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  • Jack Bowerman

BIRTH OF THE GREEKS AT BAKER 1910-1916

The 1910 Baker yearbook has two pages devoted to a new local fraternity, Phi Lambda Chi, which disappeared thereafter. This group was apparently never affiliated with a national fraternity, although a national fraternity of the same name was formed in 1939. The charter members were William E. Nelson, Walton C. Sample, Francis W. Ryan, George W. Underhill, Dell S. Heter, Harry T. Vigour, LeRoy Cunningham, Charles I. Coldsmith, J. Ralph Jillson, John Clifford Shover, Earl B. Hopper, Charles W. Wheeler, Ralph O. Keys. Charler Coldsmith was a Methodist minister and the father of Donald Coldsmith, the subject of another article in this blog.


The 1911 Baker yearbook “Orange Blossoms” displayed for the first time a new sorority, Delta Zeta. This national sorority had been founded in 1902 at Miami University (of Ohio) and the Eta Chapter at Baker had been installed in 1910, one of seven active chapters at the time. The picture of the chapter members shows a group of 14 women just slightly smaller than the Delta Delta Delta and Alpha Chi Omega chapters.


The December 1910 Delta Zeta publication “The Lamp” described the beginnings of the Eta Chapter: It was in the winter of 1910, that Mrs. Hayes, after installing the Nebraska Zeta chapter, came to Baldwin following out the request of Dr. Benton in trying to install a chapter of Delta Zeta in Baker University. The short time of her stay so discouraged the girls that she had to leave without accomplishing anything definite. However, her visit had stirred up the girls, and sometime later two of them who had seen Mrs. Hayes brought a bunch of girls together. The first time we all met was at a little banquet held at the Allderdice home. The next evening, we met again and decided to organize a local sorority to be known as Sigma Rho. At this meeting we turned out a life size sorority with songs, colors, motto, and a marvelous constitution, for the edification of our faculty. A few days later the following girls came out wearing colors: Florella Counts, '10; Grace Kumler, '10; Anna Clark, '11; Florence Allderdice, '11; Fern Samuel, '11; Edith Moore, '12; Mabel Evans, '12; Margaret Stewart, '12; Etta Haxton, '13; Beulah Kelly, '13; Florence Byington; '13; and two pledges: Valera Haworth, '13; Clara Hoffman, '13.


We had some delightful times together, and finally one night as we met in solemn conclave it was decided to petition for admission into the Delta Zeta sorority. This was accordingly done and after some time of anxiety we received word from Mrs. Hayes that she, not being able to install us, would send down some Nebraska girls. While we were disappointed that Mrs. Hayes could not be here, we forgot all about it when the Zeta girls arrived. As they could only be with us two days, and we were anxious to change our name to one that meant so much more than Sigma Rho, the installation was completed the evening of May 28, 1910, and after a banquet we felt very happy in our new sphere and loved Delta Zeta from the beginning. The following day we were entertained at tea by Mrs. Stewart and the two days passed much too quickly for us. The other fraternities in our school treated us very royally.


Although the school year was almost over, we went to work to accomplish as much as possible in the few remaining days for the Eta chapter. We made our plans for this year, and initiated our two pledges, ending the year with a reception to our friends in our own home at Mrs. Samuel's.


This year means so much more to us, as we have our home and can be together so much more. Although we greatly miss our last year's seniors, we have pledged and initiated three upperclassmen, who fill up the vacancies very well. At first it was a little hard for us to know just how it was best to rush freshmen, but we worked hard on those we selected, in spite of our opposing factors, and had our pledge banquet October 31; we feel real encouraged and hope to pledge a number of girls soon.


Mrs. Deel, the wife of one of our faculty, and a former student of Baker, we are happy to announce as our patroness; and we have a good advisor and helper in her. We will do our best to live up to the standards, and to make the Eta chapter a credit to Delta Zeta. Honors of Eta chapter: Junior Play, Fern Samuel and Nora Geisen; Secretary of Clionion Literary Society, Etta Haxton; Vice President of Aelioinaen Literary Society, Flo Allderdice; Annual Board, '09- '10, Anna Clark; Annual Board '10-'ll, Ethel Stephens and Nelle Evans; Y. W. C. A. Cabinet, Nora Geisen; Secretary of Aelioinean Literary Society, Ethel Stephens; Glee Club, Valera Haworth.”


