Louis Manigault was born in Paris, France, on November 21, 1828, while his mother and father were visiting their ancestral homeland. He descended from French Huguenots who fled La Rochelle, France, because of religious persecution with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The Manigaults immigrated to South Carolina where they became very prosperous in the occupations of planting, trading, and merchandising.
The Manigault Family and Louis's maternal ancestors, the Heywards, were among the wealthiest American families in the years from the Revolution to the Civil War. Several of the Charleston, South Carolina homes of the Manigaults and Heywards of this era are now preserved and open to the public.
Because of the extreme wealth of the Manigault Family in Charleston, South Carolina nearly every male member received a European education and took many tours and trips overseas. In 1843, Louis began his preparatory school career at Saint Paul's College in Long Island, New York, where he met and became close friends with a fellow student, Steven Ormsby Rhea. In 1845, Louis entered Yale College where his brother had graduated. He stayed there only two years, although he was characterized as being a strong student who worked hard and enjoyed his studies. Louis left Yale in August 1847, to accompany his older brother on a trip to Europe. One of Louis's greatest regrets, however, was not graduating from Yale. In his diary he wrote:
"The termination at Yale College of my career without graduating from that institution has been a source of much regret to me during my life. I had just reached the period in my studies where a greater degree of pleasure would be attached to them than during my freshman and sophomore years. Could I have received my diploma first and then gone to Europe, this is what I have often thought would have been my best plan."
In 1855, Louis took over running the family rice plantation, Gowrie, near Savannah, Georgia. Frequent travels back and forth to Charleston enabled the Manigaults to be a part of and contribute to the culture of the upper class societies of both Savannah and Charleston.
During the Civil War, Manigault served the South as a special investigator of military operations in the field as an assistant to the Surgeon General. The Manigault family fortune, their commercial enterprises, and Louis' plantation at Gowrie were ruined by the war. At the end of the war, Louis returned to Charleston where he unsuccessfully attempted to repair the war damage to Gowrie. He died in Charleston at age 71, on November 29, 1899.
Stephen Ormsby Rhea was born in 1825 on his family plantation, Blackacres, located 35 miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His family was well established in the area and had gained a position of influence in the community. His grandfather and father were able to amass enough land and fortunes for Ormsby and his brother to be financially secure for the rest of their lives.
As a young child, Ormsby was educated on his plantation by several of the best tutors in the Louisiana area. This very formal private education gave him an austere of almost royal presence in the opinion of some of his friends. Louis Manigault often called him Sir Ormsby.
In order to continue his formal education, Ormsby entered St. Paul's College on Long Island in 1842 where he met another southern gentleman who he seemed to have much in common with, Louis Manigault. Ormsby did not decide to attend Yale College until after Manigault convinced him to come.
Rhea remained at Yale only six months after the founding of Alpha Sigma Phi, but stayed in New Haven a few months taking instruction from tutors. During breaks from studying, he devoted his free time to the cultivation of the Fraternity.
Rhea returned to Blackacres in 1846 to run the plantation. Blackacres made it through the Civil War, but like many plantations in the South, it suffered from the War and Reconstruction. Rhea spent the rest of his life rebuilding and maintaining it. He had married and had a son, but his wife passed away on the eve of the Civil War. His son was sent to Virginia where he was reared by relatives.
During Manigault's world travels, Rhea kept in touch with him about the Fraternity and informed Louis on his return from China that Alpha Sigma Phi had become quite successful during the 1850s. Rhea and Manigault continued to correspond up to the Civil War and had planned to exchange long visits.
Rhea entered Omega Chapter in 1873 and was buried in a family plot near Clinton, Louisiana. His son returned to Louisiana for the funeral, but left the area and nothing more is known of him. The Rhea burial plot was disturbed or relocated to accommodate fatalities of a fever epidemic in the late nineteenth century, and its precise location was lost by 1920 and has not been relocated. There is no known photograph of Steven Ormsby Rhea.
Horace Spangler Weiser, great-great-grandson of John Conrad Weiser, emigrated from Germany to New York in 1710. He settled in western Berks County, Pennsylvania where he learned the languages of local Native Americans and was a leader in negotiations between settlers and Native Americans. He served as a judge in Berks County from 1752 until his death in 1760. His homestead west of Reading is maintained as a state monument.
