Guide to the John C. Kilgo Records and Papers, 1888 - 1970 (bulk 1894-1920)
John C. Kilgo served as President of Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) from 1894 to 1910. The John C. Kilgo Records and Papers contain correspondence, sermons, lectures, articles, newspaper clippings, memorabilia, printed matter, and scrapbooks pertaining to Kilgo's career as an educator, as President of Trinity College, and as a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Subjects include Kilgo's educational philosophy, family affairs, Duke family philanthropy and the financial state of Trinity College, union of Methodist churches, Kilgo's election as bishop, and controversies in which he and the College were involved, including the Gattis vs. Kilgo controversy and the John Spencer Bassett Affair concerning academic freedom. English.
- Record Group
- John C. Kilgo records and papers
- 1888 - 1970 (bulk 1894-1920)
- Kilgo, John Carlisle, 1861-1922
- 12.5 Linear Feet, 10,000 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Correspondence, 1891-1922 and undated
- Sermons and notes, 1882-1918 and undated
- Lectures, addresses, and writings, 1895-1916 and undated
- Methodist Episcopal Church, South records and printed matter, 1915-1919 and undated
- Personal and biographical materials, ca. 1888-1970 and undated
- Trinity College records, 1894-1910 and undated
- Gattis vs. Kilgo, Duke, and Odell, 1905 and undated
- Scrapbooks, 1906-1910 and undated
- Additional materials, 1936, 1946, 1950
- Oversize materials
The John C. Kilgo Records and Papers contain correspondence, sermons, lectures, and articles, both manuscript and printed, along with newspaper clippings, memorabilia, and scrapbooks pertaining to Kilgo's career as an educator, as President of Trinity College, Durham, N.C., and as a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Subjects include Kilgo's educational philosophy, family affairs, Duke family philanthropy and the financial state of Trinity College, union of Methodist churches, Kilgo's election as bishop, and controversies in which he and the College were involved, including the Gattis vs. Kilgo controversy and the John Spencer Bassett Affair concerning academic freedom.
The records and papers are organized into ten series. The first series, Correspondence, contains Kilgo's correspondence regarding Trinity College, Wofford College, the Methodist Church, the Bassett Affair, and the Duke family. The Sermons and notes series features handwritten and typed sermon manuscripts and other notes, mostly undated. The third series, Lectures, addresses, and writings, includes manuscripts and published material relating to Trinity College, eulogies, citizenship, the South, education, the Methodist Church, and religion. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South series contains Board of Missions Financial Statements, resolutions, addresses, and related materials. Personal and biographical materials include clippings, biographies, genealogical information, printed matter, and financial documents. This series also features modern materials, such as family correspondence of Kilgo's descendants, that were added to the collection.
The Trinity College records series features building specifications, Kilgo's inaugural address, printed matter, and materials relating to the Clark vs. Kilgo case (1898). The next series, Gattis vs. Kilgo, Duke, and Odell contains documents relating to the 1905 slander suit brought by Thomas J. Gattis against Kilgo, Benjamin N. Duke, and W. R. Odell. The seven Scrapbooks contain clippings of Kilgo's articles and sermons, pages cut from the Bible and hymnals, book reviews, and other items. The Additional materials include a catalog of Kilgo's library, a card inventory of his records and papers, and reference notes detailing press attacks on Kilgo, Trinity College, and the Duke family from 1891 to 1906. The Oversize materials series contains documents from the preceding series in the collection stored in oversize containers.
Access to the Collection
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
The collection is open for research.
The clippings files (Folders 137-144) contain brittle newsprint and may require reformatting before use. Please contact University Archives staff before visiting to use this portion of the collection.
Use & Permissions
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], John C. Kilgo Records and Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Subjects present in the Correspondence series include affairs at Wofford College, Kilgo's appointment to the presidency of Trinity, unification of the Methodist Church, fund-raising, educational reform, and Kilgo's election as Bishop. The items include Walter Hines Page's address at the dedication of the Trinity College Library (February, 1903) and Washington Duke's letters of December 1896, and April 1903 concerning his gifts to the College and the status of its women students. Correspondents include Joseph Gill Brown, Wallace Buttrick, William Preston Few, James H. Southgate, Washington Duke, and Robert Lee Flowers.
The correspondence is indexed in the University Archives card catalog.
President Theodore Roosevelt's 1905 speech at Trinity College included in folder 16.
Manuscripts and notes for sermons, mostly undated. Two notebooks list sermons and dates given; three volumes are titled "Sophomore Bible," "Junior Bible," and "Senior Bible" from 1895-1896, and may have been intended for those classes at Trinity College. Sermons and notes are hand-written or typed on loose papers and in a variety of bindings. Notebooks contain full sermons on particular topics with biblical passages, or sermon outlines. Some of the books contain miscellaneous notes.
Includes A Sermon on the Witness of God's Spirit (1885), Annual Opening Sermon preached by Dr. John C. Kilgo Before the Student Body of Trinity College (Sept. 17, 1899), Christmas Sermon (1899), and other sermons.
