Neil Graham Bethea Papers, 1872-1987

Manuscript Collection #221

  • Descriptive Summary
    Title: Neil Graham Bethea Papers
    Creator: Bethea, Neil Graham, 1872-1957
    Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
    Language: English
    Abstract: Papers (1872-1987) consisting of letters, biographical notes, scrapbook, certificates, insurance policies, booklets, bulletins, journals, sermons, etc. of Dr. Neil Graham Bethea (1872-1957), a Methodist Protestant evangelist and minister in North Carolina.
    Extent: 1.85 Cubic feet, 5 archival boxes and 2 oversize folders [oversize folder 2 is in vault], consisting of correspondence, notes, clippings, sermons, ledgers, pamphlets, photographs, autograph books, publications, genealogical material, and miscellaneous journals
  • Description

    Correspondence in the collection concerns Bethea's ministry, character, and evangelical efforts. There are letters about his trip to Palestine, references to the presentation of a portrait of Field Marshall Edward Allenby to Governor Starr of Jerusalem (1926), and commentary on the problems of organizing a National Committee in America to rebuild the Shakespeare Memorial Theater at Stratford on Avon. One letter makes note of his teaching methods at High Point's summer school of Leadership Education. There are also letters from members of his church serving in World War II, thanking Bethea for sending information from home and boosting morale. Of particular interest in this regard is a letter from a member of the Women's Army Corps (WAC), describing her work and the value of the Corps to the war effort. Correspondence for the year 1944 reflects Bethea's trouble in getting the years he spent as a trial minister counted into his pension fund. Also included are letters from Bethea's son, Lewis, giving brief descriptions of his work with the Inter-American Geodetic Survey in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Correspondence (1985-1987) between Edna Henderson and Ralph Hardee Rives concerns Mrs. Henderson's historical research into the Methodist Protestant roots of Harmony United Methodist Church and Bethea's ministry there.

    Biographical information notes Bethea's work as an outstanding evangelist and his inclusion in the 1952 edition of Who's Who in Methodism. Also included is a paper entitled "Forty Seven Years Work- A Resume of N. G. Bethea's Activities" and a diary listing his experiences abroad. A scrapbook contains a series of articles authored by Bethea for the Methodist Protestant Herald in 1935. Some of these articles are found in the clippings which also accompany the collection. These clippings highlight much of Bethea's career and in particular his trip to Palestine. Financial records include bonds, mortgages, deeds, stock certificates, insurance policies, and receipts.

    Among the primarily religious materials are a quarterly report for the Fletcher Charge (1943-1944) and a number of booklets and bulletins concerning the Western N.C. Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church and its affiliates. Notes and sermons- mainly from the 1940s- include a series of radio talks for WISE in Asheville and a four-part sermon delivered in November and December, 1950. The fourth part stresses the church's role in dealing with communism and is entitled "Let Both Grow Together."

    Miscellaneous items include a student's progress report from Catawba College (Jan. 27, 1893), a statement of tuition and charges at High Point College (April 25, 1935), and "An Examination in Christian Stewardship" by Carl Hoyt Trowbridge. There are also a number of histories for churches Bethea either served in or had contact with as well as a history of Yadkin College. A large number of photographs, many reflecting Bethea's 1926 trip to Palestine, are included. Of special interest is a picture of Methodist ministers at a state conference (ca. 1912). Four miscellaneous journals comprise the rest of the collection. Two journals contain sermon notes, one gives baptismal records (1943-1948), and one lists conversion records (1897-1930) and where they took place.

  • Biographical / Historical Note

    Dr. Neil Graham Bethea (1872-1957) was a Methodist Protestant evangelist and minister. The son of William Cameron Bethea and Mary Jane Harris Bethea, he was born in Little River near Fayetteville, North Carolina; but at an early age, his family moved to Burlington. He attended Catawba College, withdrawing due to failing eyesight. In 1897 Bethea joined the N.C. Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church and served as Conference Evangelist for a number of years, traveling across the state holding one-day revivals. He was ordained as an Elder in 1902.

    On December 6, 1899, Bethea married Hattie C. Warlick, daughter of Samuel M. Warlick and M. Frances Wood Warlick of Pleasant Hill, Cleveland County, N.C. Dr. Bethea's first pastorate was in Ellenboro, after which he went to Bessemer City, where " Bethea's Chapel" was later built and named in his honor. He also served in pastorates at Gibsonville, Yarborough, Granville Circuit, Halifax Circuit, Lexington, Asheville, Fletcher, Tryon, and Swannanoa, N.C. He served as Conference Missionary Secretary in 1915-1916. In 1926 he made an extensive tour of Palestine. His ministry covered fifty-two years, during which he reportedly preached 20,000 sermons and recorded 8,061 conversions. He helped to found High Point College and subsequently received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from that institution. Bethea retired in 1949 and died in Greensboro in 1957.

  • Administrative Information
    Accessions Information

    February 19, 1973, 90 items; Papers (1897-1958) of Methodist Protestant evangelist and minister, including correspondence, notes, clippings, sermons, ledgers, and miscellaneous

    April 18, 1973, 13 items; Papers (1891-1904), consisting of correspondence, a report, a certificate, scriptural material, and a clipping

    April 22, 1980, 70 items; Scrapbooks, correspondence, sermons, and miscellaneous

    February 22, 1982, 2 vols.; Photo albums. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vance J. Bethea, of Greensboro, N.C., and Mrs. Pauline Bethea Willcox, of Enfield, N.C.

    June 12, 2017, (unprocessed addition #4), 1.2 cu. ft.; This addition includes a looseleaf notebook containing sermons (dated from Oct. 11, 1872 to Feb. 24, 1957) written by Rev. Bethea; photographs of Bethea and Schoffner family members from Burlington, N.C., area, Warlick family members from Shelby, N.C., identified images whose relationship to Rev. Bethea is unknown, identified images (1910s) of schools and a church, and unidentified images of people; autograph books (1896, 1924); Masonic publications; receipts; correspondence; and genealogical material. Also included are travel booklets, a New Testament, religious booklets, and a notebook containing documents and mementoes related to a 1926 cruise to the Mediterranean and the Holy Land by a tour group including, among others, Rev. Bethea and other ministers. The donor’s great-great-grandmother was a first cousin of Rev. Bethea. Gift of Deans Eatman.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vance J. Bethea
    Gift of Mrs. Pauline Bethea Willcox
    Gift of Deans Eatman

    Access Restrictions

    No restrictions

    Copyright Notice

    Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

    Preferred Citation

    Neil Graham Bethea Papers (#221), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

    Processing Information

    Processed by J. Sarvey; F. Harrison, October 1988

    Encoded by Apex Data Services

Container List

  • Box 1
    Correspondence, 1891-1987
    Sermons and religious materials
    Miscellaneous papers

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Sensitive Materials Statement

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection, without the consent of those individuals, may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which East Carolina University assumes no responsibility.

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Container List

  • Box 1
    Correspondence, 1891-1987
    Sermons and religious materials
    Miscellaneous papers

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