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The Auburn-Wofford game, Sept. 22, 1950

Since taking part in the very first intercollegiate football game in South Carolina in December 1889, Wofford’s team has had many memorable moments.  The era of the late 1940s and early 1950s, under legendary head coach Phil Dickens, has a good number of those highlights.  Coming off an 11-0 regular season in 1949, ending with a New Year’s Day loss in the Cigar Bowl in Tampa to Florida State, the 1950 Terriers were hopeful of another good season.

Members of the Eleven Club – the precursor to the Terrier Club – were perhaps a little less than enthusiastic when the 1950 schedule appeared.  The first game on the schedule was against Auburn, a perennial power.  And so on September 22, the Terriers traveled to Montgomery, Alabama for the game against the Tigers, putting their 15-game regular season win streak on the line.

The game turned out a bit differently than anyone expected.  Auburn jumped out to an early lead, scoring the first touchdown.  But then Wofford scored twice, taking the lead at 13-7.  Auburn scored again, taking a 14-13 lead, but Wofford got the final score and escaped Montgomery with a 19-14 victory.  They were aided by three Auburn fumbles, and a good passing attack.  The Bohemian noted that three Bobs were essential to Wofford’s victory.  Fullback Bob McLellan was playing in his first varsity game, and he scored one of the touchdowns. Tailback Bob Starnes moved the ball well, and Bob Pollard covered three fumbles by Auburn that were crucial to Wofford scoring.

Auburn went on to a dismal season, losing all ten games.  Not surprisingly, their coach, Earl Brown, in his third season, was shown the door at the end of the season.  Wofford lost to Stetson the next week, which was its first regular season loss since 1947, but went on to a 7-2-1 season.

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Mary Sydnor DuPre, Wofford’s Long-Serving Librarian

For forty-eight years, Mary Sydnor DuPre presided over Wofford College’s library.  She wasn’t the first person who had the title of college librarian.  The college had a small library from its earliest days, and the literary societies also had libraries.   A few other names appear in college catalogues as the librarian, but Miss DuPre held the position longer than any other individual in the college’s 160-plus years.  In fact, she held the position for nearly half of the college’s first century.

She had grown up on the campus.  Her grandfather was founding faculty member Warren DuPre, and her father was longtime science professor Daniel Allston DuPre.  Her sister Helen DuPre Moseley was Spartanburg’s postmaster.  She had grown up with many of the faculty members who she later worked with, and was related to several others through various DuPre family marriages.

In her own words, Miss DuPre explained her first days as librarian.  “In the fall of 1905, the dear old Wofford bell rang out its beautiful tones, calling the students and professors to class, and me to assume my duties as the librarian.  At 8:30 that September morning, I entered the library rooms in the main college building [about where today’s rooms 222 and 224 stand].  I had played as a child around an in this building, so I was naturally interested and excited to have a position in the wonderful place that I loved.  On this particular morning, Dr. D. D. Wallace, chairman of the library committee [and chairman of the history department from 1899-1947], greeted me, and after giving me some advice, turned over to me the Library keys.  On my desk was a small bell, which Dr. Wallace told me to tap if the students talked too loud. After a few days of tapping, I decided to remove the bell, and instituted the unwritten law of whispering and tiptoeing in the library. One of the boys told me that he once saw me still tiptoeing out on the campus after closing the library.

Miss DuPre oversaw moving the library collection from Main Building to the newly-constructed Whitefoord Smith Library in 1910, and in her last decade as librarian, the college expanded the building by adding wings on each side.  In a 1954 tribute, her successor as college librarian, Herbert Hucks, noted that the collections grew during her tenure from about 15,000 volumes in 1905, to 21,000 in 1910, to 52,000 in 1953, the year she retired.  Mr. Hucks noted the names of many professors she worked with, and students who had gone onto noteworthy careers.  “Like Mr. Chips,” Mr. Hucks noted, “you had thousands of boys – with a few girls thrown in – and you helped them all.”

Her successors as librarian gradually assumed more responsibilities than she had been allowed to exercise- they did not have to secure the permission of a faculty committee to spend money, buy books, or hire assistants.  The operation that Miss DuPre ran with only student help grew considerably in the years after her retirement, but the work we do at the library today is possible because of the foundation she built.

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Thomas Carlisle Montgomery’s Letters

A member of Wofford’s class of 1909, Thomas Carlisle Montgomery came to Wofford from Marion, South Carolina. He was a member of Kappa Alpha and the Calhoun Literary Society. His father, W. J. Montgomery, was a member of the Class of 1875.

