Paper salesman John “Nick” Nicholson didn’t reach his hotel until 9 o’clock that night of September 14, 1898. Another hard day of train rides, carriage rides, and appointments left him wanting only a quiet room in which to write up his orders.

But the lobby of the Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin, bulged with people. In Nicholson’s words, the hotel was “crowded with drummers and ‘hangabouts’ playing cards, shaking dice, smoking, laughing, cursing, yelling, and singing with clinking of glasses and the tinkle of the mechanical organ.”

At the front desk, Nicholson’s fears were confirmed: Every room was filled.

A Last-Ditch Solution

The hotel landlord wanted to help Nicholson, a regular customer, so he proposed a last-ditch solution. “We have a man with us tonight by the name of Sam Hill,” he said, “a good clean fellow. There’s a spare bed in his room, and if you’re both willing to share, you could have it.” The landlord took Nicholson across the lobby to meet Hill, who was writing up his orders.

The fellow salesman agreed to the arrangement.

In Room 19 later that evening, Hill rolled over to go to sleep. “Excuse me if I keep this light on a little while longer,” Nicholson said. “I always make it a practice to read the Word of God and speak to him before I retire.”

“Read it aloud,” Hill told him. “I’m a Christian, too.”

Nicholson read John 15, and the two prayed together. Then he and Hill started talking about the need for Christian traveling salesmen to know about each other. By 2 A.M. they had determined they should start an association.

That morning, ...

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