Methodist Uncategorized

A Methodist Summer in 1921

This column appeared in the July 2021 issue of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate

Issues of the Advocate in June and July 1921 featured the varied work of Methodists around South Carolina, including revivals, conferences, Episcopal travel, and the work of conference institutions.  

The Advocate reported on a revival in Edgefield in June 1921 that evidently went on for two weeks.  “After a little over two weeks duration, Rev. Mr. Bridgers closed the tent revival meeting on Tuesday night, after a most successful and soul-stirring and beneficial fortnight’s spiritual awakening of all our people of all classes and conditions and ages and colors. Its tangible results should rank it the best and most far-reaching in its good and uplifting influence of any like revival ever held in Edgefield. Rev. Mr. Bridgers is a man of wonderful power and magnetism, and the good work and genuine benefits occurring should have a lasting and telling effect for a long time to come. Edgefield enjoyed the meeting thoroughly, and we trust its laborers will be felt for the betterment of the whole town and country.” 

The Advocate also posted a note from Bishop Urban Darlington that spoke both of the challenges of travel a hundred years ago as well as the international aspect of the work of the bishops.  Darlington wrote “It is my purpose to sail from New York on July 5th for the inspection of our European work, being appointed to such mission by the College of Bishops. While absent my Episcopal District will be in the hands of Bishop Collins Denny of Richmond, Va. Let all the brethren take notice. I hope to return about September 20th.”

The Advocate also brought events at Lake Junaluska to the notice of its readers.  Several meetings and training events were on the calendar, including the Rural Life School, then the Epworth League Assembly would run from June 30 to July 10.  A training school for Sunday School teachers would follow, from July 13 through 27. That sounds like a lot of training.  August would see the missionary conference, the conference of laymen, and the Bible-Evangelistic Conference, and the Social Service Conference.  The Advocate encouraged South Carolinians to take a vacation to the Lake to take advantage of “innocent recreation.”  

The editor noted receiving Wofford’s College Catalogue, a document that described the college’s course offerings as well as other information about the institution.  It noted that Wofford had hosted nearly 600 students during regular and summer terms.  It noted the students, which coming most heavily from Spartanburg County, represented almost every county in the state, with 21 of the upcountry counties and 21 of the lowcountry counties having students at the college.  Of note, 21 students came from Orangeburg, 19 from Darlington, 16 from Williamsburg, 15 each from Lexington, Florence, and Richland, and 14 from Calhoun. The college had about 32 employees, and the Advocate made note of the size of the campus community and the college’s focus on training students in scholarship and character.   A later item noted the arrival of a new faculty member. Dr. A. M. Trawick, who was becoming professor of religious education.  The editor noted Dr Trawick had “a very unique and attractive personality, splendid equipment, and ripe classroom experience” which made him “a really great teacher, and it is an easy forecast that he will soon become one of the most popular members of the Wofford faculty.”  

Along with these items, the Advocate also focused on meetings of the Woman’s Missionary Society, with a full report of their recent meeting at Anderson College, hosted by the ladies of St. John’s Church.  Methodists were indeed busy doing the church’s work in the summer of 1921.  


Online research

This was my June column in the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate

While we always welcome visitors to the conference archives at Wofford, many researchers have come to expect to be able to do at least some of their archival research online. 

At Wofford, we are working to make more of the primary source materials available online, but some of that work will take a very long time.  At the moment, most of the conference journals are available here: These can be a very useful source for learning about the conference, about clergy, and about local church statistics. 

Another popular resource has been the clergy biographical and pictorial directories. Many churches like to have portraits of their former ministers in a place of honor in the church. When I first worked in the archives, often we would have to photocopy the pictures from one of the clergy directories, and then those could be converted to a photo print. Some years back, we decided to digitize the photos, and local churches can download a high resolution image.  Some of the images are still pretty small. The full directories are here: The photos are linked from the Methodist archives web page:

Other church agencies have developed online resources for individuals who want to conduct research from home.  The United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History is responsible for the general church agency records, but they also strive to promote Methodist history at the national and international levels. They have a number of articles that researchers might find interesting. These are located at: These articles might be good resources for Sunday school classes learning about Methodist history. Also, the bishop’s ordination chain is a great resource if clergy are curious as to how they connect back to the founding generation of American Methodism. Old issues of the journal Methodist History are available on the site as well. 

Other materials on American Methodism are available in the Internet Archive, located here:  These materials can be read online or downloaded for later reference. 

