Documents Methodist

Spartanburg and “blind tigers”

No, this has nothing to do with Clemson fans who can't see well. A blind tiger is an establishment that sells liquor illegally.  In other words, it's a speakeasy, though apparently speakeasies were considered a little more high-class than blind tigers.  The term became popular before and during Prohibition. 

Again, some of my best postings come about when I'm looking for something else.  Today, while looking for an article in the Methodist Advocate in September 1913, I came across a front-page story headlined "Spartanburg and Blind Tigers" suggesting Spartanburg had come under control of the "liquor devil"

A front page story?  The Methodists in South Carolina were so concerned about alcohol that the existence of some illegal pubs in an upcountry city was worthy of front-page coverage? 

The article compares the way several cities in the Palmetto State deal with liquor.  In Charleston, the state's most open "wet" city, the local authorities countenanced it, mostly because the citizenry wanted them to.  In other cities, like Columbia, there had been a recent crackdown. 


The Advocate took note of a Spartanburg Herald story that proclaimed "mischief is afoot."  "Liquor can be bought at any time of day or night without going a hundred yards from any of the principal business offices of the city.  Vice flourishes, not alone in wary retirement to remote places.  Professional gamblers are lying in wait for lambs to shear.  The word has one out through all the region round about that in Spartanburg the pasture is open and fine for all that make prey of manhood…"

"All this is going on because nine-tenths of our citizenship simply does not realize the rapidity with which the control of the moral atmosphere of the community has been slipping away from them.  If they were aware of all that went on during the past seven days, for instance, they would be amazed." 


I never knew what a den of iniquity Spartanburg was in the 1910s! And I think I will refrain from comment on how the presence of the college gave the town even greater reason to purify itself and rid itself of a reputation as a "wide open town."

Methodists in the years after the Civil War had gotten pretty serious about alcohol, and the church newspaper in 1913 was covered with articles about temperance.  One does wonder what they'd say today if they saw Morgan Square, with the Irish pub, the nightclub, and the other restaurants! 

You can click on the images for larger versions. 

Methodist Photographs

Methodist Ministers, the 1932 edition

Today I completed work on a photo gallery with short biographies of Methodist ministers who were serving in South Carolina in 1932.  My student assistants and I have digitized the photos from Builders: Sketches of Methodist Preachers in South Carolina, edited by E. O. Watson in 1932.

The photos are available in Flickr – and can be viewed, searched, and even downloaded for Methodist churches who are looking for pictures of their former ministers.

This collection supplements three other ministerial photo collections – photo directories from 1901 and 1914 and a minister’s personal photo album, all of which are available online.


Here’s a slide show of some of those images


Documents Methodist

Methodist Churches – on a map!

Today, I finally got around to posting a collection of maps from the Methodist collection.  These are maps of the churches that were in the South Carolina Conference in 1895.  The presiding elders, as we called district superintendents back then, had these map books to help them find each of the local churches in their districts.  Note that the railroads are clearly marked – often that would have been the way a presiding elder traveled around his district to hold quarterly conferences in the various churches.  

I uploaded these maps to Flickr – where we post a lot of our digital images now – and I made a slideshow of the maps of the districts – from Chester to Sumter.  The county lines are different than they were back in 1895 – South Carolina continued to add counties up to the constitutional limit of 46.  

I hope you enjoy checking out the maps.  Soon I'll add them to the college website as well.  

Documents Methodist

Odd Items in Collections

Some time ago, Dr. Melvin Medlock and The Honorable Travis Medlock came to the archives to donate the papers of their father, the Rev. Dr. Melvin K. Medlock.  Rev. Medlock was a leading minister in the Annual Conference during the middle years of the 20th century.  This week, Travis Medlock visited to help me decide if a few items did or did not belong in the collection – items of a personal or confidential nature.  In looking through the papers, which are fairly extensive for an archives of this size, he found a letter which Rev. Medlock composed to the bishop of the time, Paul Hardin, Jr.

It seems as though Rev. Medlock was not pleased to be moved by the bishop from his appointment to a new church, and the church itself was unhappy.  Rev. Medlock expressed his displeasure by writing the letter, below, to the bishop.  I don’t know for sure if the letter was ever sent, and if it was in this form.

Perhaps it’s not obvious from the image, but this is a long piece of tissue paper – the kind that comes on rolls.

Now how am I supposed to preserve this?


October is the cruelest month

I think T. S. Eliot was off by a few months.  

Well, October isn't really cruel, but it sure is busy.  That's why I've been more than a little sloppy in keeping up with the blog.  

