who knew his early prospects, that if he had devoted his
life to business he would have become one of the recognized commercial men of the United States, and perhaps one of its wealthiest merchants. His enterprise, organizing powers and financial ability were recognized and remarked upon at all times. His friends tried in every way to persuade him to stick to a mercantile career, but he was not to be turned from his decision to devote his life to the saving of souls. No better evidence of Mr. Moody's business ability can be cited than the successful operation of the splendid settlement of schools at Northfield, and of the Bible Institute and its attendant features here in Chicago.
One of the first acts of Mr. Moody, when he removed to the West, was to join the First Congregational Church of Chicago, and to hire therein not one but four pews, he had determined that any money which he received for his services, and which was not necessary to the support of his mother and her family in Northfield, and not necessary for the defraying of slight expenses necessary for his own support, should be applied to the spreading of the gospel, he believed that as he gave so would he prosper, that he could do more good for himself and for others by giving a quarter instead of a tenth of his income to Christ, so that one of the things that he did with his surplus income was to expend it in this unique manner of hiring four pews in a church. Having secured the pews, the next thing was to fill them, this, however, was not a difficult task. He went into the highways and by-ways and brought in the scum of the earth. Some of the good aristocratic church members did not fancy this sort of evangelism, but the minister was a godly man and believed that this young parishoner was on the right track. This work, however, was too slow for this Yankee enthusiast, he wanted to fill the church, but as that was not to be thought of, he must find some other method of satisfying his ambition for work.
He applied for the position of the teacher of one of the Mission Sunday-schools, and was informed that the school was well supplied. They said, however, if he could bring in his own class, they would certainly not object to his teaching them and that he would be given the best of support. They intimated to him that it was not teachers that they wanted, but scholars, that it was not much trouble to find teachers, the trouble was to find some one to teach.
On the next Sunday the new candidate for teacher's honors, appeared with a procession of eighteen as ragged, rowdy, barefooted lot of young "hoodlums" as ever crossed the threshold of a place of worship. He had found his vocation, he was in his element and he knew it at once. This must be his life work. He became the church recruiting officer in all the missions and Sunday-schools in the town. He did not neglect his business, that went on the same as before, his energy seemed almost tireless, he worked hard all day in his business relations and spent the evenings and Sunday working for souls.
The commerce of Chicago in those days was largely transported by ships, and the busy docks was consequently a meeting place for the toughest characters, and he was to be seen in the lowest parts of a great city among them, spreading tracts, and offering consolation, many times to be rebuffed, entreating men to give up their vicious practices and turn their attention in future to the great truths taught in the Scriptures.
It was not long before Mr. Moody established a mission Sunday-school of Jiis own. He saw that a large territory on the north side of the river was not looked after by Christian people, so he rented a deserted saloon, the only available room to be had at that time, which stood near the North Side Market. The location was admirable for his purpose. It was surrounded by fully 200 saloons and gambling dens, and the streets, alleys and tenements swarmed with men, women and children. His previous scout work had made him acquainted with the habits of these people and he did not fear but that he could soon make his school a success.
A gentleman who visited this school in its first days described it as being bare of chairs and tables, most of the scholars being obliged to stand up along the wall. Mr. Moody had an old box for a seat, and his plan was to group the children around him, with perhaps one on his knee, and read to them chapters from the Bible any explain it according to his light. It was about this time when he began to note his own deficiency in education, and this caused him to call upon people who were well equipped for Sundayschool work to aid him.
One of Mr. Moody's best qualifications for this work was his intense love for children; he never seemed happier than when in the midst of a jolly group of youngsters with whom he could romp and play to his heart's content .
Mr. Frank Keefer, of Hammond, Ind., who was an attendant at the North Side Moody school, relates that at one time Mr. Moody gave a picnic to his scholars out on the Des Plaines river; the day was an ideal one in the country, and everything was in the full beauty of life, while the sun beamed bright and warm. He remembers that Mr. Moody was attired in a long linen duster and presented anything but a distinguished appearance. During the day Mr. Moody gave his boys what he called a treat. He had secured several large sacks of apples and he went through the crowd pouring them out to see the boys scramble after them. He highly enjoyed the performance, but when he had finished he did not have much left worth speaking of in the way of clothes.
