From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

A Letter from Brazil from Louise Best

Written By: Phillip Stone - Oct•16•18

I’ve written before about Louise Best, a South Carolina Methodist who worked as a missionary in the southernmost part of Brazil for over thirty years.  I came across this letter in the Advocate from August 1951 recently and thought it worth sharing.   This was my column in the June 2018 SC United Methodist Advocate

My dear friends, July 28 was a wonderful day for me. It marked the 30th anniversary of my arrival in Brazil.  That night I gave a dinner for the members of the faculty, members of the board of trustees, our pastor and his wife, the doctors whom we call, and the school inspector. July is the month of winter school holidays in Brazil. Some of the teachers were at home but most of them were in the city.

Brazil is indeed a country of surprises! One of the greatest was an invitation to have lunch at the Rotary Club on August 1. When I arrived, I found that it was a special luncheon in honor of my thirty years in Brazil, and during that time, with the exception of six months near Rio, in Santa Maria.

Once a month our pastor leads chapel at the school. Last Thursday was the first assembly since the holidays and he was present. Before he began his talk he said that one of the teachers had a story to tell. At the beginning I did not recognize the person about whom she was talking. When Dona Maria finished, I arose and thanked her for her kind words and assured them of my joy in being here. Imagine my surprise when girls from the primary and high school as well as one of the teachers made speeches and gave lovely flowers.  All those demonstrations of love and appreciation make me humbly grateful for these years of service in Brazil and especially at Colegio Centenario.

We are all rejoicing over the money for our primary building. We plan to break ground on September 7. I shall write you again after the ceremony.

In July I attended Central Council in São Paulo. Another good trip by air. It takes four hours by plane and four days by train.

The annual meeting of the laymen of the South Brazil Conference was held in Santa Maria in July. The delegates were entertained at the Methodist Home but the college offered a special dinner in their honor. There were 50 present.  Also in July we had the privilege of entertaining the district meeting of young people and juveniles. it was a very good conference.

August is brotherhood month among the Protestant youth of this conference. In Santa Maria each Saturday evening they have had a special meeting at the different churches in the city; on Sunday afternoons open air meetings. Last night the final service was held in the Lutheran Church. The Episcopal Bishop delivered a masterful sermon which was put on the air by our local station.  It does one’s heart good to see the enthusiasm of these young people.

After the celebration of patriotic week I shall write you again. Thanks for all you have done for us during these years and what do you mean to me today. Love, Louise Best.

Methodism in Greenwood

Written By: Phillip Stone - Oct•12•18

If there’s a place in South Carolina that might be able to lay claim to being a real Methodist town, it might be in Greenwood County.

The village of Cokesbury was named, as every loyal reader of the Advocate will recognize, for the first two bishops in American Methodism, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. Originally settled around a Methodist church called Tabernacle, the residents of the area began to support a school before 1820. When the Methodist Mount Bethel Academy, in Newberry County, closed in 1820, the teachers at the Tabernacle school encouraged the South Carolina Conference to become patrons of their school.

The town founders moved their village to higher ground, on a ridge between the Savannah and Saluda rivers, and built a planned community around the school. They first named the village Mt. Ariel, and during the 1820s, built school buildings for males and females, and in the 1830s, a new church building in the village. With the Methodists taking over the male academy to become the Dougherty Manual Labor School, the church’s presence in the community grew. That name was short-lived, for it was future Bishop William Wightman who suggested naming the school Cokesbury. At the same time, the town changed its name to Cokesbury in March 1835. In 1834, the Methodists moved the district parsonage to Mt. Ariel, and thus the tradition of the Cokesbury District began. A church and cemetery remained at Tabernacle until after the Civil War.

Cokesbury Conference School

The Cokesbury Conference School, Greenwood County, from James Neal’s Historic United Methodist Churches and Places in South Carolina

In the days before a strong system of free public schools, the school had its fair share of influential students. Trying to grow in social status, the school abandoned its manual labor orientation – where students studied in the morning and worked on the farm in the afternoon – by 1842. The school became the Cokesbury Conference Institute. The female school came under the patronage of the local Masonic order, and in 1854, they built a three-story building, the top floor reserved for the Masons, the lower floor for classrooms, and the middle floor for a chapel. That is the building that survives today, it became the Conference School by 1874, but the school closed by 1918, becoming instead a public school. Still, a number of leaders in the Conference, in state politics, and in other states spent time at the Cokesbury School.

Like many Upcountry towns, the residents of Cokesbury valued their idyllic, peaceful village and objected to the railroad coming to their community. That proved problematic to the community’s growth after the Civil War. Growth shifted away from Cokesbury and toward Greenwood, which had become a railroad village. When Greenwood County was created in 1897, with the city of Greenwood as its seat, Cokesbury’s influence continued to decline. Greenwood’s leaders encouraged the Rev. Samuel Lander to move his college from Williamston to their city, and it opened there in 1903 as Lander College, where it retained its Methodist relationship until the 1940s. But we’ll come back to the rest of the story in future months.

