I came across these photos while going through some old files today – they are of a student named Vernon Earle, who graduated from Wofford in 1920. He was a member of the varsity basketball team and was a member and captain of the varsity football team.
The photo of him with the football on Wofford’s athletic field is pretty small – I scanned it at a higher resolution to be able to enlarge it. The other two photos – of him in a car in front of Main Building – are some of the earliest photos of a student with a car on campus that I’ve come across. I’m sure there are older examples, but these seemed worth sharing.
For nearly 170 years, the Main Building’s voice has rested in the top of its west tower in the form of a 700-pound bell.
Wofford’s bell was cast by the Meneely Bell Foundry in West Troy, New York. Andrew Meneely started the foundry in 1826, after an apprenticeship with Julius Hanks, who was one of the earliest bell founders in America. (Hanks was a relative of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s mother.) Meneely brought his oldest son, Edwin, into the family business, and after Andrew Meneely’s death in 1851, Edwin Meneely brought one of his brothers into the business. The two brothers continued to operate the foundry as Andrew Meneely’s Sons. When a third brother, Clinton Hanks Meneely, returned from the Civil War, the first two brothers refused to take him into the company. This led to the formation of a second Meneely Foundry in 1870, across the river in Troy, NY.
Together, the two Meneely companies produced an estimated 65,000 bells. Their bells hang in churches and colleges throughout the United States. Bell experts regard Meneely products as being among the finest cast in America. Both companies went out of business in the early 1950s, due partly to increasing metal prices and partly to the increasing popularity of electronic bells and chimes. Because of the Meneely family’s position as being among the earliest and foremost bell founders, a Meneely bell today can be a valuable artifact.
Bell casting is both an art and a science. Before casting can take place, a bell must be carefully designed. The founder first builds an inner core, then uses molding clay to create a false bell. The inscriptions are added to the surface of the false bell, then an additional layer of fine molding material is added to the surface. The founder then builds an iron case around the false bell, filling it with molding material as the sections are added. When finished, the outer mold is lifted off, the false bell broken away, and the two halves of the bell mold are fitted together. The founder pours molten bronze into the mold, and the bell is allwed to cool in the ground for several weeks. The founder has many anxious moments before he can test the bell’s tone, for despite his best efforts, the product can still be a dud.
A bell’s pitch depends on its weight, and the metal must be tapered in thickness to ensure that it is in tune. When struck, a bell produces a chord of five separate pitches, including the note for which it is pitched, a minor third, a perfect fifth, and an octave above the strike note, and a hum tone that is an octave below the strike note. Each note reverberates from a different part of the bell.
The Wofford bell, inscribed “From Meneely’s, West Troy, NY, 1854,” weighs approximately 700 pounds. The bell is 33 inches in diameter and is supposedly pitched at “B,” though it might actually be a little higher It is held in place by heavy oak timbers about 20 feet below the apex of the west tower roof. Cast in bronze, the bell was for years rung by a rope attached to a wooden wheel five-feet in diameter. The wheel turns the bell, causing it to strike the clapper.
James H. Carlisle, Jr., a member of the class of 1885 and son of the College’s third president, wrote in his Memories of Wofford College manuscript, held in the college archives, that the original faculty members and their wives all went to see the bell before it was placed in the tower. “This bell,” Carlisle wrote, “has always been noted for the purity and clearness of its tone. Farmers living four miles from the city tell the time of day by the ringing of the bell.”
Vanderbilt Chancellor James H. Kirkland, a member of Wofford’s class of 1877, once spoke of the meaning that the bell held for many Wofford graduates. “Today my dreams are realized; once again I walk this sacred campus; and with every step… I feel new strength enter my frame, new courage my heart, and the tones of the old college bell seem to ring out a kindly greeting to the long-absent son.”
When he was the editor of the Old Gold and Black in 1937, Dr. Lewis P. Jones ’38 climbed into the bell tower to survey the campus and examine the bell. “One rarely notices the bell,” he wrote, “yet it is the main regulator of life at Wofford.” Counting the number of rings each time the bell signaled a class change, Dr. Jones found that the clapper struck the bell some 1,300 times each week. Generations of Wofford students made bell-ringing into a part time job, earning scholarships by signaling class changes each day.