In the three weeks (oops!) since I last posted, I've traveled to Austin, Texas to represent Wofford's Phi Beta Kappa chapter at the society's triennial council, where we transacted business, elected Phi Beta Kappa senators, and granted four new chapters to universities in different parts of the country.  When I got back to Spartanburg, I had to work on a talk to the Laurens County Genealogical Society, then I had to work on another Homecoming history-sermon.  Last Sunday, I visited the nice people at Main Street United Methodist Church in Columbia for their annual homecoming Sunday.  I talked about our connected heritage as Methodists.  

In between all of that, I've been answering questions, trying to clean up in the archives a bit, keeping my two very competent student assistants busy, and trying to get back to some long-delayed processing work.  This morning, I'm sending copies of obituaries from the Southern Christian Advocate to some researchers who found our website and requested copies from the index.  

As I glanced over one of the obituaries, a phrase caught my eye, and I stopped to read the entire paragraph.  The notice came from 1854, the deceased was named Jane Wofford.  Perhaps a distant relative of Benjamin (whose 229th birthday passed largely unheralded this week), she died in 1854, the year that Wofford opened.  In fact, she died on August 5, just 4 days after the college that shared her name opened.  

What struck me in the obituary was the choice of words and how the meaning of some words has evolved over 150 years.  From looking at so many 19th century obituaries, I know that some of these expressions were common then, but have fallen out of use since.  One is the reference to someone's spouse as their "consort."  The obituary begins, "Jane Wofford, consort of Joseph Wofford, Esq., died 5th Aug. in hope of the crown of life.  She was in her 65th year; having become a Methodist and a professor of religionabout 30 years ago."

Wait – a professor of religion?  Of course, the obituary writer meant that she was one who professed religion, not that she held a college faculty appointment.  

The obituary went on to describe her as a "diffident, but untiring Christian."  Diffident – I've never seen that one in an obituary before.  It means lacking self-confidence, timid, or shy.  Perhaps the writer really meant that she was a reserved, quiet person.  

Finally, the obituary praised her, saying "Sister W. was a devoted wife, an affectionate mother, a good mistress, kind to the poor, and attentive to all her duties as a Christian."  A devoted wife AND a good mistress?  

This is but one of some 57,000 obituaries in the Southern Christian Advocate in its 170 years, and but one of innumerable articles in that publication.  It's a periodical worth exploring some time if you're in the archives – to get a flavor of life among South Carolina's Methodists in years past.  

A busy October, yes, but I'd rather be busy than not.  

Methodism in Saluda

Last Sunday, I traveled down to the small town of Saluda, SC to speak as part of St. Paul United Methodist Church's homecoming celebration.  I'm not ordained, so I'm not sure if I can legally call what I did preaching, but my address took the place of the sermon.  I like to refer to these kind of addresses as "history sermons."  I was invited to do one of these a few years ago, so it did not feel quite so odd this time.  


In my sermon, I talked about the church's history, the history of Methodism, and why I think we ought to preserve history.  St. Paul in Saluda is about 111 years old.  Saluda County was created in 1895, and the town of Saluda established as the county seat soon thereafter.  The church was built not long after the town was built, and they have been on their same site all this time. Their first church was a frame structure, but in the early 1910s, they had grown to the point that they needed a new building.  

A lot of South Carolina's small towns experienced a burst of prosperity around 1910.  So much of the state had been economically devastated by the Civil War that only an upswing in the price of cotton in the early 20th century brought a measure of wealth back into the state.  Several towns like Saluda built a number of nicer public buildings, churches, railroad hotels, and the like in the decade before World War I.  The agricultural recession after that war, followed by the Great Depression, put a halt to a lot of new building, and so you often find small towns that still have a little of the early 20th century flavor.  A lot of them were too poor to remodel or tear down those buildings.  Unfortunately, a lot of these towns seem to be on hard times today.  

What Saluda's economy is like I can't say, but St. Paul UMC is very much alive.  They're a station appointment – that is, they support their own full-time minister, Dr. Tom Norrell.  Dr. Norrell and I have known each other for a good number of years, as I was a student assistant in the archives when he was doing graduate school research.  The church has about 350 members, and it has been beautifully maintained.  The membership seemed to be a good mixture of younger and older members, with long-time and newer members to boot.  They felt very much alive.  

Each congregation in its own way makes a contribution to its community and to Methodism in the state.  Many of St. Paul's former ministers have gone on to significant posts in the conference.  They've also sent out a few ministers from their membership.  Their members have served on conference boards.  That's all important.  But, just as importantly, they stand in that town as a symbol of the United Methodist Church and all it represents, and they carry the church's mission out into their community.  And if all they do is represent our connection, then they are serving their purpose.  

