African-American History Brushes with History Methodist

How the Methodist Church split in the 1840s

This column appears in the February 2013 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate.  I thought that sharing some information about why the Methodist Church split before the Civil War would be interesting.  

Bishop William Capers of South Carolina

For nearly 100 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church was divided into northern and southern wings.  Sixteen years before the southern states seceded, the southern Annual Conferences withdrew from the denomination and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  What could have caused such a split?

From its earliest days, Methodists debated the issue of slavery.  More precisely, they tried to decide what relationship the church should have to the peculiar institution in a country where slavery was legal, and in some parts of the country, widely supported.  Methodist conferences even before the first General Conference spoke out against slavery, suggesting that clergy who held slaves should promise to set them free.  Several General Conferences struggled with the issue, first pressing traveling elders to emancipate their slaves, then suspending those rules in states where the laws did not permit manumission.  By 1808, General Conference threw up its hands, finding the subject unmanageable, and gave each Annual Conference the right to enact its own rules relative to slaveholding.

The denomination remained divided on the subject of slavery, with some northern Methodists becoming more convinced of slavery’s evil and some southern Methodists more convinced that it was a positive good.  Other southerners felt that any denunciation of slaveholding by Methodists would damage the church in the South.  They were caught, in effect, between church rules and state laws.

The spark that caused the division came when Bishop James O. Andrew, a native and resident of Georgia and a former member of the South Carolina Annual Conference, married a woman who had inherited slaves from her late husband.  Many northern Methodists were appalled that someone with the responsibilities of a general superintendent of the church could also own slaves.  This was the main topic of debate when the General Conference convened in New York City on May 1, 1844.  The six week session would be the longest General Conference in Methodist history.

Bishop Andrew learned of the impending conflict as he traveled to New York, and he resolved to resign from the episcopacy.  However, the southern delegates persuaded Andrew that his resignation would “inflict an incurable wound on the whole South and inevitably lead to division in the church.”  When the conference convened, Bishop Andrew was asked for information on his connection with slavery.

Bishop Andrew explained that first, he had inherited a slave from a woman in Augusta, Georgia, who had asked him to care for her until she turned nineteen, and then emancipate her and send her to Liberia, and if she declined to go, then he should make her “as free as the laws of Georgia would permit.”  The young woman refused to go, so she lived in her own home on his lot and was free to go to the North if she wished, but until then she was legally his slave.  He also inherited a slave through his first wife who would also be free to leave whenever he was able to provide for himself.  Finally, his second wife brought slaves to the marriage, but he disclaimed ownership of them.  “I have neither bought nor sold a slave,” he told the General Conference, “and in the state where I am legally a slaveholder, emancipation is impracticable.”

A group of northern delegates proposed a resolution that the bishop was “hereby affectionately asked to resign.”  Some took the position that the bishops were officers elected by the General Conference and could be asked to resign or deposed by majority vote.  Others took the view that it was a constitutional office and bishops could be removed only by judicial process.  A substitute resolution by one of the bishop’s friends, an Ohioan, asked the bishop to desist from exercising his office as long as he was a slaveholder.  After a 12-day debate, other efforts at compromise, including one that would have allowed Andrew to serve wherever he would be welcomed, failed when it became apparent that the New England conferences would secede if it passed.  One of the prominent speakers in the debate was William Capers, who was the leader of South Carolina’s delegation and a future bishop.

The motion asking Andrew to desist from serving as a bishop ultimately passed, 111-69.  General Conference then worked through the beginnings of a plan of separation.  Annual Conferences throughout the South sent delegates to a convention in Louisville in May 1845, where they formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  For the next 94 years, the two strands of the Methodist Episcopal Church operated separately.  Their separation was one of the turning points on the road to the Civil War, for the Methodist Church was one of several national churches and institutions that broke apart because it could not withstand the growing tensions surrounding the divisive issue of slavery.


So, What’s an Archives?

This column ran in the November issue of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.  

Archives conjure up all sorts of image, and in the popular imagination, they usually involve dust.

You probably are thinking of scenes from a movie, maybe an Indiana Jones film where he dashes into a room with lots of shelves and old volumes in search of some bit of information, some item of lost knowledge.  Or maybe you’re thinking of a warehouse of boxes, or a small, dark room with someone, probably of advanced age, there to help find some hard to locate bit of information.

