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Misconceptions and Corrections in Phi Gam History

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"My chapter is the oldest in Phi Gamma Delta," or "My chapter is the oldest continuously operating chapter."  Maybe.

"My chapter is the 100th chapter in Phi Gamma Delta." Is your 'chapter number' correct? That depends on how you look at it.

The Library of Congress has copies of fraternity rituals? No! Read the exposé (in PDF format) by Kappa Alpha's Eric L. Rousey, formerly published at his Ward-Not-Artemus site.

The Founders of Phi Gamma Delta were Freemasons? Contrary to popular belief, none of the Founders entered Freemasonry before graduating from Jefferson, according to research by Glenn Barr (Allegheny 1919). He also found no evidence to show that Fletcher or Crofts ever became Masons. In fact, the Grand Lodge of Ohio has expressly denied that Crofts was ever initiated into Freemasonry.

Founder Naaman Fletcher (Jefferson 1849) played the violin? This is a misreading of The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Alpha. It quotes 1849 classmate Rev. Robert F. Sample, published in the Washington and Jefferson College annual of 1889: "He was fond of music. My earliest recollections of college life are associated with the weird notes of a violin that came from the open window of his room near the old college building." Rev. Sample was writing about Fletcher's roommate, James W. Logan (Jefferson 1849). [Phi Gamma Delta magazine, April, 1908, p. 495]

At the time of Phi Gamma Delta's founding, Jefferson College was third among American colleges in enrollment, with only Harvard and Princeton having more students? Not true! The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Alpha, does state this. However, according to the American Almanac for 1847 and studies by James T. Herron, Jr. of the Jefferson College Historical Society, Jefferson College had the nation's seventh largest enrollment of college-level students with a total of 170. Larger schools included Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Also, other institutions may have been larger if counting the enrollment of preparatory students.

Our original Chi Chapter at Waco University, Texas was installed in 1866? No: it never existed. During his research in the early 1900s, William F. Chamberlin added Waco (a predecessor of Baylor University) to the chapter roll. He read an 1866 correspondence noting the granting of a charter to Waco by the Grand Chapter. However, the GC did not hear back from the chapter or installing legate, and declared the chapter deceased in 1869. The next year, they finally found the legate, who revealed the chapter had never been installed. See more about the story on our Texas historic sites page.

Founder Naaman Fletcher (Jefferson 1849) caught a cold returning from an anti-secession meeting at which he had been key speaker, and died of pneumonia? This is how The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Alpha tells the tale. However, contemporary accounts - including newspaper obituaries - indicate he was ill for over a month with typhoid fever before his death on December 20, 1864. The pneumonia story, given some fifty years after Fletcher's death, was apparently in error.

The original Zeta Chapter was at Washington College, Maryville, Tennessee? Right town, wrong school. The chapter was really at Maryville College. Find out about the mistake here.

Only conventions or the Grand Chapter granted charters to form new chapters? True, except for the 1850s, when the Grand Chapter issued charter-granting powers in the South to Delta Chapter at Union University. Delta granted charters to Alabama, Mississippi, Baylor, Soule University, and perhaps others.

The 1872 Convention never happened? It did! Since William F. Chamberlin published his doubts of its existence in The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Beta, we have new information about this meeting.

Billy Zane, an actor who starred in Titanic, is not a member of Phi Gamma Delta, despite the fact many "fan" sites claim that he is.

Who shot Gamma the owl, the Fraternity mascot? Or, who is the Grand Old Man of Phi Gamma Delta? These are silly questions, and have no real answer or apparent point. Sounds like a wild goose chase to me.

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