Categories
African-American History Methodist

Silver Hill – Spartanburg’s oldest African-American Methodist Church

On Saturday morning, February 9, I am giving an address to the South Carolina Annual Conference Historical Society on the history of Methodism in Spartanburg.  The Historical Society is a group of lay and clergy Methodists from throughout South Carolina who share an interest in the history and heritage of United Methodism.  The group meets twice a year, in February and October, often in local churches.

In my research for the address, I looked at some of the things that have made Spartanburg more of a Methodist town than most of us would realize.  The city is home to two Methodist church-related colleges, but in its history, other Methodist agencies found their homes in the Hub City.

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Of course, there are many different kinds of churches.  One of the city’s older churches is Silver Hill United Methodist Church.  It’s the oldest African-American Methodist congregation in the city, dating back to 1869.  Tradition holds that as the first permanent church building was being built, church members placed silver dollars under each corner of the new church on a hill, giving the name “Silver Hill.”  For generations of Methodists in Spartanburg, Silver Hill was the center of the community.

Rosemond
Silver Hill was founded by the Reverend James R. Rosemond, who also served as the church’s first minister.  He was held in such high esteem by black Methodists in his day that he came to be called “Father Rosemond,” an unusual title for a Methodist elder.

Father Rosemond founded a large number of African-American Methodist churches in the Upcountry – from Anderson and Oconee counties in the west through York and Chester counties in the east.  Rosemond’s is an inspiring story; he was born in slavery and separated from his parents at age six.  He was sent to live with a Methodist minister’s family, and early on felt a call to preach.  As a young adult, he was licensed to exhort, which was something like today’s lay speaker, and much later, was licensed as a “colored preacher” in the 1850s.  After emancipation, he was ordained into the Methodist ministry and sent to minister to the freedmen in the Upcountry.  He faced no small amount of hostility from white Carolinians, but was able to establish churches nonetheless.

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He returned to Spartanburg in his last years, and at least one of his daughters remained a member of and Sunday school teacher at Silver Hill for years.  His daughter Mary went to Claflin University in Orangeburg as well as Scotia Seminary in North Carolina and became an important teacher and civic worker in Spartanburg.  She founded the Carrier Street School, which was later named in her honor.  Her name: Mary H. Wright.  The school still operates on Spartanburg’s Southside.

Silver Hill Church moved from its home on North Converse Street to a new location west of downtown in the late 1990s.

The photos, of Silver Hill, of Rev. James R. Rosemond, and of the interior of Sliver Hill, come from the History of Silver Hill United Methodist Church, 1869-1981, edited by Mac Goodwin and published by the church in 1981.

Categories
African-American History

Desegregation at Wofford – Part 1

February is Black History Month, and I think it’s appropriate to take a few moments to look at how Wofford arrived at its decision, in 1964, to desegregate the college.  Anyone who is more interested in this subject will find a wealth of materials in President Charles F. Marsh’s papers.  This will be the first of several posts on this topic.  Today – the preliminaries.

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President Marsh and the trustees of the college could clearly see that they were going to have to confront the issue of segregation at the college.  The decision was for the trustees to make, but they had to consider the opinions of the various constituencies of the college – the faculty, the student body, the alumni, friends of the college, and most significantly, South Carolina Methodists.  In 1962 and 1963, as public colleges and universities throughout the region desegregated, usually under court order, Wofford’s officers began quietly to plan for desegregation.  They knew, from public sentiment, that they had a lot of work to do.

At its 1962 session, the South Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Church soundly defeated a resolution calling for the desegregation of both Wofford and Columbia College in 1963.  Proposed by the Rev. James Copeland, then serving churches in Woodruff, SC, the resolution called for all church-wide projects in the state be open to all persons, and Copeland specifically urged the conference to open the two colleges to African-Americans in September 1963.  After some discussion, the motion was defeated in a standing vote, with observers noting only about twenty individuals standing in support.

In the fall of 1963, President Marsh presented his thoughts on desegregation to the Board of Trustees.  He wrote:

As one individual, whose personal ideas and attitudes have been shaped by his own experiences and environment over the years, I have no personal objection to the admission of fully qualified Negro students to Wofford and, indeed, see strong moral and ethical reasons why they should be granted this opportunity.  As a longtime resident of two Southern States, on the other hand, I am sympathetically aware of the strong personal feelings of some members of this Board and many other constituents of the College against the admission of Negroes to Wofford.

