Phi Kappa Psi was founded on February 19, 1852 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at Jefferson College (now Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania). Phi Kappa Psi’s founders are William Henry Letterman and Charles Page Thomas Moore. Today it celebrates 165 years of history.
Last year I wrote a history of the Illinois Delta Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Illinois. In reading through the early Shield of Phi Kappa Psi issues, I discovered that there was once a chapter at Monmouth College, where Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma were founded. It was the Illinois Gamma Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi.
What I did not know until yesterday was one of the founders of that chapter went on to marry one of Pi Beta Phi’s founders. According to the 1902 History of Phi Kappa Psi, Illinois Gamma was founded in April of 1871, not 1870 as had been noted in previous records. According to the history:
It was the outgrowth of a revolt of certain members of Delta Tau Delta and Phi Gamma Delta, who withdrew from these fraternities with the expectation of securing a charter from one of the leading eastern fraternities. Being disappointed in this hope, the band of petitioners investigated the merits of other fraternities represented in the West, and after this scrutiny petitioned Phi Kappa Psi for a charter. The petition was granted, and W.P. Kane was sent by the petitioners to Cornell College, Iowa, to be initiated into the chapter of Phi Kappa Psi there.
Upon his return he performed a like service for the following charter members of the new chapter: J.A. Grier, R.J. Grier, G.W. Hamilton, J.H. Gibson, William Baird, J.P. Steele, J.L. Thome, J.M. McArthur, L.N. Lafferty, J.D. Sterrett, H.F. Norcross, J.B. Gordon, R.H. Hume, and T.A. Blair.
The new chapter began its career under most favorable auspices. The faculty was not hostile and the members were congenial, so that the true value of fraternity experiences was felt from the first. The members took practically all the college honors in sight, and nothing seemed to stand in the way of a most vigorous life.
A new regime, however, was inaugurated with the close of the year 1873-74, when the faculty came to the conclusion that, as the church under whose auspices the institution lived was opposed to all secret societies, it was unwise and inconsistent to permit fraternities at Monmouth. The chapters of all fraternities represented were asked to disband. This they declined to do, and, as a result, the board of trustees passed a radical anti-fraternity law.
The students who had been initiated before the passage of the law were permitted to wear their pins, but to the faculty eye the fraternities had ceased to be. This was not true, however, and the life ‘under the rose’ gave spice to the membership in a forbidden society which made them to flourish as never before. The anti-fraternity feeling arose again in 1878, through the boldness of the women students, members of the two sororities (Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma), who began again to wear their pins. They were all summoned before the faculty to answer for their rebellious conduct. Hearing of their danger, the fraternity men marched in a body to the place of meeting and shared with the ladies the brunt of faculty displeasure, but the showing of strength was of no avail. The authorities would not yield, and, although several of the chapters at Monmouth still kept up their organizations, it was with but a semblance of their former strength.
In 1880 some tale-bearer apprised the faculty of the meeting place of Illinois Gamma, and, as a result of the conflict with the faculty over disobedience, five Phi Psis, members of the senior class, left the institution to finish their course at the University of Chicago. The other members signed an agreement to disband, and, although there was some activity in the chapter after that, the chapter’s existence was practically at an end in 1884.
At Phi Kappa Psi’s 1888 Grand Arch Council, the charter of Illinois Gamma, “the only remaining sub rosa chapter at Monmouth College”, was revoked. The chapter has been dormant since then.
The first member in the list, J.A. Grier, was James Alexander Grier, who would go on to marry Ada Bruen, a founder of Pi Beta Phi.* He served in the U.S. Army from 1861-65 before enrolling at Monmouth College. He became a Presbyterian minister and spent his career in his native Pennsylvania. One of the Grier’s sons, Rev. James Harper Grier, D.D., served as the fifth President of Monmouth College, from 1936-52. Neither of his parents lived to see him installed as President.
*Pi Beta Phi was founded in 1867 as I.C. Sorosis, Pi Beta Phi was its secret Greek motto. In 1888, the name change was made official by convention vote, although many chapters were using the Greek letters before then.
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