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'Through the Years'

Thursday, January 10, 2002

SPARTANBURG, SC—Dec. 16, 2001, marked the 150th anniversary of the issuance the Wofford College charter by the South Carolina General Assembly. With that commemoration, Wofford unveiled a new Web site dedicated to its Sesquicentennial celebration.

“Through The Years” features articles, essays, letters and remembrances, photographs and sketches that chronicle the rich history of the campus and the community surrounding it.

The Web address is www.wofford.edu/throughtheyears/index.htm.

“As you follow the links to the essays and photographs on the Web site, you will come to understand that Wofford College has experienced both good times and hard times, along with Spartanburg,” says Dr. Doyle Boggs, executive director of communications at the college and a 1970 graduate. “Still, Wofford stands 150 years later as one of a handful of pre-Civil War American colleges operating continuously and successfully on its original campus.”

Wofford’s official founding date is listed as 1854, the year the college opened its doors and admitted its first students. When the Rev. Benjamin Wofford died Dec. 2, 1850, he bequeathed $100,000 for the establishment of “a college for literary, classical, and scientific education” in Spartanburg under the management and control of the state’s Methodist Conference.

Ground was broken in July 1851, even though the required state charter had not yet been issued.

“Benjamin Wofford’s will gave life to Wofford College, but it took an act of the South Carolina General Assembly to make the college a legal entity,” college archivist Phillip Stone says. “While some colleges, such as Erskine in the late 1830s, had difficulties getting charters approved, probably due to jealous of rivals to South Carolina College, Wofford’s charter apparently met with no objections. The legislature approved it the same session as it was introduced.

“The charter’s quick approval was fortunate, since the trustees had already broken ground for the Main Building,” Stone adds.

The new Web site provides profiles of the college founder as well as its first graduate, Samuel Dibble, who went on to become a U.S. congressman. Also featured are the historic Main Building, one of the five remaining original six buildings, and the Franklin W. Olin Building, built in 1992. College traditions and organizations are explained in other essays and articles.

Among the photographs and sketches are one of “Old Main,” believed to the oldest existing photograph taken in Spartanburg, and the original architect’s sketches, donated to the college in 1902.

Portraits of Benjamin Wofford, Dibble and his family, photographs of students and professors, and historic pictures of Wofford’s buildings inside and out can be found, along with letters from Wofford students to their families, describing both college life and life in the Spartanburg community. “The long-wished for celebration (of the arrival of the railroad) came off Friday,” writes T.N. Simpson to his “Aunt Caroline. “There were more people than I ever saw at a barbecue . . . . The young ladies of the Female College were all out shining like stars—in the eyes of the (Wofford) students. The most of them enjoyed themselves finely by having a regular battle—ginger cakes, candy and tobacco being the implements of man. No one was mortally wounded, but whether one was taken captive, I cannot tell. As for myself, I escaped unharmed every way, whatever.”

“This look back at Wofford gives a look back at Spartanburg as well,” Boggs says. “We want everyone to come to the Web site and to contribute their memories and thoughts. For the next several years, the Wofford College Office of Communications and the College Archives will be collecting and displaying material on this Web site related to our Sesquicentennial celebration. We invite the entire Wofford community—faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and friends, especially in the Spartanburg community—to celebrate with us and contribute to these pages.”

For information or to contribute something for the Web site, contact Doyle Boggs at boggsdw@wofford.edu or (864) 597-4182 or Phillip Stone at stonerp@wofford.edu.