From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

William Wightman and the Cornerstone

Written By: Phillip Stone - Apr•25•14

Before a crowd of several thousand people from all over South Carolina, The Rev. William M. Wightman, the first chair of the Wofford College Board of Trustees gave an address of several thousand words that laid out some of the major principles that he hoped would be central to the new college.  At President Nayef Samhat’s inauguration this morning, student Laura Kate Gamble read some of the highlights of the address.  Here’s some of what she shared:

We are assembled this day, fellow citizens, to perform the pleasant task of laying the cornerstone of Wofford College.  A noble building is to arise on this spot, bearing on its entablatures, and emblazoning in its heraldry, the name of a citizen of Spartanburg District whose liberality has made a princely contribution to the cause of Education.  We this day give that name down to posterity…

We make this beautiful grove classic ground.  For posterity emphatically, we lay this cornerstone – Generations unborn are interested in the transactions of this hour.  We summon the future, with its great “cloud of witnesses” to join us in the ceremonies of this joyous occasion.

It is impossible to conceive of greater benefits, to the individual or to society, than those embraced in the gift of a liberal education combining the moral principle… with the enlightened and cultivated understanding which is the product of thorough scholarship.

Wofford College…will be known throughout the United States as a Methodist institution of learning…

I make this frank and distinct avowal on the present occasion, for,… on behalf of that religious organization, that its leading principles are abhorrent of sectarian bigotry, and breathe the true spirit of catholic liberality, of universal good will…. In the spirit of these broad and liberal views, we shall open the doors of this institution …

We may shout the praise of our glorious Constitution in Fourth of July celebrations, and sing to our model republican institutions.  Far better would it be to go to work, each one in the appropriate sphere of action, to strengthen the foundations on which these rest – intelligence and moral principle.

We must have better schools and more of them…Public opinion must be brought to a higher standard of judgment…  institutions of learning are the nurseries in which these noble virtues are trained.

For the good of posterity we plant the foundation of this institution.  After the hopes of ages, and amid whatever chances or changes may in the eventful future befall our social and our political institutions, may this cornerstone support a fabric still flourishing in its early freshness.


The letter to Nelson Mandela

Written By: Phillip Stone - Apr•03•14

I wanted to post this earlier this year, during the international period of mourning following the death of South African President Nelson Mandela.  I knew this letter existed, but I couldn’t put my hands on it in the papers of President Joe Lesesne. Yesterday I figured out why I couldn’t find it in the Lesesne Papers:  It was already on my desk, in a stack of documents that needed some kind of special attention.  I had probably pulled it earlier to show to someone, and realized it was one of those items that needs to be filed in a way that an archivist can get to it quickly.  The flat file in the storage caddy on my desk, however, is not that kind of filing method.  Later today, it’s getting its own folder and note in the Lesesne Papers so that my successors (and me) can find it a little faster.

When some of our students and faculty visited South Africa on an Interim, they saw a letter from Dr. Lesesne to Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, the place where Mandela had been imprisoned for many years.  On their return to campus, they inquired if I had a copy of the letter, and much later, when we processed the collection, I found it.  It’s posted below, in case anyone is curious.

The things you find in collections

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•27•14

Today I got around to processing a small collection we received last summer.  The materials related to a member of Wofford’s Class of 1870 named Wellborn Davies Kirkland.  Rev. Kirkland, who became a Methodist minister, served in a number of significant positions in the Methodist Church in South Carolina, edited the Southern Christian Advocate, and was the editor of the churchwide Sunday School magazine when he died at a fairly young age in 1896.

His papers included a number of speeches he gave as a student – his 1870 graduation speech, his valedictory to his literary society, and a few other ones.  They also included some family history materials and, believe it or not, a lock of his hair that appears to have been cut after his death.

His papers included some photos of both him and his wife, and there was also a composite photo of Wofford’s 1870 graduating class.

Wofford’s Class of 1870

The W. D. Kirkland Papers are available here.


Libraries, librarians, and coeducation

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•19•14

Last week, with a small delegation from campus, I visited two very good liberal arts college libraries in Minnesota to see how they are collaborating and also to see their facilities, how they operate, and just to gather some information for future use here in our library. And then this week, I got a request for information about a former librarian here. And finally, it’s Women’s History Month, so I’d just recently put out a display on the first decade of coeducation and posted something here on the blog about it. Three fairly different subjects.

