From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

South Carolina Methodists and the A. M. E. Church

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jul•30•15

This was my column in the SC United Methodist Advocate for August 2015.

The murder of nine worshipers at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church has dominated the news in South Carolina this summer, and we Methodists have shared in sorrow and outrage with our fellow Carolinians.

A. M. E. stands for African Methodist Episcopal, which should suggest to Methodists that the two denominations are related. In fact, when it was founded, the American Methodist denomination was called the Methodist Episcopal Church. So it isn’t hard to see that our brothers and sisters in the A. M. E. Church share the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition with United Methodists.

But how did the A. M. E. Church come to be, and what connection do we share? Answering that question requires looking into the early history of Methodism, and especially into Charleston Methodism. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, black and white Methodists worshiped together. By 1815, Charleston’s quarterly conference reported fewer than 300 white members and over 3,800 African-American members, including slaves and free persons. In its earliest years, Methodism took a strong anti-slavery position, though this brought Bishop Francis Asbury and the clergy into increasing conflict with the state’s political leadership and planter class. Mobs threatened and even assaulted clergy, particularly when they believed them to be preaching or distributing anti-slavery literature. In 1800, the General Assembly moved to limit assemblies of African-Americans, slave or free. The law, noted one white clergyman, was really directed at the Methodists. Ultimately, when forced to decide between the Wesleyan position against slavery or spreading the gospel, the church abandoned its anti-slavery position.

In Charleston, most black Methodists worshiped at Bethel and two other churches, with separate classes, leaders, and stewards. They even reported to a separate quarterly conference (what we now call a charge conference). Around 1815, white leaders moved to take control of financial and disciplinary matters. Many of the earlier histories, such as Francis Asbury Mood’s Methodism in Charleston, claimed that the finances showed evidence of corruption, though it’s more than a little possible that the coffers of the black quarterly conference simply were deeper as their numbers were larger. Along with their relegation to the balconies of the churches, this loss of influence and leadership in the church angered Charleston’s black Methodists. Such was their disappointment that they began making plans both to leave the denomination and to attempt to gain legal control over Bethel’s property. Two free black Methodist local pastors traveled secretly to Philadelphia and were ordained deacons in the A. M. E. church.

In Philadelphia, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church had been founded by Rev. Richard Allen under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church by 1794. At this point, they were still Methodist, and relied on white elders to serve communion. Allen, who had been born into slavery in Delaware, had purchased his freedom in 1780 and was present at the 1784 Christmas Conference, though the conference denied him a vote. He served in the free black community of Philadelphia, but again finding Methodism’s treatment of its African-American members unequal, began planning to leave. Some congregants followed Allen in 1816 into the A. M. E. Church, the first fully independent black denomination in the United States, with Allen as their bishop. The A. M. E.’s church structure is remarkably similar to that of the United Methodist Church, with General and Annual conferences, bishops, and a judicial council.

After the trustees of Bethel in 1818 decided to build a structure on the part of the church cemetery reserved for black members, and ignored their protests, the black members withdrew. Some 4,300 members in the three churches left to form the African Methodist Episcopal congregation in Charleston, led by Rev. Morris Brown, who had been ordained by Allen. Their absence from Charleston’s Methodist churches was obvious to everyone. Within a matter of years, the “African Church” in Charleston became implicated in Denmark Vesey’s abortive insurrection, as he had been a class leader at Bethel and then at the new church. The church was destroyed by angry whites, largely forcing the congregation underground until the end of the Civil War. But they could not extinguish its flame.

Creating Women’s Organizations in the South Carolina Conference

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jun•30•15

This was my July 2015 column for the SC United Methodist Advocate.

Most South Carolina Methodists realize the strong influence and important work of the United Methodist Women in our churches and conference. When did this work begin?

Just after the Civil War, women’s efforts moved more into the public sphere, as America entered a period of social reform as well as international missionary work. In the Methodist Church, the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society was authorized by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, meeting in Atlanta in 1878. This followed years of lobbying the bishops to authorize some type of women’s missionary organization. The College of Bishops drafted a constitution, and the wives of the bishops all became vice presidents of the organization. Mrs. Maria Davies Wightman of South Carolina, the wife of Bishop William M. Wightman, was one of those vice presidents.

In South Carolina, which was one of the fifteen conferences of the M. E. Church, South, the Woman’s Missionary Society was organized in December 1878, during the meeting of the Annual Conference in Newberry. A nominating committee, consisting of male members of the Annual Conference as well as women who would be part of the society recommended a slate of officers.

