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The Founding

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Site of Jefferson College and the founding of Phi Gamma Delta, Canonsburg holds a special place in the heart of the Fraternity. Although the College buildings no longer exist, the log cabin in which the College had its roots is on display, along with historical markers and a museum. Note that three of the Founders' graves are within forty miles of Canonsburg: Samuel B. Wilson, James Elliot, Jr., and Ellis B. Gregg.

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Log Cabin at original site

Between 1895 and 1908
With 1908 plaque

Log Cabin today


The Log Cabin

Forerunner of Jefferson College

In 1795 John McMillan founded a classical school in this tiny log cabin. In 1805 he sent his students to the newly chartered Jefferson College in nearby Canonsburg. McMillan's old "log college" was frequently visited by townsfolk and students, including the men who founded Phi Gamma Delta.

The log cabin was moved In 1895 from the old McMillan farm (see Chartiers Church, below) to the College grounds, then the site of Jefferson Academy preparatory school, and placed in the perpetual care of the Fraternity. The cabin was moved a final time in 1931 to the front of the school and placed on a permanent foundation, where it remains.

In 1908 the Fraternity marked the cabin with a memorial plaque to the Founders. In 1952, they extended an invitation to Phi Kappa Psi to share in the custody of the building, and added a second plaque in commemoration. Phi Kappa Psi was founded at Jefferson College in 1852.

Revered as a symbol of the town and the College, the cabin is found on the Canonsburg city seal. It is also used to back up Washington and Jefferson College's disputed claim to "first institution of higher learning west of the Allegheny Mountains."

For more information:
"Old Log Cabin will be Moved", The Phi Gamma Delta Magazine, 1930. 

In front of Canonsburg Middle School, 25 E. College Street, between N Central Avenue and Greenside Avenue.

Memorial plaque

Second plaque

Jefferson College etching
c. 1850

Jefferson College

Location of Phi Gamma Delta's Founding Chapter

Jefferson College merged with Washington College in 1865; in 1869 the Jefferson campus was closed and the buildings became a preparatory school.

The building on the left, West College, was built in 1813 and razed in 1912. To the right, Providence Hall was built in 1833 and razed in the 1950s; it contained the literary society halls on the upper floor. The site is now occupied by the Canonsburg Middle School.

Founded after the closing of Jefferson College to preserve its memory, the Jefferson College Historical Society today remains "a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to advancing knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of local history." The Society maintains a museum underneath the middle school auditorium, behind the main buildings. The museum is a faithful reconstruction of the Franklin Literary Society's meeting room, containing much of the original furnishings, paintings, and extensive library. Phi Gamma Delta's Founders and most early brothers at Jefferson were members of Franklin. The museum is open by appointment only.

Annual and lifetime memberships in the J.C.H.S. are available. For information, please contact Joseph A. Solobay, 514 Craighead Street, Canonsburg, PA 15317.

Jefferson Academy
c. 1910

Jefferson College
c. 1860


Fort Armstrong
c. 1905

Fort Armstrong

Founding Site of Phi Gamma Delta

The Founders first met in John T. McCarty's upstairs corner room in the boarding house known as "Fort Armstrong." The building was torn down in 1916 despite efforts by the Fraternity to purchase it. The Fraternity was able, however, to buy the foundation stones, and gave two to each chapter.

The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Alpha describes the visit by William F. Chamberlin (Denison 1894). He managed to salvage a few relics prior to the building's demolition. Before you visit, be sure to read this section of Tomos Alpha.

Currently a garage occupies this lot. The site is marked by a plaque placed by the Fraternity in 1948.

On E. College Street at corner with Greenside, opposite the Log Cabin and middle school.


Fort Armstrong Plaque



Chartiers Hill Church

Chartiers Church and John McMillan Grave

The Reverend John McMillan is hailed as "The Apostle of the West" because of his efforts to bring Presbyterianism to the western frontier before and after the Revolutionary War. He founded a classical school, forerunner of Jefferson College, near Canonsburg in 1785. McMillan's school is the Log Cabin preserved by the Fraternity in Canonsburg.

McMillan also founded several congregations in Washington County, Pennsylvania, including Chartiers Church. McMillan died in 1833 at eighty-two years of age, having preached here for over fifty years. Find his grave by the back corner of the church next to his wife.

The current church building was built in 1841, and remodeled in 1908 with additions in 1912.

The site of his homestead, the original location of the Log Cabin, is about three miles away. Inside the church you will find a door from the homestead, a portrait of McMillan, and a photograph of his former house.

Chartiers Hill United Presbyterian Church
2230 Washington Road, at the 539 Cloverleaf on Route 19.


McMillan Grave
McMillan portrait
from inside Church 

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