As the officially selected leaders of the College, however, our personal desires or opinions with respect to this highly controversial matter must be secondary to a careful analysis of the significant facts and their bearing upon the continued ability of the College to perform its functions as a first-rate educational institution of the Methodist Church.

Dr. Marsh went on to list potential adverse effects of a decision to desegregate, which included

1.  Sadness and bitterness concerning the college on the part of some of its alumni, supporters, and friends.

2.  Loss of financial support from some South Carolina Methodist churches.

3.  Loss of financial support from some individual alumni and other supporters.

4.  Withdrawal of some students from college and decline in application from some prospective students.

5.  Complications in housing, social life, and attitudes of students and faculty toward Negroes who may be admitted.

He also listed adverse effects of a decision to remain segregated

1.  Ineligibility for substantial financial grants by private foundations

2.  Ineligibility for National Science Foundation grants

3.  Possible ineligibility for National Defense Loans for students (our most attractive loans to students at present)

4.  Possibility that the 1964 General Conference may withhold National Methodist Scholarships and Loans from segregated institutions

5.  Loss of support – financial and otherwise – from alumni
6.  Increasing difficulty in attracting qualified students and faculty.
7. Increasing isolation from the main currents of educational and religious policy and practice.
All but 13 of the 76 four-year Methodist colleges, all eight of the Methodist universities, and all twelve of the seminaries accept qualified Negro students.

Marsh made other points that he wanted the trustees to consider. As a result, the trustees appointed a special study committee, which met several times in 1963 and early 1964. The study committee recommended that the college desegregate, and reported its action to the full board, which held off for several months before making its final decision.

Categories
Sports

Basket-ball, 1916

In recent posts, I’ve neglected Wofford’s long history of intercollegiate athletics.  Since we’re presently in the thick of Southern Conference basketball play, I thought it would be appropriate to put up a sketch of an earlier basketball season.  This snippet comes from the 1916 Bohemian and talks about a few games from that year.

PattersonWhen the call was issued for candidates for the basket-ball team last winter, there were many out to try their skill at throwing baskets.  There were only two regulars back from the championship team of the year before, but they made up in quality what was lacking in quantity.
Captain Patterson, All-State Guard and Collins, All-State Centre, furnished a good nucleus to build a team around.  All of the second-string men of the previous year were back also, and some good material was uncovered in the Freshman class.  We secured the services of Mr. L. J. Denning as coach and to his careful work the success of the team may be in large measure ascribed.Collins

The first game of the season was played with Furman, on our court, on December 19.  The Terriers were thirsting for revenge for the defeat in football, and went into the game with the intention of making it a slaughter.  During the first half the weight of the heavy Baptist team offset in some degree the superior speed and passing of Wofford and the score at the end of the period was only 14 to 10 against them.  The Terriers came back, however, to start the second half and, playing with a rush that swept the Furman five off its feet, went far on into the lead.  The Baptists never had a chance to rally, and all the way through the last half the game was a veritable riot.  The score at the end of the second half was 50 to 12, with Furman holding the smaller figure.

Presbyterian College came up on the following Wednesday [in February] and went down in one of the roughest and most bitterly contested fights of the season.  Wofford got a slight lead in the first few minutes, and held it doggedly to the end, in spite of P. C.’s hardest efforts.  The final count was 34 to 26, with the Terriers on top.

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February 18 was set aside for Erskine’s slaughter, and the job was well done.  Rushing their opponents off their feet, and with a whirlwind attack at the start, the Terriers kept them on the run, and the count at the end was 61 to 19.  Turner featured the contest, with 31 of Wofford’s 61 points.

Turner would be Henry Grady Turner, whose sweater was featured in an earlier blog post.

Photographs: The 1915-16 Varsity basketball team, and individual shots of team members Patterson and Collins.

Categories
Alumni

Samuel Dibble: Wofford’s First Graduate

Wofford’s first graduate set the bar high for all of the men
and women who followed him

Dibbles
Samuel Dibble, who earned Wofford’s first bachelor’s degree
on July 16, 1856, later became the first of ten Wofford alumni to serve in the
United States Congress. A native of Charleston, Dibble was
born on September 16, 1837. His father
was a hat maker with Connecticut
roots. Dibble received some of his early
education in New England and the rest in Charleston. In 1853, he enrolled at the College of Charleston. Late in the spring of 1855, a disagreement
between students and faculty members led a large number of students to leave
the college. Dibble, who was a
Methodist, transferred to Wofford in the fall of 1855. He entered the junior class, but took the senior
coursework in addition to the junior courses.

