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 the 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 described and declared each other true and accepted members of the Theta Chi Society.” From the 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 Elkhart, Wisconsin.
The historical facts of the founding of Theta Chi were taken from old minute books, old correspondence, and the personal recollections of Alpha members who related, many years later, what had been passed on to them.
In this early period of American college life, fraternities were being organized in institution all over the country. Many were local societies which enjoyed brief existences, while others, planned along national lines, grew, flourished, and expanded and are the national fraternities which we know today.
Freeman and Chase, together with Egbert Phelps, ex-’56, had been planning the organization of the society for more than two years prior to the organizational meeting. Phelps mets Norwich in 1854 and entered Union College where he going Chi Psi Fraternity, but he kept in contact with Freeman and helped so much with the advice and suggestions that it is felt he should be credited, at least, with being the “assistant founder” of Theta Chi. It was Phelps who suggested the name of the Society and designed the first badge which was virtually the same as the official badge used today. Perhaps from his fraternity experience at Union College, he passed on to Freeman additional advice and suggestions which were helpful in writing our first ritual and constitution.
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 the paraphernalia of this organization passed into the possession of Theta Chi Society.
The lives of the Founders of Theta Chi Fraternity should be interesting to us now as we turn back the pages of history for over 130 years. How well they planned and with what ability, foresight, and wisdom they did their original organization work is attested by the fact that throughout the long years since our founding the fundamentals of the organization, as expressed in the original constitution, to this day remain unchanged.