Horace was the fourth child in a family of 14 children. His father was a merchant and attorney in York, Pennsylvania. Both Horace and his brother, Erastus Hay Weiser, attended Yale. Horace's studies were directed toward preparation for the Law. Initially, he was reluctant to become involved with the founding of Alpha Sigma Phi, but was convinced by Louis Manigault and later viewed as one of the three founders of the new organization.
Weiser's poor health forced him to leave Yale in 1847 and return home to York. While recuperating, Weiser kept in contact with the affairs of Alpha Chapter, in part because of his brother's involvement, and he corresponded with Manigault concerning developments at Yale. He recovered sufficiently and returned to Yale in 1850, but his health again forced him to leave college without graduating. He read law in Pennsylvania, but became dissatisfied and moved to Decorah, Iowa where he operated a land office and subsequently organized the Winneshiek County Bank. The bank is still in existence today. In 1859, he married Louise Amy and they had three children.
With his move to Iowa, his correspondence with Manigault and the Alpha Chapter ceased. This cessation of communication, however, was not a matter of differences between the Founders. Indeed, in letters to others, Weiser commented upon his fond recollections of his days at Yale and the exciting times he had had there. Weiser died suddenly of an apoplectic stroke at the age of 48 on July 19, 1875 and is buried in a family plot in Decorah.
Yale in 1845 was far different from today's college. It was hard going for any student. Discipline was swift and strict, handed out by both student and faculty alike. There was mandatory attendance at chapel every day, and there was little to occupy a student's attention aside from his academic work.
Yale was unlike most other American colleges in that it had been patterned after Cambridge University in England where class loyalties and traditions were extremely important. As a result, hazing and bullying by upperclassmen towards their younger classmates was common. Thus a fraternity system developed that was strongly focused around class ties.
As a man entered Yale as a freshman, he was encouraged to join one of the freshmen societies, Kappa Sigma Epsilon, Delta Kappa, or Sigma Delta. Freshmen would be met at the New Haven train station by sophomores and invited to join one of the fraternities. Once the new members were secured, initiations would take place. Conducted by the outgoing sophomore class, the initiations into these societies were mainly to test the nerves of the freshman, and thus were quite vigorous. Once the night's festivities concluded, the upperclassmen would hand over the society to the freshman and leave. The new members would then elect their officers and perfect the organization of the society for the upcoming year.
Membership in a secret society in each successive class became more important socially and in campus politics in each successive year. The freshman fraternities were nearly all encompassing. In the sophomore class, there were two fraternities at most and at times only one. The sophomore fraternities admitted between twenty and thirty men from each class, and vied to admit only the most promising men based on their freshman records.
The junior class fraternities, Alpha Delta Phi, Psi Upsilon, and Delta Kappa Epsilon, pledged men secretly during the students' first two years, and initiated them at the end of their sophomore year. In the 1850s, Psi Upsilon and Delta Kappa Epsilon eclipsed the older fraternity Alpha Delta Phi, and battled unrelentingly for the most promising pledges.
The senior societies were local organizations and were the most prestigious. The senior societies each pledged fifteen members from each class. There were usually three senior societies, with two competing heavily for the leading men of the class, and the third society failing and being replaced at intervals.
None of the freshman fraternities established chapters outside Yale College, and Alpha Sigma Phi is the only surviving sophomore society. Each of the junior fraternities was a chapter of national organizations. The senior societies, Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and Wolf's Head, continue to exist locally at Yale, their affairs still shrouded in an aura of mystery.
There are more than two dozen statues on college or university campuses named after members of Alpha Sigma Phi. There is a statue of Andrew Dickson White, Yale 1850, for being the first President of Cornell University, and a statue of K. P. Reinhold Niebuhr, Yale 1913, who graduated from Elmhurst College in 1910 before going onto Yale. These are just two examples but there are many more.
An important precept of Alpha Sigma Phi is what we do to honor those who have gone before us. As we respect the lives and deeds of those who made Alpha Sigma Phi a great national fraternity, we attempt to commemorate their contributions and sacrifices in a fitting manner. Thus, one can find in a number of places around the country monuments, plaques, or buildings which stand as memorials to the members of Alpha Sigma Phi.