After the excitement of  South Carolina’s
largest city, Spartanburg
likely was awfully quiet for the young Dibble. Perhaps the lack of diversions accounts for his ability to take two
years’ worth of courses in one year.

In October 1855, he wrote his brother Virgil about life in Spartanburg, in the house
where he was boarding, and about college:

The weather has been pleasant for some time past. Several persons in the house have colds, but
so far I am clear, and will try and keep so. Mr. Fripp and myself have a comfortable room… with the additional
comfort of a fireplace. I am gradually
getting over being foolishly homesick, and am tolerably well satisfied with my
situation. I spoke in the chapel of the
college on Thursday last. It is the
custom to speak selected pieces. I gave
them “The Future.”

I am getting used to the college, and like it very well, if
they would only have regularity in ringing the bells; but they vary from about
ten minutes before to ten minute after the proper hour in ringing the first
time, and ring the second at the right time, thus creating great
confusion… Add to this that college time
is different from every other in the place, and is changed every two or three
months as [Professor Herman] Baer’s watch is regulated, which is the college
time, there being no clock on the premises.

Dibble lamented the lack of news in  Spartanburg. “I saw the first Charleston paper I have
seen since I left Charleston this morning. The papers here have
hardly any news at all, and what they have [is] very uninteresting. I wish you would send me some paper with
interesting news about once a week.”

About two weeks later, Dibble wrote to ask his brother to
send him some books he needed for his courses. He asked for a copy of “Antigone of Sophocles” and “Cicero de Oratore”
because he was using borrowed copies and they could not be found for purchase
in Spartanburg.

Dibble did not make the trip to Charleston for Christmas, remaining in Spartanburg. The college likely did not take a lengthy
Christmas break as they did in subsequent years. Also, the railroad had not reached Spartanburg in 1855,
making the trip even harder. He wrote on
Christmas Eve to tell his brother of his holiday plans:

I suppose you would like to know how I expect to spend
Christmas. Well, in the morning I do not
know exactly what I shall do. I suppose
I will dine with Mrs. Choice’s mother, Mrs. Cleveland, as the family is
invited, and myself too. I have been
invited to go on a partridge hunt in the afternoon, but do not know whether I
shall go or not. The party tomorrow
afternoon will consist of from a dozen to twenty of the young ladies and
gentlemen of the village, and will be a very pleasant one without doubt, and I
would go with great willingness and eagerness if I were not ashamed of my
horsemanship. I suppose you will be
shooting crackers, and setting off wheel rockets, etc, as usual on Christmas. I have been trying to get some wheel-rockets
or something of the kind, but even firecrackers are not to be got here. Tomorrow night I expect to go to a
“candy-pulling” at Miss Bobo’s, and hope to have a great deal of
enjoyment.

As the only graduate in July 1856, Dibble gave the
valedictory address on the subject of “Genius.”
Dibblediploma
It was reported to have been a good speech, though the fact that many of
the other addresses that day were in Latin may have added to its impact. Dibble received his diploma and King James
Bible from the faculty and headed to Orangeburg, where he taught, read law, and
married. Dibble soon married Mary
Christiana Lewis of Orangeburg.

In 1878, Dibble was invited to give the annual address
before Wofford’s literary societies during Commencement week. His address, “The Duty of the State in Regard
to Education” was widely distributed in pamphlet form. The talk was an argument in favor of
compulsory public education, which was, at least in South Carolina, a position about 40 years
ahead of its time.

Following his service in the General Assembly, Dibble
won a special election for a seat in the U. S. Congress to replace the 1880
election winner, who had died. Dibble ran for the seat again in the fall of
1882, winning that and three subsequent elections.

Dibblefamily2

With the rise of the Tillman movement in South Carolina, Dibble did not seek
reelection in 1890 and retired from Congress in 1891. He returned to Orangeburg where he continued
to work in his business interests, including banking, practicing law, and
serving as president of the Bowman and Branchville Railroad. In 1894, he received an honorary doctor of
laws degree from Wofford, becoming only the second layman to receive an
honorary doctorate from the college.

 The “Grand old man” of Orangeburg, as he was known,
died on September 16,1913 and is buried in Orangeburg.

There’s a longer version of this biography on the Archives website. That article includes information about his service in the Civil War and his service in Congress.

Photos include a portrait of Samuel Dibble, a copy of his 1856 Wofford diploma, and a photo of part of his family. 

Categories
Documents

Wofford’s Bell

For over 150 years, the Main Building’s voice has rested in the top of its west tower in the form of a 700-pound bell.