I told the congregation last Sunday that they had a proud history and they have done a great deal to preserve it.  They've got a story to share with their community.  I hope they keep sharing it.  
Alumni Buildings Methodist

Leonard Auditorium

For whom was Leonard Auditorium named?  

That's a strange question to ask.  After all, Leonard Auditorium is undoubtedly the most important room on the Wofford campus.  It's the site of all campus convocations, the place where the portraits of former presidents hang, the auditorium for major concerts, for events that bring the community together.  And yet nobody gives much thought to who "Leonard" was.  

It was this fellow, the Rev. George Clark Leonard, class of 1895.  

And how did Rev. Leonard get the auditorium named for him?  

George Leonard arrived at Wofford in 1891 as a 25-year old freshman.  He graduated four years later and the following year, became a Methodist minister in South Carolina.  In 1914, he became a member of Wofford's board of trustees, where he served for some 31 years.  During his ministry, he was twice a district superintendent.  He was on close terms with Wofford President Henry N. Snyder, both as a fellow churchman and as a trustee during most of Snyder's presidency.  Snyder would have been the younger man's professor in the early 1890s as well.  Snyder wrote Leonard's obituary in the Annual Conference minutes in 1945.  

On his death, he made a bequest to the college's postwar capital campaign.  In February 1946, the board of trustees voted to name the renovated chapel in Main Building, which had never been known as anything but the chapel, in his honor.  Since 1946, the primary auditorium on campus has borne the name "the Leonard Auditorium" out of respect for the long service of an alumnus, clergyman, and trustee.  
Faculty Methodist

Bishop A. Coke Smith

There’s a story, and I can’t find the citation this morning,
that a man had moved from Columbia to Spartanburg in the late 19th
century, but was shortly thereafter seen on the streets of Columbia.  When a friend inquired why he was back in the
capital city, the man replied that to live in Spartanburg, one had to accept
three things as fact, that Wofford College was the greatest  educational institution since Oxford, that
Dr. James Carlisle, Wofford’s president, was the greatest astronomer since
Copernicus, and that Wofford professor Coke Smith was the greatest pulpit
orator since Saint Paul.  And he’d be
darned if he could accept them all! 

SmithAC001 Alexander Coke Smith may not have been the greatest pulpit
orator since Paul, but he must have been pretty good, because within two years
of his graduation from Wofford, he had been assigned to Washington Street
Methodist Church in Columbia, which, despite its encounter with fire in 1865,
was arguably the most important Methodist pulpit in the most important city in
the Conference. 

Born in Lynchburg, in Sumter County, in 1849, Coke Smith was
the son of The Rev. William H. Smith, a member of the South Carolina Annual
Conference.  He studied at Wofford from
1868 to 1872, and after his graduation, he taught in the Reidville, SC high
school for a term.  He joined the South
Carolina Conference in December 1872 and was appointed to the church in
Cheraw.  The next year, he was sent to
Washington Street Church in Columbia, where he served for three years.  This was quite a leap for someone who was so
new in the ministry, for Washington Street was (and remains) a large and
influential congregation.  At the end of
1876, he was sent to Greenville, where he served Buncombe Street Church for
four years.  He then went to Trinity in
Charleston, serving for three years, and at that point, he was made the
presiding elder for the Columbia District. 
Before he had passed his 32nd birthday, he had been appointed
to large churches in three of the state’s largest cities, and had met with
success in each appointment. 

In 1884, he was named to fill a vacancy on Wofford’s board
of trustees, and in 1886, when Wofford professor William Wallace Duncan was
elected a bishop, Smith was elected to fill his chair on the Wofford
faculty.  At the same time, the trustees
voted to relieve Smith of the teaching obligations that came with being
Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, the chair to which he had just been
named, so that he might work on behalf of the college in the churches around
the state.  By the 1880s, it had become
common for one of the faculty members to act as financial agent of the college,
serving essentially as the college’s development officer.  W. W. Duncan did this, as did Coke Smith, and
later, John C. Kilgo.  All three were
effective in raising funds and promoting the college to Methodists in the
state, and each man used his position to launch himself to an even higher
position in the church hierarchy.  Smith
also served as the college’s treasurer, handling much of the institution’s

After four years at Wofford, Smith was elected one of the
Methodist Episcopal Church, South’s missionary secretaries by the General
Conference.  He left that position
quickly to take a professorship  of
practical theology at Vanderbilt’s divinity school.  After two years, he moved back into the local
church, but this time, in Virginia.  He
served in the Old Dominion until his election as a bishop in 1902.  He actually came close to being elected in 1898, and in 1891 and 1901, he had attended the great ecumenical conferences.  It's unfortunate that his time in the episcopacy was actually quite
short, for he died in Asheville, NC in December 1906.  


What’s an Annual Conference?

