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.
This was my column in the February 2016 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate
Methodists, like any other group with a long history in South Carolina, have had to face questions of race and relations between African-American and white church members throughout our history. Over the next few years, a number of anniversaries will give us ample opportunities to talk more about these questions as well as the ways we have evolved into the conference we are today.
2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of what has been historically known as the South Carolina Annual Conference (1866), the conference established by the northern branch of Methodism to minister to African-Americans in the Palmetto State. The General Conference in 1864 had authorized creating missionary conferences in the former Confederacy, and it was under this authority that a missionary Annual Conference convened on April 2, 1866 under the leadership of Bishop Osman C. Baker. Its first members of the conference were the northern missionary clergy, but on its first day, that conference admitted five African-American members. From that beginning came a century’s work in church building, education, and outreach in South Carolina.
The need for ministerial education was immediately recognized, and the Baker Theological Institute was organized in Charleston. Dozens of men attended the institute for further ministerial study, and over the next few years, they were ordained into the ministry and joined the South Carolina Conference. Three years later, the conference established a university, the funds for which came from Lee Claflin and his son, Massachusetts Governor William Claflin. In 1870, the South Carolina Conference met at Claflin University. Claflin and the Conference became almost one and the same over the next decades. The state’s African-American Methodist clergy were educated there, as were teachers for the state’s African-American schools. Those individuals spread out throughout the state, founding churches in communities far and wide.
During the period from 1866 to 1939, the two South Carolina Conferences, with their founding dates of 1785 and 1866, were technically part of two different denominations. They knew each other existed and even shared a common tradition, but they had separate ecclesiastical structures, different bishops, and different Books of Discipline.
Much of that changed in 1939, when the three branches of American Methodism, after being divided for close to a century, and after two decades of negotiations, formally reunified into the Methodist Church. But, merger did not happen at the conference level, and as a compromise, the jurisdictions were created. African-American Methodists were placed into a racially-segregated Central Jurisdiction, and as such, South Carolina’s white and African American Methodists remained in separate Annual Conferences with separate bishops. Movements in the Methodist Church throughout the 1950s and 1960s sought to eliminate the Central Jurisdiction, and much of the turmoil in South Carolina Methodism 50 years ago revolved around how to resolve these issues. We’ll look at some of those questions over the next few months.
I like to share interesting documents from time to time, and this one came up recently.
As many of you know, the college had two literary societies that got their start before the Civil War. One, the Calhoun, started in 1854; the other, the Preston, in 1858.
These societies were debating clubs, meeting weekly, and they are responsible for our oldest library collections, our student publications, and the beginning of our art collection.
Sometimes, the societies elected honorary members. And so, this letter from one noteworthy southerner is in the collection.
For many years in the early 20th century, Raymond A. Patterson was about a third of the science faculty at the college.
A Virginia native and a 1916 Wofford graduate, Rick Patterson studied for his MA at Wofford before he served in the Army during World War I. After a few years of teaching in a local high school, he joined the Wofford faculty as a chemistry lab instructor in the early 1920s. In 1927, he joined the faculty full time as both an instructor of chemistry and French. I guess faculty performed a lot of different duties in those days.
Gradually, Professor Patterson moved into teaching only chemistry and biology, and he, along with Dr. Coleman B. Waller and Professor Charles S. Pettis, taught virtually all of the sciences. There really wasn’t a separate biology department until the late 1940s, so while he was primarily a chemist, Patterson, along with Waller, taught biology as well. That’s the reason that for many years, the Wofford biology department award was the R. A. Patterson award.
In 1949, with postwar growth in the student body and faculty, the college hired Dr. Ray Leonard to build a biology department, and Professor Patterson thus devoted himself to chemistry after that point. From 1946-59, he was the chairman of the chemistry department, and retired in 1966.
While serving on the faculty, Professor Patterson also served as a bacteriologist and milk and water analyst for the Spartanburg Health Department, and also was active in the American Chemical Society’s South Carolina and Western Carolina sections. He was elected an alumni member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1950.
One note when he retired – his home on Lake Lanier in Tryon often served as the location for the annual faculty picnic. So, in a way, Rick Patterson might be the grandfather of the old annual faculty-staff retreat (which is itself no more).
Rick Patterson continued to live in Spartanburg until his death in 1972.
Madame Marie Gagarine was one of those characters who frequently inhabits college campuses. She arrived at Wofford as a cold war Russian emigre and soon became part of the Wofford community.