Mrs. Maria Wightman was elected president by the forty women in attendance, representing ten charges or stations throughout the Conference. The first annual meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the South Carolina Conference was held in Trinity Church, Charleston, being Mrs. Wightman’s own church, in April 1880. This was the first time a woman ever presided over a public meeting in South Carolina. Mrs. Wightman remained the society’s president, providing spiritual leadership to their work until her death in 1912.

A second missionary organization, the Parsonage Aid and Home Mission Society (having been organized in the Methodist Church in 1886) was changed to the Woman’s Parsonage and Home Mission Society in 1890. In 1898 the organization had the name of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society.
In 1910 the General Conference made provisions to unite these two Societies: The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, 32 years old, and The Woman’s Home Missionary Society, 25 years old. They came together and formed the Woman’s Missionary Council of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was optional as to whether the two Societies should unite into one conference society, so in South Carolina, the two organizations did not unite until the Conference split into two Annual Conferences in 1914.

The women of the South Carolina Conference met January 22, 1915, at Florence and organized. The women of the Upper South Carolina Conference also met the same year and organized as the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Upper South Carolina Conference, thus bringing home and foreign mission work into a single organization for each conference.

In 1940, after Methodist reunification, the society had another name change. Both upper and South Carolina conference societies became the Woman’s Society of Christian Service of their respective conference. In October 1948, when the two conferences merged back together, the Woman’s Societies of Christian Service also merged. And, after the creation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, the present United Methodist Women’s organization was born.

For more information about the history of our conference’s women’s organizations, you can read Daring Hearts and Spirits Free: South Carolina Women in the United Methodist Tradition, edited by Harriet Anderson Mays and Harry Roy Mays.

The Women Before There Were Women

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jun•26•15

After a vote by the Board of Trustees in October 1975, the college admitted its first women resident students in the fall of 1976. Sometimes that gets shortened, somewhat inaccurately, to a statement that Wofford only began to admit women students in 1976.

Association of Wofford Women

Members of the Association of Wofford Women in 1975.

While it’s true that those first resident women students experienced Wofford in a different way, it is not true that they were the first women to attend Wofford. On several occasions before 1976, Wofford had women students. Here are the phases that led to full residential coeducation at Wofford.

First, from the spring of 1971 to the spring of 1976, several dozen women attended as day students. Beginning in February 1971 with four women, three of whom were daughters of professors, the numbers increased to about 25 in the fall of 1971. One of those first four women day students graduated in the spring of 1972, and the number of graduates grew each year.

But the story of Wofford women doesn’t start in the spring of 1971. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, women occasionally attended and completed degrees. In particular, a number of women attended summer school and often participated in summer graduation. From records in college catalogues, almost every class from 1947 to 1959 had at least one woman graduate. Beyond that, women were regular enrollees in the college’s graduate programs, which existed from the early 1900s to around 1951. These afternoon and summer courses frequently drew area teachers, and perhaps half of the Master of Arts degrees awarded by the college in this era went to women. The nursing program at Spartanburg General Hospital had women taking certain courses in the 1950s and early 1960s on campus as well.

Caroline DuPre

Caroline DuPre ’34

Before that, Dean A. Mason DuPre’s daughter, Caroline DuPre Wells, attended and graduated with the class of 1934. Her attendance was fairly unusual in that era in that she did attend during the regular semester and graduated at a regular, as opposed to a summer commencement.

But even earlier than that, Wofford had a short experiment with coeducation between 1897 and 1904. Two women enrolled in each class beginning in September 1897, so by the fall of 1900, eight women were taking courses alongside the 200 or so men. Each of these eight women graduated between 1901 and 1904, though the college ended the experiment after the last of these women graduated. At one point, one of those eight women was actually the college’s oldest living alum. In other words, a college that was supposedly a “men’s college” had an alumna as its oldest living alumnus!

So, since 1897, we’ve moved from an initial experiment with coeducation, through a period of irregular and occasional women students, through graduate and summer school coeducation, to day student coeducation, and finally to full residential coeducation.

Tuition Receipt, 1915

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jun•25•15

We’ve been cleaning up a little around the archives this week – filing materials that have recently arrived, putting files back where they belong after a researcher used them, and generally trying to bring some order out of chaos.  As always, I see something interesting that I feel like sharing on the blog.

Here’s a receipt for tuition for the spring semester of 1915, 100 years ago.

Receipt-tuition

 

Note that the tuition was a bit less than it is in 2015.

 

 

From the Archives: Creating Women’s Organizations in the South Carolina Conference

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jun•24•15

This was my column for the July/Annual Conference edition of the SC United Methodist Advocate

Most South Carolina Methodists realize the strong influence and important work of the United Methodist Women in our churches and conference. When did this work begin?

