So, what was this building, and where was it located?
A long time ago, in a state not far away…..
Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest, and arguably its most prestigious honor society, was founded 238 years ago today, December 5, 1776, by 5 students at the College of William and Mary. Between then and 1780, when the British army’s approach led William and Mary to close briefly, the Phi Beta Kappa chapter held more than 70 meetings, inducted fifty members, and granted charters to Harvard and Yale. That act saved the fraternity, which was the first to have Greek letters, a badge, a Latin and Greek motto, a secret handshake, and an oath.
In its first hundred years, Phi Beta Kappa grew slowly, and even 100 years later, in 1883, only 25 chapters existed. Growth in the second century was much faster, and today, chapters exist at 283 colleges, generally at major research universities and leading liberal arts colleges.
Wofford’s chapter was granted at the 1940 meeting of Phi Beta Kappa’s Triennial Council, which to this day is the body that has the right to grant new charters. On January 14, 1941, PBK President Marjorie Hope Nicholson visited Wofford to formally install the Beta of South Carolina chapter. Since that day, a little over 1,000 Wofford students and alumni, along with a few honorary members, have been inducted. As the chapter’s secretary, I get to sign letters to students each year letting them know they have been elected as well as their membership certificates.
We celebrate today that a small group of friends, meeting in a tavern a few hundred miles from here, created an organization that has evolved into a leading voice for the study and promotion of the liberal arts.
This article appeared in the December issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Cokesbury – it’s an especially Methodist name – but I’m not talking about the publishing house. I’m talking about the village in Greenwood County. That’s correct; we have our very own Cokesbury right here in South Carolina.
I suppose you can be forgiven for having not heard of it. After all, it’s not even an official town, but the government recognizes it as a census area, and as of 2000, the census counted some 279 people living there. Though it might be small, Cokesbury has a long history, and most of it is related to South Carolina Methodism.
In the 1820s, in perhaps an early real estate maneuver, the citizens of the nearby Methodist community called Tabernacle decided they wanted to move their town to higher, more pleasant ground. The Tabernacle Society had developed perhaps before 1788, making it a fairly early Methodist community. The town already had a school for boys, but they wanted both their town and their school to grow. They laid out a new village along a high ridge, with lots of some 20 to 25 acres, large enough for small farms, making it one of the state’s earliest planned communities. At first they called their new town Mount Ariel, but in 1834, they changed the name to honor Bishops Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. In that same year, the Annual Conference decided it needed a preparatory-type school for boys, and it quickly decided to offer to purchase the Tabernacle Academy. It was named the Dougherty Manual Labor School, in honor of an early clergyman, though it was commonly called the Cokesbury Conference School almost from the beginning. Revs. William Wightman and William Capers, both future bishops, were on its first board of trustees. The village became a center of Methodism and education, and soon, the Cokesbury Methodist Church was built
In addition to the school for boys, a Masonic Female College opened around 1854, and the village also had a school for children under 12. The Female College built a three story, Greek Revival building, with a chapel on the second floor and recitation rooms on the first floor. The Female College operated in the building for some twenty years, at which point the Annual Conference purchased it and made it the home of the Cokesbury Conference School. The school was coeducational under Methodist operation from 1882 to 1918, at which point it became a public school. It reverted to Methodist hands in the 1950s, and most of Cokesbury became a National Historic District in 1970, but more recently, it has been operated by the Cokesubry Historical and Recreational Commission.
The Commission on Archives and History once again seeks applications and nominations for the Herbert Hucks Awards, which will be presented at Annual Conference in 2015. Local churches that have undertaken the work of preserving and interpreting Methodist history in their congregation. The commission also gives an award to an individual that has, over a lifetime, made significant contributions to Methodist history beyond the local church, and to a publication that also makes a contribution to the understanding of Methodist history beyond the local church. For more information about applying or nominating a church, individual, or publication, visit the Archives and History website. http://www.wofford.edu/library/archives/hucks-award.aspx. Applications and nominations are due Feb. 6, 2015.
The middle of the three DuPrés was Daniel Allston DuPré, who was born in 1848 in Eagles Point, Virginia. The son of Warren DuPré, he came to South Carolina as a small child when his father became the head of a women’s academy in Newberry. At age six, he moved to the Wofford campus, where his father had become a member of the college’s original faculty.
Though he was only 12 at the outbreak of the Civil War, one biography notes that he volunteered at 15 for Confederate service. At age 17, he entered Wofford College (which must not have been a hard commute since he lived in the home next door to Main Building), and he graduated with the class of 1869. He followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a teacher in schools in Asheville and Georgetown. In 1873, he returned to be the co-principal, with the son of the president at the time, of the preparatory department at Wofford. Less than 4 years later, his father was called to the presidency of a college in Virginia, and the trustees selected Daniel DuPré to take his father’s professorship in natural sciences.
DuPré left for a year to study in Edinburgh, but returned in 1877 to take up his faculty duties, moving into the home just west of Main Building in which he had grown up. He also assumed the duties of treasurer of the college – in these days, with no administration, the faculty handled the duties of registrar, treasurer, and others in addition to their teaching duties. He remained the college’s treasurer until 1920, when the college hired its first full-time treasurer and business manager. He taught chemistry, physics, and geology until around 1902, and physics and geology after that until the 1920s. Geology was his favorite subject, and he continued to teach that until 1930, the year of his death. With the exception of a few years, he essentially lived in the same house on the Wofford campus all of his life.