Bell
Wofford’s bell was cast by the Meneely Bell Foundry in West Troy, New York.  Andrew Meneely started the foundry in 1826, after an apprenticeship with Julius Hanks, who was one of the earliest bell founders in America.  (Hanks was a relative of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s mother.)  A split between Meneely’s three sons led to the formation of a second Meneely Foundry in 1870, across the river in Troy, NY.

Together, the two Meneely companies produced an estimated 65,000 bells, many of which hang in churches and colleges throughout the United States.  Bell experts regard Meneely products as being among the finest cast in America.  Both companies went out of business in the early 1950s, due partly to increasing metal prices and partly to the increasing popularity of electronic bells and chimes.  Because of the Meneely family’s position as being among the earliest and foremost bell founders, a Meneely bell today can be a valuable artifact.

The Wofford bell, inscribed “From Meneely’s, West Troy, NY, 1854,” weighs approximately 700 pounds.  The bell is 33 inches in diameter and is supposedly pitched at “B.”  It is held in place by heavy oak timbers about 20 feet below the apex of the west tower roof.

James H. Carlisle, Jr., a member of the class of 1885 and son of the College’s third president, wrote in his Memories of Wofford College manuscript, held in the college archives and available online, that the original faculty members and their wives all went to see the bell before it was placed in the tower.  “This bell,” Carlisle wrote, “has always been noted for the purity and clearness of its tone.  Farmers living four miles from the city tell the time of day by the ringing of the bell.”

When he was the editor of the Old Gold and Black in 1937, Dr. Lewis P. Jones ’38 climbed into the bell tower to survey the campus and examine the bell.  “One rarely notices the bell,” he wrote, “yet it is the main regulator of life at Wofford.”  Counting the number of rings each time the bell signaled a class change, Dr. Jones found that the clapper struck the bell some 1,300 times each week.  Generations of Wofford students made bell-ringing into a part time job, earning scholarships by signaling class changes each day.

Throughout the years, the bell has been the object of student pranks.  The rope has occasionally been cut and the bell’s clapper has been removed on occasion, perhaps by students hoping to postpone a test.  The clapper, the device that actually makes the bell ring when the rope is pulled, was also occasionally stolen by students from other colleges as an intercollegiate prank.

In 2001, the college undertook to restore the bell.  The Verdin Company, a nationally known clock and bell firm headquartered in Cincinnati, installed a new clapper and related hardware along with a new striking mechanism that will allow the bell to be rung by a digital bell controller.  The days of a student receiving a scholarship to ring the bell each hour have long since passed into history.  Today, the bell rings each hour and tolls as students march to baccalaureate and to commencement.

Categories
Documents Faculty

If I Were In College Now

President Henry Nelson Snyder’s advice to college students, presented in the 1938 College Handbook.

If college students read half of what is written about them, the kind of education they are getting, and the sort of world that is waiting for them, they would deserve our deepest sympathy.  They themselves do not know what they are doing and don’t seem to care; the education they are offered is all wrong and doesn’t fit them for anything; and the world they are facing is confused, disturbed, troubled, and heavy with colossal problems beyond the possibility of a solution—or so it is said.

Snyderhandbook
If I were one of them now, I should try to get from my college course the things that could count in any sort of world, and the first thing would be the habit of hard, patient, persistent, intelligent work at the common tasks that college offers.  The habit of work has ever been the way of success.

In the second place, I should accept the mere routine of college as a blessed thing, holding me steady to the duties at hand, creating a controlling sense of obligation in meeting classes, the chapel hour, and any other daily responsibilities.  Any kind of life tomorrow is sure to have much of routine to it.
Then I should do my level best to make myself a well-informed man or woman.  I should be very busy getting acquainted with the fundamental sciences that are so intimately related to satisfactory living, and with what certain great peoples have contributed to that complex called modern civilization and culture – Jewish, Greek, Roman, Italian, German, French, Spanish, English.  To these I would add Sociology, Economics, and Political Science.  All this but hints that I should not like to go into whatever kind of world that may happen to be, ignorant of the forces that control it.  Surely there will be no place in it for the misinformed and the unenlightened!

Frontgates
Again, I should become interested in the arts that add beauty and grace, and dignity in human personality, – music, sculpture, painting, architecture, literature.  The world that will receive me when we are through with this college business will be a world of human beings, and therefore will always find joy and satisfaction in what are called the fine arts.