Following his graduation, he served in the Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Recently, one of his family members shared a link to a collection of letters that T. C. Montgomery wrote home to his mother during the war. He’s posting letters 100 years after they were originally written. He let me share the link here, and I hope others will enjoy seeing what a Wofford alum wrote home during the First World War.

https://montyatwar.com/

We have a World War One: At Home and Abroad exhibit underway in the library gallery this fall, also recognizing the centennial of American involvement in the war and its impact on the Wofford campus.

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Founder’s Day

Today is October 19, which at Wofford means it’s Founder’s Day  237 years ago today, on a small farm in Spartanburg County, Benjamin Wofford was born.

That day in 1780 was a lot like any other day in the early 1780s in Spartanburg, and with a war raging along the frontier settlements, the birth of a baby boy to a local militia captain and his wife probably didn’t get much notice.  Coming only a few weeks after a major Patriot victory at Kings Mountain, and three months before another major Patriot victory at the nearby Cowpens, there were much more dramatic events taking place and gaining attention.

Yet for many of us, the events of that day had a major impact.  For Benjamin Wofford grew up, had a religious conversion, became a Methodist minister, and married the only child of one of the wealthiest landowners in lower Spartanburg County.  He counted both church and society among his interests, and though he gave up the active ministry before his fortieth birthday, he worked for the improvement of his home district all of his life.

We have little record of his education, though he did own some books – some of them are in the college archives – so it’s probably safe to say he was largely self-educated.  But he realized its importance.  In the last decade of his life, he and his second wife, Maria Scott Barron Wofford, evidently thought about education a great deal.  They considered buying land near the Limestone Springs, in the part of Spartanburg District that later became Gaffney, and establishing a college, but believed the Methodist Conference not interested.  By 1849, when his friend the Rev. Hugh Andrew Crawford Walker, an agent of the American Bible Society, came to visit, he was clearly thinking about what to do with his fortune.  “Why not found a college?” asked Brother Walker, a fateful question indeed.  Assured by Walker that the Methodist Conference did indeed want a college “for literary, classical, and scientific education,” Benjamin Wofford had his lawyer draft language in his will leaving a small fortune – $100,000 – to found and endow a college.

We don’t entirely know what to make of Benjamin Wofford today.  His portrait makes him look like a fairly severe figure.  His reputation in town, at least according to the written accounts of him, was that he was an exacting, thrifty businessman.  And of course, like most every wealthy individual of his day, he owned slaves.  There’s no heroic end in that part of his story – his will bequeathed his slaves to others, it did not manumit them.  History is sometimes cold and unsatisfying that way.

I don’t know what Ben would make of us today.  I hope that wherever he is, he somehow knows that the college that he established in his will, that he never saw chartered, built, or opened, has educated probably in the neighborhood of 20,000 individuals in its 163 years of existence.  I hope he’d be proud that some families have five or now six generations of family members who have attended.  He’d probably be shocked to see the diversity in the student body and faculty and staff.  I hope that after the shock wore off, he’d be happy to know that the college he inaugurated took a leading role in desegregating private higher education in the South.  I’m sure that like anyone from the 19th century, he’d be amazed by the technological changes that the college and community have witnessed, that students who study at his college can travel all around the world, that students and faculty come from all over the world to study in his home town.

But above all else, I hope he’d be proud that we’re still here, 167 years after his death, on our original campus, with 5 original buildings in daily use, “increasing in power and goodness through the ages as they come.”

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From the Archives: Methodism and Slavery

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

The short and answer is, the inability to find a compromise on the issue of slavery. From our earliest days, Methodists talked about slavery. John Wesley was a strong opponent, and as early as 1743, he had prohibited his followers from buying or selling the bodies and souls of men, women, and children with an intention to enslave them.

The 1784 Christmas Conference listed slaveholding as an offense for which one could be expelled. However, in a sign that the church would face conflicts over this issue, the 1785 General Conference suspended it. Methodists in SC and other states evangelized among the slaves, eventually appointing ministers to serve on the plantations. By 1795, according to Conference historian Dr. A.V. Huff, a number of South Carolina and Virginia ministers signed covenants not to hold slaves in any state where the law would allow them to manumit them, on pain of forfeiting their honor and their place in the itinerancy. If the state would not allow manumission, they agreed to pay the slave for his or her labor.

But Methodists struggled with how to square their denomination’s opposition to the peculiar institution in a country where slavery was legal, and in some parts of the country, widely supported. And after 1792, slavery began to grow more popular in the Deep South. The invention of the cotton gin suddenly made growing upland cotton more profitable, and it made more South Carolina farmers want more slaves to grow more cotton. The backcountry famers that the church wanted to attract suddenly became more supportive of the practice of slavery. As the church was hoping for emancipation, the society was growing more committed to slavery.