The truth is, we don’t really like dust, and we try to keep the books and papers in the various collections as free of it as possible.  Archives vary in size, from closet to warehouse. And the types of things in archives aren’t limited to books, but can range from paper files to audio recordings and video tape, from maps to computer files, and from yearbooks to photographs.

Technically, archives are the permanently valuable records of an organization, such as a college, a church, a state, or an annual conference.  In our case, they include such things as the conference journals, the Advocate, conference board and commission minutes, agency files, and district records.  An archives might also collect materials that relate to its mission, such as books by and about South Carolina Methodism or Methodists, pictorial directories, local church histories, and files on different churches.  Taking a broader view, archives to some people are simply the place where the old stuff goes, or where one goes for information about the past.

Our primary focus is on the records of the Annual Conference, though we do have the records of some closed local churches.  If you are looking for local church history, the best place to start is in the local church or in the community, though we may be able to help with some statistics, a list of pastoral appointments, and changes in charge lines.  We’ve been trying to put pictures of clergy online so that local churches can download them.  Some researchers call to ask if we can produce an ancestor’s baptism or marriage record, and anticipate that all of those records are on the internet, ready to be found with a quick Google search.  I wish it were that easy.  We don’t have the baptism or marriage records for active congregations, nor do we have their church council minutes.  If we tried to keep all of that, we would need a warehouse, and anyone who has visited knows we don’t have that kind of space!

Why should your church have an archives?  In part, because keeping local church history is the local church’s responsibility.  That’s why you have a local church historian and a committee on records and history.  The church historian’s job is to take care of the church’s historical records and to make sure that records being produced today – everything from the weekly bulletin or newsletter to the minutes of the church council – are being kept in a safe place.

You can find some help for these tasks on our website:  There are links to the collections here in the archives and to resources that will help your church organize its own records.  And you can always contact me for guidance.  I’ll even remind you to keep the dust out.

Alumni Methodist

John C. Kilgo – the education bishop

My October column for the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate was about Bishop John C. Kilgo

Bishop John C. Kilgo

John Carlisle Kilgo has been called South Carolina Methodism’s gift to North Carolina.  His service to the church and to higher education in the two Carolinas makes him one of the most significant figures in the early twentieth century church.

Born in Laurens, S. C. in 1861, John C. Kilgo was the son of a Methodist minister. He grew up in Methodist parsonages all around South Carolina.  He followed his older brother to Wofford College in October 1880, but stayed only through his sophomore year.  His eyes were weak, and caused him trouble in his studies. He entered the ministry, being admitted to the South Carolina Conference in December 1882.  Appointed to Bennettsville for 1883, he also served in Timmonsville, Rock Hill, and the Little Rock Circuit before returning to Wofford in 1889. His gifts in the pulpit brought him to the attention of the college’s trustees, and he was selected to be Wofford’s financial agent.

The financial agent was the chief fund-raiser for the college, and thus John Kilgo made extensive use of his church connections to help solicit gifts to Wofford.  His two brothers, both of whom had earned Wofford degrees, had followed him into the ministry. Now that he was back at Wofford, he resumed his studies, and though he never earned a bachelor’s degree, he undertook coursework privately with English Professor Henry Nelson Snyder. As a result, in 1892, he was granted an honorary master of arts degree – an unusual award.  He also began to teach courses as a professor of metaphysics. At 31, he was a popular, if brash, young professor, and rumor had it that he aspired to Wofford’s presidency. He continued his work as financial agent, representing the college at gatherings around the state.

Kilgo was destined for greater things.  Only two years later, in 1894, the young minister was elected president of Trinity College, which had only recently moved to Durham, North Carolina.  Trinity, in fact, was in debt at the time, and Washington Duke, who had helped bring the college to Durham, lamented that he had ever become involved with the place.  Touring the campus with Kilgo, Duke reportedly said, “Well, there it is. I never expect to give another dollar to it, and I wish I had never put a dollar in it.”

