On March 29, 1916, after the return to Greenville, the school took the name Holmes Bible and Missionary Institute. For many years it operated on the “faith principle” whereby students did not pay set fees but whatever they could afford.
The roots of what is popularly called “the oldest Pentecostal school in the world” lie in a Bible study program for young men conducted for several weeks in the summer of 1893 by the Presbyterian pastor Nickels John Holmes at a family cottage on Paris Mountain, outside Greenville. In 1898 Holmes and his wife, Lucy Simpson Holmes, purchased the Altamont Hotel on Paris Mountain for $5,000 and converted it into the Altamont Bible and Missionary Institute.
In January 1901 Holmes moved the operation to Atlanta, where it remained until October 1903 as the Bible and Missionary Institute of Atlanta. He then relocated the enterprise to Columbia, where it used the Oliver Gospel Mission building until June 1905, when the school returned to Paris Mountain. In 1915 Holmes purchased land in Greenville at the corner of Buncombe Street and Briggs Avenue, where the school remains. It received its formal South Carolina charter on January 9, 1911.
While the school was in Columbia, it came under the sway of Pentecostalism. In the winter of 1904–1905 a continuing prayer revival spread through the student body. Then in the fall of 1905 a female student began to speak in tongues during a Bible class. Although Holmes, as leader of the school, remained cautious, he and others eagerly read the reports of Pentecostal outpourings in Los Angeles in 1906 in the popular periodical, The Way of Faith, published in Columbia. The next year, Lida Purkey (or Purkie), a student at the school, attended the revival conducted in West Union by Pentecostal advocate Gaston B. Cashwell and persuaded Holmes to attend continuing meetings in West Union, at which Miss Pinkie Blake was leading services as well as both speaking and singing in tongues. Blake came to Columbia to Holmes’s school in April 1907, where she found some apprehension about the validity of Pentecostal experience. By June, however, Holmes and the entire student body testified to receiving the gift of tongues. The school has remained oriented to Pentecostalism ever since.
On March 29, 1916, after the return to Greenville, the school took the name Holmes Bible and Missionary Institute. For many years it operated on the “faith principle” whereby students did not pay set fees but whatever they could afford. However, by 2002 the school had instituted modest charges for tuition, room, and board, while not refusing admission to those unable to pay.
Paul F. Beacham (1888–1978), an Oconee County native, succeeded Holmes both as president of the school and as pastor of Homes Memorial Church when Holmes died in 1919. In 1942 the school became Holmes Bible College of Theology and Missions; in 1958, Holmes Theological Seminary; in 1979, Holmes College of the Bible; and in 1998, Holmes Bible College. In 2002, with Richard Waters as president, this bastion of South Carolina Pentecostalism enrolled around one hundred students in programs leading to bachelor’s degrees in Bible, theology, and Christian ministry.
Highway construction has encroached on the land housing the Holmes campus; the school has purchased forty acres on Old Buncombe and Duncan Chapel Roads in Greenville with an eye to relocation.
Holmes, Nickels J., and Lucy S. Holmes. Life Sketches and Sermons. Royston, Ga.: Press of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, 1920.