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Samuel Beatty Wilson


The first President of Phi Gamma Delta and author of its original Constitution was born on a farm near New Castle, Pennsylvania, February 20, 1824. Although he was a slender boy, giving an appearance of delicacy, he lived longer than any of the other five founders. Sam B. was quiet, rather reticent and studious as a lad. He became the greatest classical scholar of "The Immortal Six." His early schooling was obtained in public schools and at an academy at his home. At Jefferson College, he made a name for himself as an exceptionally brilliant and thorough student and a veritable master of debate.

After graduation, he held the principalship of an academy for a year, but though he showed great ability as an instructor, he changed to the study and practice of law. In November, 1850, he was admitted to the bar and opened an office in Beaver, Pennsylvania, where he resided for the remainder of his life, becoming the most respected and influential man in the community. On April 12, 1854, he married the cultured and refined Elizabeth Robinson; they had four children. He was extremely active both in Masonry and in politics, though he consistently refused to seek office, either appointive or elective, for himself. His attainments as a scholar and man of letters are reflected by his building of an extensive library, said at the time of his death to be the best private collection in the country. At the sacrifice of his own time, he taught law to many young men, several of whom later attained great prominence, and thus earned for himself the title of "The Preceptor." In his profession, he ever strove fore justice and right.

Failing health caused his death on January 17, 1889, at the peak of his career, and his final resting place in the Beaver Cemetery is marked by an imposing monument. We honor him as the intellectual genius, supplementing McCarty’s dynamic spirit, who gave us our principles and laid the firm foundation upon which, in the years since 1848, American college youth has reared the imposing edifice of Phi Gamma Delta.

Wilson's Grave

Wilson died on January 17, 1889 at age 65. He and his wife Elizabeth are buried in Beaver Cemetery. His stone is among the most notable in the cemetery and easy to spot.

Also in Beaver is Wilson's old home and law office, in which his son and grandson also practiced. At the time of his grandson's death it was Pennsylvania's oldest law office in continuous use. It remains in private hands and is not open to the public.


Beaver Cemetery, Beaver, Pennsylvania, about forty-two miles north of Canonsburg. Directions: As you exit Pa. 60, follow Pa. 68 into Beaver; you will soon pass Beaver Cemetery on the left; drive through the cemetery to the chapel in the center. Brother Wilson's imposing monument in on the left side of this building.

Wilson, probably from the 
early 1850s.
(Phi Gamma Delta Archives)
Updated oil painting
in the home of a 
of Brother Wilson.
 Wilson's Grave

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