Since Upstate Exposures Magazine began publication a few months ago my articles for Upstate History 101 have been about Fountain Inn, Clemson University, and a local Vietnam Veteran. So for this month I decided to investigate something I knew nothing about. I have lived in the Spartanburg area for around 50 years and heard of Wofford College and Benjamin Wofford. But who was he? The following is taken primarily from The Wofford College Library and Wofford Professor Phillip Stone.
Joseph Wofford and his 4 brothers William, James, John and Benjamin migrated from the Rock Creek area of Maryland to Spartanburg in the 1770’s and settled in different parts of the county. William built an Iron Works near Glendale while Joseph settled near the Tyger river. A Welsh migrant named Hugh Lluwellyn who came from Pittsburg settled nearby with his daughter Martha who later married Joseph. When the Revolutionary War came Joseph and William were Patriots while the wealthier Benjamin was a Loyalist. Joseph and Martha had 6 children and on October 19, 1780 Benjamin was born and named after his Loyalist Uncle.
Martha Wofford was a religious woman although her husband was not, but after years of attending church services both her husband and son Benjamin were converted . It was this that lead the young Benjamin to become a preacher and he traveled west to Tennessee and was licensed by The Reverend William McKendree to preach at a local church. In 1806 he applied for admission as a member of the Western Annual Conference and was admitted on the condition that he free two slaves that he owned in South Carolina. He continued this work in 1806 to 1807 when he left the Conference and did not pursue ordination there.
When he returned to South Carolina he married Anna Todd in 1807. Anna was the only child of Thomas and Ann Todd who were among the wealthiest landowners in southern Spartanburg County. Benjamin and Anna lived in a house built for them by her father for 2 years until her father’s death in 1809 . They then moved into the larger Todd home with Anna’s mother.
For about the next 5 years Benjamin managed his mother-in-laws property but renewed his service in the Methodist ministry. In November of 1814 he was ordained Deacon by Bishop Francis Asbury at Mount Bethel Academy in Newberry. He served as a local pastor until 1816 when he was admitted to the South Carolina Annual Conference and appointed the junior preacher on the Enoree circuit until 1817.
In 1817 he and Anna gave an acre and a half of land to build a Methodist meeting-house near their home where Benjamin preached for many years. He had several other appointments with the Methodist Church but continued serving as a local Pastor for the rest of his life.
Anna’s mother Ann died in 1818 making Anna a very wealthy woman and it was from this wealth that Wofford College was founded. Anna and Benjamin continued to work and live on the family farm for another 17 years. Benjamin used this wealth to help finance others wanting to go into business and sold property to Phillip Weaver to build the first textile plant in South Carolina. He also sold 60 acres to the South Carolina Manufacturing for another early textile plant. He also invested in several local banks.
Benjamin and Anna remained childless and in October of 1835 at the age of 51 she died. Within a year Benjamin remarried 33-year-old Martha Scott Barron who was 23 years younger than him . Martha was from Tennessee and also from a wealthy background. Neither Benjamin or Martha wanted to live in the Todd home so they took up residence near the court-house square in downtown Spartanburg.
Benjamin continued as he had before and was involved in the founding of Central Methodist Church in Spartanburg around 1837-1838 where he served as a trustee. A supporter of Methodist higher education he contributed to Randolph-Macon College in Virginia in the 1830’s.
In 1850 Benjamin signed a will leaving $150,000 to found a Methodist college and died ten months later. Maria was not happy that so much of the estate was passed out of her control but when the college opened in 1854 the faculty went to great lengths to honor her as a co-founder. Benjamin did not leave her penniless as she owned property outside of the state.
In 1920, Benjamin and Anna Todd Wofford’s graves were moved to the campus where they lie side by side in front of a building they never saw. The monument reads ” If his monument you seek, look around.”
Randy Simpson, Contributor
Randy is a graduate of Clemson University and veteran of the U.S. Airforce. He is a 10th generation South Carolinian and history buff. He also plays bass for Loaded Toad. Randy will be covering Upstate history for Upstate Exposures. You may contact him directly at AnOldReb@AOL.com