Note: This was my column in the May 2018 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate

Wofford and the Willie Earle trial

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•30•18

Last spring, Wofford held a conference to commemorate and study the 70th anniversary of what is commonly called South Carolina’s last lynching, the murder of Willie Earle.

As part of the event, I was given a copy of this newspaper clipping, which is a photo of a group of Wofford students marching in downtown Spartanburg in protest of the outcome of the trial (which was held in Greenville).  As I was cleaning up around my desk this week, I found it and realized I’d never shared it here.

Wofford students protesting

Wofford students march to protest the outcome of the Willie Earle trial

Bernard M. Cannon

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•27•18

I wonder if the students knew that their dean of students was nicknamed “Bunny.”

Bernard M. Cannon graduated from Wofford in 1941, and as luck would have it, that was the year Wofford received its charter of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.  So, Bernard Cannon was one of the first eleven Wofford students to be elected to membership.  After graduation, he, like most alumni of his generation, served in the World War II armed services.  He then undertook graduate study in sociology at Harvard. 

In May 1946, the college announced that he would return to Wofford, taking the faculty position of associate professor of sociology as well as dean of students.  He served from 1948-1950, and the second person to hold the dean of students post at Wofford.  The next year, he completed his PhD at Harvard in the department of social relations.  He spent much of his career in the Boston area, but always maintained his Wofford and Spartanburg connections. 

 A frequent vocalist, he sang a solo at the 1980 baccalaureate service, which was held at Bethel United Methodist Church in Spartanburg, where he (along with many members of his family) was a member.  He retired to Spartanburg, where lived until 1996.

William L. Pugh

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•20•18
Dr. William L. Pugh

Dr. William L. Pugh

Of the generation of faculty that taught at Wofford in the first half of the 20th century, Dr. William Leonard Pugh seems less well-remembered than some of his colleagues. Perhaps his quieter demeanor kept him in the shadows of other faculty, for unlike most of the others of his era, he didn’t have a nickname. He shared the English department in this era with the college’s president. Henry Nelson Snyder, so that may also account for his lower profile.

William Leonard Pugh was born in 1874 near Lenox, Iowa. He graduated from Parsons College, a Presbyterian-related college in Iowa, in 1897. He later earned an MA at Parsons in Latin and Greek, and taught those subjects at the preparatory school he had attended before college. He was a high school principal and later superintendent of schools in Corydon, Iowa from 1902 to 1907. Later, he continued his education at Northwestern, where he earned another MA in 1908, this one in English, and at Harvard, where he completed his PhD in English in 1911. He joined the Wofford faculty in the fall of 1911, becoming one of a quartet of doctoral-degree holding professors. Drs. Wallace, Waller, and Chiles were the other early PhD-holders in the 20th century.

In 1954, Dr. Pugh recalled how he came to Wofford and Spartanburg, places he’d never heard of before a telegram arrived from one of his doctoral advisers telling him to go South. The professor made favorable remarks about President Snyder, that he was a fine English scholar and that it would be good for the Midwesterner to learn something about the South. So, with only a few weeks before the start of school, in August 1911, Pugh and his wife packed their suitcases and traveled on the train to South Carolina, expecting to stay just one year before going elsewhere. But, once Dr. Snyder met the Pughs at the train station and showed them such warm hospitality, the Pughs later recalled that they fell in love with the campus. They also enjoyed the warm winters on top of the warm hospitality. Pugh did later report that once the students arrived that fall, he had to learn a separate set of names, as he started hearing the student nicknames for professors.

Interestingly, and perhaps a little unusually for early 20th century Spartanburg, Dr. Pugh’s wife was also Dr. Pugh – but in her case, she was a physician. Dr. Ruth Frank Pugh served for a number of years as the college physician at Converse College, and had been a Presbyterian medical missionary in India.

Dr. Pugh became active in Spartanburg’s First Presbyterian Church, showing that not all members of the faculty had to be Methodists. He was a Sunday school teacher in the church for many years, and a ruling elder of the church from 1919 until his death in 1957.

Students remembered that Dr. Pugh talked like he had a mouthful of marbles. He hammered his points across in lectures until students got them. He was known for his lectures, parallel reading, and homework. One student remembered writing mounds of themes for Dr. Pugh. Students also knew him for riding a bicycle to campus and around town, very stiffly, they recalled. Later, he had a Saxon roadster automobile – one of the many different types of automobiles in those early days of car manufacturing. He was regarded as a reserved, dignified, and somewhat aloof professor. He retired with a large group of longtime professors in 1947, when the college instituted an age limit for serving as a professor. He remained in Spartanburg for just over ten more years, dying in August 1957 in the town he’d arrived in 46 years before, intending only to stay one year.

