Part 3 of D. F. Patterson’s alumni memories

In this segment, which runs about six and a half minutes, Mr. Patterson talks about courses and faculty members, his graduation in 1929 and those of his brothers, and how Wofford changed during the time that he, his brothers and sons attended Wofford.


Eight Turning Points

On Thursday night, I spoke as part of a group of campus historians at the opening of the Spartanburg Regional Museum’s exhibit on higher education in Spartanburg County.  Each of us had seven minutes to share something about our college’s history.  I explained to the audience that I couldn’t really tell Wofford’s history in seven minutes, but they could certainly buy my book if they wanted to learn more.  I could share eight turning points in Wofford’s history with them, and I’m sharing them here. 

1.  Sometime during the summer of 1849 – The Reverend Benjamin Wofford has a visit from his friend, Rev. H. A. C. Walker, and during their conversation, Ben asks Brother Walker for his thoughts as he was writing his will.  After learning the amount of the intended bequest was $100,000, Walker asks the question, “Why not found a college?”  Wofford had been thinking along these lines, and decided to leave the bulk of his fortune to create an institution for literary, classical, and scientific learning to be located in my native district of Spartanburg.  After his death in December 1850, the trustees named in the will met just over the hill at Central Methodist Church, selected the site, and contracted for the buildings.  Thus Benjamin Wofford, Methodist minister and Spartanburg native, founded a college to serve both his church and his home community.  The college opened in August 1854. 

2.  May 1864 – The college had gotten off to a good start, and by the outbreak of the Civil War, had about 79 students and had granted about 49 degrees.  The endowment, which had started at $50,000, had risen to over $85,000, a nice sum in those days.  A nice sum, that is, until the college invested all of it in Confederate bonds, bank stock and other investments.  As late as 1864, they had reinvested it, and of course it was all ruined by the war.  The loss of the endowment meant that the college virtually had to start over financially, and led to years of financial struggle. 

3.  1904 – Wofford ends its first experiment with coeducation as the last of eight women takes her degree.  In 1897, at the request of the Methodist conference, Wofford begins to admit a small number of women, and two join each of the next four classes.  However, the women felt isolated and the college elected to end the experiment.  Had it worked out a little differently, Wofford could have been a very different place. 

4. 1918 – The Student Army Training Corps is established to provide military training to students during World War I.  The SATC soon became the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and hundreds of army officers have received their training through the detachment, a detachment now shared by many of the campuses in Spartanburg. 

5.  May 1964 – Wofford becomes the first private college in SC to admit African-American students.  The decision came about after a year of study by the trustees and administration.  The decision was announced in May 1964, and in the fall, the first African-American student, a graduate of Carver High School, applies and is accepted.  The college gradually admitted more African-American students, especially in the late 1960s. 

6.  February 1971 – The college decides to admit women as non-resident students, and in the fall of 1975, chooses to move to full residential coeducation beginning in the fall of 1976.  The college saw coeducation as an opportunity to improve the diversity and academic quality of the student body. 

7. 1985 – The Olin Foundation rejects a grant request for a technology building.  The trustees, stung a little by the rejection, are nonetheless encouraged to take a hard look at the college, and the administration, faculty, and trustees develop a long-range plan to improve the quality of the college.  As a result, the college has increased the number of faculty, majors, academic programs, and the quality of the student body.  And, four years after the initial rejection, the Olin Foundation awarded a $5.5 million grant to the college for that technology building. 

8.  1988-1997 – The college’s athletics teams move from NAIA to the NCAA, and in 1995, they move into Division I.  In 1997, the college joins the Southern Conference.  At the same time, the college improved its athletics facilities so that the NFL’s Carolina Panthers are able to hold their summer training camp in Spartanburg.  The facilities, which were part of the 1987 masterplan, and the move into the Southern Conference have allowed Wofford to compete with much larger colleges, and they’ve also provided the campus and the community with new experiences in sports. 

Eight turning points, but still one campus.  


Wofford’s Fitting School

Wofford Collage's Fitting School

This item came across my desk – it was written long ago by Professor W. C. Herbert, who was the headmaster of the Fitting School and also the registrar at Wofford.