When copies of the General Conference’s 1800 “Affectionate Address on the Evils of Slavery” arrived in Charleston, a storm erupted. John Harper, who gave out copies, suddenly found himself targeted for spreading abolitionist propaganda. He escaped, but his colleague George Dougherty was nearly drowned under a pump. Asbury himself made a personal compromise. If it came to evangelizing the South or upholding the Wesleyan antislavery position, anti-slavery had to go. In 1804, he would not allow General Conference to take a stronger anti-slavery position. He allowed the printing of two Disciplines that year – one with the portion on slavery omitted for South Carolina.  It was at the 1804 General Conference that Asbury reportedly said, “I am called to suffer for Christ’s sake, not for slavery.”

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. Eventually, the northern and southern branches of the denomination found they could no longer live together, and the church split, a schism that took almost a century to repair.

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Layers of history and postcards

It’s not unusual for someone to ask me to give a tour of campus to a visitor.  When that happens, I like to start on the front steps of Main Building.  There, I can point out the layers of history on the campus.  From that spot, an observer can see elements from the original campus and each successive wave of construction projects.  A visitor can see Main Building and two or three of the original faculty homes: DuPre Administration, Snyder House, and Carlisle-Wallace House.  The original Whitefoord Smith Library, built in 1910 and now the Charles E. Daniel Building, represents the Snyder era.  The Cleveland Science Hall, built in 1904 and demolished by 1960, and the original Carlisle Memorial Hall, built in 1912 and demolished in the early 1980s, are other buildings from this first era of campus growth.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the college expanded Andrews Field House and built Greene Hall, and then in the 1960s, in a major construction boom, built Milliken Science Hall, Shipp and DuPre Halls, and at the end of the decade, Burwell, Marsh Hall, and the Sandor Teszler Library.  From the front steps of Main, I point out Milliken and the library as representatives of a campus growing to accommodate the needs of the Baby Boom generation.  I can point to recent changes – the new Roger Milliken Science Center, completed in 2001, represents this era.  And finally, with the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts under construction, I can talk about the campus of today.

Below are some postcards, some of which come from the early 20th century, that show some of these buildings.

 

Main Building, Cleveland Science, and the Fitting School.
Main Building, Cleveland Science, and the Fitting School.
Main Building
Main Building
Main-1
Main Building before 1908
Cleveland Science Hall
Cleveland Science Hall
PC-Snyder
Snyder Hall
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Methodism in Spartanburg

Some years ago, I gave a talk to the South Carolina Conference Historical Society about Methodism in Spartanburg. It is way too long to repeat here, but I want to mention just a few of the historic churches in this area that have contributed to the growth of Upcountry Methodism.

On one of his 1788 visits to the Spartanburg area, Bishop Francis Asbury wrote in his journal, “Our Friends here on Tyger River are much alive to God, and have built a good chapel.” Three older congregations, Liberty northeast of Spartanburg, Shiloh in Inman, and Sharon near Reidville all have their roots in the late 18th or early 19th century. Liberty pre-dates the first Annual Conference in South Carolina, and made a traditional evolution from brush arbor to log structure to frame church. It has served as something of a focal point in the Liberty community for centuries.

Church legend holds that famed preacher Lorenzo Dow helped organize Sharon United Methodist Church, which was called Leonard’s Meeting House, as it was founded by the Leonard family. Lorenzo Dow was perhaps not the kind of fellow you’d want to invite to dinner – he was wild, unkempt, did not practice much in the way of personal hygiene, and was very enthusiastic in his preaching. However, during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century, he was one of the most influential preachers in America. Stories say that he could hold the attention of a crowd of 10,000, and his autobiography was one of the most popular books in America.

One very old church structure that is no longer an active congregation is Shiloh, near Inman. The church was built between 1825 and 1831, though the congregation is older than that. The church and pews were built without nails. It was discontinued as a regular preaching place around 1912 – most of the people moved from the countryside around it into Inman – but it’s still maintained and there are two services a year there – Homecoming in May and a watch night service at New Year’s – as well as occasional weddings. It is a great example of what an antebellum church would have looked like.

We’re all familiar with the stories of camp meetings, and many congregations around the state have their roots in camp meeting sites. Spartanburg’s Cannons Campground is one such church. In the history of their congregation, there’s a description of a Cannon’s Camp Meeting. The undated letter from an attendee notes that the camp meeting was one of the biggest events of the year in Spartanburg from the 1830s to the early 1900s. Always held in late summer to early fall, when the daytime temperatures had dropped somewhat but before the nights were too cool for sleeping outside, the revivals attracted attendees from all over the Upcountry. Services at Cannon’s were held five times a day, with time for breakfast, a large lunch and dinner, and plenty of time to sit around and visit with friends that they saw infrequently.

