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