Then, in looking for information on the former librarian, I come across a clipping that definitely speaks to the culture of the campus in the 1960s. It sort of ties all of these subjects – library planning, librarians, and coeducation – all together in a funny bundle.

In part, it reads, “Anderson has great plans for the future library on campus. He hopes to promote a feeling of ease in the new library. Smoking will be permitted throughout the entire library and the acoustics are such that friendly “bull” sessions will disturb no one. People and books will be mixed throughout the library. Group study will be accepted with the many facilities designed for this purpose.” Smoking? Indeed, lots of people smoked all around campus in the 1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s, including in the library, in classrooms, in offices, and even in labs.

Another line speaks to different attitudes toward women. “Our librarian speaks optimistically of getting everyone involved in the library. One of these ways will be “moving day” where the entire campus can roll up its sleeves and pitch in. Anderson even mentioned the idea of having a combo play that day, with Converse girls serving “punch.” In 1969, Wofford’s student body was all male, but the idea of the “girls” serving refreshments does raise eyebrows.

Still, I love the serendipity of finding several things that I’m working on at the same time referenced in one little clipping.

Women at Wofford: The Early Years

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•17•14

In years past, I’ve put up blog posts about the early years of coeducation at Wofford – the time that the college went from being a college for men only (or mostly) to one that had both male and female students enrolled and living on campus. This month, we’ve put a display of some pictures and clippings in the entry area of the library for Women’s History Month.

From the 1971 Bohemian: Robin Henry, Donna Green, and Shelley Henry, three of the first four women day students.

Although Wofford had women students on an occasional basis from 1897 to 1970, only in the spring of 1971 did the college announce that it would admit women as regular students.  For the next five years, the college did not provide housing, but in the fall of 1975, the Board of Trustees voted to move to full residential coeducation beginning in the fall of 1976.  These clippings, photographs, and documents from the College Archives tell something about these early years of coeducation at Wofford.

Among the items in the display are some yearbook photos of the first women’s sports teams, the 1981 volleyball and basketball teams.  This clipping, below, talks about the organization of Zeta Tau Alpha, the first fraternity for women on campus.  Please drop by if you’re on campus to see all of the items in the display.

Snow closing!

Written By: Phillip Stone - Feb•14•14

You know, this is only the third time Wofford has cancelled classes ever – and one of those times was for the Civil War?

Urban legends on college campuses – you do have to love them. It’s not hard to figure out how they get started – after all, the individual student’s direct memory of life on campus rarely exceeds three years.

A photo I took after the 2011 snowfall on campus.

It’s true, though that cancelling classes at Wofford is pretty rare. For a residential campus, unless the weather is dangerously bad, there’s usually not much reason to suspend classes. The area school districts now cancel classes for a whiff of snow, but even when most of the other colleges in the area have suspended operations, Wofford generally keeps going. Apparently, back in the day, the college would send members of the maintenance staff out in 4-wheel drive trucks to pick up the professors, though to me, that has its own risks!

So it was a little bit of a shock when we cancelled classes on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. And it didn’t take long before people started asking me, via Facebook, how many times we had been forced by snow to cancel classes. Most of the questions came early enough Wednesday that I didn’t really want to think about them too much.

It hasn’t actually been that long since we had a cancellation – we had a similar situation on Jan. 10-11, 2011, when a combination of heavy snow and ice forced the college to close. Before that, we had a cancellation on Friday, Feb. 27, 2004, though personally, I remember coming to work that day even though we didn’t have classes. Those archives don’t process themselves!

Before that, I have to rely on the memories of others. In my time as a student and a faculty member, those are the only three times we’ve had to cancel. However, we have to rely on the hive mind to pick up some other times. And the hive came up with three.

Dean of Students Roberta Bigger remembered suspending classes during Interim 1996 – which would have been her first year as dean of students – because of heavy snow. And I remember having a heavy snowfall in early January 1996.

Dr. Carol Wilson remembered a cancellation in January 1988 – and since we got a foot of snow in Spartanburg on January 7, 1988, it’s hard to imagine that we weren’t out for a few days. She also remembers missing a day when she was a student – which would have been in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

That’s about as exact as I can get right now. That’s six times since 1977, which is more than three times since the place opened.