Just after the Civil War, women’s efforts moved more into the public sphere, as America entered a period of social reform as well as international missionary work. In the Methodist Church, the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society was authorized by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, meeting in Atlanta in 1878. This followed years of lobbying the bishops to authorize some type of women’s missionary organization. The College of Bishops drafted a constitution, and the wives of the bishops all became vice presidents of the organization. Mrs. Maria Davies Wightman of South Carolina, the wife of Bishop William M. Wightman, was one of those vice presidents.

In South Carolina, which was one of the fifteen conferences of the M. E. Church, South, the Woman’s Missionary Society was organized in December 1878, during the meeting of the Annual Conference in Newberry. A nominating committee, consisting of male members of the Annual Conference as well as women who would be part of the society recommended a slate of officers.

Mrs. Maria Wightman was elected president by the forty women in attendance, representing ten charges or stations throughout the Conference. The first annual meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the South Carolina Conference was held in Trinity Church, Charleston, being Mrs. Wightman’s own church, in April 1880. This was the first time a woman ever presided over a public meeting in South Carolina. Mrs. Wightman remained the society’s president, providing spiritual leadership to their work until her death in 1912.

A second missionary organization, the Parsonage Aid and Home Mission Society (having been organized in the Methodist Church in 1886) was changed to the Woman’s Parsonage and Home Mission Society in 1890. In 1898 the organization had the name of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society.
In 1910 the General Conference made provisions to unite these two Societies: The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, 32 years old, and The Woman’s Home Missionary Society, 25 years old. They came together and formed the Woman’s Missionary Council of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was optional as to whether the two Societies should unite into one conference society, so in South Carolina, the two organizations did not unite until the Conference split into two Annual Conferences in 1914.

The women of the South Carolina Conference met January 22, 1915, at Florence and organized. The women of the Upper South Carolina Conference also met the same year and organized as the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Upper South Carolina Conference, thus bringing home and foreign mission work into a single organization for each conference.

In 1940, after Methodist reunification, the society had another name change. Both upper and South Carolina conference societies became the Woman’s Society of Christian Service of their respective conference. In October 1948, when the two conferences merged back together, the Woman’s Societies of Christian Service also merged. And, after the creation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, the present United Methodist Women’s organization was born.

For more information about the history of our conference’s women’s organizations, you can read Daring Hearts and Spirits Free: South Carolina Women in the United Methodist Tradition, edited by Harriet Anderson Mays and Harry Roy Mays.

The 1915 Annual Conference

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jun•02•15

This was my June column for the SC United Methodist Advocate.  Next week, South Carolina Methodists will gather for our Annual Conference.  

As South Carolina’s Methodists gather in Florence for Annual Conference, let’s look back a century and see where we gathered in 1915.

Of course, in those days, Annual Conference met in the fall instead of late spring. And following the action of the 1914 General Conference and 1914 Annual Conference, the conference had divided in two. With African-American Methodists in a separate Annual Conference, that meant three conferences met in South Carolina that year.

The first session of the Upper South Carolina Conference met on November 24, 1915 at Bethel Church in Spartanburg. The Advocate noted that “the place of meeting is the beautiful new Bethel Church, Spartanburg…. While it is the youngest Annual Conference in the world, it is nevertheless one of the greatest. It is composed of a body of about 130 aggressive clerical members…. It represents about 50,000 lay members, and is situated in a compact, healthy, and very beautiful territory. The Bethel people constitute one of the best congregations in our Southern Methodism.”

Collins Denny presided over the session, which had to organize the new conference from scratch. The presiding elders, acting as the committee on nominations, appointed committees on public worship, on Sabbath observance, on temperance, on conference relations, and even a committee to review district conference journals. As was the custom, members of the conference stayed in the homes of Spartanburg Methodists, including a number of Wofford faculty members. The faculty at Converse College invited the Conference to dinner on the Thursday night of Conference. That might have been a Thanksgiving dinner, since that Thursday happened to be Thanksgiving Day. (And current conference members used to complain about attending Annual Conference on Memorial Day!) Bishop Alpheus W. Wilson preached the Thanksgiving sermon to an overflow crowd at Bethel.

The Upper South Carolina Conference recognized that the 1866 Conference was meeting at the same time, also in Spartanburg, and sent fraternal greetings to the conference. Interestingly, the conference’s members received enough mail that the Spartanburg Post Office set up a temporary mail room in a Sunday School classroom.