Throughout the years, the bell has been the object of student pranks. The rope has occasionally been cut and the bell’s clapper has been removed on occasion, perhaps by students hoping to postpone a test. The clapper, the device that actually makes the bell ring when the rope is pulled, was also occasionally stolen by students from other colleges as an intercollegiate prank. At some point, the clapper either was not replaced properly or was replaced with an inferior part. Since that time, the bell’s volume has decreased.
In the summer of 2001, the college restored the bell’s volume. Some of the repairs included carpentry work on the tower stairs and landings. The Verdin Company, a nationally known clock and bell firm headquartered in Cincinnati, installed a new clapper and related hardware. Additionally, the Verdin Company installed a new striking mechanism that allows the bell to be rung by a digital bell controller. This controller can be programmed to ring the bell automatically, at specified times throughout the day. On Founder’s Day, October 19, 2001 the inaugural bell ringing was the featured event of a lunchtime ceremony commemorating the 221st birthday of Benjamin Wofford.
(This article originally appeared in the Fall 2001 Wofford Today and has been updated slightly in October 2022.)
I recently learned of the passing on July 16 of Mrs. Doris B. Wade, who was one of the longest-serving employees in the history of the college.
Mrs. Wade came to work at Wofford in the spring of 1954, when Wofford was a very different institution. It was still all-male, at least in the regular semesters. The faculty was much smaller, and the business office staff was probably 2 people – Mrs. Wade and the college’s bursar, Mr. Harold Smithyman. Dr. Pendleton Gaines, Wofford’s 6th president, was in office when she joined the staff. In total, she would work for six of the college’s eleven presidents.
From her desk in the bursar’s office, later the business office, she witnessed Wofford’s centennial celebrations in 1954, the admission of Wofford’s first Black student in 1964, the transformation of student life in the late 1960s, the admission of women in the 1970s, and the gradual growth of the student body and faculty over time. She also witnessed significant changes in Spartanburg, and in American society.
Given the small size of the business office in those early days, she would have probably known more than most anybody else on campus about the college’s operations. She probably helped pay the bills for almost everything that happened, and probably knew every student who came in to pay their tuition, or borrow a few dollars from the various loan funds. In 1981, the college presented her with the Mary Mildred Sullivan award at Commencement, one of the college’s highest honors, noting that she was at that point in charge of student accounts in the business office.
She came to work every day, year in and year out, as the college grew and changed around her. I am sure she knew way more about a lot of things than she ever let on, but I used to hear about comments she’d make to her business office colleagues or senior administrators, remembering this or that student from years ago. I know that generations of students remember her as well. She was part of a network of women working in the various offices on campus who knew and respected each other, and probably had as much to do with the smooth operation of the college as the department heads who supervised them. No doubt they could quickly solve many student problems with a phone call.
Along with three other long-time staff members, she officially retired in the summer of 2009, after 55 years of full-time service. Several hundred faculty and staff and friends came to that retirement reception. But she didn’t really retire. She continued to work part time for about 8 more years. Her last day working in the business office, at least according to an email I got that day, was December 20, 2017. I know I walked over to speak to her that day – I always felt like we had so many people in common, people that we both knew, but that she knew for much longer than I did. She was a part of Wofford for over sixty years – I think the only institution that she was part of longer was her church – she was a lifelong member of Sharon United Methodist near Reidville. 63 years of service is probably more than most of us want to give to any institution, but I think she kept coming to work here every day because of how much she loved being around the people -students and staff – of Wofford.
The Wofford College Journal, which has been the college’s literary magazine since 1889, used to act as a monthly newspaper for the campus as well. I found these notes in the February 1906 issue that describe some of the comings and goings of members of the faculty.
On account of the severity of the weather, Dr. Carlisle did not meet his classes for a few days last month.
Dr. Snyder delivered a lecture on the evening of January 14th in the chapel of South Carolina College. This lecture was on “The Assets of a Young Man Just Entering Upon the Duties of Life.”