A hundred years ago, when Wofford College was founded, boys who went to college got their preparation in academies. And with some 2600 of these popular institutions in the South, colleges should have had plenty of well prepared freshmen. But most of these academies were not as good as our grandparents liked to think they were, and colleges had their own preparatory departments.
For 33 years Wofford's regular students and preparatory boys sat in the same classrooms and had the same instructors. Then, in 1887, the faculty recommended to the trustees that the two groups be separated.
On the crest of the hill west of the present site of the Spartan Mill there were three buildings that once housed the Spartanburg Female College. Into this ready-made plant the preparatory boys were moved. And thus began the Wofford College Fitting School, or, as the boys named it, the Fighters' Hole.
The Fitting School was blessed in the beginning with two excellent headmasters in succession, both serving long; terms. 'The first was Arthur Gaillard Rembert. What a scholar! What a teacher! What a dynamo of intel¬lectual energy! Dr. Rembert directed the Fitting School from 1887 to 1897. Somewhere along the way, either in the preparatory school or the college, the students nicknamed him "Knotty", There were and are few teachers the equal of "Knotty" Rembert.
Arthur Mason DuPre became headmaster in 1897, after teaching two years under Dr. Rembert. Fortunately we do not have to decide which was the better schoolmaster – the brilliant-minded, quick-moving scholar or the deliberate, careful man of firm convictions. Few pupils or teachers ever questioned the decisions of Prof. DuPre.
As a disciplinarian ha was unsurpassed. Unhurried, he looked through the culprit and seemed to read his inmost thoughts. Hence, the nickname "Bad Eye" when he was not spoken of as "Old Mase."
These two teachers established the fame of the Fitting School.
In 1895 the school was moved to the campus, occupying Alumni Hall, then a 4-story building – the middle one of the three facing Church Street. After a fire in l901, Alumni Hall was reduced to two stories and two other buildings were added to the plant.
In 1912, Dr. DuPre went over to the College, as Dr. Rembert had done in 1897, and there followed six years of short administrations. A. W, Horton and J. M, Steadman, Jr. were co-masters in 1912-14. Mr. Horton remained for two years longer and was followed by Mr. F. P. White, who died before the end of his second year.
By the fall of 1918 we were deep in World War I. Military training was popular. So, when the writer (W. C. Herbert) took over in that year, an ROTC organization was set up, and for the next six years the Fitting School was a military school.
At one time in this period the enrollment almost equaled that of the College, which brought the comment that there was a possibility that the tail might wag the dog.
But academies had served their day, High schools were improving, and the College needed dormitory space. The Wofford College Fitting School closed in 1924.
Carlisle Fitting School was largely a town of Bamberg enterprise, While it was authorized by the South Carolina Conference, in 1892, as a preparatory school for Wofford College, gifts to the undertaking were largely local. Probably that was the chief reason for Carlisle’s enrolling girls as well as boys. And for the sake of economy it began vary early to prepare students for Wofford’s sophomore class.
But Carlisle was unfortunate in that its leadership changed so often. Of its nine headmasters, in its forty years under the church and Wofford College trustees. J.C. Guilds was the only one to serve as headmaster longer than five years.
Guilds had gone to Carlisle as a teacher, after his graduation from Wofford in 1906. He was elected headmaster in 1909, according to Wallace's History of Wofford College. No doubt that is true, but the Conference minutes state that the enrollment was so low that the school did not open in the fall of that year. However, Dr. Guilds' administration was a most successful one.
He had taken over the administration of a school at the point of failure. After eleven years, he left it with 10 teachers and 225 students. In 1920, he became president of Columbia College
In the next eight years there were three headmasters: Duncan, Hagood, and Gault.
Then, in 1928, Mr. James F. Risher was elected. But the need for preparatory schools had passed, and Carlisle in that year ceased to be affiliated with Wofford College. Four years later South Carolina Methodism leased, and later sold, the plant to Col. Risher. Today it is the widely known Carlisle Military School.
Before there was a Wofford College the Methodists had built a school in Abbeville District called, at the period that concerns us, the Cokesbury Conference School. That was in 1833.
In 1893, the church placed Cokesbury under the control of the Board of Trustees of Wofford College, and at the conference of the following year, discussed “raising” it to the level of a fitting school. Evidently there was little enthusiasm for a third preparatory school, for the Conference of 1896 appointed a separate board of trustees, thus severing Cokesbury’s relationship with Wofford College.
Twenty-one years later, in 1917, the school was closed and the plant was turned over to the community for the use of public schools.
And so ends Wofford College’s participation in the unique academy movement.