Bourne on the Societies

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•16•18

I wrote a piece on Prof. W. Raymond Bourne, class of 1923, recently, and since we have a literary society exhibit up right now, and I’m trying to feature some stories about that right now, I’m going to include a piece Professor Bourne wrote about the literary societies in the 1954 Wofford centennial edition of the Herald-Journal.

“When I first knew the college, in the fall of 1920 the societies met every Friday evening right after supper. Normally there would be the role call, discussion of business, and an oration or two, debate, and sometimes the reading of original compositions of varying kinds. Judges were named for each debate and a decision was rendered. At the end of the program, the critics offered comment on the quality of each performance.

“Sometimes a member assigned to speak by the program committee would be absent. If he had no acceptable excuse, he was fined it for non-performance of duty. In his absence, volunteers were called for, and if there were no volunteers, the president appointed someone to take his place. So those who value the opportunity got to speak to their hearts content. But the mood of 30 years earlier, when the meetings had lasted sometimes into the morning, it was gone, and the meetings were generally over by 9 PM.

“At this time, the societies controlled the three campus publications. Also the societies gate a few public performances in the chapel, notably the sophomore oration, and the general oration on February 22.

“As late as the early 20s, white tie and tails were required for formal public appearance in one of the contests. And while an occasional boy with only one pair of shoes to his name might appear in brown footwear, lapses of this kind were infrequent. The audience appeared in whole suits, with collar and tie.

“Today the publications board has to go down to the sophomore class to find editors, even for salaries. The Glee Club gives almost the only student public performances in the chapel, and it is entirely controlled by a faculty member, Professor Sam Moyer.

“So, in the course of a century, the college literary societies gave their opportunities for intellectual growth and a surface polish. They have passed, with their demands on time and attention, and have been replaced by other activities such as athletics, social fraternities, dances, marriage, and plain and ordinary sitting. The 20th century of wealth for everybody is well underway and all educational procedures are under survey.”

W. Raymond Bourne

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•13•18

Professor W. Raymond Bourne

For the middle years of the 20th century, Professor William Raymond Bourne was a large chunk of the college’s Modern Languages department.

Born in Virginia, Professor Bourne graduated from Wofford in 1923. He was part of a generation of faculty that spanned World War II, serving from 1925, when he returned to his alma mater to teach French and German after two years of teaching at Davenport College in North Carolina, until 1966, when he retired. (Davenport College, originally Davenport Female College, was a Methodist college that opened not long after Wofford and was related to the South Carolina Methodist Conference.) Along the way, Professor Bourne earned his MA at the University of North Carolina.

As a long-time member of the campus community, Professor Bourne seemed to write a good bit about campus history and traditions. As a young professor in the 1920s, he was able to work with much older professors like J. A. Gamewell and Daniel A. DuPre (who had taught with the first generation of faculty) and professors at mid-career such as D. D. Wallace, James A. Chiles, A. M. Trawick, and Coleman Waller. And then, after World War II, he would have been one of the long-timers as a younger generation of World War II veterans, like Lewis Jones, William Cavin, Ray Leonard, and Donald Dobbs.

He wrote a number of articles in the alumni magazine, in the student paper, and in the Wofford centennial issue of the Herald-Journal about various points in Wofford history, about his senior colleagues, and even about the college’s literary societies. (I’ll share that later, since we have an exhibit on the societies underway this spring).

Professor Bourne also holds the distinction of being Wofford’s first Dean of Students – an office that was created after World War II. Before World War II, “The Dean,” Mason DuPre, generally served as the arbiter of student conduct as well as the second in command to the president. With a growing student body, the college split the office.

One student wrote of his experience with Professor Bourne that he, like many first-years, was advised not to take him, that he was “a real so’n’so, works you like a horse, just ask those guys in his class.” And the article further describes Bourne’s classroom mannerism of marking attendance and grading student translation work at the blackboard with a two-inch pencil.

Bourne was one of two faculty members to hold the nickname “Peg.” The other, Prof. E. H. Shuler, got the nickname because he taught applied math, and frequently left surveying pegs all over campus. Bourne’s was because he had a wooden leg.

He retired with a large class in 1966 – alongside C. C. Norton, Charles Nesbitt, and R. A. Patterson – that had a total of 150 years of service to the college. He remained in Spartanburg, dying in January 1975.

Literary Societies

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•11•18
Literary Societies of Wofford College

Exhibit poster, based on a literary society presentation from 1885

This spring, the library’s archives and special collections are presenting an exhibit on the history of Wofford’s literary societies.

