Keepers of the mission

Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago has been offering its ministries and services for more than a century. It provides food and shelter to the homeless, career development and job placement assistance, English as a Second Language classes and more. But the ministry would not exist without its two founders—Sarah Dunn Clarke and Col. George Clarke.

Sarah Dunn worked as a teacher in New York and Iowa before moving to Chicago and opening a mission Sunday School in 1869. There she met Col. George Clarke, who worked in real estate; they married in 1873.

Dunn Clarke was devoted to ministering the Gospel of Christ, and she and her husband wanted to create a rescue mission. Clarke's Mission opened at 386 S. Clark St. on Sept. 15, 1877. The small ministry could seat 40 people and offered warmth from a pot-bellied stove and Bible verses on its walls.

The mission moved to larger quarters at what is now 67 E. Van Buren St. in 1880. Previously home to the Pacific Beer Garden, the Clarkes decided to call the mission Pacific Garden Mission at the suggestion of evangelist Dwight L. Moody.


One of the mission's most high-profile converts was Billy Sunday, a professional baseball player for the Chicago White Stockings. In 1886, Sunday visited the mission after hearing the gospel from the mission's Gospel Wagon, a horse-drawn wagon from which workers preached, sang and gave testimonies. He became a Bible student and was deeply involved in the mission. Sunday later declined an offer to continue his baseball career and instead became a world-renowned evangelist.

Another convert, Harry Monroe, was released from a counterfeiting charge in Detroit. He went to Chicago and became involved with Pacific Garden Mission after speaking with Clarke after a mission service. When Clarke died in 1892, Dunn Clarke remained as the mission mother, and Monroe was in charge of the mission. According to the mission's Web site, Monroe was a "master at soul-winning," and that skill was useful when he met Mel Trotter.

Trotter was an alcoholic who planned to commit suicide. However, after accepting an invitation to come into the mission, he heard Monroe's testimony and converted. Trotter was ordained into the Presbyterian ministry in 1905 and became general superintendent of the mission when Monroe died in 1912. During his lifetime, Trotter helped establish at least 67 other rescue missions across the U.S.

In 1918, Ethelwyn and Walter Taylor, known as "Ma and Pa," became leaders of the mission, serving until 1936. During that time, Walter Taylor preached the Gospel and Ethelwyn Taylor prayed for those who came to the mission. On Jan. 30, 1923, the mission moved to 646 S. State St., an area that was referred to as "Murderer's Row" because many people had been killed there.

When the Taylors retired, convert Don Gately was head of the mission until 1940, when Harry Saulnier took over. Under Saulnier's leadership, buildings next to the mission were purchased and renovated; the ministry to homeless men was expanded; and new ministries such as a servicemen's center, women and children's ministry, medical and dental clinic and the radio drama "UNSHACKLED!" were created.

In 1986, Saulnier's son, David—who had been involved with the mission since he was 11 years old—took on the leadership role. The mission continued to grow with more food donations, technological advances and upgraded literature. The Bible Academy program, Old Lighthouse Redemption Choir, and jail and hospital ministries were established during David Saulnier's leadership before he retired in 1997.

The current mission

David McCarrell, who had served on the mission's board of directors for 18 years, became interim leader in 1997 and then was named president. McCarrell became familiar with the mission because his father William McCarrell, a pastor, had been involved with the mission for more than 50 years.

With McCarrell's guidance, the mission now has a career development program; Polish ministry; new two-minute radio testimony feature called Free Indeed; and "Bread of Life" ministry, among other accomplishments.

In addition, the mission now boasts a new 156,000-square-foot facility that can accommodate 1,000 people in bunks (and another 400 on cold winter nights) and feed 1,800 people per meal. The facility has laundry areas, libraries, a barber shop and beauty salon, two gymnasiums, a 600-seat auditorium and greenhouses. It also has "hotboxes," which are rooms attached to each dorm; visitors place their clothing in the rooms, which are kept at 180 degrees to kill any vermin on the clothing.

The building has five classrooms for its education and career development programs, as well as six counseling rooms. There also is a chapel for religious services and other events.

The mission continues

The mission's many keepers have worked diligently through the years to ensure the ministry created by the Clarkes has survived. The Clarkes would be happy to know it has not only survived but flourished thanks to the charitable spirit of many.

This Web exclusive information is a supplement to On a mission.