The town of Superior is nestled in western Montana among a series of gulches along the Clark Fork River. When the historic Mullan Road was created back in the 1800s, it was the first wagon road to allow travelers to pass through the Rocky Mountains into the Pacific Northwest. The road ran through Superior.
In the early 1900s, a railroad expansion into Superior opened a new route for more goods and people to flow in and out of town. One of the people working on that expansion project was Archie Bailey, an accountant for a railroad contractor. Archie was a regular guest at the Superior Hotel. He was also a Gideon.
Archie believed in the power of God’s Word. In the autumn of 1908, he got off the train, walked across the bridge into Superior, and entered the hotel. He approached Edna Wilkinson, the hotel’s proprietor, to see if he could place a Bible there at the hotel desk clerk’s station.
Edna countered with a bigger proposition: could Archie actually place a Bible in each of the guest rooms? Archie agreed. On November 9, 1908, Archie placed an order to The Gideons for the first 25 hotel Bibles. That was more than 2 billion Scriptures ago.
“A single copy of God’s Word in a hotel or motel room has the potential to touch up to 2,300 lives during its six-year life span.”
Archie nor Edna may have fully understood the significance of that Bible placement. Similar to how Mullan Road and the railroad expansion opened new routes for travel and commerce through Superior, Archie was opening a new route for God’s Word to travel into Superior and throughout the world.
Why hotels? A single copy of God’s Word in a hotel or motel room has the potential to touch up to 2,300 lives during its six-year life span. Over the years, there have been many testimonies of individuals who checked into a hotel and came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as a result of reading a Bible placed there by Gideons.
You can still see the Old West frontier influence around Superior. The tin roofs and tall facades of old historic buildings have helped preserve the rustic charm of the community.
Sadly, the Superior Hotel burned to the ground in 1940. An automobile business was later constructed on the property. However, the significance of that location has not been forgotten. Today, if you stop at that property at Mullan Road, you will see a historical marker attached to the building’s cinder block wall, commemorating that first hotel Bible placement.
Gideons Still Place Bibles In Superior
Richard Clark is a Gideon who lives in Superior. At 77 years of age, the agriculture industry retiree says he loves placing Bibles in hotels. He placed hotel Bibles at a large hotel a few miles away the last weekend of October. “It just brings tears to your eyes when you do the work of the Lord at those hotels,” he says. For years, Clark has been placing and distributing Scriptures in Superior. In fact, he helps maintain the Scripture supply at the motel that stands just a few hundred feet away from where the Superior Hotel once stood.
Kreg Worrest of the Missoula Camp, Montana has spoken on behalf of The Gideons at churches in Superior on multiple occasions. “It’s very exciting to share the story of The Gideons, especially at churches in the town where that first hotel Bible placement occurred,” he says.
As a manufacturing consultant, several years ago Kreg actually helped a supplier of skateboard and bicycle helmets secure a location at the exact spot where the Superior Hotel once stood. It was then that he first noticed the commemorative plaque on the building’s wall. Little did he know, he would end up serving as a Gideon a few years later.
“Even though it’s been over a hundred years since that first placement, God’s Word still has the same relevance, because His Word is eternal.”
Michael David Houlihan is the camp president of the Missoula camp, which serves the Superior community. He is proud of the local heritage The Gideons share with the community. “Even though it’s been over a hundred years since that first placement, God’s Word still has the same relevance, because His Word is eternal,” he says.
Each year, more than a million Scriptures are placed in hotels through The Gideons International. No one this side of heaven knows how many lives have been changed as a result of reading those Scriptures. However, the Lord knows. And that is what truly matters.
Originally Posted November 4, 2016