Includes Dr. Kilgo's Sermon before the Student Body, The Prepared Man, Beware of the Pharisees, An Apostate Church, and other sermons.
Manuscript and typed lectures, articles, speeches, reports, and notebooks. Most of the materials are undated, some may have been titled by Kilgo, and some have supplied titles. Articles include The North Carolina Conference and the Twentieth Century Movement, The American Democracy, Physical Culture at Trinity College, and The Meaning of a Larger Endowment for Trinity College. Titled notebooks include: Development of American Methodism; Christology, 1895; Key to map of the Western North Carolina Conference, M.E. Church, South; and Slavery in America. Copies of published articles include: Christian Education: Its Aims and Superiority, [1896?]; Our Duty to the Negro, 1903; American Commercialism; The Silent South, ; Francis Asbury, ; A Plea for the Union of Methodism in America, 1906; The Value of Endowed Colleges. Other writings treat inter-collegiate athletics, the history of Vanderbilt University, educational philosophy, why he severed his connection with Trinity College, and talks to students and fellow Methodist clergy. Among the manuscripts are writings on Washington and B. N. Duke and eulogies for J. H. Southgate, Joseph F. Bivens and others. The notebooks contain material on a variety of subjects: notes for a lecture on Robert E. Lee; theology; genealogical notes on the Burton (or Bruton?) family; Washington Duke, and other subjects.
Includes eulogies for Charles Brantley Aycock, Joseph Francis Bivins, Washington Duke, Bishop William Wallace Duncan, Bishop James Henry McCoy, John B. Robins, and James H. Southgate. Also includes a biographical address about Benjamin Duke.
Board of Missions Financial Statements, 1915-1916 (6 vols.); newspapers; forms for recording minutes; resolutions, addresses, and related materials. Additional materials documenting Kilgo's involvement with the Methodist Church can be found in the Sermons and notes series and in the Lectures, addresses, and writings series.
Correspondence with Kilgo's descendants; biographical data on Kilgo; Moravian Church literature; postcards and memorabilia from a trip to Japan; a Greek Bible; bills, receipts, check stubs, ca. 1910 - 1920; newspaper and magazine clippings concerning the controversy over the Mecklenberg Declaration, Methodist Conference activities, Kilgo's speeches and articles, conditions at Trinity College, and other subjects. The series also consists of some anonymous poetry and miscellaneous printed matter.
The clippings in this series are not immediately accessible because they require further processing before use. Please contact University Archives staff before visiting to use this portion of the collection.
[Folder 125 moved to Oversize Box 20.]
[Folder 126 moved to Oversize Box 20.]
Contains marginal notes made by Kilgo.
[Folder 136 moved to Oversize Box 20.]
Report of the Board of Trustees concerning the charges brought against Kilgo by Trustee Justice Walter Clark, 1898 (2 copies of a bound pamphlet); Trinity College Financial Statement, Inter-State Audit Company, Charlotte, 1917; Washington Duke Memorial Fund, subscription and donor books, 1905-1908 [2 vols.]; C. Hook and other architects' specifications for Kilgo's residence and for a new dormitory building at the College; report of the Board of Visitors, ca. 1900; program and seating chart from President Few's Inauguration; manuscript and typed copy of Kilgo's inaugural address, 1894. Miscellaneous printed matter, including a broadside on fraternity corruptions, debate programs, and ephemera.
[Some documents in folder 148 were removed to Oversize Box 20.]
Hearings at the Wake and Granville Superior Courts, and a North Carolina Supreme Court appellate brief, concerning the slander suit brought by Thomas J. Gattis against Kilgo, B. N. Duke, and W. R. Odell.
[Vols. 3 and 4 moved to Oversize Box 20.]
Scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings of articles, sermons, and other activities of Kilgo, including a 5-part article on female education, written in Spartanburg, pages cut from the Bible and hymnals, book reviews, and other items.
NOTE: Scrapbooks contain brittle paper and fragile materials. Please handle with care.
Two scrapbooks were dismantled for preservation in Folders 154-155. The remaining five scrapbooks are unfoldered in Oversize Box 16.
This series consists of materials added to the collection that describe Kilgo's records and papers, as well as materials written about Kilgo and Trinity College. These materials include a card catalog of the library of President Kilgo, which was presented to Duke University Library, and an early card inventory of the Kilgo records and papers created by the Manuscripts Department. Also included are reference notes compiled by Nannie Tilley in 1936, documenting the newspaper coverage (ca. 1891-ca. 1906) of the Bassett and Gattis cases and the relationships between Kilgo, Trinity College, and the Duke family.
Kilgo's Library may have been presented to Duke University sometime after 1924. The volumes in the library were cataloged around 1946, and seem to have been incorporated into both the Divinity School Library and the general collection of the Duke University Libraries. Many of the titles listed in the Kilgo Library card index can be found in the Duke University Libraries online catalog.
