From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

Thomas Carlisle Montgomery’s Letters

Written By: Phillip Stone - Oct•20•17

A member of Wofford’s class of 1909, Thomas Carlisle Montgomery came to Wofford from Marion, South Carolina. He was a member of Kappa Alpha and the Calhoun Literary Society. His father, W. J. Montgomery, was a member of the Class of 1875.

Following his graduation, he served in the Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Recently, one of his family members shared a link to a collection of letters that T. C. Montgomery wrote home to his mother during the war. He’s posting letters 100 years after they were originally written. He let me share the link here, and I hope others will enjoy seeing what a Wofford alum wrote home during the First World War.

We have a World War One: At Home and Abroad exhibit underway in the library gallery this fall, also recognizing the centennial of American involvement in the war and its impact on the Wofford campus.

Founder’s Day

Written By: Phillip Stone - Oct•19•17

Today is October 19, which at Wofford means it’s Founder’s Day  237 years ago today, on a small farm in Spartanburg County, Benjamin Wofford was born.

That day in 1780 was a lot like any other day in the early 1780s in Spartanburg, and with a war raging along the frontier settlements, the birth of a baby boy to a local militia captain and his wife probably didn’t get much notice.  Coming only a few weeks after a major Patriot victory at Kings Mountain, and three months before another major Patriot victory at the nearby Cowpens, there were much more dramatic events taking place and gaining attention.

Yet for many of us, the events of that day had a major impact.  For Benjamin Wofford grew up, had a religious conversion, became a Methodist minister, and married the only child of one of the wealthiest landowners in lower Spartanburg County.  He counted both church and society among his interests, and though he gave up the active ministry before his fortieth birthday, he worked for the improvement of his home district all of his life.

We have little record of his education, though he did own some books – some of them are in the college archives – so it’s probably safe to say he was largely self-educated.  But he realized its importance.  In the last decade of his life, he and his second wife, Maria Scott Barron Wofford, evidently thought about education a great deal.  They considered buying land near the Limestone Springs, in the part of Spartanburg District that later became Gaffney, and establishing a college, but believed the Methodist Conference not interested.  By 1849, when his friend the Rev. Hugh Andrew Crawford Walker, an agent of the American Bible Society, came to visit, he was clearly thinking about what to do with his fortune.  “Why not found a college?” asked Brother Walker, a fateful question indeed.  Assured by Walker that the Methodist Conference did indeed want a college “for literary, classical, and scientific education,” Benjamin Wofford had his lawyer draft language in his will leaving a small fortune – $100,000 – to found and endow a college.

We don’t entirely know what to make of Benjamin Wofford today.  His portrait makes him look like a fairly severe figure.  His reputation in town, at least according to the written accounts of him, was that he was an exacting, thrifty businessman.  And of course, like most every wealthy individual of his day, he owned slaves.  There’s no heroic end in that part of his story – his will bequeathed his slaves to others, it did not manumit them.  History is sometimes cold and unsatisfying that way.

I don’t know what Ben would make of us today.  I hope that wherever he is, he somehow knows that the college that he established in his will, that he never saw chartered, built, or opened, has educated probably in the neighborhood of 20,000 individuals in its 163 years of existence.  I hope he’d be proud that some families have five or now six generations of family members who have attended.  He’d probably be shocked to see the diversity in the student body and faculty and staff.  I hope that after the shock wore off, he’d be happy to know that the college he inaugurated took a leading role in desegregating private higher education in the South.  I’m sure that like anyone from the 19th century, he’d be amazed by the technological changes that the college and community have witnessed, that students who study at his college can travel all around the world, that students and faculty come from all over the world to study in his home town.

But above all else, I hope he’d be proud that we’re still here, 167 years after his death, on our original campus, with 5 original buildings in daily use, “increasing in power and goodness through the ages as they come.”

Gerald D. Sanders: Wofford’s War Poet

Written By: Phillip Stone - Oct•17•17

One of Wofford’s 1918 graduates, Gerald D. Sanders had written regularly for the Journal while a student. Shortly before his graduation, he found himself on the way to France as a member of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. He wrote several poems while overseas, and they wound up being published in the Journal the next year.

Sanders later earned his PhD in English and taught at Michigan State Normal College, Cornell, and the University of Arizona. He lived in Spartanburg in retirement, and the archives has a small collection of his papers. He was the author of Chief Modern Poets of Britain and America, and Unified English Composition, among other works. He died in 1983.

Here are a few of his poems. You can see other material that is part of our World War One At Home and Abroad exhibit in the Sandor Teszler Library Gallery this fall.

