Vincennes, Near the 1921 Population Center of the U.S., on Sigma Pi’s Founders’ Day

I’ve written about the founding of Sigma Pi and the discovery that a Kappa Alpha Theta, Charlotte Northcraft Malotte, an instructor at Vincennes University, played a major role in the founding (see

Vincennes, Indiana, is in the southwest corner of Indiana. We have been known to stop for gas in Vincennes, Indiana, on our way home from the east coast. It’s not a very big town, and that’s way I was both touched and tickled when I found the following items in a 1921 Emerald of Sigma Pi.

The fraternity’s eighth convocation celebrating 25 years of existence was to take place in Vincennesfrom December 27-30, 1922:

The reasons dictating this choice are largely sentimental. It seemed fitting that the first quarter-century mark should be celebrated in the birthplace of the fraternity, and that a breath of life, however passing, should be breathed for a moment into the being of Alpha Chapter. It was also believed that delegates would find it interesting and instructive to learn more about the first seat of the organization, making the Convocation not only a legislative gathering, but a reminder of the past. To carry out this idea more fully it is planned to have an exhibit of early charters, pins, and rituals, and if possible to show them in some of the university rooms which were used by the founders in their first meetings.

From a practical point of view, Vincennes is equally suitable as the place for a Convocation. It is accessible, and lies in a fairly central position as regards the mileage from all chapters. The date of the Convocation was settled at the last Convention, which changed the time of meeting from spring to the Christmas
holidays in order to give more visitors an opportunity of attending. 

From a 1921 Emerald with the headline “Vincennes is Centrally Located.” Number 19, just north of Number 1 (Vincennes), was noted to be the population center of the United States

This info on how to get to Vincennes from active chapters of the fraternity, gives a glimpse into what train travel was like in 1921. Today, if we travel by train, are on Amtrak. Imagine having to figure this train travel puzzle before the internet:

Following is a complete explanation of how to reach Vincennes from any of the active chapters. The numbers given refer to the numbers on the map. Number 1 is Vincennes, Number 2, Bloomington, Ind.

3. Phi Chapter, Champaign, Ill., to Odin (20) on the Illinois Central, Odin to Vincennes on the B. & O., 201 miles.

4. Gamma Chapter, Columbus, Ohio, to Indianapolis (33) on Pennsy, Indianapolis to Vincennes on Pennsy, 298 miles.

5-6. Delta Chapter, Philadelphia, Pa., to Indianapolis (33) on Pennsy, Indianapolis to Vincennes on Pennsy, 847 miles.

7. Epsilon Chapter, Athens, Ohio, to Vincennes on B. & O., 347 miles.

8. Zeta Chapter, Ada, Ohio, to Columbus (4) on Pennsy, Columbus to Indianapolis (33) on Pennsy, Indianapolis to Vincennes on Pennsy, 405 miles. 9. Eta Chapter, La Fayette, Ind., to Mitchell, Ind.(35) on Monon, Mitchell to Vincennes on B. & O., 198 miles.

10. Theta Chapter, State College, Pa., on Bellefonte Central to Sandbury to Harrisburg (30) on Pennsy, Harrisburg to Indianapolis (33) through Pittsburgh (29) and Columbus (4) on Pennsy, Indianapolis to Vincennes on Pennsy.

11. Iota Chapter, Berkeley, Cal., to Ogden, Utah (27), on the Southern Pacific, Ogden to Omaha, Neb. (23), Union Pacific, Omaha to Chicago (28) on C. R. I. & P., C. B. & Q., C. M. & St. P., C. & N. M., Chicago to Odin, Ill. (20), on I. C., Odin to Vincennes on B. & O., 2,582 miles.

12. Lambda Chapter, Gambier, Ohio, to Columbus (4) on Pennsy, and follow same route as Gamma, 357 miles.

13. Mu Chapter, Ithaca, N. Y., to Owego, N. Y. (31) on D. L. Si W., Owego to Buffalo (34) on Erie, Buffalo to Pittsburgh on Pennsy, and follow same as Theta from Pittsburgh, 981 miles.

14. Nu Chapter, Lancaster, Pa., to Indianapolis (33) on Pennsy, Indianapolis to Vincennes on Pennsy, 779 miles.

15. Xi Chapter, Iowa City, Iowa, to Chicago (28) on C. R. I. & P., Chicago to Odin, 111. (20), on Illinois Central, Odin to Vincennes on the B. & O., 564 miles.