But the greatest of all the arts is the art of noble living.  I should for this reason do what I could in the process of my education to keep an unshaken faith in the enduring values of the ancient moralities – truth, honesty, honor, justice, kindness, and… gentleness of spirit.

What I have been trying to say is that I should not be bothered about what the critics seem to worry over, their lack of approval of the kind of education I am exposed to, their excitement over what the world is going to do to me and I to it,- if I were now a student in college.  Rather, I should lay hold with all my soul on these simple, essential, fundamental things, and gallantly face whatever the future may have in store for me.

Pictures: Snyder, the front gates, as drawn by student William Gladden.

Categories
Alumni Buildings Photographs

Carlisle Hall memories

Carlisle50s
Opened in 1912, the James H. Carlisle Memorial Hall was the college’s first large residence hall.  Before Carlisle Hall, most students had to find places to live off campus.  Fir the college’s first sixty years, students either lived in the village or they boarded with the professors who lived on campus (Imagine that – living with your professor!).  Some students lived in unused rooms in Main Building, and some lived in Alumni Hall – the building that now houses the Admission and Financial Aid offices.  Carlisle Hall was paid for by donations from Spartanburg citizens and cost about $55,000.

The following story from The Journal tells of the opening of the residence hall:

Every student in College is pleased with the new dormitory.  Only Freshmen and Sophomores are accommodated, but the boys from the two upper classes were anxious to get rooms in it.  Every convenience is furnished – electric lights, steam heat, bath rooms – everything is handy and comfortable.  One hundred and fifty-five boys room in the building and one hundred and eighty take meals in the dining hall.  There is no faculty restriction whatever over the boys.  Each student is placed on his honor as a man to act as such.  The dormitory students elected a president, Mr. G. H. Hodges, the only HodgesghSenior in the building.  He is assisted by an executive committee and nine monitors.
The duty of each monitor is to report to the president any misconduct that happens on the floor assigned to him.  The matter is then looked into by the president and the executive committee and turned over to the Faculty.  So far this system of student government has been carried out with much better success than the Faculty management could ever attain.  The boys are brought into closer touch with each other.  They know and are known, which is one of the finest things of a dormitory life.

Mr. D. L. Betts, a graduate of 1910 who has been teaching in the Carlisle Fitting School since he finished college, superintends everything in connection with the dormitory.  Mr. Betts is characterized by a business ability that will mean success in the affairs of the Carlisle Hall.

Carlislefurman
Carlisle Hall remained in use as a residence until the late 1960s.  After the last students moved out, it served as a home for various campus offices.  In its early years, the Wofford Theatre Workshop was housed there.

The college demolished Carlisle Hall in May 1981.  A newspaper account of the building’s demolition included reminiscences from several alumni, including ninety-two year old George H. Hodges ‘13, a retired Methodist minister living in Spartanburg, the senior in 1912 who had been the first president of the dormitory.Cornerstone

Photos (click on each for a larger image in a pop-up window) George H. Hodges ’13 as a senior; Carlisle Hall in the early 1950s; students with a banner on the roof of the residence hall’s portico, the cornerstone being removed in 1981.

Categories
Brushes with History Photographs

Gerald Ford visits Wofford

Every four years, South Carolina’s “first in the South” presidential primaries draw national attention to the Palmetto State.  Since 1988, the state has been particularly popular with Republican candidates, though the Democrats have competed in some years as well.  Many candidates have stopped in Spartanburg over the years, with almost obligatory stops at the Beacon.  Some have come to the Wofford campus and others have spoken nearby, and students have had the opportunity to see many of them up close.

College records indicate that three future or former presidents have spoken from the platform in Leonard Auditorium.  Woodrow Wilson came before he was president, George H. W. Bush came while he was running for vice president in 1980, and former president Gerald Ford spoke at Wofford in 1980 as well.

President Ford came to Wofford on April 14 and 15, 1980 as part of the college’s Mayfair Lecture series, a program established by Mayfair Mills President and US Secretary of Commerce Fred Dent.  Ford’s trip to Wofford was arranged through the American Enterprise Institute.  On Monday night, he addressed a private dinner in the Burwell Building, where he argued that President Jimmy Carter’s “catastrophic economic problems have caused the American people to lose confidence in him.”  Ford predicted that Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, or any Republican, “would have a good chance against Carter.”