There are obviously many more churches with long histories, including Silver Hill, one of many churches founded by Father James Rosemond after emancipation, which has been a beacon to African-American Methodists in Spartanburg for 150 years. Back in years gone by, when Annual Conference met in different cities around the state, the Advocate would often run a long article on Methodism in that particular county. Hopefully I can do that from time to time.

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The 1919-20 Glee Club

Recently someone handed me a program from the 1919-20 Glee Club.  Since I like to share documents here when I can, and especially new acquisitions, I’m posting it here.

GC1920A

 

GC1920B

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William Wightman, Bishop and President

Bishop William Wightman’s career shows that Methodist clergy can wear many hats.

Wightman-portrait
William M. Wightman

A Charleston native, William May Wightman was born on January 29, 1808 to parents who were active Methodists. His mother was a native of Plymouth, England, and according to family legend, sat in John Wesley’s lap as a small child. Wightman graduated from the College of Charleston in 1827, and his valedictory address is in the Wofford archives.

Wightman joined the South Carolina Annual Conference in 1828 and served appointments over the next six years on the Pee Dee Circuit and in Orangeburg, Charleston, Santee, Camden, and Abbeville. In 1834, he became a fundraiser for Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, and over the next three years, helped raise $20,000 to fulfill the Conference’s pledge to endow a chair there. He then served as a professor for two years. Thus, in his first ten years of ministry, he had served in the pulpit, as a fundraiser, and as a professor.

In 1839, he returned to South Carolina to become the presiding elder of the Cokesbury District, and in the summer of 1840, he became the editor of the Southern Christian Advocate in Charleston. His pulpit for over ten years was the paper, and he became widely known throughout the Southeast. His first election as a delegate to the General Conference came in 1840, and he was a member of the 1844 conference that saw American Methodism split into northern and southern branches. In 1845, he represented South Carolina at the founding conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was a delegate from South Carolina to the next four General Conferences. In 1854, only a mis-marked ballot prevented his election as a bishop.
That mismarked ballot may have been fortunate for Wofford College, for Wightman had been named in the will of Benjamin Wofford as one of the founding trustees of the college, and he gave the principal address at the laying of the cornerstone of Main Building in 1851. In November 1853, the trustees elected him as Wofford’s first president. Thus, the pastor, fundraiser, presiding elder, professor, and editor took on the role of college president.

Bishop Wightman
Bishop Wightman

After five years at Wofford’s helm, whose founder had been a friend of his, Wightman left to become the founding chancellor of Southern University in Alabama, now Birmingham-Southern College. And, in 1866, twelve years after a balloting error cost him the episcopacy, he was elected a bishop.

Upon his election, he returned to Charleston, where he established his headquarters. He purchased a house at 79 Anson Street in the Ansonborough section of Charleston. That house, built before 1760 and known as the Daniel Legare house, is one of the oldest homes still standing in Ansonborough. That fall, Wightman presided over his first South Carolina Conference, and for fifteen years, he presided over conferences around the South. He died on Feb. 15, 1882 in Charleston, and he is buried in that city’s Magnolia Cemetery. The bells of St. Michael’s tolled for the Methodist bishop, a rare honor that the Episcopalians conferred upon this leader of southern Methodist higher education.

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Fifty Years Ago

I’ve taken a little bit of a hiatus from blogging for a few reasons. It is always a little harder to keep posting in the summer because of the combination of summer projects and vacation days. This summer was extra busy for me because I served for three months as the library’s interim director, which, of course, meant that I was doing part of two different jobs.

But, now that we have a new library dean in place, and classes are more or less underway, I’m going to try to resume the regular blog schedule. Today’s opening convocation, which is the 160th anniversary of Wofford’s opening session in 1854, reminded me of a number of upcoming anniversaries.

Perhaps the most significant is that fifty years ago this month, Wofford’s announced intention to admit all qualified students regardless of race came into full effect. In September 1964, Albert W. Gray of Spartanburg enrolled as a first-year student, becoming Wofford’s first African-American student.

Below is the memo that President Charles Marsh sent to the campus alerting the faculty and administration that Mr. Gray would be enrolling.

Fifty years is a long time, but it isn’t so very long ago. I think maybe I’ll share this letter with my first-year humanities seminar tomorrow as we discuss a novel about race and memory to help show them that the past is not so long ago.

Marsh-Gray001