World War One: At Home and Abroad

Written By: Phillip Stone - Oct•13•17

This fall, the Sandor Teszler Library has an exhibit on World War One at Home and Abroad in the library gallery. Most of the items in the exhibit come from the College’s Special Collections and Archives. The exhibit will be in our gallery until December, so if you are here for a football game or for Homecoming, please drop by and see what we have on display.

In addition to recognizing the 17 students and alumni who gave their lives in the war, one of the display cases has a list of all Wofford students and alumni who the college had recorded as serving in the war. The list came from a 1919 College Bulletin, and includes over 400 names. Considering that the college rarely had more than 400 students enrolled at any point before World War I, this is a substantial proportion of the college’s alums. Had American involvement in the war lasted longer than 19 months, this number would doubtless have been higher.

Below are copies of the pages indicating the names, arranged by class, of everyone who served in some capacity in the war.

Louise Best: Missionary in Brazil

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jul•11•17

One of the South Carolina Conference’s many contributions to the Methodist Church’s mission work was Miss Louise Best, who served for some 37 years as an educator in Brazil.

The daughter of Rev. Albert H. Best and Lillie Andrews Best, Louise Best grew up in a Methodist parsonage.  She was born while her father was serving at Mars Bluff, and grew up in Clyde, Gourdine, Sumter, Greer, Campobello, Newberry, and McCormick, among other places.  She attended Lander College (it was a Methodist college in those days) and Scarritt Bible and Training College in Kansas City.  Scarritt was known for its work in training women for the mission field.

Louise Best went to Brazil in the early 1920s, where she was sent, along with Miss Eunice Andrews, to help found a school in the city of Santa Maria, in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.  That part of Brazil was fairly remote, and was influenced by the Gaucho culture of Argentina.

The school, Colegio Centenario, opened with 7 students in March 1922.  They chose that name, which in English would be Centenary College, because 1922 was the centennial of Brazilian independence.  The school was largely supported by the Women’s Society of Christian Service.  It was originally a school for girls, and it started in a cottage.  Over the next thirty years, it grew to include four large buildings, and encompassed a primary school, a high school, and junior college classes as well.  For much of her time in Brazil, Louise Best was the principal of Colegio Centenario.

Except for her first six months spent near Rio, Louise Best spent the entirety of her 37 years in the mission field in Santa Maria, Brazil.  Some of her letters appeared on the Woman’s Society of Christian Service pages in The Advocate.  Some of her letters speak of the vastness of Brazil’s countryside – it took 4 days by train to get to conferences in Rio.  Other letters speak of construction projects – building the primary school, her hopes for a chapel – and of the support the mission had received from home.  In later years, she wrote of the work that the college’s alumnae had undertaken to raise needed funds.  As she neared retirement, the city of Santa Maria made her an honorary citizen, which was noted as a nice honor considering how the locals were a little suspicious of this Methodist mission in its early days.  By the time she retired and returned to South Carolina, Miss Best noted, the school had as many Catholic as Protestant students.

Following her retirement in 1958, she settled in Spartanburg, where one of her younger brothers lived.  She spoke regularly in churches around the conference about her life and mission work.  Part of her reason for speaking was no doubt to encourage others to enter the field, for as she told a reporter, “The need for missionaries far exceeds the number making applications and this is tragic.”  She was attending a reunion of a handful of missionaries at the home of a minister in North Carolina when she died in July 1966.

From the Archives: Methodism and Slavery

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•01•17

For nearly 100 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church was divided into northern and southern wings. Sixteen years before the Southern states seceded, the Annual Conferences in the South withdrew from the denomination and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. What could have caused this split?

The short and answer is, the inability to find a compromise on the issue of slavery. From our earliest days, Methodists talked about slavery. John Wesley was a strong opponent, and as early as 1743, he had prohibited his followers from buying or selling the bodies and souls of men, women, and children with an intention to enslave them.

The 1784 Christmas Conference listed slaveholding as an offense for which one could be expelled. However, in a sign that the church would face conflicts over this issue, the 1785 General Conference suspended it. Methodists in SC and other states evangelized among the slaves, eventually appointing ministers to serve on the plantations. By 1795, according to Conference historian Dr. A.V. Huff, a number of South Carolina and Virginia ministers signed covenants not to hold slaves in any state where the law would allow them to manumit them, on pain of forfeiting their honor and their place in the itinerancy. If the state would not allow manumission, they agreed to pay the slave for his or her labor.