Interestingly enough, and perhaps symbolic of the broad academic and social interests of Wofford faculty members, Professor DuPré was a founding member and longtime president of the Spartanburg Musical Association, which he and a number of other community leaders and members organized in the winter of 1885. That group performed its first concert in May 1885, and several years later, was succeeded by the Spartanburg Festival Association. The latter organization sponsored a major annual musical festival each spring and organized two large choral groups – an adult and a children’s choir.
He was also a member of the local library board of trustees and an active member of nearby Central Methodist Church.
It’s said that in class, as he was asking questions of his students, he had the habit of twiddling his thumbs, generally in one direction. But, if the student started to answer a question incorrectly, he would reverse the direction of his thumb twiddling, and an observant student could correct himself quickly.
The DuPré family had deep roots in South Carolina. His wife, Helen Stevens DuPré, was a granddaughter of Methodist Bishop William Capers. They had four children, a son, Fayssoux DuPré, who was a star baseball team member who had a legendary curve ball, and three daughters, artist Grace DuPré, Spartanburg Postmaster Helen DuPré Moseley, and college librarian Mary Sydnor DuPré.
What were our ancestors in South Carolina Methodism talking about a hundred years ago this fall? Looking through the pages of the Advocate for November 1914 shows that they were talking about football, war, and conference politics.
The Advocate was part of the conversation about dividing the Annual Conference into upper and lower conferences – an action that had been authorized at General Conference the previous summer. I wrote about this action in the June 2014 Advocate. It was a controversial issue, and writers took strong stands in letters about the proposals.
An issue of the Advocate just before Annual Conference met listed all of the members of the conference and where they would be staying when Conference met in Sumter. Most of the attendees were the guests of the members of the various Methodist congregations in Sumter. Imagine going to Annual Conference and staying in a local home rather than a hotel!
The superintendent of Epworth Orphanage wrote on November 12 to remind churches to send in their collections for the Labor Day appeal as quickly as possible. The orphanage had experienced a few cases of typhoid and as a result, had asked the city of Columbia to extend the sewer line to the campus, which had added to the home’s expenses. He also reported that the orphanage was full, with some 250 children on campus, and he described the studies and work they were undertaking.
The outbreak of what we now call World War I in Europe in the summer of 1914 was definitely on the minds of South Carolina Methodists. Wofford President Henry Nelson Snyder’s piece “War and Religion” appeared on November 5, where he lamented that “nothing was more hideous than the war now going on in Europe.”
Methodists were somewhat critical of football in the early 20th century, and the Conference even managed to get Wofford to stop playing intercollegiate football for several years. In November 1914, they wrote “The papers of last Thursday carried this news item from Columbia: After putting up a stubborn fight, Wofford College was defeated by Newberry College by a score of 36-0. Swanton, left half for Newberry, broke his leg and was rushed to the hospital. Wofford lost the game but apparently did not have any member killed or maimed… We are told that when Wofford played in Greenville some time ago that practically every member of the team carried off bloody faces.” “It is difficult to understand,” the Advocate wrote, “how any parent can give consent for his or her son to engage in games that so often result in death or broken limbs. The fatalities are nearly as great as in war. They call it ‘college spirit!’ Deliver us from such! How long will it be before some mother’s son in South Carolina will be carried from a glorious game of football a mangled corpse to the mother’s embrace?”
It’s interesting to see the issues that were in the minds of South Carolina Methodists and the work that our conference institutions were doing a century ago, and to know that many of these continue to be with us today.
This item was my November column in the SC United Methodist Advocate
This morning I posted a student honors thesis from 1981 to our digital repository. It’s a study of student life at Wofford in the 1960s and 1970s by David Morgan, who went on to a distinguished career as a professor of French at Furman.
The title “The Isle of Tranquility” was apparently coined by President Charles Marsh to describe Wofford’s stability in a tumultuous era, but some students in that era found the concept fairly unexciting.
The honors thesis, which runs about 34 pages, was one of our summer scanning projects, and if you are curious, you can download and read it from our digital repository.
It’s a well-known story at Wofford that the Terriers played the first intercollegiate football game in South Carolina, defeating Furman University’s team on December 14, 1889. So, our game against Furman this fall will mark the 125th anniversary of that first meeting, though not the 125th time the two teams have played. I’ll have more to say about that first game later this fall.
Football, as many sports historians know, was a pretty dangerous and violent sport back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Broken bones, severe wounds, and even deaths occurred with some regularity. The Methodist Church was quite critical of football, and the Southern Christian Advocate had this to say in November 1914:
“The papers of last Thursday carried this news item from Columbia: After putting up a stubborn fight, Wofford College was defeated by Newberry College by a score of 36-0. Swanton, left half for Newberry, broke his leg and was rushed to the hospital. Wofford lost the game but apparently did not have any member killed or maimed… We are told that when Wofford played in Greenville some time ago that practically every member of the team carried off bloody faces.” “It is difficult to understand,” the Advocate wrote, “how any parent can give consent for his or her son to engage in games that so often result in death or broken limbs. The fatalities are nearly as great as in war. They call it ‘college spirit!’ Deliver us from such! How long will it be before some mother’s son in South Carolina will be carried from a glorious game of football a mangled corpse to the mother’s embrace?”