Dr. Guy Potter Benton, the President of Miami University when Delta Zeta was founded and is considered the Grand Patron of the sorority. His interest in installing a chapter at Baker was natural; he graduated from Baker in 1893 and received a master’s degree in 1896. He was a professor of history and sociology at Baker 1896-1899 and left to become President of Upper Iowa University. He became President of Miami University in 1902 and moved on to become President of the University of Vermont in 1911. In 1921 he was named the President of the University of the Philippines. He was an officer in a number of national and state-level educational organizations and was the recipient of a numerous honorary post graduate degrees including a D. D. degree from Baker in 1900. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta and was National President of the fraternity for three years.


Despite the local and national support, Delta Zeta at Baker ran into trouble two years after their founding. From the “Story of Delta Zeta”: “The fall of 1912 brought disaster. The normal losses of graduation were increased by others due to failure of members to return, because of home cares or employment. The small group's ordinary chance to recuperate through addition of numerous pledges was lost because this was the year when, due to N. P. C. policy, sophomore pledging was being tried out in many places. Etta Haxton found herself the one, lone member prepared to remain in college for the year. Though she made a valiant effort to call back others, or to find new members to replace them, conditions of competition were naturally too much for one girl alone to surmount. Hers was an impossible task. Delta Zeta has no less reason to be proud of her because she failed; as an individual she made an enviable scholastic record, and it was said of her she held enough campus activities for an entire chapter!”



Delta Zeta House in 1913


After Eta Chapter became inactive was recolonized at Baker in 1918 where it survived for another 16 years. From the “Story of Delta Zeta”: “Eta's life seemed always to be fated to be strictly divided between the bitter and the sweet; the year of the death of her first member, Anna Clark Jillson, Dorothy Jillson, Anna's daughter, was pledged to Eta. The year of completing the payments on the chapter house Eta became for a second time inactive, her fortunes going into the decline which was then being felt so keenly by the entire university. When Edna Wheatley, province president and herself a loyal member of Eta, closed the doors of the chapter house in the spring of 1934 it was with the question in her mind whether this was the last rite of Eta, or whether a third and "charmed" revival might at some later date be written into the history of the chapter.”


In the spring of 1911, a group of girls formed an organization under the name Alpha Theta Nu, whose purpose was national affiliation. Mrs. Mary Sophia Ives Hartley, a member of Delta Delta Delta and the wife of Forest Madison Hartley, the mayor of Baldwin, became interested in the group. Mary Sophia and wrote to Ida Shaw Martin for suggestions as to petitioning a national fraternity. Ida, one of the founders of Delta Delta Delta at Boston University in 1888, was considered to be one of the foremost authorities on women’s fraternal organizations having published “The Sorority Handbook” in 1907. (The Handbook is available as a free download from the Internet and is interesting reading describing the “Evolution of the Sorority System” as well as providing guidance in organizing a sorority.) At the risk of providing too much information, I am including the full text of the fascinating letter Ida wrote to Mary Sophia explaining the thought process in selecting a national organization:


“November eleventh-1911


My Dear Mrs. Hartley:


It was a pleasure to get your letter in my mail as well as to receive the attractive booklet - Beautiful Baldwin. Ever since the old days when the chapter went in at Baker University, I have been more than ordinarily interested in the institution and its picturesque setting.


I am very much interested in what you have written me about the Alpha Theta Nu Sorority that was formed last spring and for which you are acting as chaperone, but before I start on that subject, I want to tell you that I am sending by this same mail a copy of the handbook addressed to Miss Hazel Kennedy. This copy is not the College Binding, which Miss Kennedy ordered, but one of the Deluxe Binding. The former is not yet ready, as I wrote Miss Kennedy upon receipt of her order, but recognizing the rather immediate need in this instance, I am very glad to substitute a copy of the cloth binding in place of the one ordered. With it I am sending my best wishes to the group for the best of good luck during the college year.


If you will turn to page 180 in the Handbook you will find a table that contains the Conference Sororities according to the official listing. A glance at the Frontispiece will show you that the badges of the sororities are similarly situated. The Delta Zeta did not get its badge to me in time, so it had to be omitted for the plate.