Kilgo presided over Trinity for sixteen years, guiding the college and repairing the institution’s relationship with the Duke family. Kilgo inspired the family to resume its support, and he was able to articulate a vision for the college. As its president, Kilgo declared that Trinity would help form opinion and not follow it. He supported industrial development in the South and was not shy about pointing out the region’s social problems. Most notably, Kilgo took a liberal position on race relations.  And this was in the 1890s and early 1900s!  He was also a strong defender of academic freedom at Trinity, and in one case, told the trustees that he would rather teach ten students that believed in truth and tolerance than to teach a thousand “who believed in intolerance and regarded intellectual bondage a commendable virtue.”  The trustees backed Kilgo’s position and in 1903, issued a strong statement in support of academic freedom.

John Kilgo was elected bishop by the 1910 General Conference, but he left Trinity well on its way to being transformed into Duke University. As a bishop, Kilgo served throughout the denomination, presiding over sessions of the South Carolina Conference in 1911 and 1912.  He had the good fortune of presiding over one annual conference in Bennettsville, the town where he had his start in the ministry thirty years earlier. He once noted that he had never wanted to be anything but a Methodist preacher, and now he could “do anything in it from holding a meeting to presiding over an Annual Conference.”

As a bishop, he continued his advocacy for education. His abilities as a pulpit orator meant he was in great demand as a revival preacher, and he relished the task of saving souls.  He served for a dozen years in the episcopacy, working until his death in 1922.  As an educator, minister, and bishop, John Carlisle Kilgo believed in the importance and power of Christian education.

Documents Methodist

The Sancho Letter

In the September issue of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, I printed some excerpts from a letter written by a slave named Sancho.  The letter is one of the hidden treasures in the archives. It is part of the H. A. C. Walker Papers in the Wofford Archives. It’s a fascinating, painful, and moving story of suffering and forgiveness.  As I’ve noted earlier, part of the mission of the archives is to preserve our past and to connect us to our past. As difficult as it is, we as South Carolinians and Methodists should always remember that not everything in our history is happy. Still, stories such as this can teach us about strength in times of suffering as well as grace.  I did not have room for the entire letter in the Advocate, but on the web, space isn’t quite so limited, so here’s the entire letter.  

The first page of Sancho's letter

I Sancho was born in the city of Cowbo, Africa and I was raised by my parents in the fear of God, the same God that I now adore. My father worshipped him before me. The name of God was Ala and the name of Christ was Mamudda, in my native language.  At about 12 years of age my father sent me to England for the purpose of giving me schooling under the care of Mr. Price, but alas for us we were overtooken by robbers, captured and carried to Jamaica.  We remained there one year. The captain of our vessel was hung.  After remaining there one year, I was brought over to South Carolina and fell into the hands of a Mr. Canada, a Roman Catholic. About fifteen or twenty years after I lived in South Carolina, I embraced religion. I got powerfully awakened under the labors of Bishop Ashbury in Charleston and never gave up the struggle until I was happily converted to God, through the mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Now my troubles began. My master Canada hated from his soul the Methodists and I was most cruelly treated on that account. Only God who knows all this knows the suffering that I endured with that man for seven years oft times being so washed in my blood and made to pull him in his sulky instead of a horse every evening with a double-barreled gun in his hand to shoot me down if I should (  run or ____).  Yet amidst all of this severe treatment I rejoyce in it and my soul was happy. At the end of seven years he died.  He sent for me to pray for him during his illness.  After his death a captain Randall bought me.  He was an Episcopalian and I told him I was a Methodist.  He also hated the Methodists.  I held prayer meetings on his plantation.  He heard of it and called for me and told me he heard that I held meetings on his plantation and told me if I do the like again, he would slay me down with his sword. But blest be the name of God, I found that threats of swords burned fires and Lions are no obstacles in the way of souls on fire with heavenly love.  I still held prayers on his plantation.  He came and found me praying and he had a sword and pistole in his hand and made a threat at me with his sword.  But the sword broke in his hand.  But he took me and had me tied to an apple tree and one hundred and fifty lashes put upon me and told me to call upon Christ to take it off.  And also said that __ Christ himself.  He then put me in the barn in storks and a chain fixed upon my neck.  I told him he could rile my body but could not hurt the soul.  I laid in that situation all night covered with blood in storks neck with chain fixed upon it and O Paul I know the reason why you and your comrade sang praises to God in midnight when you was in prison as one might suffering for Jesus is a happy time for the sufferer.  When I came out next morning he was ashamed and some of the people fainted at the sight of me. But I felt happy and bold and strong.  I told him that he hated God and he hated the word of God and I heard in my own country that the people in this country was a barbarous peoples.  He drove me off his plantation.