16. Pi Chapter, Salt Lake City to Ogden, Utah (27) by D. & R. G., Ogden to Omaha, etc., as from Iota.

17. Omicron Chapter, New Orleans, to Odin, Ill. (20), on I. C., Odin to Vincennes on B. & O., 763 miles.

18. Rho Chapter, West Raleigh, N. C., to Washington, D. C. (21), on Sea Board Air Line, Washington to Vincennes on B. & O., 997 miles.

Other numbers are as follows: St. Louis, 22; Pueblo, 24; Denver, 25; Kansas City, 26, on the southern route from Pi, which is rather longer than by way of Ogden; Richmond, Va., 32; Cincinnati, Ohio, 36, and Louisville, Ky., 37. If chapters are able to figure shorter routes than those worked out above, they will be expected to take them; and mileage in excess of the above routes is not likely to be approved by the Grand Treasury.

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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#amazingsororitywomen on the Eve of #WHM2017

With Women’s History Month quickly approaching, here are links to previous posts about #amazingsororitywomen.

Olga Achtenhagen

Olga Achtenhagen, Kappa Delta,

Marian Anderson, Alpha Kappa Alpha,

Violette Anderson, Zeta Phi Beta,

Mary Knight Wells Ashcroft, Gamma Phi Beta,

Mimi Baird, Pi Beta Phi,

Mildred McCann Balfour, Pi Beta Phi,

Grace Banker, Gamma Phi Beta,

Mary Elizabeth Lasher Barnette, Pi Beta Phi,

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Barbara Barrie, Alpha Epsilon Phi,

Elsie Katherine Bergegrun, M.D., Alpha Sigma Tau,

Mary McLeod Bethune, Delta Sigma Theta,

Doris Holmes Blake, Alpha Delta Pi,

Evelyn Blankstein, Phi Sigma Sigma,

Margaret Bourke-White, Alpha Omicron Pi,

Dikka Bothne Brown, Alpha Gamma Delta,

Nellie A. Brown, Delta Delta Delta,

Dr. Joyce Brothers, Sigma Delta Tau,

Betty Buckley, Zeta Tau Alpha,

Emily Helen Butterfield, Alpha Gamma Delta,

Julia Carson, Zeta Phi Beta,

Carrie Chapman Catt, Pi Beta Phi,

Mary Ellen Chase, Ph.D., Alpha Omicron Pi,

Winifred B. Chase, Delta Delta Delta,

Debra Clayton, Alpha Kappa Alpha,

Edith Schwartz Clements, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Julia Bishop Coleman, Delta Zeta,

Mary Love Collins, Chi Omega,

Jenn Winslow Coltrane, Kappa Delta,

Ruth Johnson Colvin, Kappa Delta,

Ada Comstock (Notestein), Delta Gamma,

Anna Botsford Comstock, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Grace Goodhue Coolidge, Pi Beta Phi,

Crown Princess Martha of Norway, Delta Zeta,

Violet Ruth Crumbine, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Imogen Cunningham, Pi Beta Phi,

Madelyn Pugh Davis, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Mildred Doran, Alpha Sigma Tau,