If you are interested in learning more about our roots in British Methodism, the online Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland might be just the source you’re looking for.  It is freely available online at :  And, just as the United States has a Historical Society of the United Methodist Church, the British Methodist Conference has a Wesley Historical Society. Their website is

Archives are constantly trying to make more historical materials available for researchers. Some of this involves making digital copies of older materials – and cataloging them or transcribing them so that the information in them is actually available to researchers. Some of the work involves collecting today’s records. All of it can be labor-intensive and time consuming. In the end, it all helps us share our story better, and helping make those connections between the past and present is always worth the effort. 


Mrs. Maria Wightman and the Woman’s Missionary Society

Mrs. Maria Davies Wightman
Mrs. Maria Davies Wightman

Mrs. Maria Davies Wightman lived in several states, but she became one of the most prominent women in South Carolina Methodism as the founding president of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the South Carolina Conference.  Given how the organizations have evolved, she stands first in the line of women to have led the conference’s women’s organization.

Born in 1833 in the home of her great-grandfather, a Revolutionary War veteran of the Siege of Yorktown, Maria Davies moved as a small child first to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Macon, Mississippi.  She graduated first in her class in 1849 from Centenary Institute in Summerfield, Alabama.

During the Civil War, her family moved to Greensboro, Alabama, where Southern University was located.  A South Carolina clergyman named William Wightman was serving as the university’s chancellor, having left Wofford College in 1859 to help start the new university.  (This college eventually became Birmingham-Southern.)  In 1862, Maria Davies met Wightman, who was a widower with 5 children.  Despite a 25-year age difference, they married in November 1863.

In 1866, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South elected William Wightman a bishop, and the Wightmans moved to Charleston, Bishop Wightman’s home, to establish his episcopal residence.  Bishop Wightman traveled throughout the country to preside over Annual Conferences, and Mrs. Wightman found herself busy supporting the bishop and raising their two children.

And here began Mrs. Wightman’s involvement with missionary society work.  Women in Methodism had wanted to organize some type of women’s work in the church for years but had been discouraged by the church hierarchy.  In 1878, the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was approved by General Conference and a constitution prepared by the College of Bishops.  On May 23, 1878, the society was organized, and plans soon made to establish societies in each Annual Conference.

The bishops appointed the initial officers of the church-wide society, and the eight bishops’ wives became vice presidents.  Mrs. Wightman helped organize the society and she suggested that each Annual Conference should also have a society.  When the South Carolina Conference met in November 1878 in Newberry, the conference missionary secretary invited any interested women to meet to form a society.  Mrs. Wightman was asked to preside.  The nominating committee recommended her for the presidency of the conference Woman’s Missionary Society, and she was elected.  Some sources have suggested that she was the first woman to preside over a public meeting in the history of South Carolina.

Mrs. Wightman remained as president of the conference Woman’s Missionary Society after Bishop Wightman died in 1882, and for thirty more years, until her own death in 1912.  Many of the articles in her papers testify to the strength and resolve she brought to her position, for she was intent on supporting women who wanted to serve the church.  When the conference society held its first annual meeting at Trinity Church, Charleston in April 1880, she addressed the assembled members as to why they were not holding their state meeting during Annual Conference.  “At this time, we have, all to ourselves, two days for consultation, for reports, suggestions, for united, specific, continuous prayer, and an opportunity to see our duty and our privilege, that our lives may take a deeper meaning and purpose.”  Had they met during Conference, they would have felt like a side show.

She concluded her address, “We need faithful, willing hearts and hands for service… I say to each of you, my sisters, your hand is wanted.  The Lord has need of you.”  And so, Mrs. Maria Wightman spent the next thirty years organizing the missions work of South Carolina’s Methodist women.

African-American History Methodist Uncategorized

Bishop James S. Thomas

Bishop James S. Thomas was one of South Carolina’s most significant contributions to the United Methodist Church. His pioneering work helped lead to the end of racial segregation in the church’s hierarchy.

Bishop James S. Thomas with Wofford President Paul Hardin III
Bishop James S. Thomas became the first African-American to receive an honorary doctorate from Wofford College on May 14, 1972.

Bishop Thomas was born a hundred years ago this spring, on April 9, 1919, in Orangeburg. His father, the Rev. James S. Thomas, Sr., was a clergyman serving there. Bishop Thomas enrolled at Claflin University, graduating in 1939 with a degree in sociology. He first became an educator, spending a year as a school principal in Florence County. However, he could not ignore his call to the ministry, and was ordained deacon and elder in subsequent years. He attended Gammon Theological Seminary and served the Orangeburg Circuit, and later, earned a master’s degree at Drew University.

