This was my column in the May 2015 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate. We’ve made some new resources available on our institutional repository site.
For over 100 years, the Annual Conference has published clergy biographical directories about every ten years.
The first volume was called Twentieth Century Sketches of the South Carolina Conference, M. E. Church, South and was edited by the Rev. Watson B. Duncan. The biographical sketches of each clergy member of the conference were often prepared by their friends, and could be quite lengthy. These can be very useful for modern researchers, as they frequently mention the minister’s accomplishments in the appointments where they served. Most, but not all, were accompanied by photographs. The volume began with an introduction by Wofford’s then-president, Dr. James H. Carlisle, in which he referred to the book as a “family album.” That seems an accurate description for a conference of not many more than 200 members.
Rev. Duncan published a revised and expanded version of the volume in 1914. He was collecting information for a new edition when he died, at which point his family gave the information he had collected to the editor of the Advocate. The 1930 Annual Conference asked a group of ministers to work toward a new edition, and ultimately, the Advocate board of trustees took on the project. The directory evolved into something more: a short history of the South Carolina and Upper South Carolina conferences and their institutions. Published in 1932 as Builders: Sketches of Methodist Preachers in South Carolina with Historical Data, the volume contained photographs, shorter biographical sketches, and an additional fifty pages of history and data.
From that point forward, a directory emerged about every ten years through the 1960s, with biographies in the front and separate glossy photographs in the back. The merger of the 1866 and 1785 conferences delayed production of the 1970s volume until 1975, and the format returned to that of the early 1930s, with sketches and photographs side by side. The 1985 edition, celebrating the bicentennial of American Methodism, contained a 90-page history of Methodism in South Carolina, prepared by Dr. A. V. Huff Jr. Subsequent editions of the directory emerged in 1991 and 2001, though all of the post-1961 directories had increasingly smaller photographs and shorter biographies.
Over the past few years, the conference archives at Wofford has been trying to make these directories available online. First, we focused on the photos, making the images from the 1901 through 1961 directories available on a Flickr site. We also had a late 19th century photo album that we scanned and made available. That’s the William Wynn Mood photo album, and it has photos of some late 19th century clergy that are otherwise unavailable. Student workers along with the Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, senior research associate in the archives, helped prepare short biographies to accompany the online photos. These photographs have helped local churches as they’ve worked on publishing histories or displaying photos of former ministers.
The photo albums are available from this page, and individual photos can be downloaded and printed: http://www.wofford.edu/library/archives/methodist.aspx
However, we always wanted to make the full directories available so that researchers, local church historians, and others could examine the full biographies of our clergy. Our new digital repository software has made this much easier, and this spring, we’ve posted the 1901, 1914, 1942, and 1952 directories. The 1932,1961 and 1975 directories should be available by the time you read this column. They are available on Wofford’s digital repository site, which is located at http://digitalcommons.wofford.edu/methodistdirectories/. The files are fairly large, so it might take a few moments to download them.