But Methodists struggled with how to square their denomination’s opposition to the peculiar institution in a country where slavery was legal, and in some parts of the country, widely supported. And after 1792, slavery began to grow more popular in the Deep South. The invention of the cotton gin suddenly made growing upland cotton more profitable, and it made more South Carolina farmers want more slaves to grow more cotton. The backcountry famers that the church wanted to attract suddenly became more supportive of the practice of slavery. As the church was hoping for emancipation, the society was growing more committed to slavery.

When copies of the General Conference’s 1800 “Affectionate Address on the Evils of Slavery” arrived in Charleston, a storm erupted. John Harper, who gave out copies, suddenly found himself targeted for spreading abolitionist propaganda. He escaped, but his colleague George Dougherty was nearly drowned under a pump. Asbury himself made a personal compromise. If it came to evangelizing the South or upholding the Wesleyan antislavery position, anti-slavery had to go. In 1804, he would not allow General Conference to take a stronger anti-slavery position. He allowed the printing of two Disciplines that year – one with the portion on slavery omitted for South Carolina.  It was at the 1804 General Conference that Asbury reportedly said, “I am called to suffer for Christ’s sake, not for slavery.”

Several General Conferences struggled with the issue, first pressing traveling elders to emancipate their slaves, then suspending those rules in states where the laws did not permit manumission. By 1808, General Conference threw up its hands, finding the subject unmanageable, and gave each Annual Conference the right to enact its own rules relative to slaveholding.

The denomination remained divided on the subject of slavery, with some northern Methodists becoming more convinced of slavery’s evil and some southern Methodists more convinced that it was a positive good. Other southerners felt that any denunciation of slaveholding by Methodists would damage the church in the South. They were caught, in effect, between church rules and state laws. Eventually, the northern and southern branches of the denomination found they could no longer live together, and the church split, a schism that took almost a century to repair.

Methodists and World War I

Written By: Phillip Stone - Apr•13•17

This was my column for the April edition of the SC United Methodist Advocate

This month marks the centennial of American entry into the First World War. On April 2, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a special session to declare war on Germany, and on April 6, Congress passed a declaration of war.

The Great War, as people of that generation called it, had been raging in Europe and elsewhere for nearly three years when the United States entered the conflict. Stories of war had been on American front pages throughout that time, and Americans had been profiting from European countries’ needs to purchase manufactured goods here. South Carolinians were, in the words of Wofford history professor Dr. David Duncan Wallace, “gloating over nineteen cents cotton.”

Wallace had a regular column in the Advocate, and on April 12, 1917, he wrote, “As President Wilson so eloquently expressed it, this is a war between absolutely irreconcilable principles … those of military autocracy and democratic freedom,” and “America does not want to live in a world in which a nation with a submarine soul and with a submarine way of getting what it wants shall be accorded any right to say what the world shall be like.” Wallace, using the word “submarine,” was no doubt playing on the German campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare that was part of America’s reason for entering the war.

The war, for Wallace and for several other academics, was about the question of “whether free democratic communities, organized for peace, can defend themselves against military oligarchies.” Wallace had actually been critical of the United States for standing by for so long, noting, “The sorry spectacle has at last ended of this land of freedom standing ‘neutral’ by drinking its streams of gold, while other free nations defended with their streams of blood our and our children’s freedom against the mightiest and most infamous conspiracy of modern times.”

However, Wallace hastened to separate criticism of the German government from criticism of German people, or of Americans of German descent: “Everyone should use his or her influence to suppress absurd and cruel slanders against our fellow citizens of German blood. It is true that the country is full of German spies, but that is no reason for listening to wild rumors about persons whom you have known for years as good and true men.”

Wallace noted the next week that “the first task of the United States will be to supply the Allies with money and food.” And it was certainly true that the British and French were suffering mightily in the spring of 1917 from shortages of food and arms.

So how did South Carolina Methodists react to the country’s declaration of war? The Advocate said almost nothing editorially about the outbreak of war. Perhaps by April 1917, they had already said all they wanted to say. One guest writer, on April 26, wrote a long opinion piece about the desire for world domination among Germany’s leaders. He cited articles by German military leaders but, like Wallace, hastened to separate the American war against Germany from a war on the German people.

The next two years would be dominated by war, and South Carolina’s Methodists would be focused on family members who were sent to fight in Europe and on mission work in the state and throughout the world.

Fraternity Houses, the 1897 version

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•31•17

I found this gem in the October 1897 issue of the Wofford College Journal:

Four of Wofford’s Greek-letter fraternities are now installed in convenient chapter houses.  The Kappa Sigmas and Kappa Alphas occupy their old quarters in the Cleveland cottages.  The S. A. E.’s have obtained the Archer house for their use and the Chi Phis have the first one of the new cottages.  We do not think four neater or more pretentious chapter houses can be found in the State.  The Chi Phis and P. K. A’s have well-furnished halls in the business portion of the City.  There is absolutely no friction between fraternities and non-fraternities at Wofford, and we think this is a tribute to the broadmindedness and fellow feeling of the whole body of students, “frats” and “non-frats.”