Back in South Carolina, he served two years on the York Circuit, and was also a chaplain at South Carolina State College. From the local church, Bishop Thomas found a calling in higher education, going on to become a professor at Gammon Seminary. While there, he earned his PhD in sociology and anthropology at Cornell University. During part of his time at Gammon, he served as acting president of the seminary.

In 1953, he took a position as associate general secretary of the Methodist General Board of Education, with responsibilities for assisting and supporting the denomination’s historically black colleges. He served at the General Board for a dozen years, retaining his clergy membership in the South Carolina 1866 Conference.

During the 1950s, many Methodists began to question the bargain that had been struck during the reunification of the northern and southern branches of Methodism, the bargain that relegated African-American Methodists into the segregated Central Jurisdiction. As early as 1952, Methodists were arguing that “there is no place for racial discrimination or segregation in the Methodist Church.” In a painfully slow manner, Bishop Thomas was at the forefront of helping to dismantle segregation in the church.

Though the Central Jurisdiction still existed in 1964, Thomas was elected to the episcopacy by the North Central Jurisdiction. He became the youngest Methodist bishop at the time of his election. He was assigned to the Iowa Area, one of the largest annual conferences in the denomination, where he served until 1976. During that twelve years, the merger with the Evangelical United Brethren Church created the United Methodist Church, the Central Jurisdiction was abolished, and former African-American conferences throughout the country merged into integrated conferences. During that twelve years, Bishop Thomas became president of the Council of Bishops, served as chair of the social principles study commission, and delivered the principal episcopal address in 1976. In 1972, in fact, three native South Carolinians played leading roles in General Conference, one of them being Bishop Thomas.

Claflin remained dear to his heart, and he helped the university raise funds on numerous occasions. A long-time trustee, he chaired the board and was inducted into the Claflin hall of fame. He also received honors from colleges across the Midwest, including Ohio Wesleyan, Iowa Wesleyan, and DePauw, and in South Carolina, both Claflin and Wofford conferred honorary doctorates on him. He was the first African-American to receive an honorary degree from Wofford in 1972.

In 1976, he was appointed to the East Ohio Conference, where he served until retirement in 1988. He continued his ministry as a bishop in residence at Emory and at Clark Atlanta, and continued his work of mentoring and teaching until his death in 2010 at age 91.


Methodism in Charleston, Part II

Charlestonians may be able to claim visits from John Wesley, but they were not always as kind to Wesley’s successors. While Methodism took root in Charleston in the 1780s and grew in the 1790s, it was not without opposition and even persecution.

With the establishment of the Cumberland Street Church in 1786 and the completion of its structure in the middle of the next year, the first meeting of the South Carolina Annual Conference was held in Charleston in 1787. The next year, when Conference again met at the church, a mob attacked outside during the Sunday morning service. The women of the church were so frightened that many of them escaped out the church’s windows. Later that night, protesters threw bricks and rocks at the church while Bishop Francis Asbury was preaching. The next year, the newspaper denounced Bishop Thomas Coke when he visited the Holy City. Why all this opposition to early Methodists? Perhaps it was their anti-slavery position, or that they had more African-American members than white members in some early years. Perhaps it was their evangelical zeal that put off the Charlestonians, who were generally low key in their religious practice. In any event, as long as Methodists held on to their opposition to slavery, they found condemnation among white Charleston society.

Those early Methodists faced other internal challenges. When Bishop Coke arrived for the 1791 Conference, he brought with him the Rev. William Hammett, who had been working among Methodists in the British West Indies. His enthusiastic preaching wowed the Methodists of Charleston, who demanded that Bishop Asbury appoint Hammett to Charleston. Asbury, having already made the appointments, was unwilling to budge. Hammett, who was probably not the first clergyman to be disappointed with his appointment, and certainly not the last, protested. He went further than most clergy, taking his protests to the newspapers. And then, he led about half of the aggrieved members of the Cumberland Street church out to form a new congregation, calling themselves “Primitive Methodists.” They acquired property on Hasell Street, took the name Trinity, and there Hammett preached until his death in 1813. They eventually spun off a second Primitive Methodist congregation, which became St. James.

