The Wesley Oak (manuscript)

The Wesley Oak (manuscript)

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Title: The Wesley Oak (manuscript)
Dates: 1871 April 19
Quantity: 0.1 Linear feet (1 oversized folder A)
Coll. Number: ms2133

Biographical/Historical Note

George Foster Pierce, a Methodist bishop, preacher, and educator, was renowned for his preaching skills and his efforts to maintain early Methodist practices. At the General Conference of 1844 Pierce, a slaveowner himself, defended the ownership of slaves by Bishop James Osgood Andrew, which was an issue that divided the church. He also helped to organize the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and was elected a bishop in 1854. Pierce was born on February 3, 1811, in Greene County to Ann Foster and Lovick Pierce, a Methodist minister. He was educated in Greensboro and at the University of Georgia, where he earned a A.B. degree in 1829. In 1827, while a student in Athens, he was converted and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was ordained a deacon in 1831 in the newly formed Georgia Conference and became an elder two years later. In 1834 he married Ann Maria Waldron of Savannah with whom he had seven children. Pierce's reputation as an orator contributed to his election as president (1838-1840) of Georgia Female College (later Wesleyan College). The trustees of Emory College selected him as president in 1848, and he remained in this post for six years, until the General Conference of 1854 elected him bishop and assigned him to the Arkansas-Missouri area. Published in 1859, Pierce's Incidents of Western Travel was his appeal for the western expansion of the church. During the Civil War (1861-1865) he was a firm supporter of the Confederacy, and by 1870 he was the most influential bishop of the denomination. An aggressive but conservative bishop, Pierce championed retention of "class meetings" for religious instruction, probationary membership, and two-year ministerial appointments. He opposed admitting laymen to conferences, establishing a theological seminary, and reuniting with Northern Methodists. Pierce returned to Georgia in late 1883 and died at Sunshine Plantation, his home near Sparta, on September 3, 1884. New Georgia Encyclopedia - George Foster Pierce (1811-1884) (Retrieved October 20, 2009)

Charles Wesley, along with his older brother John Wesley, was a founder of Methodist societies as well as a Methodist hymn writer and preacher. His 6,500 hymns, seventeen years of itinerant preaching, and superintendence of the London societies make him a major figure in the creation of the Methodist movement. His love for the Church of England is largely responsible for the Anglican tradition within Methodism. Born in Epworth Rectory, Lincolnshire, England, on December 18, 1707, Wesley was the third surviving son and probably the eighteenth child of Susanna and Samuel Wesley. He was educated first by his mother and then at Westminster School and Christ Church College, Oxford. In 1729, while at Oxford, he initiated the Holy Club, whose members were nicknamed Methodists. One of those who joined the club was the future evangelist George Whitefield, who was then studying at Oxford's Pembroke College. Wesley received an A.B. degree in 1730 and an M.A. degree in 1733. Ordained a deacon and priest in 1735, Wesley accompanied his brother John, a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to Georgia. Wesley served as secretary to James Edward Oglethorpe, Georgia's founder, and as chaplain at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. The experience was not a positive one for Wesley. His strictness in matters of religion caused difficulties, and he returned to England in 1736. Wesley's spirits were buoyed by John's return from Georgia in February 1738. Wesley hoped to return to Georgia as a missionary, but ill health prevented it. He had been very impressed by the Moravians he had met in America, and in February 1738 he traveled to Oxford, where he met Peter Böhler, a Moravian missionary, and began teaching Böhler to speak English. His association with Böhler led to Wesley's conversion on Pentecost, May 21, 1738. Entering the itinerant ministry in 1739, Wesley preached to huge crowds, appearing with both his brother John and Whitefield. His collection Hymns and Sacred Poems was published that same year. According to one early Methodist, "His preaching at his best was thunder and lightning." In 1749 Wesley married Sarah Gwynne. The couple had eight children, but only three of them survived to maturity. Wesley continued to travel until 1756, but his emotional preaching took a toll on his health, and he was frequently depressed. In 1771 Wesley and his family moved from Bristol to London, where he served and superintended the Foundery and City Road Chapel. He continued to write hymns, and his two sons, Charles and Samuel, were considered musical prodigies. In 1780 Wesley's A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists was first published. Other editions appeared in 1876 (with a supplement), 1904, and 1983. Collection, in which some hymns are attributed to both John and Charles Wesley, remains the standard Methodist hymnal. Wesley's commitment to God and man is expressed in such hymns as "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Love Divine," and "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today." Wesley died at his home in London in 1788 and is buried in St. Marylebone churchyard. New Georgia Encyclopedia - Charley Wesley (1707-1788) (Retrieved October 20, 2009)

