Enter the Baptists
I had long heard that it was an editorial by W.W. Keys, the editor of The Baptist Courier, that had spurred South Carolina Baptists on to beginning its ministry to children but it wasn't until I began working on The Connie Maxwell Story documentary project that I actually looked at the original Nov. 15, 1888 issue of the denominational paper. As a former newspaper editor myself, I was expecting a formal piece in which Keys presented the case for starting the ministry and calling Baptists to action. I thought that he might write in detail about the need, quote scripture, tell the story of an orphan child in need or otherwise use persuasive techniques to convince Baptists of the worthiness of the project.
When I looked at the actual paper, however, I quickly saw that, in keeping with the newspaper style of the times, Keys' call is embedded in a round-up of "notes and comments" that provided information about a number of different news items beginning with the fact that the annual denominational meeting was coming up in just two weeks. His note about the need for a ministry to orphan children was just one item of many and took up only a few lines in the long columns of text in the issue.
Here's the entire editorial:
Rev. Wm. P. Jacobs, the President of the Thornwell Orphanage (Presbyterian) at Clinton, S.C., reports that there are "more than seventy" in that institution, and nearly a hundred more pleading for admission, and he ask his brethren, "Can you refuse them?" They will not refuse them. This is a noble work our Presbyterian brethren are doing. Had it occurred to you, dear reader, that is is a department of work in which our Baptist people in South Carolina are doing nothing at all as a denomination?
His words may have been brief but they hit their intended targets -- the hearts of South Carolina Baptists. Just two weeks later at the convention meeting in Orangeburg, messengers voted to begin an orphanage and appointed a committee to identify a location. Keys was likely addressing an issue that was already being discussed among pastors and for which God had already prepared a receptive audience.
If you take a look at the rough cut snippet above, you can see that I can definitely use additional help with the images for this narration sequence. I am very grateful to The Baptist Courier for providing the image of Keys and to Furman University where I was able to view and take photos from microfilm of the issue.
The sequence could certainly be enhanced with the following images, however. If you have access to or know of someone who has access to these items, please pass along a link to this blog post and let me know:
Photos of children at the Thornwell Orphanage in Clinton during the 1880's
Photos of South Carolina Baptist Convention meetings in the late 19th century
A photo or photos of the First Baptist Church of Orangeburg from the time around the 1888 South Carolina Baptist Convention
Photos of Greenwood, S.C., in the early 1890's
Even if you aren't sure about whether a potential source is a good one, please pass this along. Everyone who has information may not be on Facebook or see this blog so it's important for you to share. Although it may be inevitable, I will hate it to finish the piece and then have someone come along with material that could have enhanced it.