Within two months after Wofford opened in August 1854, eight students gathered to form a literary society, a group that would help them practice their oratorical and debating skills. They chose the name Calhoun Literary Society as a way of honoring South Carolina’s recently deceased Senator John C. Calhoun. They developed a constitution and bylaws and began holding weekly meetings.

Four years later, a second society, the Preston Literary Society, formed to meet the needs of a growing student body. A number of Calhoun Society members joined to help form the second society.

Much of the college’s co-curricular life revolved around the societies. By the 1870s, the faculty thought they were so important that they required students to join one of them. The societies helped start three student publications between 1889 and 1915 and helped select the leadership for each staff. They began collecting libraries for their members, and by 1894, they handed their libraries over to the college. Many of their books are still part of the college library collection today. (While most are in special collections, we’re finding a few that are actually in our circulating collection!)   They also commissioned portraits of notable individuals related to the societies or the college. Many of those portraits are now part of the permanent art collection.

Eventually, student body growth saw a third society, the Carlisle, formed in 1905, and a fourth, the Snyder, in 1920. The heyday of the societies, however, was in the past, and gradually, students began to lose interest in their activities. By 1935, the college had made membership mandatory only for freshmen, and soon after, dropped even that rule. A series of mergers led, by 1951, to the existence of only one society, and even it ceased its activities by 1952.

The exhibit will be up in the Sandor Teszler Library gallery through the end of the spring semester, and I’ll be giving a gallery talk on March 22 at 4:00. And I’ll also be adding some more information about specific topics related to the societies in the next few weeks on the blog.

History and the 1866 Conference

Written By: Phillip Stone - Feb•02•18

 

This was my column in the February 2018 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate

One great resource for the history of the Annual Conference, and particularly for African American churches, is the book Passionate Journey: History of the 1866 South Carolina Annual Conference. This book, by the Rev. John W. Curry, a long-time member of the 1866 Conference, tells the story of the founding of that Conference in the aftermath of the Civil War and emancipation, but it also talks about how it grew and evolved into a strong force.

The book does not dwell in the far past, but does discuss the conference’s early leadership and its challenges. Some of its initial leaders were white northern clergy who came to South Carolina to help re-establish the Methodist Episcopal Church in the state. Within a few years, most of these clergy gave way to native-born African American leaders, though the conference had white presiding elders as late as 1884. The first African American bishop to preside over the 1866 Conference was R. E. Jones in 1926. After the 1939 reunification of Methodism and the creation of the segregated Central Jurisdiction, all of the Conference’s bishops were African-American until the last quadrennium before merger. Those early leaders worked under difficult circumstances, as white Carolinians were resistant to the changes taking place around them. The Rev. B. F. Randolph was assassinated in October 1869. Rev. Thomas Wright of York was attacked in his home. Rev. J. R. Rosemond was unable to serve many of his rural Spartanburg congregations during 1870 and 1871.

Importantly for local churches that are seeking information about their early history, the book provides brief sketches of many early clergy leaders in the conference. These clergy were often instrumental in founding or leading some of the older churches in the conference. The book also contains sketches of some of the earliest congregations, including Centenary, Wesley, and Old Bethel in Charleston, Trinity Orangeburg and Trinity Camden, Cumberland in Florence, John Wesley in Greenville, Wesley in Columbia, Silver Hill in Spartanburg, Thompson Centennial in Anderson, and Emmanuel in Sumter.

The work of women’s organizations in the Conference makes up one chapter, with a focus on the various missionary outreach activities. Plans in the 1890s for an orphanage did not materialize, though education remained an important focus. Missionaries to Africa were sent in 1906 and 1907, and the Home Missionary Society was organized in 1910. As early as 1920, lay women were elected to represent the Conference at General Conference. During the 1920s, one woman, Rev. Minnie Berry, was licensed as a local pastor and later ordained deacon.

Rev. Curry’s book has good information about the 1866 Conference’s role in the modern Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina. In particular, Rev. Curry focused on the role played in Orangeburg by Trinity Church and the ways in which members of the congregation supported the movement. The book also focuses on material that will be helpful to historians today as we work on remembering the 50th anniversary of the merger of the two conferences into the present South Carolina Annual Conference.

Remembering Wofford’s World War I fatalities

Written By: Phillip Stone - Nov•11•17

Today is Armistice Day – the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Seventeen Wofford graduates and students, including three graduates of Wofford’s Fitting School, died during the First World War.  The College’s Alumni Bulletin published their photographs and biographies in 1919, and the College remembered their service and sacrifice at a memorial service during Commencement 1919.

Below are the pictures of those 17 who gave their lives in the war to end all wars.

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