1878, 20-year-old George Banta was on a train returning to Franklin
College in Franklin, Indiana, from a Phi Delta Theta Convention. He
sat with Monroe McClurg and shared his concern over the fraternity political
situation in Indiana, noting that Indiana needed another female Greek
group. Brother McClurg agreed and offered a solution. In Oxford, Mississippi,
where he attended "Ole Miss," a fine ladies' fraternity with
a few other chapters in southern girls' schools prospered. The group
was Delta Gamma, and McClurg was happy to put Brother Banta in touch
with the young women. George Banta wasted no time in contacting the
Delta Gammas in Oxford. They, too, were eager to expand and invested
him with the power to form chapters in academically well-recognized
northern colleges. George Banta set about achieving their expansion
goal, having been told to select the Greek letters of his choice for
the new chapters. It was logical that when he organized the first northern
chapter at Franklin College the Greek letter should be Phi, in honor
of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. No doubt, the first initiate was his
fiancée, Lillie Vawter.
Banta later wrote, "I think we were also told to adopt our own
ritual and bylaws, the latter to serve as well as it might for a constitution.
These were used to organize at Hanover, Buchtel (now University of Akron),
and Wisconsin...and probably at Northwestern. I cannot recall when nor
in what order the organizations were effected at Hanover and Buchtel
(but) in both cases it was through the direct and active effort and
cooperation of membership of my Fraternity."
events, no doubt, comes the relationship between Phi Delta Theta and
Delta Gamma, one that in no firm nor official way ever existed.
of the Phis is recorded often in Delta Gamma's early history, notably
on two occasions. Delta Gamma's second Convention was held May 24-26,
1883, in Akron at the new Phi Delta Theta hall, with the hosts showering
all manner of social attentions on the visitors. And when a rival group
at Wisconsin was found pilfering the Delta Gamma mailbox, the ladies
of Omega chapter asked the correspondents of other chapters to use the
post box of a friendly Phi Delta Theta.
and Lillie were married in 1882, he had served as president of the Phi
Delta Theta's General Council for two years, the first to hold this
office. The marriage was brief, because Lillie died in 1885, leaving
a young son, Mark. George later remarried and was the father of two
children, George, Jr., and Eleanor, who became a Delta Gamma at Indiana
University, as did her two cousins a few years later.
Banta's interest in Delta Gamma's welfare never wavered. He was a leader
in the fraternity world, and his advice was often sought. He was a frequent
visitor to Delta Gamma Conventions. Often the guest speaker, his first
appearance at the 1909 Convention was the most memorable. He sat on
the platform with the officers when the door of the hall opened to admit
two of Delta Gamma's Founders, attending Convention for the first time.
Mr. Banta rose, bowed to the two ladies and stepped down to greet them
each personally. He appeared for the last time at Convention in 1934,
a year before his death.
Theta as Delta Gamma's "brother fraternity" is a myth, but
the myth can be credited to the energies of one brother, who saw to
the growth of this truly international organization, Delta Gamma.