The History of Chi Phi Fraternity

The Chi Phi Fraternity, as it exists today, is the outgrowth of three older organizations, each of which bore the name of Chi Phi. These organizations were the Chi Phi Society, founded at the College of New Jersey (Princeton); the Chi Phi Fraternity, established at the University of North Carolina; and the Secret Order of Chi Phi, founded at Hobart College.

The Princeton Order

The first of these older organizations, the Chi Phi Society, which is known in the history of the fraternity as the Princeton Order of Chi Phi, was established at the College of New Jersey, later Princeton University, on December 24, 1824, by Robert Baird, then a tutor in the college and later a prominent Presbyterian clergyman. He associated with himself in the formation of this secret Chi Phi Society, a number of the members of the faculties of both college and seminary as well as undergraduates of both institutions. This society ceased to be active in 1825.

Thirty years later, in the winter of 1853-54, John MacLean, Jr., found among the papers of his uncle, John MacLean, President of Princeton University, the old constitution, minute book, and ritual of the Chi Phi Society of 1824 and, with these as his guide, he united with Charles Smith Degraw and Gustavus W. Mayer in reorganizing the old society at Princeton along “modern lines”. The old motto and a great part of the ritual were retained. In the fall of 1854, Mayer organized a second chapter of the Chi Phi Society at Franklin and Marshall College. Joseph Henry Dubbs, later a distinguished professor of history at this Alma Mater, being the first initiate. The opposition of the Princeton faculty and the prohibitory pledge caused the death of the reorganized Princeton Chapter in 1859 when its records were destroyed by the last active members, leaving the Lancaster Chapter alone to represent the society.

The Southern Order

Alpha Chapter Brotherhood 1908

The second of these older organizations, called the Chi Phi Fraternity and now known in our history as the Southern Order of Chi Phi, was founded at the University of North Carolina on August 21, 1858, by Thomas Capehart, Augustus Flythe, John C. Tucker, William H. Green, Fletcher T. Seymour, and James J. Cherry, who were students at the University and organized this club to perpetuate their preparatory school friendships and named it the Chi Phi Fraternity. The idea of expansion was early manifested and chapters were rapidly organized at Centenary, Davidson, Virginia, Nashville, and Cumberland. However, the War between the States meant the end of all but the parent chapter. With the cessation of hostilities, new chapters sprang up at Hampden-Sydney, Georgia, Edinburgh, Mercer, Emory, Oglethorpe, Trinity, Kentucky Military Institute, and St. John’s. The extinct chapters at Virginia and Davidson were reorganized. Following the War, the University of North Carolina itself was closed, necessitating the transfer of the “Alpha” Chapter title to the Virginia Chapter. While this organization had a constitution and held conventions, the primary authority rested with the “Alpha” Chapter.

When the North Carolina Chapter was re-established, it took on the hyphenated name “Alpha-Alpha”. Those chapters of Chi Phi with hyphenated names indicate that upon the reorganization of that chapter, its prior chapter name was already taken by an existing chapter. The hyphenated Alpha was added to the front of the old chapter name.

The Northern Order

The Secret Order of Chi Phi, which is now known in the history of the Fraternity as the Hobart Order of Chi Phi, was formed at Hobart College on November 14, 1860 by Amos Brunson and Alex J. Beach, who were students at the college and, being dissatisfied with the fraternities existing at Hobart, associated themselves with John W. Jones, George G. Hopkins, Edward S. Lawson, Samuel W. Tuttle, David S. Hall, David P. Jackson, William H. Shepard, Harvey N. Loomis, William Sutphen and Frank B. Wilson founded the Upsilon Chapter of the Secret Order of Chi Phi. From Hobart, charters were soon issued at new chapters at Kenyon, Princeton, and Rutgers.

Five years later the Secret Order of Chi Phi at Hobart learned of the existence of the Chi Phi Society in Pennsylvania and on May 29, 1867, the two societies formally united. The Northern Order of the Chi Phi Fraternity was thus formed, and later placed chapters Muhlenberg, Cornell, Dickinson, Wofford, Washington and Lee, Lehigh, Brown, Massuachusetts Institute of Technology, Amherst, Ohio Wesleyan, and Lafayette.