He sold me to Dr. Cooper so that he should broke me of my religion.  I had many conversations with him about religion.  He said he liked the Methodists and said that his father had died a Methodist and that he himself was a Methodist. He however tried my faith and also my honesty and found me an honest and upright and faithful servant. For the religion of our blessed Lord and Saviour acts these traits to a man’s character and makes him shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.  After trying me in various ways and still finding the same consistent servant he allowed me great privileges.  He allowed me to sing praises and pray and hold meetings in and through his yard.  He also made me steward over his yard.  I was made the principal purchaser of the necessaries of his yard not regaining any in numeratory with me for moneys spent.  But under this great exhortation.  I did not get proud but still kept my heart under subjection giving honor and praise unto his holy name that he calls me a lonely and poor African in a strange land to gain the confidence of my earthly master in surpassing my heart with that religion that makest wise the simple and is a friend to the friendly and the poor.  I love the Methodist church.  I love her ways.  I have been fighting under her banners for fifty-three or –four years as far as I can recollect, and by the grace of God I intend to stand with her untill life’s latest hour. Any prayers shall be offered in her behalf while I have breath to breathe.  When I consider the great kindness and considerations she sent, the sacrifices she makes of health and property in sending her ministers through thick and thin, through hot and cold, through the ditches of the rice fields and cotton patches, that the poor untutored African may have the gospel preached unto him and his soul pointed to Christ. O thou church of my God, go on in thy labor of love and many stars shall be added to thy crown.

I have heard of the shouts of the dying African as he blessed God that he ever raised up such a company of men as to care thus for their souls.  I feel my time now drawing to an end and I bless God that I feel able to say with an apostle for I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day and not to me only but to all them also that have love his appearing.  This may be the last conference year that I ever expect to spend this side of eternity.  It is my prayer day and night that God would pour out his spirit and that he would revive his works abundantly and that it may extend to all people both white and black.

Documents Methodist

Mary Belle Winn – A Methodist Missionary in China

This month, I began writing a column about South Carolina Methodist history for the SC United Methodist Advocate, our Annual Conference’s newspaper.  The first column appeared this week, so I’m sharing it here on the blog as well. 

Several years ago, a collection of some 147 letters arrived at the Conference Archives at Wofford. These letters were written by a South Carolina Methodist missionary serving in China to her family in the College Place section of Columbia. They provide a glimpse at both the life of Mary Belle Winn, the daughter of a minister in the conference, during the 1920s and 1930s, and at the challenges faced by missionaries during those turbulent years.

Mary’s letters from 1923 recount her travels across the United States and the Pacific en route to her appointment in Soochow, China. Her letters after arriving describe the various institutions in the city – the hospital, a settlement house, and the schools, as well as the university. She appeared to be more shocked by the living conditions outside of the mission areas. The streets were narrow, covered with filth, and the city lacked proper sewage, which was a problem in a city of close to 800,000 people. She confessed to breathing through a handkerchief at times, though she supposed she’d get used to it.

The letters describe some of the missionaries’ activities. Mary had to undertake extensive study of Chinese when she arrived, but soon she was mixing language school with teaching. She reported in November that she was rushing to get her Christmas presents in the mail, and wrote after Christmas that her packages from her family in South Carolina had yet to arrive. Her letters are full of stories about members of the missionary community, of their work, and their travels. Some of the details are especially vivid.  In the summer of 1935, as she was leaving for her furlough year in the United States, she talks about four passengers trying to get on the ship as it was pulling away from the dock. A harbor pilot had to bring them out to the ship, which Mary found very exciting.

The missionaries attended their Annual Conference and missionary society meetings, and Mary once wrote of her disappointment at having her appointment changed by the bishop. Still, those meetings allowed the Americans who were in the mission field to get to know each other, and Mary reported of the many invitations she had to visit with other Methodist missionaries in different parts of China. She traveled to Shanghai frequently, and on a few occasions, she had to be evacuated there.