Madame Gagarine was also reportedly the first woman to teach courses at Wofford, as she taught some Russian as well as French courses. I’ve heard more than a few stories about her from many of our now-retired faculty. Her life spanned much of the 20th century, and she recounted her fascinating story in the late 1960s in her memoir From Stolnoy to Spartanburg: The Two Worlds of a Former Russian Princess.
I remember reading the book as parallel reading in Dr. Ross Bayard’s Europe from 1914-1935 class some twenty years ago. We recently acquired a new copy, so I asked one of my student assistants to scan the book, and we’re making a digital edition available on our digital repository. You can find it here.
Along with her memories of life in tsarist Russia and her stories of surviving the Russian Revolution, she also writes of her love for her country and her adopted country as well. It’s worth a read to learn a little more about one of the characters that has shaped life at Wofford.
The groundbreaking of the new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium gives us a chance to recall the construction of two earlier athletics facilities, the Andrews Field House and the current Campus Life Building.
The first of those two, Andrews Field House, opened in 1929. It was the gift of Spartanburg businessman Isaac Andrews, and it was designed to serve as a basketball, volleyball, and even handball court. It also was to serve as a space for instruction in all indoor sports, and it could seat large crowds for significant events at the college. Soon after it opened, it hosted some of the college’s 75th anniversary events. As was said at its opening, “there is no more adequate building anywhere, and it will contribute much to the physical training and athletic activities of Wofford students.”
Andrews Field House replaced an earlier gym, but the previous building was not large enough to hold athletic events. Andrews was expanded twice, once in the late 1940s for racquetball courts, and later in the 1960s for locker rooms. But, by the late 1970s, it was becoming inadequate for the college’s athletics needs.
In the late 1970s, the college moved to construct the Campus Life Building, and on January 22, 1981, the Benjamin Johnson Arena was dedicated. The women’s basketball team played the first game in the new arena prior to the dedication, and the men’s basketball team played its first game against the Citadel following the dedication. The new arena had a seating capacity of 2,832 when it opened.
The Campus Life Building, dedicated in November 1980, was a much-needed addition to the college’s facilities, bringing a number of different student life offices and spaces together in one building. The building has seen countless theatre productions, community events, and student lunches in the canteen, Zach’s, since it opened.
When the men named by the Rev. Benjamin Wofford as his trustees gathered on April 16, 1851 for their first meeting at Spartanburg’s Central Methodist Church, they found a growing community excited by the prospect of having a college. Word of Wofford’s tremendous bequest “for the purpose of establishing and endowing a college” had spread quickly following his death the previous December 2. By April, residents in Spartanburg, Glenn Springs, and Woodruff were all making bids to become the home of the new college.
After the trustees met and voted to name the new institution “Wofford College,” they visited a few sites around the town and county. Quickly, they agreed to purchase forty acres of land on the northern border of the town of Spartanburg to found the college. The Carolina Spartan described the land as a “most lovely elevation, embracing lawn and woodland, about one half to three-fourths of a mile north of the Court-House…” The trustees planned to have a great celebration on the Fourth of July to lay the cornerstone.
Some 4,000 people gathered at the corner of Church and Main streets on the morning of July 4, 1851, according to the Carolina Spartan. Major G. W. H. Legg acted as marshal, organizing the procession and leading it on horseback. One of his assistants in the festivities was William Walker, the author of Southern Harmony, who was famous for his shaped note hymns. Participants came from all over South Carolina and the nearby North Carolina counties. The Sons of Temperance led the procession, followed by the Odd Fellows, and then the Masons, all wearing their regalia. The members of the Board of Trustees and Methodist clergymen followed the fraternal groups, with members of the community at large behind the clergy. Several bands participated in the festivities. The procession from the courthouse square to the College stretched to a half-mile in length. Even more participants rode in carriages alongside the marchers.
When they arrived on the campus, the Rev. William M. Wightman delivered an address of about fifty minutes. Wightman, who was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at the time, would later become the first president of the college. The address, which was reprinted in newspapers around the state, was in many ways the announcement of a set of principles that would guide the new college. Wightman saw the college’s primary role was to produce educated citizens of character and virtue who would serve their fellow men. “Education makes men polished and powerful, but Christian education alone, makes them good,” he announced. The college was proudly Methodist in origin and would seek to be known as a Methodist institution of learning throughout the nation. But, he reminded his audience, the Methodist Church’s principles were “abhorrent of sectarian bigotry.” As he spoke, Wightman was very much aware of the significance of the day when he said, “For posterity emphatically, we lay this cornerstone. Generations unborn are interested in the transactions of this hour.”