I notice in your letter that you wish to eliminate the sororities at Kansas State University from consideration at this time. This, I believe, is a very sensible idea because they would

probably not wish to consider Baker University at all. In addition to the four there we shall also have to eliminate Delta Gamma, Alpha Phi, and Gamma Phi Beta, because these sororities have decided not to enter any institution unless it is on the roll of Phi Beta Kappa or is a State University of high standing. Naturally we leave out of the question those sororities that are already on the field - Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Chi Omega, and Delta Zeta.


This throws out ten of the Conference Sororities, leaving six only for you to consider – Alpha Xi Delta, Sigma Kappa, Alpha Omicron Pi, Zeta Tau Alpha, Alpha Gamma Delta and Alpha Delta Phi. Alpha Omicron Pi will have to be eliminated, because it will not enter anything that has not approval of Phi Beta Kappa, so we are narrowed down to five sororities that you may consider. Now, if I understand the situation and your need, you are anxious to get a charter from a sorority that stands well nationally and locally, one that is recognized as counting for something in the National Panhellenic Conference, one that has shown a progressive spirit, one that is vitally interested in the college problems of the hour and that can be depended upon always to stand for all that is best in a woman’s life.


Of the five that are left for your consideration I would most unhesitatingly recommend

Zeta Tau Alpha, because I feel that itis the one that meets your needs most nearly and because of its splendid standing nationally and locally. Its National President, Dr. May Hopkins, a graduate of the University of Texas, both in the Liberal Arts and the Medical Department, is recognized as one of the seven leaders in the National Panhellenic Conference and is deferred to on many important matters. Our Editor, Miss Finch, who has travelled the country over in the interest of Delta Delta Delta, and who has studied more colleges than anybody else that I know, has told me that the ZTA chapters in Arkansas, Randolph-Macon, Southwestern, and Texas are as fine as any she has ever seen anywhere. I expect that she will make the same report to me, when she visits petitioning locals at Drury and Southern California.


Just to show you have very much I believe in ZTA I am going to tell you that there are at the present time three locals at Boston University. I have recommended the best of these to petition ZTA. It has made a very thorough study of the sorority’s standing in the South, and it has placed its petition before the Sorority. It will probably get its charter within a very short time. Just to show you how Mrs. Parmelee, National President of DDD regards ZTA, I will tell you that In a recent letter from her she wrote me that she is anxious to see ZTA installed in Northwestern and going to take active steps to consummate that end. She regards ZTA as superior to some of the sororities already at her Alma Mater.


In addition to these very immediate possibilities, I feel sure that ZTA will enter Rochester University at Rochester, N.Y., in company with DDD. Dr. Hopkins and Louise Fitch having already been in consultation at Chicago very recently regarding the entering of this new field, the two best locals there having petitions before DDD and ZTA. I know that ZTA is also scheduled to enter Stanford University in the Spring, the petition from there having met with approval.


As it is quite natural it is customary for locals to place petitions first before the members

of the original Panhellenic Conference, because it is felt that these Seven have the best standing

nationally. In a measure this is true because they have had the advantage of those that followed them especially of the sororities that followed them in the North, but it is not true when applied to the sororities that had their birth in the South. Zeta Tau Alpha occupies the same position in the South as does any one of the original Seven in the North. The girls are from the very best families.


A decade or so back it was customary for the people of the South to send their daughters

North to be educated. All that has passed away with increased facilities nearer home. The very flower of Southern womanhood is in attendance at the universities and colleges of the South.

These are the girls that ZTA gets everywhere that it has chapters in the South, so I unhesitatingly recommend it, when you ask to suggest for those proteges of yours something as good as DDD. I notice that you have asked me how to proceed in the matter of securing a charter grant from a sorority. Each sorority has its own peculiar method, and in some cases they differ widely. Owing to the fact that I have been assisting the Boston University girls in getting their petition from ZTA, I happen to know that in this sorority the charter grant is entirely dependent upon the decision of the National Council, a body of 8 members, who do all the investigating and arrange for the inspection. Such custom makes it possible to arrive at a decision more quickly than where the voting is handed over to the individual chapters.


Then there is another item that I think that may interest your girls, and that is the question

of expense. If you have followed the Extension question in DDD you know how very expensive

it is to get a charter grant through when the voting depends on the will of the active members,

who have to be cajoled in so many cases and whose good opinion of often times dependent upon the elaborateness of the petition. ZTA has never had that problem to face. Its charter grants are dependent upon the will of the National Council, a body of level-headed women, who plan wisely and well for the organization. It is not necessary to waste a lot of money in order to “impress” them.