Madeleine Z. Doty, Alpha Omicron Pi,

Lin Dunn, Chi Omega,

Myrtle Fahsbender, Kappa Delta,

Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

R. Louise Fitch, Delta Delta Delta,

Minnie Freeman, Pi Beta Phi,

Elizebeth Smith Friedman, Pi Beta Phi,

Gwen Frostic, Alpha Sigma Tau,

Esther Funke, Theta Phi Alpha,

Althea Gibson, Alpha Kappa Alpha,

Gladys Gilpatrick, Alpha Delta Pi,

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alpha Epsilon Phi,,

Mary E. Gladwin, R.N., Delta Gamma,

Eliza Hamilton (Woodruff), Kappa Alpha Theta,

Persis Dwight Hannah, Alpha Xi Delta,

Anna McCune Harper, Sigma Kappa,

Julia Peachy Harrison, Ph.D., Zeta Tau Alpha,

Edith Head, Delta Zeta,

Florence Henderson, Delta Zeta,

Dr. May Agness Hopkins, Zeta Tau Alpha,

Jessie Wallace Hughan, Alpha Omicron Pi,

Zora Neale Hurston, Zeta Phi Beta,

Helen Johnston, M.D., Delta Zeta,

Kate Arlene Goldstein Kamen, Sigma Delta Tau,

May L. Keller, Ph.D., Pi Beta Phi,

Louise Kelly (Bailey), Theta Phi Alpha,

Jen Lancaster, Pi Beta Phi,

Ida Bienstock Landau, Delta Phi Epsilon,

Harper Lee, Chi Omega,

Ella Boston Leib, Alpha Xi Delta,

Maria Leonard, Pi Beta Phi,

Marguerite “Peg” Lindsley (Arnold), Pi Beta Phi,

Jane Tunstall Lingo, Pi Beta Phi,

Esther Lloyd-Jones, Ph.D., Pi Beta Phi,

Veronica Lucey (Conley), Theta Phi Alpha,

Charlotte Northcraft Malotte,

Gertrude Friedlander Markel, Alpha Epsilon Phi,

Helen Marlowe, Zeta Tau Alpha,

Sarah Ida Shaw Martin, Delta Delta Delta and Alpha Sigma Alpha,

Lida Mason (Hodge), Kappa Alpha Theta,

Carlotta Joaquina Maury, Ph.D., Delta Gamma,

Mildred “Millie” Lonergan McAuliffe, Theta Phi Alpha,

Hattie McDaniel, Sigma Gamma Rho,

Jerrie Mock, Phi Mu,

Julia Morgan, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Alice Duer Miller, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Agnes Nixon, Alpha Chi Omega,

Madge Oberholtzer, Pi Beta Phi,

Amy Burnham Onken, Pi Beta Phi,

Ruth Peale, Alpha Phi,

Louise Pellens, Pi Beta Phi,

Jean Nelson Penfield, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Ellen Bertha Person, Sigma Kappa.

Bessie Leach Priddy, Delta Delta Delta,

Charlotte Rae, Alpha Epsilon Phi,

Edwyl Reddings, Sigma Sigma Sigma,

Dorothea Holt Redmond, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Elva Doyle Reed, Alpha Sigma Alpha,

Ivy Kellerman Reed, Delta Delta Delta,

Dorcas Bates Reilly, Alpha Sigma Alpha,

Grace Smith Richmond, ΓΦΒ,

Freida Joy Riley, Alpha Sigma Alpha,

Jane Marie Bancroft Robinson, Alpha Phi,

Eleanor Roosevelt, Alpha Kappa Alpha,

Blanche Skiff Ross, Alpha Chi Omega,

Florence Lucas Sanville, Alpha Omicron Pi,

Katharine L. Sharp, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Eileen Stevens, Alpha Phi,

Mary Thompson Stevens, M.D., Delta Gamma,

Pat Summitt, Chi Omega,

Dorothy Carruthers Swift, Phi Mu,

Lillian Thompson, Gamma Phi Beta,

Barbie Tootle, Pi Beta Phi,

Judy Baar Topinka, Alpha Gamma Delta,

Annie Marie Tremaine, M.D., Alpha Phi,

Emma Harper Turner, Pi Beta Phi,

Marcia Wallace, Delta Zeta,

Mabel Lee Walton, Sigma Sigma Sigma,

Charlotte West, Alpha Xi Delta,

Emilie Margaret White, Pi Beta Phi,

Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Grace Wilkie, Chi Omega,

Dr. Deborah Cannon Wolfe, Zeta Phi Beta,

May Lansfield Keller, Ph.D.


Groups of #amazingsororitywomen

10 + 2 Sorority Women with Pulitzer Prizes,

10 Authors Who Are Sorority Women (Hint – Caddie Woodlawn, Kinsey Millhone, Atticus Finch, Too),

10 GLO Authors for Children’s Book Week,

10 Sorority Women from the Golden Age of Television,

Doctors Who Wore Badges: Fraternity Women in Medicine 1867-1902,

Female Senators and Their Sorority Affiliation – 2017 Edition,

For International Women’s Day, Another 10 Amazing NPC Women!,

Fraternity Women Who Were Lawyers, 1867-1902 (When Women Could Not Vote!),

Hidden Figures on Alpha Kappa Alpha Founders’ Day,

Sorority Women Writing Stories Whose Characters Are Sorority Women,

Ten Amazing Sorority Women,

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Get By With a Little Help From My Friends…

My dog walking route includes a mimosa tree. At the end of fall, when the leaves were down, I noticed a branch which was no longer attached to the trunk of the tree, but it was held in place by a tangle of vines. Each time I passed the tree, the Beatles’ tune went through my head.

The other day I received an email from a P.E.O. friend who shared with me her President’s letter. A past State President she agreed to take on the President’s job, despite being a caretaker for her ailing husband.  Her’s is a lunch time chapter and the hostesses usually provide lunch. Her description of one meeting touched my heart, “At one meeting all three hostesses were not able to function. The hostess had surgery, one co-hostess was in chemotherapy and one had to be out of town. The meeting place was moved to a church. One member said, ‘we can bring our own lunch’. Another said, ‘yes, and we can number each and draw for a lunch.’ The lunches were fantastic and the fellowship and laughter made a great picture story.”

