COLUMBIA, S.C.—The Historic Columbia Foundation will debut Reconstructing Religion: The Presbyterian Experience (1865-1876), a new exhibit focusing on the role of the Presbyterian church in Columbia during Reconstruction, on Friday, March 22. The exhibit, on display through May 12, will also take a look at President Woodrow Wilson’s family and their time in Columbia.
Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, father of President Woodrow Wilson, moved his family to Columbia, SC, in 1870 to teach at the Columbia Theological Seminary, the Presbyterian educational institution located at the Robert Mills House for nearly 100 years. At the end of the Civil War, the seminary was struggling to survive. As a respected preacher and leader in the southern Presbyterian Church, it was hoped that adding Dr. Wilson to the distinguished faculty would attract students and donors to the institution.
This exhibit will focus on Dr. Wilson and the Columbia Theological Seminary and highlight aspects of religion in Columbia during Reconstruction (1865-1876), including the post-emancipation emergence of separate African American churches such as Ladson Presbyterian Church.
Wilson’s maternal uncle, James Woodrow, was also an influential theologian in the southern Presbyterian Church and was later involved in a dispute over his teaching of evolution at the Seminary. Artifacts on exhibit will include the pew used by the Wilson family at First Presbyterian Church, the Wilson family Bible and an American first edition of Darwin’s Origin of the Species published by D. Appleton and Co. in 1860.
The exhibit is shown as part of the regularly scheduled guided tours of the Robert Mills House. Tours run at the top of the hour Tuesday through Saturday, 9 am to 3 pm and Sunday, 1 to 4 pm. Free for HCF members, the tour is $6 for non-member adults and $3 for non-member youth. Tickets can be purchased at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills, 1616 Blanding Street.
Accompanying the exhibit, HCF has joined with Ladson Presbyterian and the University of South Carolina to host a symposium at 6 pm on Thursday, March 21 at Ladson Presbyterian, 1720 Sumter Street. This event will explore the early development of the African American churches organized during the Reconstruction era that followed the Civil War. Keynote speaker Dr. Reginald Hildebrand of UNC-Chapel Hill will discuss his research into this momentous period of American religious history. The symposium is free and open to the public.
Source: HCF Press Release
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