About Us

More Than 100 Years of Meals, Shelter, and Hope . . .

Market Street Mission 1889The Market Street Mission is a Gospel Rescue Mission. As defined in a 1978 newsletter, Gospel means 'good news'; Rescue means 'to deliver from actual or impending calamity'; and Mission means 'one sent'. Therefore, "the Market Street Mission is a place that has been established (sent) to deliver people from actual or impending calamity and to do this by using the good news of Christ."

The Mission has been doing this good work since 1889. Mrs. Louisa Graves Owen, the wife of Rev. Dr. F.W. Owen, had been holding women's Bible study classes in her home. When she realized that almost all of the husbands of the wives in her classes were alcoholic, she and her husband rented 9 Market Street to set up a residential program for alcoholic husbands. An ideal location for a Gospel Mission, Market Street was known as Rum Alley or Rum Lane because of all of the bars and saloons on the street. The South Street Presbyterian Church supported the organization of the Mission in an effort to reach people who were not regularly attending area churches.

The Market Street Mission opened on March 18, 1889. On that first night George Redding, aged 61, became the Mission's first convert. For the next five years until his death, he testified almost nightly that God had saved him from 'rum, beer, cider, and opium.' In its early years the Mission held day and night meetings for men, women, and children.

These "meetings" were the central events of the Mission. But other programs included two ice water fountains (which did "a great practical work for the cause of temperance during the summer months"), jail ministry, family visits, and children's activities. Also from the beginning, the Market Street Mission provided meals, lodging, clothing and temporary employment for homeless men. In November of 1892, the Mission added a reading room which was open to all. A Gospel Wagon (a two-horse truck), added in 1898, facilitated outdoor meetings which were held all over Morris County. Total attendance at meetings in 1898 was 31,820.

Beginning in 1897, men could come to 9 Market Street and find temporary work at the Mission wood yard. The Mission gave away little in the way of meals and lodgings; men worked for their room and board. If a man drank, he could be paid on orders to a local merchant so that his family could benefit from his earnings. In 1901, a man was charged $.09 for each meal, and he could earn from $.75 to $1.50 a day in the wood yard. During the women's meetings, the mothers and older girls often sewed.

On February 2, 1898, a fire destroyed the Mission's rented quarters. They set up temporary quarters across the street, however, and did not miss one meeting. The Mission then built a new building of their own on the original (and present day) site which was opened on November 21, 1898.

The Gospel and work have been central components of the Market Street Mission's recovery programs. Another lasting tradition of the Market Street Mission is that of responding to the needs of the community. During 1926 a series of explosions at the Picatinny Arsenal left many families without shelter or clothing. The Market Street Mission played a large role in helping those displaced after that disaster. During the Great Depression of the 1930's, the Mission responded to the overwhelming needs of the people in and around Morristown by greatly expanding the services it provided. The following chart shows the dramatic increase in employment, lodging, and meals that the Mission provided during the early years of the Depression:

1930 1931 1932
Jobs 86 97 604
Lodging 1,117 2,327 9,164
Meals 1,751 4,488 18,924

historyThe Industrial Department was added in the 1930's. Just as is the case today, a truck went to pick up household articles and clothing at people's homes which were then sold in the thrift store. The operation was so successful that it became self-supporting within two months. It also provided much-needed jobs during a time of unprecedented unemployment.

Since the 1930's, the Mission has seen many changes. Several fires have destroyed Mission property. The Mission officially ended its affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in 1933. In 1971, the George Street building was opened to house the Industrial program. During the 1970's, the Mission became home to the Morris County Social Detoxification Center for men and women, and also hosted a coffee house called One Way Coffee House where young people could come for food, coffee, and informal counseling on Friday and Saturday nights. Over the years, the men have gotten younger: the average age of a resident in 1965 was 55, down to 45 in 1975; it is in the late 20's or early 30's today.

Today men work in the thrift store and warehouse as a part of their therapy; they also attend chapel and classes. But while in the 1970's the Mission continued to offer almost the same program as that of the 1880's, the 1980's and 1990's has seen the incorporation of new alcohol and drug treatment methods.