As soon as Bishop Denny had adjourned the Upper South Carolina Conference on Monday, November 29, he must have boarded a train to head for Charleston. That’s where the South Carolina Conference convened on Wednesday, December 1, at 9:00, at Trinity Methodist Church. That conference also met for six days, which meant that Bishop Denny had spent 12 out of 13 consecutive days presiding over annual conferences! The staff of the Advocate had to work about as hard, covering both conferences, and many members of one wound up attending the other conference, as several clergy were transferring between conferences that year. Both conferences, in fact, gave the privilege of the floor to the members of the other conference.

The reports and events of both conferences took several weeks’ worth of Advocate pages to summarize, and no doubt Methodists all over the state used the paper to keep up with the goings-on at the two Annual Conferences. And no doubt the Methodists of South Carolina today will use the Advocate as well as more modern technologies, to keep up with the events in Florence.

A Cartoon from the Journal, 1915

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•21•15

Flipping through The Wofford College Journal from 1915, I came across this cartoon that depicts some of the events surrounding the end of the school year.

Though a century ago, it does suggest that some things are timeless in the academy.

Cartoon

 

 

Clergy Directories

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•01•15

This was my column in the May 2015 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate.  We’ve made some new resources available on our institutional repository site.

For over 100 years, the Annual Conference has published clergy biographical directories about every ten years.

The first volume was called Twentieth Century Sketches of the South Carolina Conference, M. E. Church, South and was edited by the Rev. Watson B. Duncan. The biographical sketches of each clergy member of the conference were often prepared by their friends, and could be quite lengthy. These can be very useful for modern researchers, as they frequently mention the minister’s accomplishments in the appointments where they served. Most, but not all, were accompanied by photographs. The volume began with an introduction by Wofford’s then-president, Dr. James H. Carlisle, in which he referred to the book as a “family album.” That seems an accurate description for a conference of not many more than 200 members.

Rev. Duncan published a revised and expanded version of the volume in 1914. He was collecting information for a new edition when he died, at which point his family gave the information he had collected to the editor of the Advocate. The 1930 Annual Conference asked a group of ministers to work toward a new edition, and ultimately, the Advocate board of trustees took on the project. The directory evolved into something more: a short history of the South Carolina and Upper South Carolina conferences and their institutions. Published in 1932 as Builders: Sketches of Methodist Preachers in South Carolina with Historical Data, the volume contained photographs, shorter biographical sketches, and an additional fifty pages of history and data.

From that point forward, a directory emerged about every ten years through the 1960s, with biographies in the front and separate glossy photographs in the back. The merger of the 1866 and 1785 conferences delayed production of the 1970s volume until 1975, and the format returned to that of the early 1930s, with sketches and photographs side by side. The 1985 edition, celebrating the bicentennial of American Methodism, contained a 90-page history of Methodism in South Carolina, prepared by Dr. A. V. Huff Jr. Subsequent editions of the directory emerged in 1991 and 2001, though all of the post-1961 directories had increasingly smaller photographs and shorter biographies.

Over the past few years, the conference archives at Wofford has been trying to make these directories available online. First, we focused on the photos, making the images from the 1901 through 1961 directories available on a Flickr site. We also had a late 19th century photo album that we scanned and made available. That’s the William Wynn Mood photo album, and it has photos of some late 19th century clergy that are otherwise unavailable. Student workers along with the Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, senior research associate in the archives, helped prepare short biographies to accompany the online photos. These photographs have helped local churches as they’ve worked on publishing histories or displaying photos of former ministers.

The photo albums are available from this page, and individual photos can be downloaded and printed: http://www.wofford.edu/library/archives/methodist.aspx

However, we always wanted to make the full directories available so that researchers, local church historians, and others could examine the full biographies of our clergy. Our new digital repository software has made this much easier, and this spring, we’ve posted the 1901, 1914, 1942, and 1952 directories. The 1932,1961 and 1975 directories should be available by the time you read this column. They are available on Wofford’s digital repository site, which is located at http://digitalcommons.wofford.edu/methodistdirectories/. The files are fairly large, so it might take a few moments to download them.

Bishop Coke Smith

Written By: Phillip Stone - Apr•02•15

This was my column in the SC United Methodist Advocate for April.

Alexander Coke Smith is another of South Carolina Methodism’s contributions to the episcopacy.