Especially in the later letters, Mary describes the unrest in China, and some of her letters from 1938 in Shanghai refer to the Japanese invasion of China, censorship, and the closeness of war. Fortunately, Mary did not wind up as a captive during World War II.  She did return to China for a few years after the war, and about a dozen letters tell of her postwar experiences. After the Chinese Communists expelled American missionaries, Mary Winn went on to work in the mission field in Pakistan for eight more years. Later in life, she lived at the Methodist Home in Orangeburg, now The Oaks, where she died in 1980.

This collection of letters has never been used by researchers – but would be useful to someone studying church history, missionary work, 20th century China, women’s history, or another similar topic. The stories here offer only the quickest glimpse of what’s in the rest of the letters.

One of the purposes of the Conference Archives is to collect materials such as these letters.  They provide insights into the lives of those who once lived among us, and they connect us to our past.

Documents Faculty Methodist

Dunc Wallace writes about John Wesley

David Duncan Wallace was one of Wofford’s more prolific scholars and authors – both in the early twentieth century and throughout the college’s history.  Today, I’m sharing an essay he published on the life of John Wesley. For the two of you who don’t know who Wesley was, he was an Anglican priest and, more importantly for our purposes, the founder of Methodism.

No doubt Wallace, a Methodist himself and a history professor in a Methodist-related institution, felt that Methodists in South Carolina needed a short, readable yet scholarly treatment of Wesley’s life. So, he wrote and published this pamphlet. When we found it in Wallace’s papers, I decided to scan the text and create a digital edition. It’s available on our website for anyone to read and print.






Alumni Documents Methodist

A Speech to the Student Body, 1893


The Rev. J. Marion Boyd was, in the fall of 1893, a member of Wofford’s Board of Trustees and a Methodist minister in South Carolina.  At the time that he gave these remarks in chapel, he was the presiding elder of the Spartanburg District, an office that we today call the district superintendent.  His parsonage was just a few blocks from the college, on North Church Street near Central Methodist Church.  He must have been a well-regarded leader in the South Carolina Methodist Conference, because he was in his eleventh year as a presiding elder, having spent 4 years in the Marion District, 4 years in the Charleston District, and was soon to begin his fourth and final year in the Spartanburg District.  As it happened, he died less than five months after making these remarks, on February 25, 1894. A copy of these remarks was recently given to the archives by Dr. Bill Whetsell ’62, who is Rev. Boyd’s great-grandson. Many of these observations remain as true today as they were in 1893.  

These students would have heard the welcome address in chapel earlier in the semester.

Two days ago, I had the pleasure of worshipping quite near the grave of Benjamin Wofford, the founder of this institution; and as I greeted his relatives and friends on the spot where he once mingled his voice in song and prayer, I remembered with increasing admiration that good man, through whose marvelous gift we are here to welcome you tonight, and to greet you, as part of a mighty host whose views of life and duty and privilege have been broadened and rendered more certain.

I know not what are the powers and enjoyment and employment of those who have rendered faithful service to their generation and have passed away.  I know not whether they have knowledge of events still happening among the living. These are hidden things. But if this be so, that they still take interest in the affairs of men, who can doubt that the illustrious founder of Wofford is more than a silent spectator of this scene! One thing we do know that his master remembers his deeds and will compensate at the resurrection of the just.

What an outflow from a single act of a good man! Think of the thousands of young men who have thronged this hall at its annual opening, and of their equipment for life received here. Some of them have completed their work and others are still prosecuting theirs! What mighty streams of intellectual and moral forces have flowed from this fountain of knowledge, and each student has been a tributary helping to widen and deepen the augmenting current.

You are here, young gentleuen, not to take part in “hazing” the freshmen or in suffering the indignities which freshmen once endured on entering an institution of learning. You are here as serious students of Wofford. Welcome the timid freshman or sophomore, to extend a junior’s – yes, a brother’s hand, with song and good cheer to prepare the way for a most successful and pleasing year’s work.

Already you have felt the clasp of friendship and received a cordial welcome from —–, the representatives of the —–, and I, now as a member of the Board of Trustees, bid you thrice welcome. I do this more really as a friend of the fathers and mothers of many of you, and again I bid you thrice welcome. In years past I have often been entertained in the homes from which many of you come. I have kneeled with your parents in prayers and it does my heart good to know that the Lord has blessed them and you so that you are here tonight, a favored group of young men, whether you be a senior, a junior, a sophomore, or a freshman, I congratulate you. Indeed I do.

