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Wofford’s Fitting School

Written By: information_management - Mar• 31•10

Wofford Collage's Fitting School

This item came across my desk – it was written long ago by Professor W. C. Herbert, who was the headmaster of the Fitting School and also the registrar at Wofford.

A hundred years ago, when Wofford College was founded, boys who went to college got their preparation in academies. And with some 2600 of these popular institutions in the South, colleges should have had plenty of well prepared freshmen. But most of these academies were not as good as our grandparents liked to think they were, and colleges had their own preparatory departments.
For 33 years Wofford's regular students and preparatory boys sat in the same classrooms and had the same instructors. Then, in 1887, the faculty recommended to the trustees that the two groups be separated.
On the crest of the hill west of the present site of the Spartan Mill there were three buildings that once housed the Spartanburg Female College. Into this ready-made plant the preparatory boys were moved. And thus began the Wofford College Fitting School, or, as the boys named it, the Fighters' Hole.
The Fitting School was blessed in the beginning with two excellent headmasters in succession, both serving long; terms. 'The first was Arthur Gaillard Rembert. What a scholar! What a teacher! What a dynamo of intel¬lectual energy! Dr. Rembert directed the Fitting School from 1887 to 1897. Somewhere along the way, either in the preparatory school or the college, the students nicknamed him "Knotty", There were and are few teachers the equal of "Knotty" Rembert.
Arthur Mason DuPre became headmaster in 1897, after teaching two years under Dr. Rembert. Fortunately we do not have to decide which was the better schoolmaster – the brilliant-minded, quick-moving scholar or the deliberate, careful man of firm convictions. Few pupils or teachers ever questioned the decisions of Prof. DuPre.
As a disciplinarian ha was unsurpassed. Unhurried, he looked through the culprit and seemed to read his inmost thoughts. Hence, the nickname "Bad Eye" when he was not spoken of as "Old Mase."
These two teachers established the fame of the Fitting School.
In 1895 the school was moved to the campus, occupying Alumni Hall, then a 4-story building – the middle one of the three facing Church Street. After a fire in l901, Alumni Hall was reduced to two stories and two other buildings were added to the plant.
In 1912, Dr. DuPre went over to the College, as Dr. Rembert had done in 1897, and there followed six years of short administrations. A. W, Horton and J. M, Steadman, Jr. were co-masters in 1912-14. Mr. Horton remained for two years longer and was followed by Mr. F. P. White, who died before the end of his second year.
By the fall of 1918 we were deep in World War I. Military training was popular. So, when the writer (W. C. Herbert) took over in that year, an ROTC organization was set up, and for the next six years the Fitting School was a military school.
At one time in this period the enrollment almost equaled that of the College, which brought the comment that there was a possibility that the tail might wag the dog.
But academies had served their day, High schools were improving, and the College needed dormitory space. The Wofford College Fitting School closed in 1924.
Carlisle Fitting School was largely a town of Bamberg enterprise, While it was authorized by the South Carolina Conference, in 1892, as a preparatory school for Wofford College, gifts to the undertaking were largely local. Probably that was the chief reason for Carlisle’s enrolling girls as well as boys. And for the sake of economy it began vary early to prepare students for Wofford’s sophomore class.
But Carlisle was unfortunate in that its leadership changed so often. Of its nine headmasters, in its forty years under the church and Wofford College trustees. J.C. Guilds was the only one to serve as headmaster longer than five years.
Guilds had gone to Carlisle as a teacher, after his graduation from Wofford in 1906. He was elected headmaster in 1909, according to Wallace's History of Wofford College. No doubt that is true, but the Conference minutes state that the enrollment was so low that the school did not open in the fall of that year. However, Dr. Guilds' administration was a most successful one.
He had taken over the administration of a school at the point of failure. After eleven years, he left it with 10 teachers and 225 students. In 1920, he became president of Columbia College
In the next eight years there were three headmasters: Duncan, Hagood, and Gault.
Then, in 1928, Mr. James F. Risher was elected. But the need for preparatory schools had passed, and Carlisle in that year ceased to be affiliated with Wofford College. Four years later South Carolina Methodism leased, and later sold, the plant to Col. Risher. Today it is the widely known Carlisle Military School.
Before there was a Wofford College the Methodists had built a school in Abbeville District called, at the period that concerns us, the Cokesbury Conference School. That was in 1833.
In 1893, the church placed Cokesbury under the control of the Board of Trustees of Wofford College, and at the conference of the following year, discussed “raising” it to the level of a fitting school. Evidently there was little enthusiasm for a third preparatory school, for the Conference of 1896 appointed a separate board of trustees, thus severing Cokesbury’s relationship with Wofford College.
Twenty-one years later, in 1917, the school was closed and the plant was turned over to the community for the use of public schools.
And so ends Wofford College’s participation in the unique academy movement.
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