THE HISTORY OF FARMHOUSE FRATERNITY
1905-1914 A Humble Beginning
The story of the founding of FarmHouse is well-chronicled. The spring of 1905, while attending a Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Bible study, a group of young men studying agriculture at the University of Missouri enjoyed one another's fellowship so much that they decided to organize a club, rent a house, and live together. What's not often remembered is the difficulty and tremendous challenges the men would encounter over the next couple of years.
From the ambitious plans in the spring of 1905, fast forward four months to that fall. The original group numbered 11 men. Each had pledged to return in the fall and bring a roommate. This would fill the 22-man house that was rented at 107 Sixth Street. However, when September arrived, only seven of the original group returned (all returning as sophomores). Immediately the men were thrust into a situation of having to find boarders to fill the rooms and tables. And all but one of the men were working to pay part or all of their expenses.
That first fall semester, trying desperately to make ends meet, D. Howard Doane (MO '05) and the other six founders would gather regularly in Henry H. Krusekopf's (MO '05) room.
“Many a night, this dear old bunch assembled with gravest doubts assailing them, and they wondered if it was all worthwhile,” Doane wrote in his diary. “There seemed to be so many reasons for saying ‘no' and only one for saying ‘yes.' That one yes was so big it always won … (for) an agreement had been made, (our) word had been pledged—it could not be broken … . The spirit of honor, the sacredness of a pledge and a determination to ‘carry on' that which was begun carried us over those first hard years.
“Long will we remember the night we gathered in Bob (Robert Howard) (MO '05) and Kruse's room to hear the treasurer's and commissary's last report. The big question was, ‘Will we have to dig up to pay up, or will there be a surplus?' There was a surplus. If I remember correctly, it was less than a dollar each, but never did a dollar look bigger. It meant we could continue; it meant the FarmHouse would live. It meant ‘that stunt that that bunch of freshmen started' (quotes credited to the upperclassmen who laughed at the beginning) would justify its founders.
“The end of the first year by no means marked the end of the struggle, although on that memorable night, when we declared our first dividend, we most certainly thought we had ‘crossed the Alps.' It was the enthusiasm of youth, the determination to hit back a little harder than we were hit, that kept us going.”
Over the next few years, the group grew, and the men moved into their second house at the corner of Missouri and Rollins. By that time, the original club of seven lost its identity and was part of the larger group. By then, the house was made up fully of FarmHouse members.
Founder C. B. Hutchison (MO '05), in his 50th-anniversary address to members attending the Conclave, said, “It should be noted that no one among the little group of founders had any thought that he and his fellows were founding a fraternity, nor had they any intention of doing so. Indeed, had anyone seriously suggested at the time that this would or might be the ultimate outcome, the little acorn from which this mighty oak has grown would doubtless not have been planted or, if planted, would not have survived the seedling stage.
“Such was the reputation of fraternities in general in the youthful minds of the ‘founding fathers,' some of whom, I know not whether all, had already had invitations to join well-established Greek-letter fraternities in their university community. This was not to be a fraternity, but a club, and it was made so again in those earnest but youthful minds by definition …
“The basic point in our minds was to find a place where we could live and work together to promote our mutual interests in stimulating companionship and fellowship. To make sure no one would think of our club as a fraternity, we gave it what we thought was a nonfraternity name. It was to exemplify agriculture and rural living despite the fact that, of necessity, it had to have an urban locale.”
Doane is credited with first conceiving the idea of forming an association to consist only of agricultural students. During the YMCA Bible study, Doane talked up the “farmers club,” mostly with members of his class, and developed the plan of organization. It is evident, therefore, that FarmHouse was not a spontaneous conception, quickly executed, but it was the result of deliberate thought and definite purpose.
FarmHouse had its first picture in the Missouri yearbook, the Savitar , in 1907 and was listed as a club. During those early years, FarmHouse men played key roles in starting a chapter of Alpha Zeta at the university, the Farmers Fair and the agriculture club between 1904
Nebraska Becomes Second Chapter
Upon graduation in 1908, founder Robert F. Howard accepted a position with the horticulture department at the University of Nebraska. In the spring of 1911, a few of the top students in the College of Agriculture developed the idea of creating a similar organization on campus to what the men at Missouri had started. While organized independently, it is believed Howard was one of their original advisors.
The first meeting was conducted late in April 1911 in the room of Will Forbes (NE '11). A second meeting for planning the organization was conducted in Forbes's room. That September, with most of the faculty of the College of Agriculture signing the lease as security, the organization of the chapter was completed.
The first Nebraska chapter house was located at 1436 S Street. In 1914, a second house was rented at 307 N. 24th Street.
Two of the men in the original class at Nebraska—Will Forbes and L. T. Skinner (NE '11)—were selected to the prestigious Innocents Society, a select senior honorary recognizing the top 13 students on campus, in 1912-1913. From its origins, the Nebraska Chapter was known for its outstanding scholastic record and leadership on campus.
Illinois Makes Three
In the fall of 1914, a few of the leading students in the College of Agriculture realized the need for a fraternity of men in their intended profession. George S. Hendrick had learned of the Nebraska FarmHouse from John W. Whisenand (NE '14), who at that time was taking graduate work at the University of Illinois.
The first meeting of men organizing the Illinois Chapter was conducted October 15, 1914, in Room 117 of the Agriculture Building. Five University of Illinois students (G. S. Hendrick, F. W. Farley, C. H. Rehling, R. L. Reese, and A. T. Semple) met with Whisenand and two other Nebraska FarmHouse members to learn of the working principles of FarmHouse.
Plans were made for a future meeting at which the work of drafting a constitution would be undertaken. Nebraska FarmHouse provided a copy of its constitution. The Nebraska constitution was acted upon, and changes were suggested to suit the conditions at Illinois. The men next met with campus administrators, who strongly supported the formation of the proposed organization. One dean expressed the opinion that freshmen be excluded. After those consultations, a petition was presented to the University Senate and was favorably acted upon.
Time Capsule: Why FarmHouse?
“Fraternities are accused of breeding snobbishness and exclusiveness, of seeking to cast a glamour over their operations by the use of Greek letters. The FarmHouse in the beginning adopted a name unique because of its originality and significance; striking because of the suggested relationship to the house that is vastly more than a mere building, the house that shelters the greatest and most democratic institution of the Western hemisphere, the American farm home—where the latch-string is always out, where the board is always full, and where hospitality is not gauged by the creed, station, or raiment of the traveler …”
—from the FarmHouse Annual of 1920