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Fraternities Photographs Students Uncategorized

Kappa Alpha at 150

This February 23, The Delta chapter of Kappa Alpha, at Wofford College, celebrates its 150th birthday.

Kappa Alpha traces its origins to Washington and Lee, though like all secret societies, the founders were more concerned with getting their organization going than they were documenting the history they were making.  But, the fraternity was founded there between late 1865 and early 1866.  For anyone interested, a recent history of the fraternity by historian Martin Clagett, Excelsior, will give you all the details.  Within a few years, the early founders had decided their group needed to expand.  In the spring of 1868, the Alpha chapter authorized members to establish a “lodge of our order” at Virginia Military Institute and the University of Georgia.  Very soon thereafter, an opportunity arose to establish a lodge at Wofford.

A South Carolinian named William A. Rogers had attended Washington College in 1867-68, desiring to study under Washington College’s president, who happened to be Robert E. Lee.  Rogers was initiated into Kappa Alpha while at Washington College, but returned to his native state in the fall of 1868.  According to campus legend, he came with a letter of recommendation from Lee.  He joined the freshman class at Wofford in October 1868.  He soon communicated his desire to establish a chapter in Spartanburg, and in November, the Alpha granted him permission to organize a chapter.  Rogers, according to the Alpha chapter minutes, had recruited several interested members.  Clagett’s history notes that “On February 23, 1869, in a rented room of the old Evans residence on Church Street, four members were initiated into the lodge.”  These four members, William A. Rogers, Edwin W. Peeples, Hope H. Newton, and Lawrence D. Hamer then organized Delta Chapter.  Peeples and Newton were seniors and Hamer was a junior.  These four then elected John Woods as a member.  The Alpha chapter soon sent the bylaws and charter to the Delta chapter.

Delta chapter grew, though Clagett notes that the Alpha chapter waned somewhat after the founding generation left.  Rogers, as the grand master of the Delta chapter, went about organizing a strong chapter and recruiting good brothers.  Two of them were politically (in Wofford terms) well connected.  One was John Wesley Shipp, the son of the president of the college, and another was Joseph Augustus Gamewell, the son of a founding trustee.  Gamewell, a member of the class of 1871, came back to join the faculty in 1875, a position he retained for 65 years.  In the fall of 1869, Shipp succeeded Rogers as Grand Master of the chapter.

This 1902 photo includes student members of the fraternity along with the founder, Rev William A. Rogers, and Professors J. A. Gamewell, David Duncan Wallace, and A. Mason DuPre, all of whom were members of KA as Wofford students.

Kappa Alpha has been a consistent presence at Wofford for 150 years.  Several other fraternities quickly joined them on campus – Chi Psi came later in 1869, and Chi Phi came in 1871.  Those two did not come back after the early 1900s, when the college banned fraternities for about ten years.  Banning the fraternities did not do away with them, it just forced them underground.  One interesting moment in the early 20th century was when about 9 students were initiated sub rosa by the chapter at the College of Charleston.  When the college learned of their misdeeds, they expelled all of them.  Those students all enrolled at Trinity in North Carolina, where they all graduated.  Eventually, Wofford relented, granting them their degrees some twenty years later.  The faculty and trustees realized that banning secret societies was ultimately a fruitless, pointless endeavor and allowed them to return in 1915.  That’s why the Kappa Alpha chapter actually has two charters – one from 1869, and another from 1915.

Their original 1869 charter makes Kappa Alpha the oldest currently existing student organization on campus.

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Fraternities Students

Fraternity Houses, the 1897 version

I found this gem in the October 1897 issue of the Wofford College Journal:

Four of Wofford’s Greek-letter fraternities are now installed in convenient chapter houses.  The Kappa Sigmas and Kappa Alphas occupy their old quarters in the Cleveland cottages.  The S. A. E.’s have obtained the Archer house for their use and the Chi Phis have the first one of the new cottages.  We do not think four neater or more pretentious chapter houses can be found in the State.  The Chi Phis and P. K. A’s have well-furnished halls in the business portion of the City.  There is absolutely no friction between fraternities and non-fraternities at Wofford, and we think this is a tribute to the broadmindedness and fellow feeling of the whole body of students, “frats” and “non-frats.”

 

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Alumni Fraternities Students

Where are all the Chi Phi brothers?

Would all of the alums who are members of Chi Phi please stand up.

Members of Chi Phi with Professor Henry Nelson Snyder, center,1896.

Silence.

Oh, that’s right, that fraternity hasn’t existed at Wofford for over 100 years.  What happened to it?

Chi Phi was the third fraternity to be established at Wofford, after Kappa Alpha and Chi Psi.  These first two got started in 1869, and the Chi Phis were chartered in 1871.  Over its forty years at Wofford, the Sigma chapter initiated a number of students who went on to become prominent in the community.  A short list of those would include Howard B. Carlisle ‘1885, James A. Chapman ‘1883, a noted textile leader, Dr. John G. Clinkscales ‘1876 of the Wofford faculty, Thomas Carey Duncan ‘1881, a noted textile leader, William Preston Few ‘1889, the first president of Duke University, W. Thornwell Haynes ‘1893, an American diplomat, and approximately 160 other alumni.

Though the number of active fraternity members was never especially large, the actions of some fraternity and anti-fraternity students caused the trustees to ban all of the Greek-letter organizations in 1906.  All of the fraternities had to surrender their charters, though many of them simply went underground.  After several years of agitation by students and alums, and after what really amounted to an ultimatum from a group of students, the faculty and trustees relented, and in the fall of 1915, fraternities were allowed back, subject to the rules of the college.

However, the national organization of Chi Phi declined to allow the chapter at Wofford to have its charter back.  President Snyder, himself a Chi Phi from Vanderbilt, worked his connections to try to get the fraternity back on campus, but to no avail.  He reported to one correspondent that the objections came from the northern chapters.

The Chi Phis left a few items behind for us to remember them by.  Among these are a few group photos, some alumni bulletins, and assorted fraternity pins.  The pin below, which belonged to James A. Chapman ‘1883, was recently donated to the library by his great-granddaughter, Mrs. Laura Chapman Jackson Hoy, who is now a member of the Wofford board of trustees.

Chi Phi pin, 1883
Chi Phi pin, inscribed JAC, WC 83