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Sorority alumnae fund rail project

By Staff | Aug 2, 2013

When alumnae of the Phi Sigma Chi, a local sorority on the Shepherd College campus from the late 1940s through 1960, met for its annual luncheon in early July, those attending were praised for their responses to the request for donations for the completion and erection of a hand-tooled iron railing for the walkway to the fort door of the little Yellow House, which is located on the north side of High Street beside the school’s Snyder Hall. Group president, Betty Snyder Lowe, announced that more than $3,000 had been collected to date and that ironsmith Frank Graves had agreed to create and install the railing. President Lowe spoke for the entire group when she stated that because of the railing project, “Phi Sigma Chi will always have a presence at Shepherd.” The 2013 Shepherd University Homecoming Saturday has been selected as the date for its dedication.

The foundation of Beta Delta Chapter of national sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma was the local Phi Sigma Chi group, organized at Shepherd College in 1930. National President Mabel Lee Walton was the installing officer. Charter members including Ruth Conard, Elizabeth Fuss, Ann McKee, Louise Smith, Reba Welshans, Frances Lewis, Eleanor Lloyd, Bett Mantz, Ruth Powell, Mary Sullivan, Betty Weller, Audreu Conser, Pauline Lelonde, Eleanor Whitmore and Vera Stutzman.

Because of national sorority accrediting regulations, the national group assumed local status and Phi Sigma Chi was formed on the campus in 1948. In 1960, the Sigma Sigma Sigma name was returned to the organization with induction ceremonies conducted by Marie Santee Dunham and Rachel Gabel Kyle, national officers.

The Yellow House, located on the first recorded Shepherdstown lot, dates to the 1790s and is possibly the oldest structure in Shepherdstown. Through the years, it has served as a residence, a tavern and a cobbler’s shop. The shoemaker who lived there in 1912 was murdered one night and the money which he kept hidden in his shop was never found. Consequently, at the stroke of midnight since the crime, the “tap, tap, tap” of the shoemaker’s hammer is said to sound in the upstairs room of the small house. One must wonder if the ghost of the Yellow House was heard by the Phi Sigma Chi alumnae meeting in this “haunted” building during the years they met there.

Through the years, the Phi Sigma Chi alumnae have gathered in members’ homes and in local restaurants to renew the friendships made so many years ago. For many years, books were donated to local libraries to honor the group and in memory of deceased members. The Yellow House Railing Project and its significance to the organization and to historic preservation will keep the name Phi Sigma Chi a part of local history.

Attending the July 2013 get-tpogether were alumnae Rae Tennant Banks, Peggy Booth, Linda Cooper Carter, Jane Poisal Downey, Dorothy Myers Eye, Nancy Miller Grove, Betty Snyder Lowe, Althea Vickers Miller, JoAnn Thompson Miller, Mary Ann White Morgan, Nancy Needy, Barbara Knott Nickell, Nancy Long Rickard, Jean Pinder Riordon, Backy Shaffer, Eleanor Ann Shirley, Gwen Light Sigler, Nancy Thompson Smith, Biddy Dorsey Smoot, Edna Mason Snyder, Diane Steece, Clarissa VanMeter Stemple and Emily Miller Waters.