Try to Imagine

 By Rick Watson, President/CEO of Free Will Baptist Press Foundation, Inc. 

November 5, 2019 will mark the 146th anniversary of the ministry of Free Will Baptist Press. Its name has varied and its publications have changed over those many years.


When I think about 146 years, I find it difficult to absorb the reality of that much time. I have reached that age where I reminisce to my grandchildren about the 1960s and they do not (and cannot) really understand the depth of my musings.

As I began thinking about our anniversary and this writing, I thought it might be interesting to list 146 inventions, events, companies, etc. that exist now that did not exist in 1873. Toward that end, I set about the exploration of Google and Wikipedia and hereby submit many of the “newer things” that have come about since the inception of The Press. (Don’t worry. I have not included 146.)


Our 1873 ancestors did not have metal detectors, incandescent light bulbs, ballpoint pens, zippers, vacuum cleaners, or cellophane. 


They knew nothing of polyester, nylon, penicillin, or radio; certainly not television; no cars, no airplanes.


The towns of Benson, Belmont Abbey, Youngsville, Pinehurst, Four Oaks, Parmele, and Ayden had not yet been established and Biltmore Estates was still several years in the future. Martin and Bertie Counties had not yet built their courthouses and Scotland and Pender Counties did not exist.


The University of North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, and Duke did not have football teams. NC State was not yet an established college. Other prominent colleges and universities that came later include UNC at Pembroke, UNC at Greensboro, North Carolina A & T, Elizabeth City State, Winston-Salem State, Lenoir-Rhyne, Barton (Atlantic Christian), and East Carolina University.


Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii have been admitted to the Union since our founding. 


The president of our country was Ulysses S. Grant, the first elected president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the War Between the States.


We have fought the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War since 1873.


The first editor of The Press might have enjoyed a cup of coffee, but he would not have been able to enjoy a Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper, or RC Cola with a nab, nor did he buy his clothes at Belk’s—they did not yet exist.


Major League Baseball was in its infancy and only one team from 1873 still exists today. Minor League Baseball, the NFL, and the NBA had not yet been formed.


Can you begin to imagine what life must have been like when The Press was started? Can you begin to relate to those forward-thinking individuals of that era? Probably not. It is reasonable to assert that they were not afraid of the present or the future and really might have had an unusual amount of faith in the leading of God in their effort. That assertion is supported by the economic conditions in the United States at the time. The most prominent historical happening in our country at that time was the Panic of 1873.


The failure of an investment bank in late 1873 triggered a series of events that touched the entire nation. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for 10 days. Credit dried up, foreclosures were common, and banks failed. Factories closed their doors, costing thousands of workers' jobs. The volume of destitute people soon overwhelmed the abilities of charities to function. Most of the major railroads failed. The public tended to blame President Grant and Congress for mishandling the economy. Recovery was not realized until 1878. (


It was in the face of this very difficult time that our founders made a bold decision and began the work that God had purposed them to do. Like Caleb and Joshua, they looked beyond the difficulties and determined a course of action that has endured for 146 years. We are thankful that God has given us the example of our founders to encourage us to continue the work and make the concerted effort to improve on the foundation that has been laid.


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