In the last part of the 19th century a one-of-a-kind man greatly contributed to and influenced Free Will Baptists. William Bonaparte Woolsey was born in 1821, saved at age 21, and became a Baptist minister. His feeling about free will and open communion quickly identified him with Free Will Baptists. Woolsey and two fellow ministers organized their churches into a Free Will Baptist association.
After his conversion he devoured books about the Bible. Without much formal education, he was well educated by his reading and his experience. He even taught himself to read the Greek New Testament.
William B. Woolsey liked to try his hand at writing poetry and songs. The following example is a description of his prayer retreat.
To leave my dear friends, and with neighbors to part
And go from my home it affects not my heart,
Like thoughts of absenting myself far away
From that blessed retreat where I’ve chosen to pray.
Sweet bower where the pine and the poplar have shade
And wove with their branches a roof o’er my head.
How oft have I knelt on the evergreen there
And poured out my soul to my Savior in prayer.
And Jesus my Saviour oft designed there to meet
And bless with his presence my lonely retreat.
Oft filled me with rapture and peacefulness there
Inditing in Heaven’s own language my prayer.
About the Writer: Robert E. Picirilli is a member of the Free Will Baptist Historical Commission.