THE HISTORY OF FARMHOUSE FRATERNITY
1935-1944 from Depression to World War II
This decade began with the economy still reeling from the Great Depression of the early 1930s, and the installation of another FH chapter and ended with most chapter houses being shut down during 1943 and '44 with World War II.
Michigan State Charters
The FarmHouse club at Michigan State University was formed in 1932 by a group of students and faculty members who were FarmHouse alumni. The club was an infant of the Depression, taking several years to charter. By the time the petition for a FarmHouse charter was accepted in 1936, the men ranked first in scholarship and held many prominent positions on campus.
The April 25, 1936 chartering included the initiation of 28 active members and 29 alumni of the club who had already graduated. Between 1935 and 1937, the men moved between three houses, settling on 526 Sunset Lane in December 1937.
The chapter hired a housemother, Mrs. Bartlett, in 1937, with her salary split between FH and the university. The school's 1940 yearbook carried the headline, “Only Fraternity on Campus with a House Mother”.
In the early 1940s, a plan was presented by FarmHouse founder D. Howard Doane to establish an annual award to be given to the FarmHouse man in each chapter who best exemplifies the values of the Fraternity. The award would be voted on by the undergraduate members in the chapter. It would serve as the highest honor a chapter can present to a graduating senior member each year. Thus, the inception of the Doane Award.
World War II Years
The 1940s began as the most financially strong years ever for FarmHouse. Membership was at an all-time high, interest in college fraternities was on the rise, and universities were seeing a nice increase in enrollment in ag colleges.
World War II put a temporary halt to the progress that FarmHouse was making as 1,022 FarmHouse men (40 percent of our total initiated membership at the time) were called to service.
Harold Steele (IL '41) remembers when he and his brothers at the Illinois Chapter first learned on the radio of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and of the announcement from President Roosevelt that war had been declared. He remembers that it took a day or two for them to see the pictures and realize the devastation of the attack. “It really hit home with each of us when we were attacked,” said Steele, who served as a platoon leader during combat in Europe with General Patton and retired from the U.S. Army as a captain.
“Every one of us felt an obligation to serve. There was no question by any one of us. We were all prepared to be a part of the solution and fight.”
A total of 59 percent of the FarmHouse men who served during the war were commissioned officers, with 39 FH men receiving the Gold Star for their service in the war.
The majority of our undergraduate members were among those called away in 1943 and '44. A few chapter houses were used by the military during those years, while others were used as dormitories for ladies on campus.
Several chapters were able to continue to operate with a few members under the age of 18, those in veterinary medicine and those not physically qualified to serve in the military.
On the lighter side, Steele returned to campus in '44 as part of the Army specialized training program. The Illinois chapter house had been rented to female students. Steele and two fraternity brothers who were back from the war requested and gained admittance into the house to see how the ladies were doing at keeping up the place and also to answer the burning question, “What were the ladies using the urinals for?” Upon inspection, they found potted geraniums growing in the urinals.
Involvement in NIC
While the majority of our membership was fighting in World War II, FarmHouse officially became a junior member of the North American Interfraternity Conference, the governing body of all men's fraternities, in 1944.