By the beginning of the 20th century, the Salvation Army was well established in Boise and in many cities in the Western states. The first meetings of the Army in America had been held in Philadelphia in 1879 and in California in 1883. In 1886, just a year before two Army members arrived in Boise to begin their ministry, President Grover Cleveland received a delegation from the organization in the White House where he gave its work “a warm endorsement.”
The Idaho Statesman reported on Oct. 6, 1904, that C.H. Hamilton of the city street cleaning crew had disrupted a sidewalk service of the Salvation Army, and Charles Shaffer of the Army complained and accused Hamilton of doing it deliberately.
The result of the argument between the two was that Shaffer was arrested for disturbing the peace. He was released on a $15 cash bond and ordered to appear before a judge the next day. The paper reported that the magistrate dismissed the charges and that, “The announcement of the decision was greeted with a chorus of ‘AMENS’ from members of the Army who were present in force.”
In November 1904 the Salvation Army rented a former theater at 613 Main St. and served a Thanksgiving dinner.
The Statesman said: “All good things appropriate to the season will be served on the tables which will occupy the entire floor space of the hall. Roast turkey, roast goose, cranberry sauce, baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, mince pie, in fact, all the meats, vegetables and pastry that diners are accustomed to receive on the festive occasion, will be presented with the usual ‘trimmings.’ The proceeds of the dinner are to be devoted to the fund being raised by the local Salvationists for the purchase of the Masonic building on Main Street. The dinner will be open to the public, and all friends of the Army are invited to partake.”
In September 1907, the Army hosted a harvest festival to raise money for its missionary fund. The Statesman reported that the festival was an annual event sponsored by Salvation Army posts all over the country. Army Capt. Hawks explained that the $50,000 to be raised was apportioned to the different corps. A big moment in the lives of Capt. and Mrs. Hawks was a monthlong trip to Chicago for a national meeting of the Salvation Army when its founder, Gen. Will Booth, was present. It was Booth’s sixth and final visit to America. He died in 1912.
In 1912, one of the Salvation Army’s most lasting and important community services in Boise was announced in the Statesman: “It will be necessary for all to pull together if the girls’ lodging house, which is the dream of Capt. Barnes of the Salvation Army and of the social service committee of the Columbia Club, is realized soon. The plans for remodeling the upper floor of the Salvation Army hall into six sleeping rooms, an emergency room, a bathroom and a sitting room have been drawn, and Miss Keenan, chairman of the club committee, has written to several philanthropic lodges in the city, asking them if they would bear the expense of remodeling the floor for this purpose.”
What began on this modest scale evolved in 1921 into what was known at first as the Salvation Army Maternity home at 1617 N. 24th St., later known as the Boise, Idaho Rescue Home, and then as the Booth Memorial Home.
A history prepared in 1998 by Army staff says the program has touched the lives of an estimated 9,000 young women. “In the early days babies were delivered at Booth and care was provided for children up to 3 years of age,” the history notes. “... In 1998 the Booth Home provided services to 127 girls, ages 13-19, with 16 being the average age.”
When the Salvation Army celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1937, the entire Boise community entered into the spirit of the occasion, and many of the city’s leading citizens, churches, and civic clubs took part. Notable in a long list of supporters was C.C. Anderson, founder of the Golden Rule department stores, Judge Alfred E. Budge, Dr. S.W. Forney, and attorney Laurel Elam.
By now, the 125th the anniversary of the Salvation Army’s arrival in Boise, its good works are widely supported in the community.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. E-mail email@example.com.