Your recommendation of the girls would carry great weight with the National Officers since you are a member of DDD, which I believe they sincerely admire, and because you are a member of what has been considered throughout the years as one of the very best chapters in the fraternity.


If there is any other information that you want, don’t hesitate to call upon me at any time. I am always at your service. If you would care to correspond directly with Dr. Hopkins, National President of ZTA, you will find her address on page 87 of the handbook under account of Zeta Tau Alpha.


Yours in the bonds,

Ida Shaw Martin

(Mrs. Wm. Holmes Martin)

5 Cobden Street

Roxbury, Mass”


Following Ida’s suggestion, a petition was presented to Zeta Tau Alpha National Council, the charter granted, and in May 1912, Sigma chapter was installed by Grace Jordan Cook, Grand Vice President. Eleven actives and one alumnus were initiated, including Ella Frances Jones, Verdi Noland, Mary Artemisia Congdon, Edith Enslin Ames, Ada Lovina Maxwell, Berna Josephine Hannum, Ruby Mae Mason, Una L Merryfield, Bess Almeda O'Brien, Bess J Johnston, Mary Hazel Kennedy and Nellie Edith Troutman who had graduated in 1911. Alpha Theta Nu had rented a house in the fall of 1911 and the Sigma Chapter moved into that house after the installation.


The years 1910 to 1916 saw a number of changes in Greek housing. The Kappa Sigs chapter house at 8th & Dearborn was damaged by fire on November 4th, 1910 and they were able to purchase the George A. Nicholson house at 1215 South 8th Street. Nicholson was a prominent Delt alumnus who had left Baldwin to study at the University of Chicago.



The 1910 Kappa Sig House formerly owned by George Nicholson


A round of musical chairs took place in 1913 when the Tri Delts built another new chapter house at 510 9thStreet and sold their original house to the Delts. The Delts then sold their chapter house to the Zetas.



The 1913 Tri Delta House



The former Tri Delta House today



The Delta House in 1913



The Zeta House in 1913


Despite the discrepancy in house numbers, I am convinced that the house that currently stands at 504 9thStreet (corner of 9th & Elm) first served as the chapter house for the Alpha Chis and was then acquired by the Sig Eps when the Alpha Chis moved to 8th Street (see pictures from a previous article in this blog).



The former Alpha Chi and Sig Ep House today


From Ebright’s History: “On Mach 2, 1916, Kappa Theta, a local sorority, was organized at Baker University under the guidance of Miss Anita Storis, who was a member of the faculty. Miss Storrs, a Phi Mu from Xi Kappa chapter (at Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas), was instrumental in influencing Kappa Theta to petition Phi Mu. The petition was accepted and Miss Erna Ferguson, national secretary and noted writer on the Southwest, came to install the chapter. The charter is dated June 16, 1916, and installation services were held on that day at the Zeta Chi fraternity house.


Nine girls were initiated as charter members of Zeta Alpha chapter: Florence Hudson, Mary Brownrigg, Beulah Stewart, Mary Jane Sanders, Ruth Welty, Eda Allis, Florence Banker, Jessie Cannon, and Margaret Palmer. These girls, with others who were initiated in the fall, lived in a house on 9th street between Grove and High, next door to the old Zeta Chi house. The next year the chapter moved to what is now the Sigma Phi Epsilon house. In the fall of 1921, Phi Mu

moved to the white frame house on the corner across the street from Case Library (formerly the Alpha Chi house).” Florence Hudson married Clarence Avery McCullough in 1919 after they both graduated from Baker. She was the Conference President of the Women’s Society for Christian Service and was a member of Baker’s Board of Trustees. Beulah Stewart was President of the Kansas Postmasters Association.


From Wikipedia: In 1912, Wilbur F. Denious (Baker Class of 1898) struck upon the idea to establish a charitable endowment for Kappa Sigma. As a result of the hard work of him and many others, the Kappa Sigma Endowment Fund was established in 1919 "to support the charitable and beneficent purposes of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity."


In 1915, he was named Worthy Grand Master (President) of the Kappa Sigma National Fraternity. He later served as Legal Commissioner (1923), Commissioner of the Endowment Fund (1927) and Endowment Fund Chairman (1930-1957). He and his wife, Edith Boughton Denious, gave Baker what was then the single largest gift for the construction of Denious Hall, named in their honor.

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