The Cumberland Church, though wounded by the loss of so many members, continued, and in 1793 they looked to start a second Charleston congregation. They acquired land for a cemetery on which they also planned to build a church, and as soon as they raised 300 pounds, they began construction on what became Bethel. They put the building into use around 1798.

The “regular” Methodists continued to face criticism and attacks from Charleston society, and the protests increased in force and volume during the early 19th century. Finally, the church abandoned its long-held anti-slavery positions, choosing the path of growth in the South over Wesley’s teachings. The attacks gradually stopped.

The African-American Methodists grew increasingly frustrated with the white leadership of the local congregations. While the enslaved Methodists had class leaders and some control over finances in the class groups, a movement was underway to take that away. When that financial control was taken away by the white leadership, many of the African-American members withdrew to form a new congregation and denomination. That loss of membership marked a momentous change in the antebellum Methodist church in Charleston.

Eventually, after Hammett’s death, the primitive Methodists returned to the Methodist Episcopal Church, becoming regular conference appointments. Charleston Methodism continued to grow into a more influential body within the state and the conference.

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


Methodism in Charleston, Part 1

Many South Carolinians call it the “Holy City,” but it’s safe to say that Charleston has had a long and complicated relationship with Methodism. Sometimes supporting the church’s growth and sometimes finding its doctrines in opposition to the prevailing culture, Charleston has been a part of South Carolina Methodism’s story since before there was a Methodist church.

Charleston can claim a connection to early Methodism that very few places in North America can match. John Wesley visited the Holy City on a few occasions while he was serving in Georgia. According to Francis Asbury Mood’s Methodism in Charleston, John and Charles Wesley arrived in Charleston on July 31, 1736, barely six months after his arrival in Georgia. He was there to visit the Rev. Alexander Garden, who was the rector of St. Philip’s Church and also the representative of the Anglican Bishop of London. Garden invited Wesley to preach in St. Philip’s, which Wesley did on Sunday, August 1 to about 300 parishioners. At this service, Wesley encountered several enslaved persons among the worshippers, which seemed to have a profound effect on him. The next day, Mood notes that Wesley paid a call on the governor, who in 1736 would have been Thomas Broughton. He then returned to Savannah, starting out on foot because he could find no other passage available. Charles Wesley was soon to leave Savannah, having found serving as Governor Oglethorpe’s secretary not in keeping with his skills.

Wesley made two more trips to Charleston, once to visit with Garden (for whom the gardenia was named) to ask the rector of St. Philip’s to help put an end to someone in Georgia from marrying his parishioners without going through proper procedures. Mood does not mention the other reason that Wesley visited – to have his “Collection of Psalms and Hymns” printed at the Lewis Timothy print shop on King Street. Wesley’s final visit to Charleston was after he abruptly left Georgia in late 1737 on his way back to England.

Mood notes that George Whitfield, who was an early collaborator in ministry with Wesley, also visited several times in Charleston, but after an early visit, his street preaching offended Garden, who had him suspended from the ministry. Whitfield took to other pulpits to spread his message. One of Wesley’s ministers visited Charleston in the 1770s, but did not leave much of a record of his presence.

After the 1784 Christmas Conference, Bishop Francis Asbury journeyed to Charleston, with Rev. Jesse Lee and Rev. Henry Willis helping him set up preaching places. Willis found a deserted Baptist meeting house on the west side of Church Street between Water and Tradd streets and restored it for services. Asbury himself visited both St. Philip’s and the Circular Congregational Church as he familiarized himself with religion in Charleston. After Asbury left in March, Willis stayed behind, and at the next conference in the spring, Charleston Circuit was established. The Methodists continued to worship in the borrowed meeting house for a few months, but one Sunday, they found their benches in the street and the doors locked. The congregation was a bit itinerant until they secured a lot in early 1786, and a structure built by mid-1787. The lot, on Cumberland Street between Meeting and Church, was the first permanent Methodist church in Charleston.

The congregation and its leaders would face a number of challenges, but we’ll save those for later.

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


A Letter from Brazil from Louise Best

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

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


Louise Best: Missionary in Brazil

One of the South Carolina Conference’s many contributions to the Methodist Church’s mission work was Miss Louise Best, who served for some 37 years as an educator in Brazil.

The daughter of Rev. Albert H. Best and Lillie Andrews Best, Louise Best grew up in a Methodist parsonage.  She was born while her father was serving at Mars Bluff, and grew up in Clyde, Gourdine, Sumter, Greer, Campobello, Newberry, and McCormick, among other places.  She attended Lander College (it was a Methodist college in those days) and Scarritt Bible and Training College in Kansas City.  Scarritt was known for its work in training women for the mission field.

