Neil Graham Bethea Papers, 1891-1987

Manuscript Collection #221

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Neil Graham Bethea Papers
Creator: Bethea, Neil Graham, 1872-1957
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1891-1987) consisting of letters, biographical notes, scrapbook, certificates, insurance policies, booklets, bulletins, journals, etc.
Extent: 0.65 Cubic feet, 173 items , consisting of correspondence, notes, clippings, sermons, ledgers, pamphlets, photographs, and miscellaneous journals

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

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.

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.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vance J. Bethea
  • Gift of Mrs. Pauline Bethea Willcox

Processing Information

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

  • Encoded by Apex Data Services

Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

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.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

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.

Subject Headings Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Card Catalog Entries Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Reading Room's card catalog. This system is no longer maintained, but it is left in place to help on-site researchers locate particular topics in the collection.

Autograph Entry :

  • Hoey, Clyde R[oark] (2) 1949

Subject Entries :

  • RELIGION— Churches— Davidson Co., N.C.
  • RELIGION— Churches— Ware Shoals, S.C.
  • RELIGION— Methodist Protestant
  • RELIGION— Methodist Protestant— Fletcher, N.C.
  • RELIGION— Methodist Protestant— Publications
  • RELIGION— Methodist Protestant— Sermons
  • RELIGION— Methodist Protestant— Texas
  • SCIENCE— Geodesy
  • THEATRE AND DRAMATICS— England— Stratford-on-Avon
  • TRAVEL— Palestine— 1926
  • TRAVEL— U.S.
  • WAR— WORLD WAR II— Religious Aspects
  • WAR— WORLD WAR II-Women's Army Corps

Newspaper Entries:

Tryon, N.C.
  • The Tryon Daily Bulletin
    • May 31, 1945
    • August 6, 1947

Images below are listed alphabetically by subject. This list reflects only those portions of the collection for which negatives have been prepared.

Location: Burlington, NC
Date: 1890s
Call Number: p-221/218

BETHEA, NEIL GRAHAM— Churches— Organizations
Description: Missionary Secretary, NC Conference for Methodist Protestant Churches
Location: Elon College, NC
Date: 1915-1916
Call Number: p-221/226

CHARITIES— Near East Relief School
Location: Greece— Athens
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/34

Description: Mr. Zweig with recent excavations from near Senefris' tomb
Location: Egypt— Cairo
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/67

Description: Dig near a Sphinx
Location: Egypt
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/103

Description: Entrance to cave of Machpelah Hebron
Location: Palestine
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/117

CONSERVATION— Sea of Galilee
Description: Natives at shore; camel train resting near shore
Location: Israel
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/119, 134

Description: Miss Jo's cousin
Location: North Carolina
Date: 1910s
Call Number: p-221/217

Description: Libya in sight of the pyramids
Location: Libya
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/17

RELIGION— Churches
Location: Palestine
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/157

RELIGION— Churches— State Street Methodist Protestant Church
Description: Rev & Mrs. Bethea beside church sign
Call Number: p-221/51
Date: 1910s

RELIGION— Clothing and Dress-Shoes
Description: Mosque shoes made of goatskin
Location: Palestine
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/106

Description: Temple area of city
Location: Israel— Jerusalem
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/109

Description: Dr. Bickle watching children dancing in street
Location: Algeria— Algiers
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/64

Description: Mr. Sweetland, Mr. Zweig, and Mrs. Bethea
Location: Palestine
Date: 1920s
Call Number: p-221/82

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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