The first attempt to introduce a fraternity on WPI campus came in 1886. A national Latin Fraternity known as Q.T.V Thomas Club for debate and discussion was established. Though in 1889, the chapter fell through and cease to exist. A few years later in 1890 a student, Archibald MacCullagh, a member of the Beta chapter of Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Pennsylvania transferred to Worcester Tech. He gathered two of his friends and encouraged them to start a Chapter. The three individuals then began to recruit other members; primarily from the previously disbanded Q.T.V Fraternity. The club initially met together to work on math assignments and other academic work. Though recognizing the need for a greater social existence, they joined together in secret and petitioned to the Grand Chapter for a charter to the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta.
Under the auspices of the Iota Mu (MIT) Chapter, the Pi Iota Chapter at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass on the evening of November 28, 1891, was ushered into existence. The following chartering members of Pi Iota were instilled as officers, Albert E. Culley; Hugh Southgate; Fred A. Morse; Wm. Nelson; Wm. N. Starks, and C. E. R. C. Cleveland. Little did these founders know, that they had begun a legacy for all Greek members in the WPI community.
Installation took place at the Quincy House Hotel in Boston. The Quincy House, pictured on the left as it would have looked in 1891, was one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in Boston at the time. The picture on the right shows the MIT brothers in 1891 who would have been among the hosts present that evening.
Archibald McCullagh served as the legate appointed by the Grand Chapter and was the installing officer. Delegates from Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Lafayette, Washington, and MIT were present. “No pains were spared, and a hearty banquet followed the exercises, the likes of which the writer had seldom seen.” The MIT account states the festivities and celebration continued well into the early hours of the next morning.
Quincy House Hotel – Boston c. 1885
These members remained committed to the Chapter, as the Chapter has records of correspondence from these members up until the 1950s. Though unfortunately one chartering member, Fred A. Morse, was able to remain as committed as his fellow chartering Brothers. A year after he graduated F.A Morse became ill and passed Ad Astra. Thus, when the Chapter established a housing corporation to begin the search for a Chapter House, the housing corporation was named “F.A Morse Association” in dedication to F.A Morse’s contributions to the Chapter. The association still exists to this day, managing the daily upkeep of the Chapter House and seeing that the Chapter House satisfies the needs of the Undergraduate Brothers.
Composites of the first Executive Board members of the Chapter
Soon after the Chapter was ushered into existence a special meeting was held in Boynton Hall on December 8, 1891, at which a committee was appointed to look up such a room or rooms for meetings and social intercourse. One room was finally settled upon and rented at 41 Knowles Building, Worcester. During the following year meetings were held there and also in Pilgrim Hall and the old Knowles Building, neither of which are now in existence. In the fall of 1893, the Chapter took possession of its first house, located at 7 Highland Street. In tho years' time, this home was outgrown, and in 1895 a larger house, that at 7 Everett Street, was secured. This was described in a Chapter letter as a "great improvement" over the other.
The first step towards building of a chapter house was the formation of a building association. The F.A Morse associations was established on April 4th 1898. The association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Massachusetts. A provision of the constitution stats that: “Any person who is a member of Pi Iota Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta may, on signing these Bylaws, become a member of this corporation.” The first Board of Directions consisted of the following: Geo. W. Eddy, President; Warren E, brooks, Vice-President; Robert. S. Parks; R.C. Cleveland, and E.H Brown. H.W. Southgate was treasurer of the Association, and D.F. O’Regan clerk.
F.A. Morse was named after Fred A. Morse, class of 1892, who was the first graduate Brother to pass away Ad-Astra. He died on May 29th, 1894, after inhaling poisonous fumes while employed at the Nichols Chemical Works in New York. Morse was cited by the WPI Newspaper as being very popular at the Institute and a fine all-around athlete, having excelled in football and boxing. Phi Gamma Delta magazine
described him as a loyal and staunch Fiji. The bearers at his funeral were all founding brothers of Pi Iota, and Badges were draped on campus for a period of 15 days out of respect for his memory.
January 22, 1898, was a date fraught with significance for the fraternity here. On that day Pi Iota held a reunion banquet at the Bay State Hotel, the chief purpose of which was to arouse enthusiasm among the alumni for a new house. Bro. T. A. Vernon, Yale, '75, who was the principal speaker, described the Yale house and offered to head a subscription list for a new home for Pi Iota. After the banquet, a committee of three alumni and the undergraduates, with George W. Eddy'96, chairman, was appointed to formulate plans. A corporation was formed and names F. A. Morse Association after on its founders, the first qui fuit sed nunc ad astra. The records show on March 1st, 1899, the lot on the corner of Boynton and Salisbury Street was bought from Steven Salisbury. Then came the start of the actual construction, the completion of the house, its furnishing, and finally its formal opening in October 1899. The formal opening of the new house in October 1899, was said to be a splendid affair, some four hundred guests being present, and only words of praise were heard for the house and its furnishing. The house and property cost $12,000 and the furniture and furnishing nearly $2000 more.