Phi Kappa Sigma Male College

Phi Kappa Sigma Male College opened on February 7, 1859, in Monticello (Drew County). The college was named after the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and is possibly the only college in the country named after a fraternity.

The Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity was founded in 1850, and James Willey Barrow graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana as one of its members in 1856. Barrow moved to Monticello and, in 1858, served as the president for the Monticello Male Academy. Barrow taught Latin, Greek, and mathematics with assistance from David Shelton, C. S. Tatum, and A. M. Scott at the Monticello Male Academy. In a letter to his brother, John C. Barrow, dated May 15, 1858, James Barrow stated that “my interest prompts that I remain here and attend to building my school if the Trustees give [it] to me again.” Barrow also wrote about his interest in “a pretty lady of this place.”

Apparently, Barrow was given charge of the school the next year, which he formally renamed after his college fraternity. The Arkansas General Assembly incorporated the “Monticello Phi Kappa Sigma Male College,” with the act being approved on February 21, 1859, and provided rules for its administration. Barrow served as the first president of the institution. The members of the founding board of trustees are listed as Hugh Rodgers, Stephen Gaster, T. S. Wells, E. T. Jordan, N. B. Hooker, W. M. Harrison, and C. [Charles] McDermott. The school was housed in a two-story frame building, which reportedly accommodated from 100 to 200 students.

The school graduated two classes, but the Civil War then decided the fate of the fledgling college. After Arkansas seceded from the Union, Barrow offered the institution’s building to the Confederate army as a store house. Later, the Union army took over the building and used it as a hospital until 1864. The building was burned, and the college was not rebuilt.

For additional information:
Act 194 of 1859, “An Act to Incorporate the Phi Kappa Sigma College.” February 21, 1859. Acts of the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas. Little Rock: General Assembly of the State of Arkansas, 1859.

John C. Barrow Papers, 1854–1899. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

“Phi Kappa Sigma Male College.” Phi Kappa Sigma International Fraternity. (accessed October 28, 2021).

Mary Heady
University of Arkansas at Monticello


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