Oh, and we didn’t close for the Civil War, either. Well, maybe we closed the day the Union Army occupied the campus, but we remained open for most of that particular war.

James H. Carlisle’s writings

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jan•31•14

We don’t talk much about Wofford’s third president – he’s sort of a representative of a very distant age in the life of the college.  A hundred or more students live in a residence hall named for him, Dean of Students Roberta Bigger lives in his house, but he’s become something of an unknown figure around campus.  Yet when he died, hundreds, if not thousands, attended his funeral, and he was eulogized as the most important South Carolinian of his day.

Writing styles change over time, of course, and so do educational styles.  We forget this sometimes, in this day of the discussion section, of the “flipped classroom.”  In late 19th and early 20th century South Carolina and Wofford, James Carlisle could evidently hold the attention of an audience, whether it was one of students or of members of the community.  He had flocks of admirers.

Recently, one of my student assistants scanned two volumes relating to Dr. Carlisle – one, the Carlisle Memorial Volume, is a series of articles about Dr. Carlisle’s life and legacy.  Many of the authors were his former students and some were his faculty colleagues.  I’ve added the Carlisle Memorial Volume (click the title for the link) to our Digital Commons site so others can peruse it.

I’ve also added a copy of the Addresses of James H. Carlisle to our Digital Commons site so that others might get a flavor of his speaking and writing style.

Technology that Dr. Carlisle could never have imagined can make it possible to share his words with people who will never know him, but nothing has ever quite replaced the kind of faculty-student interaction that he exemplified, and that we still try to practice here on the city’s northern border.

“Fish” Salmon

Written By: Phillip Stone - Dec•19•13

With a last name like Salmon, it’s no surprise that students stuck him with the nickname “Fish.”

John L. Salmon

John L. Salmon was one of the longest-serving members of the college’s faculty, coming to Wofford in 1921 and remaining active well into the 1980s.  When he arrived in 1921 to teach modern languages, he joined an already well-established corps of professors, some of whose tenure stretched back into the 1870s.  He was rather embarrassed when the chairman of the Board of Trustees saw him trying to get his bearings on campus and assumed he was an entering freshman instead of a new faculty member.  Since he was close to thirty years old and had graduated from Centre College seven years earlier, one can understand why he might have been unhappy!  He later wrote of the college at the time of his arrival, “it was a small institution with an excellent reputation, a small, but good, faculty; a student body that contained many men who would achieve greatness; and an inadequate and poor physical plant that was woefully lacking in equipment and conveniences for both faculty and students.”  In a 1974 letter to President Joe Lesesne, he noted that when he came, he was the eleventh faculty member, that the college had one secretary who worked for the president, and that the business manager used part-time student help.  His longevity on campus made him something of a campus historian, and he could always offer an anecdote or story about the many characters who had graced the campus.

For four years, Professor Salmon taught French, then he took a few years’ leave to finish his MA at Harvard, where he also taught for two years.  When he left in 1925, President Snyder called him in, and without any preamble, said, “Salmon, you have been with us four years.  I cannot give you a diploma, but I want to give you this.”  And with that, Dr. Snyder handed Professor Salmon a Bible signed by the faculty.  By 1950, when Salmon wrote those words, only he and E. H. Shuler from that group remained on the faculty.

After his return to the campus in 1928 as Professor of Modern Languages, Fish Salmon and his wife, Lynne, were a popular couple, entertaining generations of students in their campus home.  Until the Army took over the campus during World War II, the Salmons lived what is now the Hugh R. Black House, but the Army turned their home into an infirmary.  Salmon went with Wofford’s juniors and seniors to Converse, where he was the dean of Wofford’s student body there.  He and Mrs. Salmon wound up settling on North Fairview Avenue, where they lived the rest of their lives.  He was probably the first person to teach Spanish at Wofford – he picked that up along with teaching French.  The Salmons never had children of their own, but they were always sought out to serve as chaperones at campus parties – perhaps because they tended to overlook some things that might have been going on at those parties!