Remember that you are now and henceforth to conduct yourself in keeping with your high ideals. Don’t disappoint the expectations of your parents, your friends, and your fellow students. Yes, “look after my boy,” write Christian fathers and mothers. You are the subjects of their prayers and Christian solicitude.

Honor this institution, this earnest and competent faculty, your parents, and above all, yourselves, by honoring your God in a life of good and faithful service.

Alumni Methodist

Bishop Cyrus Dawsey and Methodism in Brazil

Nearly a dozen Wofford alumni have become bishops in the Methodist Church, and two of those have the distinction of having served as bishop in another country.  One of those, Bishop Cyrus B. Dawsey, was a missionary in Brazil for some 32 years before becoming the bishop of the Methodist Church of Brazil.

Born in Galivants Ferry, SC in 1886, Cyrus Bassett Dawsey grew up in Horry County before finishing his secondary education at the Wofford Fitting School in 1906.  He continued on into the college, graduating in 1910.  He must have felt the call to ministry early, for he was licensed to preach in 1906, and in 1911, joined the South Carolina Annual Conference.  He served the Montgomery Memorial Methodist Church in Pacolet, SC, was ordained deacon in 1913.  The Dawsey family had been interested in missionary work, and had considered service in Japan or Cuba, but a visiting preacher at the Spartanburg District Conference in 1913 had presented the case for missionary work in Brazil so strongly that the Spartanburg District agreed to support a family’s work in that country.  And so, in 1914, the Dawsey family found themselves en route to Brazil.

Cyrus Dawsey was transferred to the Methodist Church of Brazil, an autonomous church of Methodism, and ordained elder there in 1915.  After a year of intensive language study in Piracicaba, the family moved to the interior state of Sao Paulo, where they were pioneer Methodists.  While the young minister traveled, almost like one of the Methodist circuit riders in America a century before, Mrs. Dawsey served as teacher, nurse, midwife, and undertaker in the communities where they lived. She organized activities in the churches they served, taught in schools where they existed and created them when they didn’t.  Their mud home had clay floors, kerosene lamps, well water, and straw mattresses.

The Rev. Dawsey largely brought the Methodist Church into existence in the northwest of Sao Paulo State.  He later served as the district superintendent of that area, and one of the schools he founded grew by the 1960s into a large enterprise.  In 1946, the General Conference of the Brazilian Methodist Church elected him to be their bishop, making him only the second American, after South Carolina native John W. Tarboux, to be elected to that post.  Bishops in that church served five year terms, not for life, and he was re-elected five years later.  The Dawseys moved to Piracicaba, where Mrs. Dawsey died in 1948.  Bishop Dawsey retired in 1956.

Four of Bishop Dawsey’s children entered the mission field.  Ethel and her husband founded a school of sacred music to teach choir directors.  Sarah was the principal of Colegio Bennett, a school in Rio de Janeiro.  Agnes and her husband Will Rogers as a minister family in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where they ministered to the country’s cowboys, or gauchos,  Cyrus, Jr. and his wife served churches around Sao Paulo State, the area of his birth.  Their youngest daughter worked in Columbia, South Carolina’s Bethlehem Center. Many descendants of the Dawsey and Rogers families are still active in missions and in the Methodist ministry in South Carolina.

Upon his retirement after 42 years of service in Brazil, Cyrus B. Dawsey and his second wife, missionary Lillian Knobles Dawsey, retired to Columbia, and the South Carolina Conference elected him as an honorary member.  He remained in Columbia until his death in 1976.

Methodist Photographs

Presidents of Brazil?

Pres-brazil001 Archives sometimes wind up with odd items in their collections, and no real explanation of how they wound up there.  I was looking through a file of unclassified photos that’s been in the vicinity of my desk for a while today and examined more closely three portraits of men I didn’t recognize.  Often we have portraits of Wofford faculty members or students, or Methodist ministers, and sometimes these students or ministers are hard to identify.  I’d looked at thse portraits before and had never stopped to try to identify them.  But today I decided that I needed to put this question to rest.