Bishop A. Coke Smith '72

Bishop A. Coke Smith ’72

Born in Lynchburg, SC, Coke Smith enrolled at Wofford in 1868 and graduated in 1872. His father was a Methodist minister, so he grew up in parsonages around the state. Following his graduation from Wofford, he joined the South Carolina Conference, and was sent to his first appointment, Cheraw Station. After but a year there, he went to Columbia to serve at Washington Street, where he remained three years. He was the junior preacher in his first and the pastor in charge the second and third years – at the ripe old age of 26. Next, he went to Greenville Station – Buncombe Street – in 1876, serving for 4 years. Continuing his journeys around the state, the young minister went to serve Trinity, Charleston for three years, from 1880-82, where he became close to Bishop William M. Wightman in his last years.

Smith then spent four years, 1883-86, as the Presiding Elder of the Columbia District, and following that, was elected to the professorship of mental and moral philosophy at Wofford. He followed in the footsteps of William Wallace Duncan, who had just been elected a bishop. That chair on the Wofford faculty actually produced three bishops, Duncan, Smith, and Smith’s successor, John C. Kilgo. Additionally, that faculty position was responsible for fundraising, so it gave Smith the opportunity to travel around South Carolina, representing Wofford, preaching in various pulpits, and making stronger personal connections.

Though a young man, Smith sometimes suffered under the strain of his workload. Wofford historian David Duncan Wallace noted that “he had just almost killed himself saving souls in one of the greatest revivals in the history of Charleston,” and proceeded to conclude the process by his labors for raising the college endowment.

After 4 years at Wofford, he was elected to the 1890 General Conference delegation, heading the South Carolina delegation. He was just 41 years old. The General Conference elected him as one of their three missionary secretaries, but he only stayed in this position for a few months before he was asked to become professor of practical theology at Vanderbilt. He moved again in 1892, transferring his membership to the Virginia Conference and serving churches there until 1902. He came close to being elected a bishop in 1898, and finally, was elected to the episcopacy in 1902.  Incidentally, his younger brother, an 1889 graduate, was Ellison D. Smith.  Known as “Cotton Ed,” the younger Smith was elected to the US Senate in 1908, serving six terms.

He died in December 1906 in Asheville, having served a relatively short tenure as a bishop. Collins Denny, himself later a bishop, noted that Smith was “a man of rare versatility and adaptability, and charmed every circle and community into which he entered. He was a past master in delicate humor, and this gift was his servant, never his master.” His Methodist education had served him well, for “he had read widely and well, and his tenacious memory gave him ready command of his resources.” Bishops often need a blend of skills, and from what his contemporaries wrote, A. Coke Smith brought a mix of political acumen, intelligence, and preaching ability to that office.

Charles Nesbitt: Teacher of Preachers

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•13•15

For some thirty years, Dr. Charles F. Nesbitt was the teacher of preachers at Wofford College.

Dr. Charles Nesbitt

Dr. Charles Nesbitt

A 1922 graduate of Wofford, Dr. Nesbitt took his seminary degree at Emory. He taught in the religion departments of several college – Lander, Millsaps, Blackburn College in Illinois, and Wesley College in North Dakota. He also taught in public schools in Kentucky. The academic life being his area of ministry, he pursued first an MA and then a PhD at the University of Chicago, completing his doctorate in 1939. He was also an ordained Methodist minister in the South Carolina Conference.

It was in that year that he returned to South Carolina and to his alma mater, taking a position in the Wofford religion department that he would hold until 1966.

As a practitioner of the academic study of religion, Dr. Nesbitt was a founding member of the southern section of the Society of Biblical Literature as well as a member of the American Academy of Religion. He was an active scholar, writing numerous articles during his time at Wofford.

As a member of Wofford’s small but influential religion department, he taught Old and New Testament and other upper level religion courses to a generation of Wofford students who went on to seminary. He had the ability of identifying especially well qualified seminary students and sending them to Yale’s Divinity School or to his own Chicago.  Those students found themselves well-prepared for the academic study of religion.

Dr. Nesbitt, as religion professors sometimes do, ran into occasional critics of his writing and teaching. He once wrote a modern interpretation of the Apostle’s Creed for a lesson at Central Methodist Church, which found its way into print, and which caused a flurry of letters to the state’s Methodist newspaper about his having done such a scandalous thing. He had studied at the University of Chicago with scholars involved in the translation of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and encouraged the college to move to giving it at graduation.

According to his former student and later colleague Dr. Charles Barrett ’55, Dr. Nesbitt had a strong hand in writing Wofford’s 1965 Statement of Purpose, which is still in effect, particularly the line “students and faculty alike will be challenged to a common search for truth and freedom, wherever that search may lead.” Dr. Barrett noted that not only had Dr. Nesbitt been a great teacher and scholar, he was a good and decent man as a faculty colleague.

Dr. Nesbitt continued to live in Spartanburg until his death in December 1976, and his funeral service was held on Christmas Eve.

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