Local History

The history of Chi Chapter of Theta Chi begins on Tuesday November 17th, 1914. It was on this day that the precursor to Chi Chapter, Alpha Sigma Colony, was started by five men: Paul E. Engle, John R. Boyle, Clyde A. Donehoo, Robert S. Dennis and Noble C. Powell. In the original minute books of the fraternity the founders state the purpose as: “Feeling the need of a fraternity having as its ideal the highest and truest standard of brotherhood, the organizers and founders of Alpha Sigma Fraternity have endeavored to make this aim the fundamental principle of the organic life”. The first pledge (called postulant by the Alpha Sigmas) was Lapton A. Wilkinson.   He pledged a week after the founding and was initiated two days after his pledging.  While the minutes discussing the switch from Alpha Sigma to Theta Chi have been lost there are some facts that can be assumed. One is that during the four years ΑΣ had been in existence three different local fraternities had shut down, so it can be assumed the founders wanted the stability of a national organization. Secondly, it is possible that brothers, in fact, knew about Theta Chi Fraternity and tried to set up their fraternity in its likeness. Direct proof of this comes from the very ritual of ΑΣ which states: “Strive at all times to aid your fellow men in every honorable and upright way. Never permit to pass, without making us of it, the opportunity to lend a helping hand to a brother who needs it”. The helping hand is also the central principle of Theta Chi Fraternity. On Tuesday, April 20, 1918, Alpha Sigma Colony was chartered as Chi Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. In 1960, the school officially acquired the name that it had long been called - Auburn University. The first man to be initiated as a Theta Chi at Auburn University was William Wallace Allen (born December 5th, 1896), who would later become the first president of Chi Chapter. Allen was actually a brother ofΑΣ, he pledged on November 8th, 1915 and was initiated a few days later. Chi Chapter has had four houses while at Auburn University. The first house was Dorm 12; the second house was located near downtown Auburn by the Freewheeler Bicycle Shop. Our third house, built in 1952, was located at 712 West Magnolia Avenue. Currently, we are living at 935 Lem Morrison Drive. The house was completed in the summer of 2007 and is a state-of-the-art fraternity house. Chi Chapter is the 22nd oldest chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity and the 11th oldest fraternity at Auburn University.

National History

Theta Chi Society, as it was then known, was founded at Norwich University, Norwich, Vermont, at nine o'clock on Thursday evening, April 10, 1856. At that time Frederick Norton Freeman '57, and Arthur Chase '56, met in Freeman's room in the Old South Barracks of the University and, to quote from the minutes of the first meeting, "being called to order by Mr. Chase, Messrs. Chase and Freeman mutually took the oaths prescribed and declared each other true and accepted members of the Theta Chi Society." From this humble beginning Theta Chi Fraternity has grown to its present status. To quote again from the minutes of the first meeting we learn that, "The Theta Chi Society was the idea and plan of Frederick Norton Freeman, and with the assistance of Arthur Chase, his plans were perfected and the society was organized.” Chase was elected president and Freeman was elected secretary. The next evening, April 11, the first initiation was conducted. One of the initiates was Edward Bancroft Williston of San Diego, California, and the other was Lorenzo Potter of Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Theta Chi was the first Greek Letter society to make its appearance at Norwich. It was preceded in 1853 by a secret society known as the "Regulators." Whether there was any connection between the Regulators and Theta Chi is open to conjecture. It is known that Freeman was a Regulator and that when the Regulators passed out of existence in 1856 practically all of the paraphernalia of this organization passed into the possession of Theta Chi Society. The fundamentals of the organization, as expressed in the original constitution, to this day remain unchanged. Our present ritual includes the original ritual used in 1856. The oaths taken by Freeman and Chase on that April evening long ago have since been shared by every man initiated into Theta Chi. At the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Convention held at Northfield, Vermont, in 1931, the Fraternity placed suitably marked granite memorials at the grave of Freeman near Plainfield, New Hampshire, and the grave of Chase in Claremont, New Hampshire. The early history of Theta Chi Fraternity is closely connected with the history of Norwich University. The University was founded at Norwich, Vermont, in 1819 being then known as The American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy. It was a pioneer engineering college of the country and has always maintained its military training and traditions. In 1834 the name was changed to Norwich University. In the Spring of 1866 the Norwich University buildings burned. Old South Barracks, where Theta Chi was founded, was completely destroyed. It is reasonable to believe that some of the early records and relics of the Fraternity were lost at this time. The University moved after the fire to Northfield, Vermont, its present location. At the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Convention the Fraternity erected a granite monument with a bronze plaque at Norwich, Vermont, to commemorate the founding of the Fraternity. In the first decade of the Fraternity's existence a number of serious handicaps were experienced. The Civil War greatly depleted the student body of the University, for Norwich was a military school. After the fire in 1866 there was doubt for a while as to whether or not the University would continue. The war, the fire, and the uncertainty regarding the continuation of the University seriously lowered the attendance, and the school opened in the Fall of 1866 with only nineteen students. In spite of the low enrollment, which continued for some years, Dodge and Ellis say that “The Theta Chi and Alpha Sigma Pi fraternities flourished in this period, 1866 to 1880”, tell us in “The History of Norwich University”. Just what the word "flourished" meant is not known, but it is supposed that even with a small university enrollment, Theta Chi was able to get its share of new members. In 1881 the student body of Norwich was reduced to a dozen men, and Theta Chi found itself with one active member. This critical situation was relieved when local alumni worked with the undergraduate member, James M. Holland, '83, in pledging and initiating Phil S. Randall, '86, and Henry B. Hersey, '85, thus preserving the existence of the Fraternity. After 1888 the affairs of the University took a decided turn for the better, and from then on there was never a question of Theta Chi leadership on the Norwich campus. From its very inception Theta Chi was planned as a national fraternity. Why it existed as a single chapter for nearly fifty years will probably never be definitely known. Expansion was no doubt delayed by two conditions, the unstable conditions of the University at first, and anti-expansion sentiment, which developed later within the chapter. In 1888 Theta Chi Fraternity was incorporated under the laws of Vermont. From 1888 until the establishment of the Beta Chapter, fourteen years later, the history of the Fraternity is a history of steady growth of a chapter both in general strength and in members. Norwich University disbanded its fraternities in 1960, so Alpha Chapter no longer exists. With the establishment of Beta Chapter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Boston Massachusetts, on December 13, 1902, a new era opened for Theta Chi, an era of country-wide expansion and national organization and administration. Although hindered by a serious depression and two world wars, Theta Chi has grown, and prospered beyond the dreams of the Founders to the position it now holds in the national fraternity scene.