On Tuesday, he spoke to two classes in Shipp Hall Lounge and addressed the student body at a campus convocation.  He also held a press conference in Leonard Auditorium.  At the campus convocation, Ford was greeted by a standing ovation.  In his address, he called for improvements in the economy, increasing the size of the military, and called for implementing an effective energy policy.  With the country experiencing economic
hard times, and with the Cold War still very much a part of American life, Ford called for increases to the M-1 missile program and the Trident nuclear submarine fleet.  His energy independence proposals called for increased oil drilling and coal mining, expanding conservation measures, greater use of nuclear energy and exploring alternative sources of energy.

The audience applauded Ford’s defense of his decision to pardon Richard Nixon, and when a student asked his views on legalizing marijuana, they applauded his opposition.

Ford’s visit resulted in five articles in the next Old Gold and Black, including one about the Secret Service presence on campus and another about the college’s efforts to make the campus attractive before Ford’s visit.

Photos – President Gerald Ford is escorted by Wofford President Joe Lesesne; Ford addressing the campus in Leonard Auditorium.  Documents include the two-day detailed schedule prepared for President Ford. 

Categories
Coeducation

Wofford’s first women students

Womenstudents1902_2
Neither Benjamin Wofford’s will nor the college charter made any declaration about the college being open only to men. In the late 1890s, the college began an experiment, a short-lived one, as it turned out, in admitting women. In the fall of 1897, two women enrolled, and two more in each of the next two years.

In a student body that numbered 188 in 1900, 1898sb_2
eight women could certainly expect to feel isolated. The college provided no housing for men or women, though it had occasionally allowed students to live in Main Building. These women were expected to board with families in the town. None of the faculty members were women, there was no dean of women, and it’s likely that they did not feel especially welcome.

James H. Carlisle Jr.’s memories of Wofford college tells the story.

ChapmanolA striking illustration of how trustees can misjudge the wishes of their patrons is given in the following account of their admitting young ladies into the institution.  I asked one of the trustees, “Why did you admit young ladies into Wofford College?”  He replied, “There was such a great demand from all over the state for us to admit them that we could not refuse.” The next fall, when only a few took advantage of the opportunity thus afforded them, I asked the same trustee, “If there was such a universal demand, as you trustees thought, why did not more young ladies take advantage of your offer?” He laughed and said “We were mistaken. The demand was not as great as we thought.”

Several young ladies graduated, taking A.B. degrees… but it was not a success, and after a few years, it was thought best, as father [President James H. Carlisle] would say, to quietly let the matter of admitting the young ladies drop.Tarbouxmv

The college’s first experiment in coeducation ended with graduation in 1904, though a few of the early women also took master’s degrees at the college. The college would have the occasional woman student until the early 1970s, when first day student, then full residential coeducation was implemented.

Photos – of the first four women, Ione Littlejohn Paslay ‘1902, Carrie Nabors Skelton ‘1902, May D. Wannamaker ‘1901, and Puella Littlejohn True ‘1901. The large photo is of the
student body in 1898, with faculty members on the front row. The individual photos are from the college’s 1904 yearbook, the first one published, and are of Olive Chapman ‘1904 and Marie Tarboux ‘1904.
 

Categories
Documents

The disappearing cornerstone

Anyone who has been around Wofford for any length of time knows that Main Building is the heart of the college.  For nearly half a century, it was, quite simply, the college.  No other public buildings existed on the campus.  Though it has been modified a number of times and completely renovated on two occasions, Main Building has always existed in one form or another.

Maindaguerreotype
It has existed in its most elemental form ever since the fourth day of July in 1851, when Benjamin Wofford’s hand-picked trustees, joined by friends from South Carolina’s Methodist Conference, and hundreds of citizens of Spartanburg, gathered to lay its cornerstone.  Some four thousand strong, they met on the courthouse square and marched in a procession to a plot of land on the city’s northern border, a plot selected by the trustees and described by the Carolina Spartan as a “most lovely elevation, embracing lawn and woodland, about one half to three-fourths of a mile north of the Court-House.”

Wightman
The trustees had a plan, prepared by Charleston architect Edward C. Jones, for an Italianate, three story building with twin towers.  Following Trustee chairman and future president William M. Wightman’s fifty-minute address, and with rites led by Spartanburg’s Masonic lodge, the trustees laid the cornerstone.  The cornerstone itself, “a fine specimen of granite” from a nearby quarry, was presented by Major H. J. Dean. It 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, various civic groups, including 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, in what perhaps is the first example of what we now call “the Wofford way,” 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. Some 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.

Pictured: a daguerreotype of Main Building, the oldest photograph of the campus, and a portrait of William Wightman, the college’s first president.