Two facebook posts this morning reinforced the theme, too.

A member of the University of Arkansas chapter of Phi Delta Theta, Roger Gordon “Blue” Mhoon II, had battled stage 4 renal cancer. He died on Jan. 26, 2017 leaving his wife, Amanda, and a 4-year-old son Eason. He was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. Last summer, a GoFundMe campaign raised $28,000 in one day. The goals was to get the couple to Game 3 of the World Series.

Army Col. Gregg Hammond became a member of the Indiana University chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma. Congratulations Col. Hammond!

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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On #PhiPsi165, a Pi Phi Connection

Phi Kappa Psi was founded on February 19, 1852 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at Jefferson College (now Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania). Phi Kappa Psi’s founders are William Henry Letterman and Charles Page Thomas Moore. Today it celebrates 165 years of history.

A memorial to Phi Kappa Psi’s founders on the lawn of Washington and Jefferson College

Last year I wrote a history of the Illinois Delta Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Illinois. In reading through the early Shield of Phi Kappa Psi issues, I discovered that there was once a chapter at Monmouth College, where Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma were founded. It was the Illinois Gamma Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi.

What I did not know until yesterday was one of the founders of that chapter went on to marry one of Pi Beta Phi’s founders. According to the 1902 History of Phi Kappa Psi, Illinois Gamma was founded in April of 1871, not 1870 as had been noted in previous records. According to the history:

It was the outgrowth of a revolt of certain members of Delta Tau Delta and Phi Gamma Delta, who withdrew from these fraternities with the expectation of securing a charter from one of the leading eastern fraternities. Being disappointed in this hope, the band of petitioners investigated the merits of other fraternities represented in the West, and after this scrutiny petitioned Phi Kappa Psi for a charter. The petition was granted, and W.P. Kane was sent by the petitioners to Cornell College, Iowa, to be initiated into the chapter of Phi Kappa Psi there.

Upon his return he performed a like service for the following charter members of the new chapter: J.A. Grier, R.J. Grier, G.W. Hamilton, J.H. Gibson, William Baird, J.P. Steele, J.L. Thome, J.M. McArthur, L.N. Lafferty, J.D. Sterrett, H.F. Norcross, J.B. Gordon, R.H. Hume, and T.A. Blair.

The new chapter began its career under most favorable auspices. The faculty was not hostile and the members were congenial, so that the true value of fraternity experiences was felt from the first. The members took practically all the college honors in sight, and nothing seemed to stand in the way of a most vigorous life.

A new regime, however, was inaugurated with the close of the year 1873-74, when the faculty came to the conclusion that, as the church under whose auspices the institution lived was opposed to all secret societies, it was unwise and inconsistent to permit fraternities at Monmouth. The chapters of all fraternities represented were asked to disband. This they declined to do, and, as a result, the board of trustees passed a radical anti-fraternity law.

The students who had been initiated before the passage of the law were permitted to wear their pins, but to the faculty eye the fraternities had ceased to be. This was not true, however, and the life ‘under the rose’ gave spice to the membership in a forbidden society which made them to flourish as never before. The anti-fraternity feeling arose again in 1878, through the boldness of the women students, members of the two sororities (Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma), who began again to wear their pins. They were all summoned before the faculty to answer for their rebellious conduct. Hearing of their danger, the fraternity men marched in a body to the place of meeting and shared with the ladies the brunt of faculty displeasure, but the showing of strength was of no avail. The authorities would not yield, and, although several of the chapters at Monmouth still kept up their organizations, it was with but a semblance of their former strength.

In 1880 some tale-bearer apprised the faculty of the meeting place of Illinois Gamma, and, as a result of the conflict with the faculty over disobedience, five Phi Psis, members of the senior  class, left the institution to finish their course at the University of Chicago. The other members signed an agreement to disband, and, although there was some activity in the chapter after that, the chapter’s existence was practically at an end in 1884.

At Phi Kappa Psi’s 1888 Grand Arch Council, the charter of Illinois Gamma, “the only remaining sub rosa chapter at Monmouth College”, was revoked. The chapter has been dormant since then.

The first member in the list, J.A. Grier, was James Alexander Grier, who would go on to marry Ada Bruen, a founder of Pi Beta Phi.* He served in the U.S. Army from 1861-65 before enrolling at Monmouth College. He became a Presbyterian minister and spent his career in his native Pennsylvania. One of the Grier’s sons, Rev. James Harper Grier, D.D., served as the fifth President of Monmouth College, from 1936-52. Neither of his parents lived to see him installed as President.