In 1896, the Methodist Conference recommended that college authorities entirely prohibit football at Wofford, and from 1897-1899, there was no team. In the fall of 1899, the prohibition was rescinded, with the regulation of football and other sports left in the hands of the trustees and faculty. Wofford played about 9 total intercollegiate games in 1900 and 1901, according to sports records. Then, there was no intercollegiate football for some dozen years. While class football – what we might today call intramural football, flourished, the college did not schedule any games against other colleges.
But, pressure built, from students and alumni alike. President Snyder received communications from alumni who wanted to resume playing, and in 1913, the student body unanimously petitioned the trustees to resume intercollegiate games. And so the trustees gave in on November 26, 1913, with play to resume in the fall of 1914.
It took a few years before the college’s varsity team got some experience, and only in 1917 did they post a winning record. The 1914 Terriers, in fact, put up a 1-6-1 record, scoring 32 points in all of their games together, compared to 219 for their opponents. Their only win was a 7-0 defeat of Presbyterian, and their worst loss was an 88-6 stomping at the hands of Davidson.
So, this fall marks the centennial of the resumption of football as well as the 125th anniversary of football at the college, and I think that’s worth recognizing.
Last week, I published a new digital collection of World War II-era newspapers from the Wofford campus. Today, I have posted a collection of Wofford newsletters sent to alumni who were serving in the armed forces during the war.
The World War II alumni newsletter started out as a simple 2-page typed legal-size leaflet, and it went to several hundred alumni. It solicited comments and news from alums, and they responded that they liked the newsletter. The February 1943 issue went to some 800 alumni. By October 1943, the college was publishing a printed newsletter that ranged from 4 to 8 pages.
The college had to follow all of the censorship rules as the newsletter was being sent to alumni all over the world, so they could not mention specific units the alums were serving with, or any other information that had not become public. Still, the alums appreciated hearing from the college and hearing about what their friends and classmates were doing, where they were, and what they were experiencing.
I found one note in the September 1945 issue from Herbert Hucks, who was my predecessor as college archivist, and who served in North Africa and France. He wrote,
“Yesterday when your July 5 card arrived I did not know that today I would be a student at the Sorbonne, but such is the case and naturally I’m glad of the opportunity. The spirit of the whole affair is very fine. About 800 men and officers are there. The course will last until September 8 and then nothing could please me more than to get home on my 87 points!”
Mr. Hucks had been a high school French teacher before the war, and on his return would become an associate librarian at Wofford.
Again, technology makes it possible for us to get more items like this out for researchers to use.
When World War II came to Wofford, it brought major changes to the student body.
As the number of students at Wofford and similar colleges declined rapidly, administrators began to fear for the future of their colleges. How does a college that is heavily dependent on tuition survive when the students go off to war?
The result of this impending crisis, as well as the army’s need for training programs before sending soldiers overseas, was that many colleges saw their facilities taken over by the federal government for various types of military training programs. And that is how, in February 1943, Wofford College became the home of the 40th College Training Division, a training center for aviation students.
Wofford’s remaining students, which numbered fewer than a hundred, and some of the faculty went to either Spartanburg Junior College or Converse College. The dormitories, classrooms, gymnasium, and grounds became the home of a program designed to teach aviation students some of the things they would have learned in a college course of study as they were on their way to flight school and officer candidate school.
The program, which lasted about fifteen months, left a few fingerprints on the college. Occasionally, for fifty years after the war, a former aviation student would pass through the campus with his family to reminisce about his time here in 1943 or 1944. Some photographs from those years are in the archives. The Hugh R. Black Infirmary on campus, which had been a faculty home, became an infirmary during those years, and the college continued to use it for those purposes to this very day. And, interestingly enough, the students produced a newspaper called the Flight Record, and that has remained in the archives.
The Flight Record’s staff, which rotated as new students came and others left, published some 22 issues between June 1943 and April 1944. In the past year, I’ve had my student assistants scan the issues, and after doing some post-processing work, I have published them in Wofford’s digital repository.
In the next few days, I hope to add the World War II newsletter that the college sent to alumni serving in the military.
Technology helps us share the experiences and memories of those who were part of our campus community seventy years ago, and I’m happy to make these materials more widely available.
The Wofford Fitting School is one of those mysterious entities that causes an occasional question.
The Fitting School was a preparatory school that operated on the Wofford Campus and on a nearby campus for a number of years. It closed in 1924, but before then, it was designed to prepare, or fit, students for entry into Wofford’s freshman class.
The idea of a prep school or fitting school makes sense in an era where not every city or town has a good public high school and the college wants to be certain it has a good supply of potential first-year students.
This photo could count as a throwback Thursday photo if today weren’t Friday. But in the archives, maybe every day is Throwback Thursday.