MANIGAULT GRAVE SITE
Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina is the oldest public cemetery in Charleston, founded in 1849 on the banks of the Cooper River and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Magnolia is home to the final resting place of Louis Manigault, the Fraternity's Principle Founder. Magnolia's gates are open daily from 2:00 p.m to 6:00 p.m. EST.
Magnolia Cemetery Address:
70 Cunnington Avenue
Charleston, SC 29405
If visiting Brother Manigault's grave site, you will drive straight for roughly 50 feet past the entrance and then veer toward your left. That will take you to a narrow road between two ponds. Upon crossing the narrow road, turn left onto the grass (note: you will drive very close to burial plots). Drive for roughly 200 feet and then veer toward your right. The grave site is next to a very large oak tree at the end of a set of plots. There appears to be a grass road on either side of his plot, and he is surrounded by his family.
For video instructions on how to locate Brother Manigault's grave site, click here.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Yale provided the setting for Alpha Sigma Phi's conception, but Charleston provided the roots. We have the distinction of being founded in the north, but through our founders' heritage we have a strong connection to the south. If given the opportunity, visit Charleston, South Carolina. See firsthand the impact the Manigault Family had on Charleston at the turn of the 20th century. A definite must see is the Charleston Museum's Joseph Manigault House, a National Historic Landmark, located in downtown Charleston close to the Museum and the City Visitor Center.
Designed by architect Gabriel Manigault (Louis' grandfather), for his brother, Joseph Manigault (Louis's great uncle), this three-story brick townhouse is an exceptional example of Adam-style, or Federal architecture. The Manigaults descended from French Huguenots who came to America to escape persecution in Europe. Joseph owned plantations, sat in the state legislature, and was a trustee of the College of Charleston. Gabriel, who owned plantations and commercial investments, is credited with designing Charleston's City Hall and the South Carolina Society Hall.
According to the Charleston Museum, Louis had spent several summers at the Joseph Manigault House, which was just a few miles from his home in Charleston. Louis Manigault once called the home on Six Gibbes Street near Downtown Charleston his own. The home is still standing today, but is privately owned and is not open to the public. Although you can park on the street to look at the house through the gate, please respect the owner's privacy and property.
WEISER GRAVE SITE
Phelps Cemetery in Decorah, Iowa is the resting place of Horace Spangle Weiser. Brother Weiser is buried alongside his family in section G of the cemetery.
Phelps Cemetery Address:
1101 Pleasant Ave.
Decorah, IA 52101
RALPH F. BURNS MEMORIAL MARKER
Shortly after Ralph passed into the Omega Chapter, the Epsilon Chapter at Ohio Wesleyan University wanted to honor his contributions both to the Fraternity and to the University he adored, and decided to erect a small marker in his honor. The marker is located in front of the University's library to the left of the main entrance in a small garden and bears the Fraternity Badge. The library is named after another Alpha Sig, R. Thornton Beeghly, Ohio Wesleyan '31, so the location seemed fitting. The Epsilon Chapter monitors the marker and takes care of it when necessary.
Alpha Sigma Phi was Founded by Louis Manigault, Stephen Ormsby Rhea and Horace Spangler Weiser. Click here to learn more about these trailblazing men.
The Fraternity's President & CEO reports directly to the Grand Council. The President & CEO and his staff are charged with executing the Grand Council's plans and initiatives. Ralph F. Burns, Ohio Wesleyan '32, Omega '93, served as the Fraternity's Chief Executive for an astounding 40 years. Gordy F. Heminger, Bowling Green '96, is the second longest tenured Chief Executive of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.
Gordy F. Heminger, Bowling Green '96, is the current President & CEO of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. Click here to see our Fraternity Staff Directory.
Interim President & CEO
President & CEO
Oregon State '86
President & CEO
Ohio Wesleyan '94
President & CEO
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Ohio Wesleyan '32
Penn State 1921
Once a Brother passes away, he enters the Omega Chapter, where he will forever be immortalized within Alpha Sigma Phi. We honor these men, for their role in our history helped pave the path to our present. We mourn the loss of these men, but we take solace in the memories they've left us within the Mystic Circle.
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