*Pi Beta Phi was founded in 1867 as I.C. Sorosis, Pi Beta Phi was its secret Greek motto. In 1888, the name change was made official by convention vote, although many chapters were using the Greek letters before then.

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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#RandomActsOfKindnessDay GLO Style

Who knew it had a special day? Shouldn’t it be every day that we do random acts of kindness? Like serving others, shouldn’t kindness be a given?

I am grateful for the RAOK thrown my way, from an email telling me I missed something in a blog post, to fun GLO history things in my e-mail and snail mail boxes, to those who read and alert others to these postings. I thank you kindly and I appreciate your efforts.

Being kind costs nothing, except maybe a few minutes or a couple of hours. A P.E.O. friend, who happens to be an Alpha Xi Delta, too, is fighting a battle against a cancer that will never end. She told me yesterday how her Saturday was made by a card she received in the mail. It was a large Barbie doll in vintage 1960s outfit. She sent a picture of the card. Alongside Barbie, she placed a card her daughter sent her. She called the photo “Barbie and her sugar daddy Frank.” Frank was no other than Frank Lloyd Wright, Phi Delta Theta. It was a nod to the book we had talked about, Loving Frank. Her sharing of this picture also put a smile on my face.

My twitter feed included some GLO ROAK. These are a mere representation of the kindnesses which happen each day, done by young women and men, members of GLOs:

Kappa Alpha Order, Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, GA.

Alpha Gamma Delta, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

IlliniosThon supports St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois.


And here is a RAOK that is easy to do. Support Alpha Kappa Alpha’s effort to have one of its founders on a U.S. stamp:


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GLO Royalty on Knox College’s 180th

Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, turns 180 years old today. Beta Theta Pi’s Xi Chapter is the oldest fraternity on campus. It was installed in 1855. It was the first fraternity chapter in Illinois. Currently on campus, Beta is joined by Phi Gamma Delta (1867), Sigma Nu (1891 at Lombard), Sigma Chi (2007), and Tau Kappa Epsilon (1912). Other organizations which were once on campus include Phi Delta Theta (1871), Lambda Chi Alpha (1915), and Phi Sigma Kappa (1928).

The Illinois Delta Chapter of Pi Beta Phi was chartered on March 7, 1884. In 1889, the Epsilon chapter of Delta Delta Delta became the second women’s fraternity at Knox. College. A member of the Simpson College Tri Delta chapter initiated the chapter at the home of one of the charter members.  A reception was held at the Phi Gamma Delta Hall at Knox College. Phi Mu established a chapter at Knox in 1912; it closed in 1989.

The 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression hit Lombard College, also located in Galebsurg, extremely hard and Lombard closed its doors. The last class graduated in 1930. Knox College invited the Lombard students to transfer to Knox, with the same tuition cost and without loss of academic standing. The men’s and women’s fraternities attempted to make the best of the situation. The Pi Beta Phi chapters joined together to create Pi Beta Phi’s only doubly named chapter, Illinois Beta-Delta. The Alpha Xi Delta Chapter approached Zeta Pi, a local organization at Knox, about the members becoming members of Alpha Xi Delta. Seven collegiate and 29 alumnae members of Zeta Pi were initiated into Alpha Xi Delta in September 1929. It remained the Alpha Chapter. The chapter was declared dormant by the national organization in 1973. The Delta Zeta chapter also moved to Knox and it closed in 1964. It is unclear what became of the Theta Upsilon chapter (that organization became a part of Delta Zeta in 1962).

In 2007, the Eta Kappa Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma was established and in 2010 Alpha Sigma Alpha joined the Knox fraternal community.

My favorite story is that of Knox College graduates Grace Lass, Pi Beta Phi, and Francis Hinckley Sisson, Beta Theta Pi. They were married in Galesburg, Illinois, on June 16, 1897. She served as Grand President of Pi Beta Phi from 1895-99 and  he was President of Beta Theta Pi from 1912-18.

Grace Lass Sisson

At the time of their marriage, Mr. Sisson, who had done post-graduate work at Harvard University,  was the Editor of the Galesburg Daily Mail. In 1903, they moved to New York City, where he took a job with McClure’s Magazine. A year later, he became Advertising Manager for the American Real Estate Company and took over as its Secretary from 1908-14. He then took a job with the H.E. Lesan Advertising Agency. From there he became the Assistant Chairman of the Railways Executive’s Advisory Association. In 1917, he was employed as the Vice President of the Guaranty Trust Company. He was still with the company when he passed away in 1933. In addition, he served as President of the American Bankers Association

When the Sissons moved to New York City, they lived in several homes. The 1906 Pi Beta Phi Directory lists the Sissons at 839 West End Avenue. In 1917, their address was 70 Undercliff in the Park Hill section of Yonkers. The 1931 Westchester City Social Record lists the Sissons as still living at the 70 Undercliff address with a winter residence of 480 Park Avenue. In the 1936 Pi Beta Phi Directory, the Sissons were living at 170 Shonnard Terrace  in Yonkers.

