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Ben’s Big Day

Written By: Phillip Stone - Oct• 19•11

On this day in 1780, 231 years ago, about 15-20 miles south of the present-day Wofford campus in downtown Spartanburg, a baby boy was born to a woman and her Revolutionary War militia captain husband.

The Carolina backcountry was an isolated part of the world in those days, but events from August 1780 to January 1781 in and around the Spartan District would change the young nation’s destiny, confirming American independence from the British Empire.  Other events on the wild frontier over the next 20 years, including the spread of Methodism across the area, would attract numerous Carolinians to the growing church.  The young boy born in October 1780 was drawn, along with the rest of his family, to Methodism, and Benjamin Wofford himself felt called to the ministry.

A few years later, he married, inherited his wife’s family’s considerable wealth,  and after her death in 1835, married again.  Settling into the courthouse village of Spartanburg in the late 1830s, Benjamin and Maria Wofford helped found Central Methodist Church and contemplated the kind of lasting impact that they could make with their accumulated wealth.  Shortly before his death in December 1850, a close friend asked, “Why not found a college?”  In his will of February 1850, Benjamin Wofford did just that.  The child of the frontier, born during a great global war, who as far as I know never traveled further than East Tennessee, laid the foundation for a place of learning that he never saw in operation.  Yet people from all over the world have come here to teach and share, and people have been educated here who have gone out to live and work both locally and globally.  There are Wofford people – his spiritual if not literal descendants, all over the world right now.

Ben may have come out of isolated surroundings, but his gift has gone all around the world.  And for that, today we ought to pause and remember.

Pictured – a pen and ink drawing of founder Benjamin Wofford, prepared by artist W. H. Scarborough.

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