And, as it turns out, if I’d looked more closely at the outset, some things would have become obvious.  Each had a name written underneath the portrait, but I hadn’t quite been able to make it out.  But I noticed a reference to Brazil.  And then I realized the picture had a “Sao Paulo” imprint.  And then I saw the word “president.”  So a little trip over to Wikipedia found a list of Presidents of Brazil, and sure enough, I realized that I have portraits of the first three civilian presidents of Brazil on my desk.

After overthrowing Emperor Dom Pedro II in a military coup in 1888, Brazilians wrote a new constitution and established a republic.  The first two presidents were elected by a constituent congress.  The third president of Brazil, pictured above, was Prudente de Morais, and he was the first civilian and first directly-elected president.  Pres-brazil002He served for four years.  His successor, Manuel de Campos Sales, served from 1898 to 1902 as the second civilian president.  The third civilian president and fifth president of the republic, Francisco Rodrigues Alves, served from 1902 to 1906.

Now, how did pictures of the first three civilian presidents of Brazil wind up at Wofford?  I can’t say for sure, but the folder indicates they are part of the Methodist Conference Historical Society Portrait Collection.  Southern Methodists had a number of connections with Brazil in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Historians have written elsewhere of the flight of some southerners to Brazil at the end of the Civil War.  Brazil did not abolish slavery until 1888 (which angered the few remaining slaveholders and led to the coup against the emperor!)  Still, those connections, and missionary work of Southern Methodists in Brazil forged some strong connections.

One Methodist missionary who served in Brazil, John W. Tarboux, graduated from Wofford in 1877.  He and two other ministers formed the Brazil Annual Conference in 1886 – which was apparently the smallest annual conference ever formed in the Methodist Church.  For years he was the president of the Granberry Institute, which he hoped to turn into a Methodist university there. Pres-brazil003 After he retired in 1921, he moved to Miami, but the organizing General Conference of the autonomous Methodist Church of Brazil in 1930 elected him as their first bishop.  Another Wofford alumnus, Cyrus B. Dawsey of the class of 1910, also served as a longtime missionary in Brazil and in 1946 was elected bishop of the Methodist Church in Brazil.  I suspect that these pictures may have come as part of a gift of materials from Bishop Tarboux.

Photos, top to bottom: Presidents Morais, Sales, and Alves, from the Methodist Conference Historical Society Collection.  Click on each image for a larger version.  

Documents Methodist

The Methodist Advocate and Fort Sumter

In searching for an obituary in the 1861 Southern Christian Advocate earlier this week, I decided to see what the state’s Methodist newspaper had to say about the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861. 

April 4, 1861

Fort Sumter stands where it did a week ago and remains the same as to occupancy and surroundings as last week.  It is believed that it will be surrendered to the state authorities – but when?  Who can tell.  We cannot. 

April 18, 1861

Reports on the reduction of Fort Sumter.  The South has used every effort to maintain the peace consistent with her rights and the first principles of self government.  She has made equitable proposals to the North respecting a division of the property jointly owned by the old Confederacy.  She has offered to account fully for all that self defense required her to possess, and on fair terms to receive what still remained in possession of the U. S. Government.   

In this proposed arrangement, Ft. Sumter was included. But the terms were refused, and after waiting long and patiently for its surrender, when at length by the appearance of war vessels off the harbor, it became evident that to wait longer would be defeat and submission, the troops under the direction of President Davis,  last week attacked and took Fort Sumter.  Peace was sought to the last.  The ultimate proposition to Major Anderson was that he should remain unattacked as long as he believed his supplies would hold out, provided that he took no part in an attempt to reinforce or resupply the fort. 

He would not consent to this neutrality.  He forced the attack, which after over 32 hours bombardment resulted in his surrender. 

Our cause is no longer that of the relations of the negro to the white man, but that of constitutional liberty, that of the right of a people composing a large separate section of the race to govern themselves.  It is a question between free institutions and a military despotism.  If our neighbors prefer the latter, let them have it.  We of the South prefer the former and we will have them or consent to take as the alternative utter extermination. 

Without offering too much commentary, I note that the editors took the position that the North forced the South to attack Fort Sumter and that the South had sought peace up until that point.  The rhetoric of submission to defeat, of a choice between military despotism or free institutions had become common in the region by April 1861.  The battle lines had hardened, opinions had become entrenched, and war had become inevitable.