John Wesley was a Methodist itinerant preacher, organizer of the Methodist Conference, and founder of the Methodist Church. After his conversion in 1738 he dedicated himself to promoting "vital" and "practical" religion and to preserving and increasing the life of God in men's souls. Along with his younger brother Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and other associates, he created English Methodism and religious reform. Wesleyan College in Macon is named in his honor. Wesley was born on June 17, 1703, in Epworth Rectory, Lincolnshire, England, to Susanna and Samuel Wesley. He received his early education from his mother and later attended Charterhouse School and Christ Church College, Oxford. He received an A.B. degree in 1724, was elected a Fellow of Lincoln College in 1726, and received an M.A. degree in 1727. Ordained deacon in 1725 and priest in 1728, he became leader of the Holy Club, whose members were called Methodists, at Oxford in 1729. Wesley became a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and, along with Charles, sailed for Georgia in 1735. There he served as the rector of Christ Church in Savannah. Wesley's ministry in America was intended not only for English settlers but also for friendly native tribes in Georgia-with the hope, he once said, "of saving my own soul." Difficulties arising from Wesley's strict discipline with his congregation, as well as an unsuccessful love affair, led to his return to England in 1738. His experience in the colony became difficult after his relationship with Sophia Hopkey, whom he met soon after arriving in Georgia, turned sour. Hopkey was the niece of Thomas Causton, the chief magistrate known for his corrupt dealings with the Moravian settlers in colonial Georgia. Hopkey married another man after Wesley stopped courting her on the advice of some Moravian elders. Further complicating matters, Wesley refused to give her the sacrament of Holy Communion in the church, thereby marring her reputation in the colony. A warrant was issued against Wesley for defaming Hopkey in public without due cause. He was brought before a bailiff, but believing the matter to be ecclesiastical, Wesley did not acknowledge the court's power. As a result he lost his good standing with the people of Savannah, which precipitated his return to England. Wesley's association with Peter Böhler, a Moravian missionary, led to his conversion on May 24, 1738, when he felt his "heart strangely warmed." This conversion took place at a religious society meeting on Aldersgate Street in London, England, as one of the members read Martin Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans, which refers to the assurance of salvation through trust in Jesus Christ. Wesley's evangelical work sprang from this experience of Methodism, and in 1739 he followed Whitefield's example in field preaching. As part of the formation of religious societies, he established a system of lay preachers, with whom he began holding annual conferences in 1744. By 1751 the system covered the British Isles, and the conference took institutional form in 1784, when Wesley signed the Deed of Declaration. Methodism arrived in America in the 1760s, and in 1784 Wesley ordained Thomas Coke superintendent of America. He instructed Coke to travel to America and ordain Francis Asbury superintendent as well. Although Wesley and his brother Charles wanted the Methodist movement to remain within the Church of England, the two eventually separated into distinct denominations. At Wesley's death, on March 2, 1791, Methodism had grown to 294 preachers and 71,668 members in Great Britain, 19 missionaries and 5,300 members on mission stations, and 198 preachers and 43,265 members in America. He died at his home in London and is buried in the City Road Chapel cemetery. New Georgia Encyclopedia - John Wesley (1703-1791) (Retrieved October 20, 2009)

William May Wightman, 1808-1882, was the first chairman of Wofford College Board of Trustees and the first president of Wofford College, 1853-1859. From 1866 to 1882, he was a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Born in Charleston, SC to William and Matilda Williams Wightman, he graduated in 1827 from the College of Charleston and was admitted to membership in the South Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1828. He served six years in South Carolina churches, was the financial agent of and a professor in Randolph-Macon College for five years, was the presiding elder of the Cokesbury District, editor of the Southern Christian Advocate, and a regular delegate to Methodist General Conferences. Named in Benjamin Wofford's will as a trustee of the college that bore his name, Wightman served on the building committee, chaired the board of trustees, and on November 24, 1853, was elected the first president of the college. He served as president for five years, resigning in 1859 to become president of Southern University in Greensboro, AL, which later became Birmingham-Southern College. He was elected a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1866, and made his headquarters in Charleston. He died on February 15, 1882 in Charleston and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery there. Wofford College Archives - Papers of William May Wightman (Retrieved November 23, 2009)

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of a sepia toned photograph titled, "The Wesley Oak" with Bishop George F. Pierce and Bishop William M. Wightman, and Reverend L. Pierce pictured. This is the tree under which John and Charles Wesley preached when Georgia was in her Colonial state.

Index Terms

Methodist Church--Clergy--Photographs.
Pierce, George F., (George Foster), 1811-1884 -- Photographs
Pierce, L., (Levi), 1799-1875 -- Photographs
Sepia prints.
Wightman, William M., (William May), 1808-1882 -- Photographs

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

The Wesley Oak (manuscript), MS 2133. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

OS Folder
1APhotograph, 1871 April 19