Dr. Cooke delivered his lecture on “Pompeii and Rome” in the auditorium on the night of January 18th. The lecture was largely attended and was profitable to the YMCA, under whose auspices the lecture was given.
Prof. Clinkscales gave a lecture at the Roebuck School on January 19th.
Dr. Wallace was in Columbia on January 25th. He appeared before a Senate committee in behalf of a bill for a white juvenile reformatory.
Dr. Snyder addressed the Chamber of Commerce on the evening of February 1st.
Prof. Clinkscales delivered an address at the First Baptist Church on the morning of February 4th.
Prof. J. A. Gamewell paid a short visit to Greenville, SC, on Feb. 3rd.
Dr. Carlisle made a talk at the opening exercises of the new Kennedy Library.
Dr. Snyder delivered an address at Greenwood, SC on January 31st. This was Founder’s Day at Lander College.
This column appeared in the July 2021 issue of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate
Issues of the Advocate in June and July 1921 featured the varied work of Methodists around South Carolina, including revivals, conferences, Episcopal travel, and the work of conference institutions.
The Advocate reported on a revival in Edgefield in June 1921 that evidently went on for two weeks. “After a little over two weeks duration, Rev. Mr. Bridgers closed the tent revival meeting on Tuesday night, after a most successful and soul-stirring and beneficial fortnight’s spiritual awakening of all our people of all classes and conditions and ages and colors. Its tangible results should rank it the best and most far-reaching in its good and uplifting influence of any like revival ever held in Edgefield. Rev. Mr. Bridgers is a man of wonderful power and magnetism, and the good work and genuine benefits occurring should have a lasting and telling effect for a long time to come. Edgefield enjoyed the meeting thoroughly, and we trust its laborers will be felt for the betterment of the whole town and country.”
The Advocate also posted a note from Bishop Urban Darlington that spoke both of the challenges of travel a hundred years ago as well as the international aspect of the work of the bishops. Darlington wrote “It is my purpose to sail from New York on July 5th for the inspection of our European work, being appointed to such mission by the College of Bishops. While absent my Episcopal District will be in the hands of Bishop Collins Denny of Richmond, Va. Let all the brethren take notice. I hope to return about September 20th.”
The Advocate also brought events at Lake Junaluska to the notice of its readers. Several meetings and training events were on the calendar, including the Rural Life School, then the Epworth League Assembly would run from June 30 to July 10. A training school for Sunday School teachers would follow, from July 13 through 27. That sounds like a lot of training. August would see the missionary conference, the conference of laymen, and the Bible-Evangelistic Conference, and the Social Service Conference. The Advocate encouraged South Carolinians to take a vacation to the Lake to take advantage of “innocent recreation.”
The editor noted receiving Wofford’s College Catalogue, a document that described the college’s course offerings as well as other information about the institution. It noted that Wofford had hosted nearly 600 students during regular and summer terms. It noted the students, which coming most heavily from Spartanburg County, represented almost every county in the state, with 21 of the upcountry counties and 21 of the lowcountry counties having students at the college. Of note, 21 students came from Orangeburg, 19 from Darlington, 16 from Williamsburg, 15 each from Lexington, Florence, and Richland, and 14 from Calhoun. The college had about 32 employees, and the Advocate made note of the size of the campus community and the college’s focus on training students in scholarship and character. A later item noted the arrival of a new faculty member. Dr. A. M. Trawick, who was becoming professor of religious education. The editor noted Dr Trawick had “a very unique and attractive personality, splendid equipment, and ripe classroom experience” which made him “a really great teacher, and it is an easy forecast that he will soon become one of the most popular members of the Wofford faculty.”
Along with these items, the Advocate also focused on meetings of the Woman’s Missionary Society, with a full report of their recent meeting at Anderson College, hosted by the ladies of St. John’s Church. Methodists were indeed busy doing the church’s work in the summer of 1921.
For Women’s History Month, I decided to take a look at the Advocate from 100 years ago this month to see what the Woman’s Missionary Society pages were discussing.
