A few months back, I wrote about what we do with all of the papers we get in the conference archives. This month, I want to write about what we did with one particular collection that we received a few years ago.
It took over a year, but the Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, who is the senior research associate in the archives, and I arranged and described the papers of the Rev. Adlai Cornwell Holler. Given to us by his children, processing the Holler Papers proved to be a monumental undertaking. When completed, the Holler Papers amounted to about ten cubic feet of files.
You may wonder what kind of files clergy keep. It seems as though Adlai Holler kept everything. We sorted the materials into personal papers, church files, official conference files, and sermons. We found his notes from his time at Harvard Law School (yes, a minister who also had a law degree) and a lot of materials about his family, his personal expenses, and the civic clubs of which he was a member. We also found collections of materials about the churches he served, sermon notes, and sermon preparation materials. He kept boxes (literally!) of materials to help develop sermon ideas. He also kept items that did not relate directly to his ministry.
Adlai C. Holler was an active teacher, and was involved in numerous educational undertakings – leading what were in those days called training schools. There’s at least one box of his teaching and course development materials. Over the years, he taught courses on teaching young adults, working with adults, counseling those with alcoholism, the Old Testament, the life of Jesus, and numerous other topics. In those pre-email days when even telephone conversations were a luxury, his correspondence with friends and colleagues reveals much about his life and work.
In his ministry, he served eleven different appointments in nearly every part of South Carolina, from Myrtle Beach to Greenville, from Gaffney to St. George. He also served as secretary of the conference board of education, as conference secretary, as editor of the Advocate, and as a district superintendent. His conference files reflect his deep involvement in the management of the Annual Conference for decades. He also served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference.
He had a particular method for arranging his sermons, and the envelopes with his sermon notes also contain the bulletins from the churches where they were delivered, and even mention hymn choices and the weather and attendance for those Sundays. In processing the collection, we didn’t want to tinker with his arrangement, so we largely left the sermons alone, but no doubt researchers would enjoy looking at them. The collection is open for research use, and would be interesting to anyone who is studying South Carolina Methodism from the Great Depression into the 1970s. And, though space in the archives is tight, we’re always looking to add to the collection.