Spartanburg’s Centennial Pageant

Written By: Phillip Stone - Dec•09•16

I recently acquired this program, from the 1931 pageant commemorating the centennial of Spartanburg’s incorporation as a village.  My student assistant digitized it recently and I’ve added it to Wofford’s digital repository.

The program contains lists of all of the area high schools as of 1931 and the names of each individual from each high school that participated in the pageant.

What’s especially interesting is the topics, or historical scenes the author of the pageant chose to feature.  The Dawn of Things Created, In Indian Days, The Hampton Massacre, and In Colonial Days were the first four vignettes.  The Battle of Cowpens, featuring Cowpens High School, appropriately enough, came fifth.  The Good Old Times of 1810 came next, followed by a vision for Wofford College, featuring students, alumni, and friends of Wofford.  After that came Cedar Springs, The Minute Men of 1860, Reconstruction Days, Converse College, and “Over There,” no doubt a tribute to World War I.

We don’t have the script – which might be both instructive and painful to read – but you can download the full program to look at names and some of the songs written for the festivities.  And you can read the menu for the dinner as well.

Spartanburg's Centennial Pageant Program

Spartanburg’s Centennial Pageant Program


A Hundred Years ago, in November 1916

Written By: Phillip Stone - Dec•08•16

This was my November 2016 column in the SC United Methodist Advocate


I occasionally like to look back and see what South Carolina Methodists were talking about in the pages of the Advocate at points in the past.  A hundred years ago this November, they were preparing for Annual Conference, discussing national politics, and celebrating our colleges.

November 1916 saw President Woodrow Wilson’s re-election.  The Advocate wrote:  “Mr. Woodrow Wilson has been reelected President of the United States for another four years.  Nearly every reader of this paper rejoices over this happy event.  The administration justified itself in the eyes of the voters by a four years’ record of patriotic and honorable service.  The present government has been democratic in the best sense and progressive.  The strongest opposition to Mr. Wilson was centered in those states where the money powers rule…  His reelection is due to the South and to the West, where the people are the freest to express their own will and judgment.  We are happy in feeling that our country will not, under Mr. Wilson, go to war against any people in the world except under the extremest provocation.”

South Carolina Methodists were strong supporters of prohibition, and the Advocate carried this piece:  “Last year the United States brewers and rum makers shipped 20,000,000 gallons of rum, whiskey, wine, gin, and beer to the countries where we send foreign missionaries. If we could have complete prohibition of the sale of liquors in this country, there would be very much reduction of the need or home missions here. Let every home mission worker stand by any effort to get Federal prohibition laws.  In line with the above it is meet that we call attention to the fact that consideration of the National Constitutional Prohibition amendment is expected soon after Congress convenes in December. Letters written by voters are said to have special weight, therefore, get your husbands, sons and brothers, each to write the representative from his congressional district and both the senators, asking for favorable consideration.

Members of the conferences mourned the accidental death of the son of one clergy member.  “News has been received of a sad accident at Ruffin, near Walterboro, where an Atlantic Coast Line engine ran over and killed the two and one-half year old son of the Rev. J. B. Bell of Bethel Circuit. The child ran upon the tracks, falling under the moving engine. A flagman made a heroic, but vain effort to rescue the child, narrowly escaping injury to himself.

Members of the Columbia College Club enjoyed a meeting last Wednesday with Mrs. Arch Bethea.  Her home was decorated with dahlias and ferns.  Mrs. Bethea was assisted in receiving by her sister, Mrs. J. Stephen Bethea of Prescott, Arizona, who was a former member of the club.  The committees in charge of the Book Day Club celebration reported 110 books sent on to the college library.  Miss Major was asked to read Miss Omega Ellerbe’s “History of the Columbia College Club” and Mrs. Hayes read a paper on “Our Present Work.”  Mrs. W. W. Daniel gave the history of the alumnae association.  After a discussion, it was decided to concentrate the efforts of the club upon furnishing the College Library, and a group agreed to raise $50 before Christmas to buy another library table.”

Finally, Rev. Thomas G. Herbert shared some information about the arrangements for the upcoming Annual Conference in Florence, including asking how many of the brethren intended on bringing their “machines” – i. e. their automobiles – to Conference as a few families who wanted to host members were too far to walk to from Central Church, where Conference would be held.

And that is just a snippet of South Carolina Methodism a century ago.

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