The cornerstone itself, “a fine specimen of granite” from a nearby quarry, was presented by Major H. J. Dean. The cornerstone contained a lead box, into which the participants placed a Bible, a copy of Benjamin Wofford’s will, a lock of his hair and of Maria Wofford’s hair, a copy of the Southern Christian Advocate and the Spartan, and a police report with some statistical information about Spartanburg. In addition, the Sons of Temperance, the Odd Fellows and the Masons placed materials about their organizations into the cornerstone, and the building committee placed a silver medal engraved with the name of the founder, the date, and the amount of the bequest. Members of the audience placed a few other items in the box, and it was sealed.
Almost a year passed before the building committee signed a contract to build the Main Building, and three years passed before the college opened its doors on August 1, 1854. Meanwhile, the cornerstone’s location was forgotten. The Spartan wrote that it was in the southeast corner of the building, though Masonic custom would have placed it in the northeast corner. College historian David Duncan Wallace speculated that the building might have been built such that the cornerstone was beneath an internal wall.
By the early 1950s, with the college’s centennial looming, officials began to search for the cornerstone in earnest. While he was reading an old issue of the Advocate in November 1953, freshman George Duffie discovered that the cornerstone was in the northeast corner of the building. On March 2, 1954, the lead box was removed from the cornerstone, but a leak in the box had caused most of the contents to be ruined. After a few months of display in the library, the contents were replaced in the cornerstone in a ceremony on Founder’s Day 1954. A plaque above the cornerstone will keep members of the community from forgetting where the cornerstone rests in 2054.
While it’s true that Wofford has never had a swimming pool on campus, that doesn’t mean that we’ve never had a swim team.
For several years in the 1950s, a group of students swam competitively against other colleges in the area, including Clemson, USC, Davidson, and The Citadel. The team members practiced at the Spartanburg YMCA. Here’s a picture of the group, which was called the “Terrier Tankmen.”
Seventy years ago this month, World War II came to an end. After six years of fighting (more than that if you include wars in China and Spain that many historians consider precursors of the full-blown war) and the loss of at least sixty million lives, the world entered into an uncertain and exhausted peace.
How did South Carolina Methodists react? The Advocate’s editor put it this way: “So this is victory? It is a victory with the edge knocked off. There is no celebration. No one feels like celebrating. Those of us with sons or daughters or close relatives in uniform are wonderfully relieved that these are safe from the uncertainties of battle or prison life and rejoice at the prospect of having them home. But as for celebrating a victory, significant as it is, the disposition is not in us. A dirty, nasty job came our way, and we did it. Now we feel like nothing so much as a good bath.”
The Advocate often carried letters from clergy serving as chaplains in various parts of the world. Chaplain Charles Brockwell of the Upper South Carolina Conference wrote of preaching in Australia, and in the September 6 issue, of building a chapel and presiding over an Easter service on an unidentified South Pacific island.
The Advocate carried a letter from a German Methodist bishop to the Methodist Board of Missions that was the first such communication in over four years. The letter described the condition of the Methodist Church in Germany, news of the destruction of many Methodist churches in and around Berlin, and of the deaths of many Methodists in air raids. The German bishop painted a bleak picture, with the potential for mass starvation in the upcoming winter, of refugees fleeing in the face of the Soviet Army, and of the loss of most of their savings with the collapse of the German government. However, he noted that in parts of the country, churches had survived and presented an opportunity to rebuild German Methodism. In a more optimistic note, he wrote “we as Methodists seem to have in Germany an opportunity so great, so promising, and so helpful to the life of our people as to surpass anything our fathers dreamed.”
The Advocate came out against compulsory national service, which some civic leaders were supporting in the wake of the war. The editor felt that Americans would support a continued large standing army and navy, and recognized that Americans would have to occupy other countries for the foreseeable future, but that drafting every 18 year old was not the answer to that problem. The editor’s reasoning, however, reflected the strong pro-temperance position of many Methodist clergy of the day. “With an administration that seems to favor so clearly the liquor interests… which lets so many temptations surround those in service, we fear that to send every boy into service for a year would not be the best thing in the world.” In other words, the presence of alcohol in the military made the Advocate suspicious of universal military service.
The war’s effect on life in the state and in the conference did not go unreported. Wofford College was preparing to open its Fall 1945 term, and did not expect to be anywhere near its pre-war enrollment. They anticipated a student body of only 100 or slightly more, President Walter Greene reported. Greene also said that “plans for a football team were not definite.” In fact, not enough students were on campus to resume football until 1946.
These were some of the stories that South Carolina Methodists were reading in September 1945.