The Hotel Where It All Began

by The Gideons International on September 13, 2011

The Boscobel Central House Hotel where it all began.

Ever wonder just when and where the idea of the ministry of The Gideons International began?

It was on September 14, 1898, that two Christian businessmen met in a little hotel lobby in Boscobel, Wisconsin and began a friendship that resulted in a ministry that would spread God’s Word throughout the world.

Traveling salesmen, John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill, had both arrived at Boscobel’s Central House Hotel. A convention that was occurring at the same time, created a shortage of rooms.

Nicholson, who was well known to the hotel desk clerk, arrived at the hotel at about 9 pm. The clerk told him there was only one bed left in the hotel, and that it was in Room 19, which had two beds. One of the beds had already been assigned to Mr. Hill. The clerk pointed out Mr. Hill, who was sitting in the lobby writing up his sales orders.

The lobby of the Boscobel Central House Hotel, where John Nicholson and Sam Hill first met.

Mr. Nicholson, a Christian, was relieved to see that Mr. Hill was a clean-looking man, which was in contrast to the drunk lying in the floor and another one lying in the corner. Two poker games were in progress. The air was thick with tobacco smoke and the noise from the crowd in the bar was spilling over into the lobby.

Mr. Hill agreed to allow Mr. Nicholson to spend the night in the same room. Mr. Nicholson proceeded to the room to begin writing up sales orders while Mr. Hill remained in the lobby.

Inside the room, Nicholson worked on his sales correspondence. Some time later, Mr. Hill entered the room and quickly fell asleep in his bed. When Nicholson finished working, he reached over and picked up his personal Bible and began to read. At that point, Mr. Hill awoke.

Thinking the light might be disturbing Hill, Nicholson said, “Mr. Hill, will you pardon me if I keep the light on just a little longer, because I always make it a practice to read from the Word of God and have a little chat with Him before I retire?”

Twenty years earlier, at his dying mother’s request, Nicholson promised her that he would read his Bible and pray daily. He had been a Christian since the age of 13.

Mr. Hill jumped up in bed and said, “Come, read to me, I’m a Christian, too.”

Nicholson read from the 15th chapter of John, verses 1-16. The two men prayed together and then talked until 2 am. It was during this conversation that the idea was born to establish an association of Christian traveling men.

The very Bible that John Nicholson read from that September evening back in 1898. Today it is on permanent display at the headquarters of The Gideons International.

Future meetings between Nicholson and Hill, as well William Knights, would take place over the next few years. These meetings resulted in the formal organization of what would become The Gideons International.

Today, the historic hotel in Boscobel where the two founders of The Gideons International first met is listed on the National Historical Register.

Meet the great-granddaughter of John Nicholson, see the video here.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Rafael Varon September 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Thank you for this material. I will share it with as many people as I can. What a marvelous reality of God´s amazing grace.
Praise The Lord!
Rafael Varón from Bogotá, Colombia

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Cesar Hechanova September 14, 2011 at 9:50 am

Amazing and marvelous indeed how the Almighty God works to accomplish His plan and purpose for mankind! Glory to God!

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David lubuli munyengo September 15, 2011 at 6:36 am

Simply marvelous

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MUSA B O September 16, 2011 at 4:51 am

Thank God for such a few people that yielded themselves to the promptings of God. May we be ever ready to do the will of God

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MAGDI MENASSA MALKY September 28, 2011 at 1:37 am

I am a Gideon from Beirut Camp-Lebanon, and I like the material, maybe I´ll share it with others.

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luciano Cunego October 9, 2012 at 7:47 am

tutto questo e meraviglioso Dio ci da tutto noi umani distribuire la sua parola e
niente a confronto

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Lakesha July 22, 2014 at 4:41 pm

A simple and inelgtilent point, well made. Thanks!

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Samuel C. Dumapi May 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Truly God’s Plan will Prevail!!!

-Life Member – Bayombong Camp, Philippines

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