A note on the Society page announced the meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Council for the denomination in April 1921 at Centenary Methodist Church in Richmond, VA. The announcement explained that the Council’s committees, on work in Asia, Latin America, the “home fields” and “home educational institutions” would meet first. Attendees could contact the local arrangements chair for a list of hotels or boarding houses. A later article noted that “The Richmond” was the headquarters hotel, and rooms with baths could be had for $3 to $5 per night. If you didn’t need a bathroom, you could get a room for $2. The article promised nearby cafeterias and cafes for those who wanted to take their meals outside the hotel.
The page reported on a meeting of the executive committee of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Upper South Carolina Conference. The article noted that the all-day meeting mostly heard routine reports, but did celebrate that the society had contributed over $31,000 to mission work in the past year. The group decided that it needed to put an increased focus on work with young people, and planned a one-day institute in each district. In celebrating a success, the committee learned that 21 women in the conference were currently preparing for missionary service, either in high school, college, or attending Scarritt.
This may have led to a question in a later issue about how many churches had supplied members for ministry. “Has your church during recent years furnished a young man for the work of the ministry, a young woman for missionary service in the foreign field or in the home land? If not, it is time for serious thought, for heart searching, for prayer. There are congregations out of which have come large numbers of young men and women who have dedicated their lives to Christian life work; there are other congregations that for years gone have furnished no such workers. Why this difference? Let’s face that question during this month.”
The work of local church societies frequently made the Woman’s Missionary Society page. In March 1921, readers would have learned about the meetings of women’s societies at Rowesville, at Duncan Memorial in Georgetown, and at St. John’s in Anderson. The latter two reported significant growth, and at St. John’s, every woman in the church was part of a circle. The society committees all came from the circles, and the women were so faithful in their contributions to mission work that the society no longer needed to have bazaars, teas, and suppers as fund-raisers.
In another section of a March issue, the Advocate also talked about prohibition and the forces that had tried to keep it from happening. The editor was especially critical of public officials in other parts of the country that were opposed to ending the sale of alcohol. The paper noted that January 29, the anniversary of the ratification of the 18th amendment, would some day be celebrated like the 4th of July or January 1. It predicted that some day, a child would ask the question, “Grandpa, what was a saloon?”
This was my June column in the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate
While we always welcome visitors to the conference archives at Wofford, many researchers have come to expect to be able to do at least some of their archival research online.
At Wofford, we are working to make more of the primary source materials available online, but some of that work will take a very long time. At the moment, most of the conference journals are available here: https://digitalcommons.wofford.edu/methodistjournals/. These can be a very useful source for learning about the conference, about clergy, and about local church statistics.
Other church agencies have developed online resources for individuals who want to conduct research from home. The United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History is responsible for the general church agency records, but they also strive to promote Methodist history at the national and international levels. They have a number of articles that researchers might find interesting. These are located at: http://gcah.org/history. These articles might be good resources for Sunday school classes learning about Methodist history. Also, the bishop’s ordination chain is a great resource if clergy are curious as to how they connect back to the founding generation of American Methodism. Old issues of the journal Methodist History are available on the site as well.
If you are interested in learning more about our roots in British Methodism, the online Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland might be just the source you’re looking for. It is freely available online at : https://dmbi.online/. And, just as the United States has a Historical Society of the United Methodist Church, the British Methodist Conference has a Wesley Historical Society. Their website is http://www.wesleyhistoricalsociety.org.uk/.
Archives are constantly trying to make more historical materials available for researchers. Some of this involves making digital copies of older materials – and cataloging them or transcribing them so that the information in them is actually available to researchers. Some of the work involves collecting today’s records. All of it can be labor-intensive and time consuming. In the end, it all helps us share our story better, and helping make those connections between the past and present is always worth the effort.
The Southern Guards Battalion continues at Wofford today, with cross-enrollment agreements with USC-Upstate and Converse College The Department of Military Science offers basic and advanced courses, and offers opportunities for basic and advanced summer camps, airborne and air assault schools, and other leadership courses. Students in ROTC frequently present the colors at Wofford athletic events. Their presence on campus today represents an element of service to community and country that has long been part of the Wofford tradition. In 2019, ROTC held a centennial ball to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the battalion’s founding.