A flamboyant Methodist evangelist, Samuel Jones came to Nashville in 1885 as the result of a boast he made in Memphis that no church in the “city of churches” would be able to contain the crowds he would attract. When Jones made his first appearance on Eighth and Broadway, he preached to a crowd estimated at ten thousand people.
Jones's frequent and violent outbursts against those who sold whiskey drew the interest of Captain Tom Ryman, a Nashville riverboat magnate. Raised a Methodist, Ryman provided free shipping for church-related materials. Since his riverboats also contained gambling casinos, though, he was offended by Jones's condemnation of sellers of whiskey and also worried about the potential loss of business. He attended Jones's meeting with the intention of confronting the evangelist. Seizing the initiative, Jones preached, Ryman listened, and a loyal follower of Jones and Temperance was born. As a result, Ryman built the Union Gospel Tabernacle for the purpose of encouraging religion in Nashville. The building eventually became known as the Ryman Auditorium, the home of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry for many years.
Nashville was the scene of the greatest days of Jones's revival movement. Thousands converted under his preaching, and local churches carried on the message he brought. His relentless attacks on alcohol led to Nashville's becoming a center for the prohibition movement. Returning to the city on numerous occasions, Jones always railed against Nashville's saloons and taverns.