These references to articles about Kilgo were collected in 1936 by Nannie M. Tilley of the Duke Manuscripts Department. The notes refer to articles written between 1891 and 1906 in Webster's Weekly, the Progressive Farmer, the News and Observer, the Biblical Recorder, the Raleigh Christian Advocate, the Concord Times, and the Raleigh Post. Subjects of the articles include the Bassett Affair and the Gattis vs. Kilgo slander suit. Many of these articles attack Kilgo and Trinity College for accepting trust money from the Duke family, while others defend the actions of Kilgo and the College.
Materials from the preceding series are stored in oversize containers:
[Folder 116 removed from Box 13.]
[Folders 125, 126, 129, 135, and 136 removed from Box 13.]
Contains marginal notes made by Kilgo.
[Some materials in folder 148 were removed from Box 15.]
[Vols. 3 and 4 moved from Box 15.]
College president, Methodist clergyman and bishop, born Laurens, South Carolina, July 22, 1861. A.M., Wofford College, 1892; D.D., Randolph-Macon, Wofford, 1895; L.L.D., Tulane, 1910, Trinity, 1916. President, Trinity College, Durham, NC, 1894-1910; Bishop, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1910-1922. As an educator, Kilgo was an advocate of a strong public school system, but thought that higher education belonged in co-ed colleges conducted under Christian auspices.
Kilgo's father, James Tillman Kilgo, was a circuit riding Methodist preacher, and his mother Catherine Mason, of Fairfield County, S.C., was related to the prominent Mason family of Virginia. There were five children, three boys and two girls. John's early education took place in those communities where his father preached. He attended McArthur Academy in Limestone, and Gaffney Seminary, and in 1880 enrolled at Wofford College. Eye problems caused his withdrawal at the end of his sophomore year. While at McArthur, a school organized along the lines of a strict English academy, he absorbed the code of strict rules and discipline that characterized his own career as an educator. After withdrawing from Wofford, Kilgo taught school in Clio, S.C., and was licensed to preach in May of 1882. From then until 1888, he rode a circuit in South Carolina, becoming known as an outstanding preacher. In December of 1882, he married Fannie Natt Turner, of Gaffney, S.C.; they had five children.
In 1888 he was made financial agent of Wofford College, and was able to continue his education. He received the M.A. from Wofford in 1892, and was appointed Professor of Philosophy and Political Economy. It was during his time at Wofford that he developed the educational philosophy he was later to put into practice at Trinity. Kilgo thought that true higher education could be secured only in institutions conducted under Christian auspices; such schools should be coeducational, as separate women's colleges at that time tended to be inferior to men's.
In 1894, at the age of thirty-three, Kilgo was elected a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, becoming one of the youngest men ever sent. His reputation led an editor to to call him "one of the most useful and popular members of the South Carolina Conference." In July of that year, Kilgo was elected President of Trinity College in Durham. He took up his post the next month, establishing a reputation as a gifted preacher and educator. Methodists around North Carolina were ready to support their college and see it grow, and it was during Kilgo's tenure that Washington Duke took a great interest in the college's affairs. As President, Kilgo spoke out on many controversial topics, including the role of the state in education, academic freedom, and the education of women.
In 1910, he was elected a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, and resigned as President of Trinity. He continued, however, to take an active role in the affairs of the school, becoming first a member, then the chairman, of the Board of Trustees. He lived in Durham until 1915, when he moved to Charlotte in order to more easily carry out his responsibilities as a bishop. In 1917, following a controversy over student behavior, Kilgo severed his connection with the College. Kilgo was a member of the Education Commission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which founded and incorporated Emory University.
His health began to fail late in the decade, and in 1920 he was relieved of his episcopal duties. On August 22, 1922, he died in Charlotte, and was buried there.
[Portions of this text are taken from Elizabeth H. Copeland's sketch of Kilgo's life, ca. 1984]
- [Forms part of:] Duke University President records. (University Archives, Duke University.)
- John Spencer Bassett Collection. (University Archives, Duke University.)
- Bassett Affair Collection. (University Archives, Duke University.)
- Benjamin Newton Duke Papers. (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.)
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Bassett, John Spencer, 1867-1928
- Duke University -- Presidents
- Duke University -- History
- Duke University. Presidents
- Duke, Washington, 1820-1905
- Duke, Benjamin N. (Benjamin Newton)
- Educational fund raising -- North Carolina
- Gattis, Thomas Jefferson
- Kilgo, John Carlisle, 1861-1922
- Kilgo, John Carlisle, 1861-1922
- Methodist Episcopal Church, South -- Education
- Methodist Episcopal Church, South
- Methodist Episcopal Church, South -- Clergy
- Odell, W. R.
- Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) -- History
The John C. Kilgo Records and Papers were acquired by the University Archives, date unknown.
Processed by University Archives staff and Jill Katte
Completed January 2004
Encoded by Jill Katte, January 2004