Louise Best went to Brazil in the early 1920s, where she was sent, along with Miss Eunice Andrews, to help found a school in the city of Santa Maria, in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.  That part of Brazil was fairly remote, and was influenced by the Gaucho culture of Argentina.

The school, Colegio Centenario, opened with 7 students in March 1922.  They chose that name, which in English would be Centenary College, because 1922 was the centennial of Brazilian independence.  The school was largely supported by the Women’s Society of Christian Service.  It was originally a school for girls, and it started in a cottage.  Over the next thirty years, it grew to include four large buildings, and encompassed a primary school, a high school, and junior college classes as well.  For much of her time in Brazil, Louise Best was the principal of Colegio Centenario.

Except for her first six months spent near Rio, Louise Best spent the entirety of her 37 years in the mission field in Santa Maria, Brazil.  Some of her letters appeared on the Woman’s Society of Christian Service pages in The Advocate.  Some of her letters speak of the vastness of Brazil’s countryside – it took 4 days by train to get to conferences in Rio.  Other letters speak of construction projects – building the primary school, her hopes for a chapel – and of the support the mission had received from home.  In later years, she wrote of the work that the college’s alumnae had undertaken to raise needed funds.  As she neared retirement, the city of Santa Maria made her an honorary citizen, which was noted as a nice honor considering how the locals were a little suspicious of this Methodist mission in its early days.  By the time she retired and returned to South Carolina, Miss Best noted, the school had as many Catholic as Protestant students.

Following her retirement in 1958, she settled in Spartanburg, where one of her younger brothers lived.  She spoke regularly in churches around the conference about her life and mission work.  Part of her reason for speaking was no doubt to encourage others to enter the field, for as she told a reporter, “The need for missionaries far exceeds the number making applications and this is tragic.”  She was attending a reunion of a handful of missionaries at the home of a minister in North Carolina when she died in July 1966.

Brushes with History Methodist

Methodists and World War I

This was my column for the April edition of the SC United Methodist Advocate

This month marks the centennial of American entry into the First World War. On April 2, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a special session to declare war on Germany, and on April 6, Congress passed a declaration of war.

The Great War, as people of that generation called it, had been raging in Europe and elsewhere for nearly three years when the United States entered the conflict. Stories of war had been on American front pages throughout that time, and Americans had been profiting from European countries’ needs to purchase manufactured goods here. South Carolinians were, in the words of Wofford history professor Dr. David Duncan Wallace, “gloating over nineteen cents cotton.”

Wallace had a regular column in the Advocate, and on April 12, 1917, he wrote, “As President Wilson so eloquently expressed it, this is a war between absolutely irreconcilable principles … those of military autocracy and democratic freedom,” and “America does not want to live in a world in which a nation with a submarine soul and with a submarine way of getting what it wants shall be accorded any right to say what the world shall be like.” Wallace, using the word “submarine,” was no doubt playing on the German campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare that was part of America’s reason for entering the war.

The war, for Wallace and for several other academics, was about the question of “whether free democratic communities, organized for peace, can defend themselves against military oligarchies.” Wallace had actually been critical of the United States for standing by for so long, noting, “The sorry spectacle has at last ended of this land of freedom standing ‘neutral’ by drinking its streams of gold, while other free nations defended with their streams of blood our and our children’s freedom against the mightiest and most infamous conspiracy of modern times.”

However, Wallace hastened to separate criticism of the German government from criticism of German people, or of Americans of German descent: “Everyone should use his or her influence to suppress absurd and cruel slanders against our fellow citizens of German blood. It is true that the country is full of German spies, but that is no reason for listening to wild rumors about persons whom you have known for years as good and true men.”

Wallace noted the next week that “the first task of the United States will be to supply the Allies with money and food.” And it was certainly true that the British and French were suffering mightily in the spring of 1917 from shortages of food and arms.

So how did South Carolina Methodists react to the country’s declaration of war? The Advocate said almost nothing editorially about the outbreak of war. Perhaps by April 1917, they had already said all they wanted to say. One guest writer, on April 26, wrote a long opinion piece about the desire for world domination among Germany’s leaders. He cited articles by German military leaders but, like Wallace, hastened to separate the American war against Germany from a war on the German people.

The next two years would be dominated by war, and South Carolina’s Methodists would be focused on family members who were sent to fight in Europe and on mission work in the state and throughout the world.