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.
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.
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.
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.