Jerry McAuley was born in 1839 in County Kerry, Ireland. His
father was a counterfeiter who fled home to escape the law.
At the age of 13, Jerry was sent to America to live with a
married sister in New York City. Soon he was running with a
gang on Water Street and was supporting himself by stealing.
Later he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in Sing Sing
While in prison, McAuley began to read the Bible in
search of forgiveness for his sins. After reading it through
twice, he was converted to Christ through the efforts of a
lady missionary who visited the prison. His attitude and con-
duct changed to the effect that he was let out of prison in
1864, after serving seven years and two months.
In October, 1872, McAuley, his wife, and a few
helpers opened the Water Street Mission in the heart of the
slum section of New York City. Night after night, many of the
seats were filled with drunks and tramps, looking for a place
to rest and relief from the cold. McAuley’s mission accepted
anyone, regardless of how dirty he looked, how foul he
smelled, or how uncertainly he stood to his feet.
The services of the mission were not limited to the
physical needs of the men, as Gospel meetings were conducted
nightly. Singing, testimonies, and preaching competed with
the shouts and noises of the Water Street slums. The Water
Street Mission, under McAuley’s direction, became an example
of Christian compassion for the down and out. Tens of thou-
sands of bums, transients, drunks, and harlots heard the Gos-
pel of Jesus Christ, many of them responding to the
Although McAuley died in 1884, his influence lives on
today through the work of the mission.