From the literary societies

I don't keep an eye on ebay quite as much as I should, but a few weeks ago, a friend mentioned an item he had seen on ebay that had a Wofford connection. I looked at it and decided it was definitely something we wanted for the collection.
Of course, you all know how ebay works. You bid on an item and the highest bidder wins. I did end up in a slight bidding war for this document, but ultimately, I won. Fortunately, the bidding never got too extreme or I would have given up. (I haven't put in to be reimbursed for the purchase yet.)
This is from an 1871 Preston Literary Society Annual Celebration. The Preston was the younger of the two societies, founded around 1858. The societies, as I've written before, were debating and speaking clubs. The event described in this program would have been one of the highlights of the society's year. I think General Preston was probably a relative of the society's namesake, Senator William C. Preston, and in this case, the "president" was literally the one who presided over the featured debate. The diplomas conferred after the debate would have been the ones granted by the society to its senior members, not the ones granted by the college to those who had earned a degree.



Wofford’s Summer School for Teachers, 1910

Summer School is nothing new at Wofford.  These pages come from the bulletin of the college's 1910 summer school for teachers.  

The faculty included Wofford professors, public school teachers and administrators, and professors from other colleges.  The school's purpose was largely to help public school teachers in the state's growing school system to master their subjects and become better teachers. The bulletin also acknowledged the social aspects of the school; it would "bring the teachers together where they can join rest and recreation in our upcountry climate, to the enjoyment and stimulus of social touch with their professional fellows, and to intellectual work at an educational center and in a college atmosphere."  

The school made use of Wofford's facilities, including the library, classrooms, and residence halls, and also some community facilities were open to them.  The tuition for the four week course was $10 and room and board on campus was another $16.  The college advised the potential teacher-students to inquire about railroad tickets to Spartanburg early.  

The program also hailed Spartanburg's moderate upcountry climate, with cool nights and warm days, and its easy access both to the "curative waters" of nearby Glenn Springs and the mountain resorts in the nearby Blue Ridge.  

The application blank shows which courses would be offered.  Many of these courses offered a quick review of the subject and focused largely on the best methods of instruction in the subject.  In the days when many teachers may not have completed their bachelor's degree, many of them probably leaped at the chance to take further study, and prove to their principals and school boards that they were interested in professional development.  

More little-known facts

Here are a few more little-known facts and quotes about Wofford, collected from various sources. 

The first Wofford faculty member to hold the Doctor of Philosophy degree was William M. Baskervill, who studied at the University of Leipzig in Germany before coming to teach at Wofford in 1876.  Baskervill left Wofford to finish his Ph.D. at Leipzig in the 1878-1879 academic year, then returned to Wofford from 1879 to 1881, before leaving to take a post at Vanderbilt.  Baskervill had been influenced by other German-trained faculty members at Randolph-Macon, and was part of a community of southern scholars studying in Germany.  One of his students at Wofford was James H. Kirkland, who also earned a Leipzig doctorate before joining the Vanderbilt faculty.  Baskervill and Kirkland both taught Henry Nelson Snyder at Vanderbilt before Snyder joined the Wofford faculty.  The doctor of philosophy was a fairly new degree in the 1870s, so it's not unusual that Wofford would not have had a faculty member with that degree until then. 

Greek letter fraternities came to Wofford in 1869 when William A. Rogers, a student from Washington College in Virginia, arrived to enroll at Wofford with a reference from Robert E. Lee.  A member of Kappa Alpha Order, Rogers organized the fraternity at Wofford.  Subsequently, Chi Psi fraternity was organized in 1869, Chi Phi in 1871, Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1885, Pi Kappa Alpha in 1891, and Kappa Sigma in 1894.  When the college banned fraternities in 1904, most of these chapters went underground.  Chi Phi and Chi Psi did not return to campus when fraternities were again allowed to organize in 1915.  The other four remain active on campus today. 

As a result of the Civil War, Wofford suffered financially for decades.  D. D. Wallace's History of Wofford College noted that in 1890-91, the trustees were able to pay the faculty their full salaries for the first time since the Civil War. 

"Wofford students have always been characterized by great respect for authority" – D. D. Wallace, History of Wofford College, p. 118. 

"I never met a Wofford man who didn't have a smart mouth." – Bishop Will Willimon's sergeant at ROTC summer camp, following a pithy question by Willimon on the mine-field training course, as repeated in Willimon's 1994 Wofford commencement address. 

There's a million of these, and I hope to keep sharing them. 


A year of blogging

I started this blog just over a year ago – the first post went up on December 11 – and all told, there have been 70 entries in the past year.  It seems like this is a good time, as we move from one year to the next, to take stock of the blog's first year and to seek input, advice, and suggestions, and also to thank several people for their help this year. 