The Sissons called the home at 170 Shonnard Terrace “Chateau Fleur de Lys,” the name given to it by Dr. H. deB. Seebold of New Orleans who built it in 1890. The Gothic Renaissance chateau was designed by Seebold and he spent 20 years collecting old world treasures to use in it.

The gray stone home was said to be only one of four French chateaus on the Hudson River. An article about a charity bridge event that Mrs. Sisson hosted for the Charity Organization Society in the early 1930s, described the home’s interior: 

Through this foyer one reaches the beautifully proportioned Robin Hood room in which the bridge will be held. The handsome, carved oak ceiling, from which the room derives its name, came originally from the Earl of Nottingham’s manor house and is made from black oaks which grew in Sherwood Forest.

Here also are the huge windows, reaching from floor to ceiling, brought from a French chateau. Of leaded opaque stained glass, with a pattern of rippling gold, they flood the room with a honey-colored light.

There is a room for every mood in this fascinating house. There is the quiet sanctity of the Chapel, lighted with the jewel colors of stained glass that lends to its dimness a beauty which changes with every shifting light and the gayety and brightness of the frivolous Marie Antoinette room, with its painted woodwork and garlands of flowers.

Each room has its share of treasures, from the library with its exquisitely carved Italian door to the kitchen with its simple Norman fireplace, all showing the artistic design and careful workmanship which the artisan of that brought to his task….And in this house, Mrs. Sisson has created a gracious background and a fit setting for this unique collection, through her understanding of its enduring perfection.

Mrs. Sisson died on August 16, 1939 at the age of 71. In 1941, dancer Michel Fokine and his wife Vera purchased the home. The home stood empty from 1958-63 when it was the target of vandals and souvenir hunters. It was purchased by Thelma Stovel. A  article in a 1966 Herald Statesman, told the story of “one of Yonker’s oldest and most historic homes” and the effort Stovel was putting into the chateau’s renovation.

In 2001, Kohle Yohannan purchased the home from a Haitian woman in her eighties who was then living there. Windows were broken, squirrels roamed freely, the roof leaked, and the list of repairs that needed to be done was very long. Although it took 10 years and much effort, he did a  phenomenal job of restoring the home. It has been rented for photo shoots (Neiman Marcus, Victoria’s Secret, Vogue magazine), music videos (Beyonce’s Irreplaceable) and film/television (Mona Lisa Smile, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire). He changed the name to Greystone Court.

It is currently on the market for $4+ million (down from $6 million a few years ago). See the link below, and then take a look at the castle in which the Grand Presidents of Pi Beta Phi and Beta Theta Pi once lived.

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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The Knoxville Old Ladies’ Home and Its Connection to P.E.O.

As I was downloading photos from my phone I realized I has not written about the Illinois P.E.O. Home. Last fall, I learned the Knox County Historical Museum in Knoxville, Illinois had an exhibit about the home which one stood in the center of town. I made a note to try to visit it when I went to Monmouth for an October meeting.

I wrote about my quick detour off the highway to see if Elkhart, Illinois, remembered its native son, University of Illinois sports legend Garland “Jake” Stahl, a Sigma Chi. (see

Luckily, when I arrived in Knoxville, I had about an hour to explore the museum before I drove the 20 minutes to Monmouth. The story of the Illinois P.E.O. began in 1909. In her will, Mary H. Jones made provisions for a home to be built so that the elderly women of Knoxville and Knox County would have a place to live.

Mary H. Jones

These provisions were set up in a time when women who became widows were often left in destitute conditions and single women who worked their entire lives had no source of income after retirement. Most counties had poorhouses. Jones’ intent might have been to keep some of these “old ladies” out of the poorhouse. In addition to the $50,000 she left to construct the home, an additional $200,000 trust fund was provided to operate it.

Construction began in 1910. There were three floors and a basement. It was made of brick and cement with three-inch solid plaster walls. The roof was covered with green German tiles. The home, which opened in 1912, took up the entire 400 block of East Main Street.

The Knoxville Old Ladies’ Home under construction.