I haven't written much about the Methodist half of my job lately.  In fact, I have been a little bit remiss in maintaining the blog since Commencement on May 17.  Since graduation, I've been catching up on some reference questions and trying to get ready to process some interesting collections this summer.  I still intend on posting some information about the Class of 1959, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of their graduation this year.  

This week, I attended the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in South Carolina.  An Annual Conference is a confusing term, for it is a geographic region, a meeting, and an organization.  The South Carolina Annual Conference is an organization that includes all of the United Methodist congregations in the geographic area of South Carolina, and that meets once a year.  All ordained Methodist clergy – elders and deacons – are members of the conference, and they are appointed annually by our bishop to serve the churches in the state.  They, together with local pastors and lay representatives from all of the churches, meet once a year (or more often, if a special session is called) to conduct the church's business.  

I am a lay member of the South Carolina conference not because I'm the conference's archivist, but because I have been selected by my local congregation.  However, my local congregation selects me largely because I'm the conference archivist and it's helpful that I attend.  

So, what does this organization do?  Well, there's a lot of sitting in meetings.  We hear reports from various conference boards, commissions, and committees.  We talk about ministry plans for the upcoming year.  This year, there was a lot of talk about new church starts, and most of the worship leaders were ministers involved in starting new churches.  We also talk about our work in supporting the conference's retirement homes, the children's home, ministries for people with special needs, and for our four colleges.  We allocate money in our budget to support these, and also to pay for important items like retirement pensions, insurance for clergy, and for global ministries.  We give awards – and the commission I work with recognized a number of churches for their work in preserving church history.  We also proposed naming a church in Chesterfield County a historic site of South Carolina Methodism.  There's time for worship, and for fellowship.  

The fellowship is especially important because clergy are actually not members of local churches – their church membership rests in the Annual Conference, so in a very real sense, the Annual Conference is their church.  Most of the clergy know each other – many have been coming to Conference for years – or decades.  Many of them attended seminary together, served in neighboring churches before being sent to churches far apart, or have served on conference boards together.  Conference is the one time each year where they are all together.  It sort of makes some of us in the laity feel like we're standing around the edges watching the fellowship.  One retired minister who attends my local church – who has known me since I was three years old – told me on Monday that this was his 60th consecutive Annual Conference, and also his last.  I pause here to reflect on how the conference, the state, and ministry in general have changed since he entered the ministry some 60 years ago.  

And in fact, that's the main reason I attend the conference: to act in a limited way as a collector of information, of stories, and of memories.  I talked with at least three district superintendents about church records, and with several lay members who have done research in the archives.  I do my bit of advocacy for the archives and for historic preservation.  I sort of stand out at conference because of my age – until people look at my nametag, they often think I'm in the clergy because there aren't many youngish lay representatives.  Someone in the elevator recognized my name on my nametag and offered that she had expected that the archivist would be a little older.  I've been attending conferences myself since 1993, when I was one of Wofford chaplain Talmage Skinner's student workers helping to run the behind-the-scenes logistics.  This was my 7th year as a lay member, which is amazing considering I'm not even 40 yet.  Part of my job is to collect materials that document the session, but also to collect those things that don't always get written down.  

So that's Annual Conference in a nutshell.  
Methodist Photographs

New Photo Collection

In addition to sharing some of Wofford's history or the history of Methodism in South Carolina on this blog, sometimes I highlight new collections, interesting documents, or old photographs.  Today, I'm hlghlighting a collection of photographs that my student assistants and I have been working on for several months.  Several years ago, I found an old photo album maintained by a Methodist minister from the late 19th century.  With a better scanner and better ways to present these images, my student assistants scanned all of the indivudal photos in the album.  Over the past few weeks, I've been trying to get them uploaded to Flickr and labeled in such a way that a researcher could find them.  

We've added about 35 photos to this point, and there are about 150 in the album in total.  So far, I've got the pictures of a group of bishops, of a few of the ministers, and of some individuals who must have been friends or family members of the Rev. William Wynn Mood, who maintained the album.  

Here's the set page for the William Wynn Mood Album, in Flickr

These photos will be useful to local church historians who are looking for photos of some of their earlier ministers, as the album covers years prior to the first conference biographical directory.  I'll continue to add items to this album until I have the entire set of photos added, with information about as many of the individuals as I can locate.  Then, I'll start adding the photos from the 1901 and 1914 biographical directoies.  

The two photos come from the album.  They are the Rev. Frederick Auld, above, who was a Methodist minister in South Carolina from 1858 to 1902, and Bishop William Wallace Duncan, left, who was a Wofford graduate in 1858, a Methodist minister in Virginia, a Wofford professor, and a Methodist bishop from 1886 to 1908.