Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beta Phi Sigma History

Beta Phi Sigma was formed in Muncie, Indiana, on September 8, 1899. On this date, seven youg men who had been friends through earliest boyhood and grammar school days met at the home of Clarence G. Rea, and there William Cassidy was elected the first chapter president.

In 1901 a group of young men from Marion, Indiana came to Muncie and formed the Beta Chapter.

This step initiated the expansion of Beta Phi Sigma. Harry L. Kitselman, of Alpha Alpha Chapter, was a tremendous factor in the early growth of the fraternity.

September 9, 1924 found the fraternity with 73 chapters instead of an anticipated 100. However, this did not dampen the zeal of these early pioneers, and continued growth and progress was reallized.

These convictions grew upon the fraternity, however. There was no set time at which the slogan was abandoned. Actions which seemed of trifling importance changed the course of growth. Each incident in the national chapter of Beta Phi Sigma during these days is of vast importance. Through some of these the customs of our fraternity developed. Forms of government and habits of action resulted from their practices in these pioneer Beta times. Unfortunately, intimate details are not at our disposal at the present moment. A collection of these will have to be made before our understanding of the growth of the fraternity will complete.

The convention of 1906 saw change regarding national presidents. Bro. Robert Dailey, of Anderson, Indiana, was elected to the national chair, first to hold the office outside the home chapter, Muncie. Brother Kitselman assumed the presidency the following year, and instituted the inter-fraternity council, enabling better cooperation among the chapters.

Brother Kitselman was again a leader in ending internal strife troubling the fraternity during 1908 and 1909. Brothers Kitselman, Paul Haynes, and Allen Messick formulated the two degrees ritual, which has become so well known to all Betas. Also the present system of financing the national conventions was brought into effect.

The official anthem of the fraternity, "The Beta Rose" was dedicated by its author, brother Walter R. "Curly" Bonnell, at the 1911 convention.

Still another addition to our national life came from this busy 1911 convention. "The Budget" was born. Before this a small paper called "The Shield" had circulated; financial worries had weighed it down and its difficulties were many. A new name and a new style were advisable, and for the new man at the helm, brother Hugh R. Donaldson, of Alpha Zeta, was chosen. Various assesments were levied to support the newly organized periodical and over 300 subscriptions were pledged.

The new year started prosperously with brother Frank Budd of Muncie in the chair. Finances were good, and the new periodical was enthusiastically received. Plans for expansion were made on generous lines and Beta extended her borders into Nebraska and Iowa.

The financial prosperity was not so pronounced during this administration, though the fraternity boasted a membership of 25 chapters and the general conditions were encouraging.

In like manner all the early years of the organization passed, brothers Carl E. Ehnes, W. H. Schaufelberger, and Curt M. Pendergast succeeding each other to the national office.

The convention of 1915 which elected brother Pendergast was remarkable for at least one outstanding feature. Held in Columbus, Ohio, it was the first conclave of Betas not on Hoosier soil. Another noteworthy event of this convention was the discovery of another poet-laureate for Beta, when Emil Tafflinger brought out his "song of Beta Cheer." The following year followed this new example, St. Louis being the scene of the 1916 convention. This national meeting elected as grand president brother H. K. Dilkey to resign and the grand vice-president Henry J. Barbour, of Peoria, to be appointed to the national chair.

A great stride forward in national expansion was taken under brother Barbour. Despite bitter criticism brother Barbour authorized brothers John Cook of Elkhart, IN and Raymond Farquhar of Lincoln, NE, to take a trip to the pacific coast with an eye to founding Beta Phi Sigma's first chapters there. Portland, OR chapter was the first installed, and named Lambda Alpha. An active prospect nearby caused these two brothers to withhold the name Mu Province for the state of Montana and to proceed to Portersville, CA, where this chapter was created under the name of Nu Alpha, and shortly afterward the Long Beach chapter of Nu Beta. In the meantime, however, it was discovered that the to-be Mu Province was not available territory, so before the two new California chapters were granted the names of the chapters were changed to Mu Alpha and Mu Beta, by some twist the chapters of Long Beach and Portersville being named under this new province head in exactly the reverse in exactly the reverse of their entry into the fraternity.

That the critics of brother Barbour's policy were not as numerous as its friends is shown by the fact at the 1917 convention in Terre Haute he was elected to succeed himself.

Elkhart, IN, was host to the 1918 convention, the never to-be forgotten 'war' convention, when so many of the brothers were enlisted. These were difficult times for Beta Phi Sigma, days of trial which have left their marks upon us. Many chapters inactive during the war have never been revived: indeed a superhuman effort seems to be needed to recall them into the life of the fraternity. During the years following the 1918 convention, brother L. C. Heustis of Paris, IL, served faithfully as the national head, and to his efforts much praise must be given. Beta was preserved from total extinction.

The post-war convention in Terre Haute, IN, in 1919, was well attended and a happy reunion. Brother James M. Buell, Kappa Beta, was elected grand president, the following year held convention in his own state at Detroit. The national meeting selected Vaugn Pitts of Amderson, IN, for the next executive and it was under his administration that Beta invaded Florida and Pennsylvania and established itself there.

The activities of various states as seperate bodies of the fraternity were noticable about this time. Michigan had held its first state meeting as early as 1920, and the growing Pacific Coast chapters were meeting together as a solace for the national convention they had to miss. Iowa and Illinois had also roughly shaped themselves into seperate organizations of the fraternity. Therre was needed only a little thought, a devising of form, for these early forms of government to begin their function in the organization of the fraternity. Such a definite action was not to take place for the next two or three years, but the strength of the state organization idea was tested during this time, and its need demonstrated.

The 1921 convention broke all precedent and went into the, then far, western city of Des Moine. Here a direct reversal of national policy became apparent for the first time. Beta Phi Sigma was growing too rapidly, it was becoming a sprawling giant and the national chapter took means to put into effect more stringent laws with regard to the admission of chapters. Another change in government was affected by uniting the work of national treasurer and national secretary into one, the now familiar grand secretary-treasurer office. Albert E. Snyder of Elkhart was elected president for the ensuing year.

The Beta-wide convention of Toledo in 1922 saw a banner of attendance of 300 members, with representation from a large majority of our far-flung chapters. After electing George Roges of Omaha president for the coming year and designating St. Louis as the next convention city, the convention dismissed for a year of careful growth under the new constitution which brother Rogers had so carefully prepared and presented, and the discussion of which had occupied a large share of the business sessions of the convention.

With Epsilon Alpha as host in 1923the fraternity was royally entertained. Unfortunately attendance fell far below the logical estimate and the St. Louis chapter shouldered a heavy burden of debt. The business of thid convention centered largeky about the formation of some kind of local government to meet the growing demand from the various states and localities of chapters. The existing form of district subdivision was outlined and except for a few changes made at the 1925 convention has been followed as first written. Brother Albert T. Hart, of Peoria, IL, after four faithful yearsas secretary and treasurer of the fraternity, was elected national president.

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