Roof tiles

Jones left another stipulation, “Applicants for admission to said home, who in the judgment of my said Trustees are deemed worthy and proper of admission thereto, shall be permitted to reside therein and to receive all of the benefits and privileges thereof for life upon payment of the sum of $300.”

The trust fund made it through several decades, but by the 1940s, the home was operating in the red. In 1952, the property was transferred to the Illinois State Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood as a home for women who were members of the organization. A provision of the transfer made exemption for the home to keep five spots available for women from Knox County who were not members of P.E.O.

A model of the P.E.O. Home complete with dolls, furniture and trees. It was purchased by Mrs. Edith Andrew for $100 at the auction and it was donated to the museum.

The home underwent renovations and reopened on May 3, 1953. What had once been a $300 one-time payment became a $5,000 payment and $125 per month. Those without means paid what they could with state assistance. From the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s, more than 40 women lived at the home.

As the structure reached the half-decade mark, more renovations were needed. Because of the building’s construction with concrete, brick and thick walls, it was difficult to make the changes needed to bring the home up to par with retirement living options then available. By the late 1990s, there were less than 10 women living at the home.

At the 1998 Convention of the Illinois State Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, the delegates voted to close the home. In March 1999, the last resident moved out. An auction took place that May to sell the home’s contents. This closing was not without controversy and there were efforts by a non-profit organization, Concerned Citizens for the P.E.O. Home, to stop the demolition.  In June 2002, the Illinois P.E.O. Home was demolished.

After voting to close the home, the Illinois State Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood established a new state project, the Illinois P.E.O. Home Fund, using the remaining trust funds. The Home Fund’s purpose is to provide Illinois senior women with living expense assistance. The women do not need to be members of P.E.O. and the grant has a lifetime maximum of $5,000. Funds can cover mortgage payments, rent, property taxes, minor repairs and utility costs.

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest


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Congratulations All Around!

Congratulations are in order!

My Syracuse friends were celebrating Coach Jim Boeheim’s 1,000 win. He is a graduate of Syracuse where he became a member of the Delta Upsilon chapter.


Jim Boeheim during his years playing on the Syracuse basketball team.


Yesterday, Super Bowl LI dominated the twitterverse.  The first time I saw it written like that it took my brain a few minutes to realize the game wasn’t being played on Long Island and that LI referred to it being the 51st Super Bowl. My favorite part was the coin toss. The Pi Phi and the Deke did a great job with it! (Barbara Bush went to Smith College where there are no NPC organizations, but in her post-White House years she became an alumna initiate of the Texas A&M chapter of Pi Beta Phi.)


Bill Belichick, the coach of the winning team, is a Chi Psi. He was initiated in the chapter at Wesleyan University, the second chapter of Chi Psi.


The Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values Central Conference took place in Indianapolis over the weekend. Kudos to the winners of the Order of Omega Case Study Competition. They are from Washington State University and they generously donated their $250 prize to the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation ( What a wonderful way to celebrate winning!


On February 6, 1911, a birth took place in Tampico, Illinois. The young boy’s early years involved moving around from one small Illinois town to another. He entered Eureka College with a little luck and a little chance. There he became a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter. His experiences at that college and in that chapter stayed with him his entire life. Would anyone have imagined that the TKE would someday be the 40th President of the United States? When Ronald Reagan died, the Eureka College TKE Chapter President was on the invitation list.

The Ronald Reagan statue at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan.


© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter and Instagram @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Louise Pellens and Design for a Sorority House

In researching the previous post about Louise Pellen’s scrapbook (see ), I came across a copy of her University of Illinois thesis Design for a Sorority House. 

From Louise Pellen’s undergraduate thesis

The thesis was one of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Science in Architectural Decoration. The Instructor in Charge was Newton A. Wells who earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s from Syracuse University. He was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity.

The lower signature is N. (Nathan) Clifford Ricker. In 1875, Ricker, as a student at University of Illinois, became the first graduate of an American architecture program. After graduation, he founded the Department of Architecture at his Alma Mater. He also served as Dean of its College of Engineering. When he was a student, the University had but one men’s fraternity, Delta Tau Delta which was founded in 1872; he was not a member of it. However, Ricker was a fraternity man. He became a charter member of the Acacia chapter at Illinois when it was founded in 1906.  He was also instrumential in the founding of Alpha Rho Chi, an architecture and the allied arts professional fraternity. Ricker was honored as the first of the organization’s eight Master Architects. His daughter Edith graduated from the architecture program and was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta chapter at Illinois.

