WILLIAM MOFFATT GRIER, D.D
1867 - 1871
In an old house, built by his
father, about one mile from the present little village of Clover, York
County, South Carolina, on the eleventh of February, 1843, William Moffatt
Grier was born. He was the second son of Robert C. and Barbara B.
Grier. His brother, Isaac Livingston, being the first born.
At the time of his birth, Dr. Robert C. Grier was pastor of Bethany and
Pisgah congregations. In 1847 he was elected President of Erskine
College and removed to Due West and it was here that Dr. Grier, Jr.
was brought up. He attended the schools of the village, which were
fairly good, and in due time entered Erskine College, graduating in class
of 1860. He shared the second honor of the class. The first
honor was taken by his brother Livingston with one or two others.
For a short time after his graduation he engaged in teaching in Fairfield
County, South Carolina. While pursuing this quiet vocation, the war
between the States broke out, and, fired with a spirit of patriotism, Dr.
Grier volunteered his services, joining the sixth regiment of South Carolina,
which was made up largely of Chester, Fairfield, and York County troops.
Dr. Grier was not in the service long; he was severely wounded at Williamsburg,
May 5, 1862, was taken prisoner, and after his exchange returned home.
In 1864 he connected with
the Second Presbytery. In April, 1866, at Cedar Springs, he was licensed,
and in August, 1867, settled as pastor at Oak Hill, Wilcox County, Alabama.
in September, 1871, he was called from his quiet and happy pastorate to
succeed his father as President of Erskine College. He accepted with
some misgivings the important position "Relying," and he said, "upon the
Divine blessing and the cordial support of those who had elected him."
The task before him was no easy one. The Southern country was suffering
from the terrible ravages of the war, the people were impoverished.
The burden of reconstruction was upon them. Dr. Grier was young,
just twenty-eight, without experience - the old endowment was gone - there
was no effective plans for a new one. On the whole the problem of
sustaining the college, or at least of promoting its advancement seemed
to be a real one. And then Dr. Grier, Jr., was succeeding a father
who had been eminently successful, and whose ability and worth had been
held in the highest esteem by the whole Church - and he was to take his
place as the head of the faculty, some of whom had been his honored instructors.
But the choice of the Synod was fully justified, Dr. Grier soon had his
work in his hand. He achieved his greatest fame as college president.
Dr. F. Y. Pressly says of him: "That he was raised up, qualified
and called of God to this service, no one can doubt who is familiar with
the history of Erskine College for the last quarter of a century.
Such pre-eminent qualifications for so difficult and responsible a station
came not by chance. There is no occasion to repeat the question of
Mordecai: 'Who knowest whether thou art come to the Kingdom for such a
time as this.'" The success of the College under Dr. Grier's incumbency
is well known. 'His worth was recognized far outside the bounds of
his own denomination, and he was generally accepted as an exponent of the
highest and best Christian culture of the South. Under his wise guidance
the College has extended her influence, and has a recognized place among
institutions of higher Christian learning. With rare tact and with
faithful, unsparing toil he has done what he could in rearing a fair superstructure
on the foundation laid by the great and godly men who preceded him."
Dr. Grier was a most competent instructor in the chair of Mental and Moral
Science, and was distinguished by the clearness and cogency of his reasoning
and his skill in imparting knowledge to his students. He was pre-eminently
fitted for the government of the College. "He was gentle, firm, considerate
and just, he relied more on appeals to the student's sense of right than
on the naked hand of the law. Submission to rightful, constituted
authority he insisted upon as a cardinal virtue; but in the enforcement
of obedience there was always manifest an affectionate concern for the
highest good of the student." The confidence and appreciation of
his work as president was fully shown by the Synod, when weary with his
labors and his heavy responsibilities, she refused to accept his resignation
tendered at the close of his twenty-fifth year of service.
But not only did Dr. Grier
serve Erskine College well as her president and professor. He was
a number of times called upon to act as agent. Once he canvassed
the Synod, in part, for the endowment, once for money to erect new buildings,
and again to raise money on the debt incurred in the erection of the new
building and the Dormitory. In his last canvass during a very hot,
sultry summer he remarked that he thought when this was finished he ought
to graduate. He was not given to consult his own comfort when the
Synod called upon him to perform any duty.
Dr. Grier was almost equally
as distinguished a preacher, as educator. As one said of him, "He
stood in the front rank as a pulpit orator. His sermons were clear,
logical, scholarly, and instructive, and withal plain and practical.
He preached with a pathos, power and eloquence that captivated and moved
his audience. he was a man of power in the pulpit." His Sabbath
afternoon sermons preached in the Due West pulpit will not soon be forgotten,
and they have left their impress, upon many young persons, who it maybe
have forgotten his words in the classroom.
As professor in the Seminary
and as editor of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian, Dr. Grier
also served his Church most efficiently. There was no labor that
he enjoyed more perhaps, than writing for the Presbyterian.
His editorials were always fresh and forcible, and widely influential.
He was indeed a faithful,
unselfish servant of the Church, and of the cause of education.
He died in the midst of his
usefulness and in the height of his intellectual powers. Returning
from his appointment at Bethlehem a few miles from Due West, one hot Sabbath
at noon, September 3, 1899, he sat down to dinner, but with little appetite.
Complained of feeling sick, fell over in a instant in his chair, and in
an hour after he was dead. The stroke of apoplexy soon did its work.
He was removed at once from the toil of earth to the blessed rest of heaven.
Dr. Grier was most fortunate
in his marriage, his wife, who survives him, Miss Nannie M. McMorries of
Newberry, South Carolina, daughter of the late Dr. McMorries. She
was a true helpmeet, assisting her husband in his high position and great
labors by her sympathy, her appreciation and her prayers. She was
a tower of strength, modestly standing behind the scenes but an active
participant in all that has been accomplished. There are seven children
living. Mrs. J. S. Moffatt of Chester, South Carolina, and Mrs. Laura
Moffatt of the same place, Rev. R. L. Grier of Elizabeth City, North Carolina,
Mr. W. M. Grier of Due West and mr. R. E. Grier of Charleston, South Carolina.
Misses Helen and Agnes, two daughters unmarried, are at home with their
mother. Two little ones passed away in childhood.
- From the Centennial History of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian
Return to Bethel ARP Church page.