This year has been something of an experiment in web 2.0 for archives, with this blog and a flickr account for hosting archival photo and document collections.  (See the Wofford Archives photostream on flickr for examples of what I've posted thus far.   I'll try to post notes on the blog in the future as we add more collections and items to flickr.)  This blog has allowed me to post individual items that are worth sharing with the Wofford community and beyond the campus, such as the George Washington Carver letter that I found in the Snyder Papers last December.  That was really the "find" that inspired me to ask for the blog in the first place.  I've also used the blog to share Wofford stories about important events – desegregation and coeducation in February and March come to mind.  I've tried to focus on other events – Commencement and the rituals surrounding the beginning of classes each fall. 

In addition to sharing documents, we've experimented with sound files – excerpts from speeches by President Snyder, Professor David Duncan Wallace, President Pendleton Gaines, and Dean C. C. Norton, for example.  I hope to continue to share sound files, photographs, and other documents in the new year.  I also hope to post more "did you know?" types of facts and figures.  We'll try to look at other distinguished faculty members and alumni who have contributed to the college's history. 

This is where I want your help.  If there's a question you have about Wofford history – or South Carolina history, or Methodist history – let me know.  If you've got a story to share, share it.  If there's a subject you want me to write about in the blog, tell me about it and I'll see what I can do. 

One thing about working in the archives, there are more stories than I can ever possibly share in a one or two times a week blog.  Some days I just stand in the stacks, trying to come up with an idea for that week's story.  Some weeks are easier than others.  I want to write about things you want to read about, so let me know what you want to read about. 

I also want to thank several folks for their help and encouragement this year.  Kyle James, our webmaster, got this blog set up last December.  The design is his, so he should get all the credit for the look and feel of the site.  Kyle left us this month to take a new job in Boston – so good luck and best wishes, Kyle – we'll miss you!  Kyle also helped get me set up so that I can add sound files to the blog in April.  Doyle Boggs has always been supportive as Director of Communications on campus.  My colleague in the history department and fellow blogger, Dr. Tracy Revels, has also offered ideas and critiques.  My colleagues in the library have also had good ideas, and I've enjoyed the support of my supervisor, Dean of the Library Oakley Coburn, in this enterprise this year as well. 

So, thanks for reading this year, and let me know what you want to read about next year.


Norton-Christmas Carol-Introduction

An annual tradition at Wofford and in Spartanburg from the mid-1920s to the 1960s was the presentation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol by Dr. C. C. Norton, professor of sociology, dean of the college, and one-time acting president of the college.  My Wofford Today column is about the many contributions of Dr. Norton to the college in his 40 years as a member of the faculty, so you might want to check that out for some details of his life and work.  Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll post some of "Cutie" Norton's caricatures and "Church Folks" cartoons.  Since Christmas is this week, and we have recordings of Norton's presentation, I'm posting the introductory track and concluding track – the entire audio would take over 30 minutes.  The introduction runs about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, and the conclusion runs about 5 minutes and a half. 

This is the introductory portion of Dr. Norton's rendition of A Christmas Carol, performed in 1960 at Wofford College.  The concluding portion is below. 


Norton-Christmas Carol-Conclusion

This is the concluding section of Dr. C. C. Norton's reading of A Christmas Carol, recorded in 1960 at Wofford College.


Benjamin Wofford’s Birthday

On this day in 1780, 228 years ago, in backcountry Spartanburg County, Benjamin Wofford was born.  A lot of other things might have happened on that long ago day, including Revolutionary War skirmishes, but as far as any of us know, it was simply another day for many, with people going about the business of life.

The backcountry frontier was a rough and tumble place in those days, and Ben’s militia captain father and his uncles were active in trying to settle and civilize the area.  His mother was one of those who worked to promote religion in the area, which went a long way to stabilizing the society.

The child born that night, one of three brothers and three sisters, went on to prosper and to leave a great legacy behind.  With no children of his own, he used the resources he, his first Anna Todd, who died in 1835, and his second wife, Maria Barron, who survived him, accumulated to provide for a college, related to the United Methodist Church and located in his home county of Spartanburg.  This college, which the trustees named in his honor, has continued through good times and trying times, growing and continuing to serve.  It is truly a great legacy.

And it all got started on a country farm, on the edge of the civilized world, in the middle of a worldwide war, 228 years ago today.