Joshers’ Club

As demonstrated in Butte’s past, our community is once again coming together in its time of need. Whether it is donating food to those in need, ordering food from a restaurant, supporting a local small business to holding a birthday parade for children who aren’t allowed to celebrate their birthday with friends, to visiting a loved one in a nursing home through a window pane. During the pandemic we are currently living in, the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives will be sharing stories of good deeds and community togetherness to uplift Butte.

On Christmas Eve 1904, seven men were having drinks and sharing stories of merriment of Christmases past in the back room of Al Green’s cigar store when a letter was delivered by newsboy Archie Coutts to Billy Gemmell. He read the letter and said to his friends, “Boys, this may be a josh and an attempt to get me out in the cold and the snow but I’m going anyway. This letter says that a family is hungry and cold and this is Christmas Eve!”.

06-014-07 Billy Gemmell circa 1925
Billy Gemmell, Father of the Joshers’ Club, circa 1925.

The men thought it was a joke, but Al Green offered his vehicle and chauffer to take Gemmell to the needy family. Upon his return, Gemmell told them of a father sitting on an upturned pail because the family had burned their furniture for warmth, a mother with a baby and three more children chattering in the cold. He took off his hat and passed it around the group to donate money to help the family. Stores opened to assist the mission. The group of men plus the newsboy delivered food, coal, wood, beds and bedding in four different trips that night.

At the end of the night, the men vowed to help needy families in Butte every Christmas. They called themselves the Joshers’ Club based on Gemmell’s comment about the letter about the first family being a josh.

06-014-05 Joshers Club members
Joshers’ Club members

The Joshers’ Club would grow with each coming year, recruiting more people to help an increasing amount of families. People contributed their time and money, transportation was donated, whether it was trucks or delivering goods by snowshoes, groceries were sold at cost and butchers supplied the families with meat.

Beginning in 1914, Merle Davis, general manager of the Broadway Theater, and “Spike” Haynes, sports editor for the Butte Miner, put on the Annual Joshers’ Club Show to raise money to help more families. Every cent raised went to the Joshers’. In 1930, the Standard reported, “Although the theater only holds about 1,500 persons, Joshers’ confidently expect to sell twice the number of tickets, an indication of the faith in the Butte Public.”

The Joshers’ Club’s last active year was 1931 after which other civic service organizations took over the cause.

06-014-08 Xmas food delivery circa 1930
Men from the Joshers’ Club loading a truck, circa 1930.
Joshers Delivery
Three men snowshoeing to help a family in need beyond the Butte city limits

-Lindsay


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