One of Mr. Moody's plans was to approach his intended scholars with candies, apples and toys, thus gain their confidence, and finally get them into the school. When he got them there once he had no fear but that they would return. Several men are now living who were members of that school, and they state that although at the time they had no deep religious convictions yet there was something about Mr. Moody and his methods that drew them to him and made the Sunday-school a desirable place to go, although the outside attractions were certainly very inducing in those days.
Thus early Mr. Moody realized the value of music, and jbelieved it to be one of the strong points which would hold his Mission school together. He secured the services of Mr. Trudeau, a musical friend, and installed him as chorister. It was not long before the school began to grow to such proportions that Mr. Moody saw he must make other arrangements to accommodate the crowd. He, therefore, obtained permission of Mayor Haines to use the hall over the old North Market. This hall had generally been used on Saturday nights for a dance, and it took most of the forenoon on Sunday to sweep out the debris, such as sawdust, tobacco and beer stain. There were no furnishings in this room, but Mr. Moody took it upon himself to do the financial work and soon succeeded. Among those whom he called on was Mr. J. V. Farwell, the millionaire merchant prince of Chicago. Mr. Farwell succumbed to the blandishments of Mr. Moody and subscribed money enough to furnish the hall. After Mr. Moody received his subscription he asked Mr. Farwell what he was doing in the way of personal work for Christ. Mr. Farwell told him, and Mr. Moody finding that all his time was not occupied, suggested that he visit his Sunday-school on the next Sunday. Mr. Farwell did so and was surprised on his arrival there to learn that Mr. Moody had nominated him as Superintendent. He hesitated somewhat about accepting the office, but Mr. Moody insisted, however, that he should try it, and he did, and thus began a friendship which lasted throughout Mr. Moody's life. The school grew from seventyfive scholars to 200 in three months; there were 350 scholars in six months, and within a year the average attendance was 650. It was estimated that fully 2,000 children passed through the school a year.
Mr. Moody not only did scout work for his Sunday, school, but in his travels through the lowly districts of Chicago he found many cases of want and his energies were largely turned in the direction of relieving the distress of such people as came under his observation. In order to do this he had to call upon his friends; this circle he extended wider and wider each year until he knew every prominent business man in Chicago, and it has been stated that there was not a single one of them but had contributed more or less to Mr. Moody's plans.
During these labors at the North Market Street Mission he attended to his duties of a traveling salesman. This made his work much harder, because he would frequently be miles from Chicago toward the end of the week, but he had made an arrangement with his employers that he was to spend his Sundays at home and he never allowed anything to interfere with this. It is not to be supposed that he had clear sailing in his Sunday-school work. There was a strong Catholic element living on the North Side at that time and among the boys were numbered several who were certainly anything but saints. These boys broke windows constantly in the old Market Hall, and did other things which annoyed Mr. Moody very greatly. He knew it would be of little use to expostulate with the boys and less use to expostulate with their parents, and he determined to go to the fountain head and see what could be done. He, therefore, called upon the Catholic Bishop of Chicago and laid the matter before him. The Bishop was surprised, of course, but Mr. Moody won him over and the Bishop issued an order which prevented any further disturbances.
After his school had been fully established, he determined to give all his service to Christian work, and the manner in which this was brought about is told in another place in this work. He made it a practice to speak to one unconverted man each day, and he has related many instances of his work in this manner.
On the 28th of August, 1862, he entered into marriage with Miss Emma C. Revell, who still survives him. She is a sister of Fleming H. Revell, the well known Chicago publisher. Two children were born of this union while they resided in Chicago and one child after they removed to Northfield, all of whom survive.
With his work during the war, on the Christian Commission, he found time, in 1863, to erect a large building in Illinois Street, at a cost of $20,000, and removed his mission and church from the North Market Hall to that place when it was completed. He did not give up his work with the Y. M. C. A. by any means. He determined that the Association should have a permanent hall and this he secured for them. It was known as "Farwell Hall," and was dedicated on September 29, 1867.