Pellen became an initiate of the Illinois Zeta Chapter of Pi Beta Phi in the fall of 1905. Perhaps she used her experience as a resident of the new Pi Phi chapter home at 807 South Third Street in Champaign when she wrote her thesis. The foundation for the Pi Phi house was poured at the end of the Spring 1905 semester and it was finished by August. According to a history of the chapter written for the Society for the Preservation of Greek Housing:

By standards of the day, the house was substantial and commodious. It had 18 rooms – three halls, reception-room, living-room, den, dining room, kitchen, pantry, maids’ room, eleven bedrooms and a laundry. It housed 15 chapter members and a chaperon, Mrs. Dicken. The patronesses gave the chapter a mission dining room set consisting of two tables, buffet and two dozen chairs. Each occupant paid $8 a month in room rent, and each member living out of the house contributed $2 a month towards the rent bill. The house rules were made by the chapter.

Her thesis problem read, “It is desired to build a chapter house for a sorority at a State University which is located in the central northwest.” The house she designed was to sleep 22 women and a chaperone. It was to be a modest home because it would be built and maintained by the chapter members.  Some of the interesting tidbits about the design include:

The chief problem in a sorority house is to get a first floor plan which is ordinarily divided into several small reception rooms, but may occasionally be thrown into one large room suitable for dancing….In the rear of the basement are located the furnace room, fuel room, vegetable room, and laundry, which are accessible either from the kitchen or from the outside by a ground level entrance….Behind the den is a telephone room…as freshmen answer the telephone, as a rule, it is not necessary to have it near the servants quarters….A refrigerator is built into the store room, with access for ice from the back porch; and as the walls of this room are packed with sawdust, making it impervious to heat, the place is practically a cold storage room. By means of this, provisions may be bought in wholesale quantities and preserved here.

Louise Pellens, from the Illinois Zeta composite, 1908

After graduation, Pellens worked as a Draftsman with Wildwood Builders in her home town of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She spent the following year working for Walter Burley Griffin in Chicago. After a few years, she began a career teaching the mechanial arts at Rockford High School in Chicago. There is evidence that she spent the summer of 1921 working for the Interstate Commerce Commission as a temporary structural engineer. Her teaching career ended in 1950 at Austin High School in Illinois. She died in 1969 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The current home of the Pi Beta Phi chapter, at 1005 South Wright Street was purchased in 1921.

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Of Dance Cards and Scrapbooks

Yesterday, the Student Life and Culture Archives at the University of Illinois posted a link to a scrapbook in its collection.  As one who has been on the Illinois campus and has studied the history of its fraternities and sororities, it was easy for me to get lost in the scrapbook. I imagined the campus as it looked in the early 1900s. Among my favorite pictures was one of what I presume to be Pi Phis in a tree. They climbed that tree wearing skirts and heeled shoes.

From the Louise Pellens Scrapbook, University of Illinois Student Life and Culture Archives

There’s an invitation from the Omicron Chapter of Chi Omega to attend a four o’clock tea. It was sent through the mail and the address consisted of “Pi Phi House, Champaign.” There’s also a full page handout explaining the freshman hazing that went on between classes (it was typical at most colleges, not just Illinois).

From the Louise Pellens Scrapbook, University of Illinois Student Life and Culture Archives

And there were dance cards galore. I am often asked about dance cards. They are often for sale on eBay, probably taken from scrapbooks such as this one, and sold to make a greater profit on the individual pieces than on a scrapbook itself (criminal in my mind, but so be it).*

From the Louise Pellens Scrapbook, University of Illinois Student Life and Culture Archives

The dance card was given to a woman attending a party, banquet or dance, as a way to keep track the man with whom she would dance. The dance card has a line for each dance and the man would write his name beforehand. Dance cards, known by the French name programme du bal or the German name Tanskarte were propular in 19th century Vienna. They were also popular in collegiate culture of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Examples in the scrapbook range from the seemingly hand-crafted to the elaborate leather embossed.  Sometimes they had attached small thin pencils to make the process easier on the men who signed the dance cards. 


From the Louise Pellens Scrapbook, University of Illinois Student Life and Culture Archives


Another example of a dance card, not from the Pellens scrapbook. This is a Panhellenic Formal dance card.

Another example of a dance card, not from the Pellens scrapbook.This is a Monmouth Duo (Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma) dance card, 1961

For more pictures of the scrapbook belonging to Louise J. Pellens, University of Illinois, Pi Beta Phi, Class of 1909, see

*A reader of the blog sent me this info, “I am a vintage dancer (1860s-1920s ballroom) and the dance card is not only essential to keeping track of our ever-changing partners, it’s a delightful souvenir (as it was to these girls). Only one company still makes those tiny pencils.”

© Fran Becque,, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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