Professor Salmon continued to be active on campus for some twenty years after his retirement in 1964, having served as the chairman of the foreign languages department and the first Reeves Professor, one of the first endowed professorships on the campus.

Jack Salmon died in November 1988 at the age of 96, having just celebrated 68 years of marriage.  He was the oldest member of Central United Methodist Church at the time of his death.  Writing about the influence Professor Salmon had on his life, Dr. Pedro Trakas, a member of the class of 1944 and a professor of Spanish at Eckerd College in Florida, said “I remember the way Professor Salmon taught me, and he was as good a model as I could ever hope to emulate.”  Dr. Trakas wrote that he had to explain to his father why he wanted to be a professor, since “teachers don’t get paid what professionals should get, and he told his father “if I can be the kind of professor that Professor Salmon is and live the kind of life he lives, that’s all I want.”

The Harry L. Harvin Papers

Written By: Phillip Stone - Dec•13•13

This week I updated the finding aid for one of our smaller collections – two scrapbooks and a volume of memoirs for a 1943 Wofford graduate.  Harry Harvin was a native of Sumter, the son of a Wofford alum, who enrolled at the college in 1940.  He found that at the start of his junior year, he’d have enough credits to finish in three years.  He tried to get into ROTC, but was about ten pounds underweight, but that didn’t keep him from being drafted.  Based on his impending draft notice, he joined the enlisted reserve corps, which gave him the possibility of finishing his degree before being called up.  He was actually called to active duty in late April, but the college allowed him to take his exams early.  He also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa before he left college.

His papers include a scrapbook that he kept during his freshman year, which one of my student assistants cataloged a few summers ago, and a second scrapbook with some materials from 1943-45 in it.  He was wounded while in the army.  After World War II, he attended graduate school in history at Duke University and became a college professor, teaching most of his career at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in North Carolina.  He wrote his memoirs in the 1990s

There are a few other interesting items in the collection – including a fairly small Wofford t-shirt and an ROTC patch, which I’m including here.

The Adlai C. Holler Papers

Written By: Phillip Stone - Dec•09•13

A few months back, I wrote about what we do with all of the papers we get in the conference archives.  This month, I want to write about what we did with one particular collection that we received a few years ago.

The Rev. Adlai C. Holler

It took over a year, but the Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, who is the senior research associate in the archives, and I arranged and described the papers of the Rev. Adlai Cornwell Holler.  Given to us by his children, processing the Holler Papers proved to be a monumental undertaking.  When completed, the Holler Papers amounted to about ten cubic feet of files.

You may wonder what kind of files clergy keep.  It seems as though Adlai Holler kept everything.  We sorted the materials into personal papers, church files, official conference files, and sermons.  We found his notes from his time at Harvard Law School (yes, a minister who also had a law degree) and a lot of materials about his family, his personal expenses, and the civic clubs of which he was a member.  We also found collections of materials about the churches he served, sermon notes, and sermon preparation materials. He kept boxes (literally!) of materials to help develop sermon ideas.  He also kept items that did not relate directly to his ministry.

Adlai C. Holler was an active teacher, and was involved in numerous educational undertakings – leading what were in those days called training schools.  There’s at least one box of his teaching and course development materials.  Over the years, he taught courses on teaching young adults, working with adults, counseling those with alcoholism, the Old Testament, the life of Jesus, and numerous other topics.  In those pre-email days when even telephone conversations were a luxury, his correspondence with friends and colleagues reveals much about his life and work.

In his ministry, he served eleven different appointments in nearly every part of South Carolina, from Myrtle Beach to Greenville, from Gaffney to St. George.  He also served as secretary of the conference board of education, as conference secretary, as editor of the Advocate, and as a district superintendent.  His conference files reflect his deep involvement in the management of the Annual Conference for decades.  He also served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference.

He had a particular method for arranging his sermons, and the envelopes with his sermon notes also contain the bulletins from the churches where they were delivered, and even mention hymn choices and the weather and attendance for those Sundays.  In processing the collection, we didn’t want to tinker with his arrangement, so we largely left the sermons alone, but no doubt researchers would enjoy looking at them.  The collection is open for research use, and would be interesting to anyone who is studying South Carolina Methodism from the Great Depression into the 1970s.  And, though space in the archives is tight, we’re always looking to add to the collection.


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