An Abridged History of the Chi Phi Fraternity
As it exists today, the Chi Phi Fraternity is the outgrowth of three older organizations: the Chi Phi Society at Princeton, the Chi Phi Fraternity at the University of North Carolina, and the Secret Order of Chi Phi at Hobart College. In December of 1824, Robert Baird founded the Chi Phi Society at the College of New Jersey, current day Princeton University. Baird, a prominent Presbyterian clergyman and tutor at the college, initiated both undergraduates and members of the seminary into the society before it ceased to be active in 1825.
Nearly 30 years later in the winter of 1853, John MacLean Jr. discovered the old constitution, minute book and ritual of the 1824 Chi Phi Society among the papers of his uncle John MacLean who served as the President of Princeton from 1854-1868. Inspired by his findings, MacLean Jr. recruited Charles S. Degraw and Gustavus W. Mayer to reorganize the society along “modern lines” and retain a significant portion of the original ritual and motto.
By the fall of 1854, Mayer had founded a second chapter at Franklin and Marshall College with Joseph H. Dubbs as the first initiate. Dubbs would later become a distinguished professor of history and a composer at his alma mater. Plagued by faculty opposition, the reorganized Princeton chapter disbanded in 1859, forcing the remaining members to destroy all records. With the founding Princeton chapter disbanded, the Franklin and Marshall chapter continued on to represent the fraternity alone.
Oblivious of the Northern founding of Chi Phi at Princeton, Thomas Capehart, Augustus Flythe, John C. Tucker, William H. Green, Fletcher T. Seymour and James J. Cherry founded a second Chi Phi Order at the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1858. The Southern Order, as it came to be known, expanded rapidly in the following years with chapters organized at Centenary College, Davidson College, University of Virginia, Western Military Institute, and Cumberland University. The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 resulted in the closure of all chapters except for the parent North Carolina chapter, which managed to survive the war. By the fall of 1865, the extinct chapters of Davidson College and University of Virginia were reorganized and the Southern Order continued to expand to University of Georgia, Emory University, Mercer College, and Edinburgh University. The closure of University of North Carolina during the post-war reconstruction necessitated a transfer of the Alpha Chapter title to the University of Virginia Chapter, which now held primary authority. When the North Carolina Chapter was re-established, it took on the hyphenated name Alpha-Alpha, a pattern used for all chapters disbanded during the war whose names had since been repurposed.
Also unaware of both the existing Princeton and Southern Orders, Amos Brunson, Alex, J. Breach, 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 a third branch of Chi Phi in the fall of 1860 at Hobart College. Like the Southern Order, the Hobart Order grew quickly, issuing new charters at Kenyon College, Princeton University, and Rutgers College.
Following the end of the Civil War, on March 27, 1874, the North and South orders officially formed a united organization known as the Chi Phi Fraternity. At the meeting, three members of each order adopted a constitution and by-laws and established a date for the first convention, which was held in Washington, DC on July 23, 1874. After the consolidation of the Princeton, Southern, and Hobart Orders, the Chi Phi Fraternity emerged as the unified, national fraternity of today. Chi Phi currently has over 43,500 living alumni members from over 100 active and inactive Chapters and un-chartered Colonies.