Kappa Alpha Order's rich history and tradition is second to none. KAwas founded on December 21st, 1865 in Lexington, Virginia. The Order was first established as a part of the Lexington Triad, along with Sigma Nu and Alpha Tau Omega. Our chapter here at Auburn – Nu – was founded in 1883. Since then we have enjoyed a proud and distinguished heritage and look forward to a prosperous future. The Order was founded on Biblical principles and built on Southern morals. Many prominent alumni have journeyed through our doors, and we're certain that there are still many more to follow in their footsteps. Nowhere else on Auburn University's campus will you find an establishment with more heritage and circumstance. If tradition and customs interest you, then you've certainly come to the right place.
Kappa Alpha Order and its members are widely known for our association with Robert E. Lee. Kappa Alphas have never claimed that Lee was an initiated member of the Order, but we do rejoice that KA was born under the white light of his noble life. We are immensely proud and honored that his ideals were woven into KA's soul, and that he is, in a profoundly real sense, our spiritual founder. Lee, in his daily actions, letters and conversations, represented the perfect example of what the best in man can attain. He was a living example of what the founders and the first Kappa Alphas were aspiring to emulate. Ammen wrote that the ideal of the gentleman, “is that of the chivalrous warrior of Christ, the knight who loves God and country, honors and protects pure womanhood, practices self-respect to ill-gotten wealth.” To Ammen and others, Lee in his daily walk, was this perfect gentleman. Therefore, we can look to Lee and examine his philosophy and characteristics to learn more about our own set of ideals. He exemplifies the highest standards, the most chivalrous conduct and the finest traits of manliness, and it is in this aspect that KAs regard him as the spiritual founder of our fraternity.
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly & the forbearing or inoffensive use of all of this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light.
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled when he cannot help humbling others.
Samuel Zenas Ammen, known as Kappa Alpha's practical founder, was born in Fincastle, VA, on October 22, 1843. He was the youngest of nine children and at the age of eight he entered school. Later, he would enter the Botetourt Male Academy in Fincastle where he received excellent academic standing. The Civil War, and his involvement in it, delayed him from entering college until 1866.
At the beginning of the war, Ammen joined a local military organization at the rank of second lieutenant. At the time of his enlistment, he was stationed in Centreville, near Washington DC. In December, 1861, he was engaged in a skirmish at Dranesville, near the Potomac. His force was led by the colorful and daring General J.E.B. Stuart. Ammen's company later marched to Richmond. The night before the battle of Williamsburg, where several of his companions were killed, he slept on the campus of The College of William and Mary. A month later, he was detailed as a chemist to assist in the preparation of the dye needed in the manufacture of cloth for the army. He later was transferred to the Confederate Navy. Just before the end of the war he was transferred to Virginia's western front.
At the end of the war, Ammen returned to the Botetourt Military Male Academy and continued his studies. It was also during this time that he became involved in Freemasonry. In the fall of 1866, he traveled north up the valley road to Lexington where he enrolled in Washington College to study under General Lee. He was now 22 years old, older than most of the boys in his class. During his first session, he boarded at the home of William Ruff. He later lived at the Ann Smith Academy, while teaching Latin and French. On October 18th, 1866 during his first year at Washington College he was initiated into Alpha chapter of K.A. From that day until his death he labored faithfully toward the development of the Order.
Shortly after his initiation William Nelson Scott, James Ward Wood and Ammen began to rework the struggling fraternity's initiatory customs. By the end of a session in 1867 a new set of customs were introduced. It was Ammen who carried on the work of its creation. He once wrote, “In the evolution of the customs and constitution nothing was borrowed from other fraternities, with respect to which the founders had very little knowledge...”
As a student at Washington College, Ammen became president of the Washington Literary Society - then one of the most coveted honors. He won a gold medal for the best essay in the School of English Literature. He was the founder of the Southern Collegian, a literary paper, and afterwards a magazine. In addition, he was a member of the Ugly Club and was Chief Mourner at the Burial of Queen Math - both being honors of distinction during his time in college. In June 1869 he graduated with a master's degree in arts. He immediately became master at the Milburn Academy in Kentucky. He had turned down an assistant professorship in modern languages at Washington College.
The first day of Ammen's new teaching post, the principal of the school skipped town and young Ammen took over as headmaster. The next day he recieved a raise in his salary. He served in this capacity during the 1869-1870 academic year; it was during this same time period, with the consent of Alpha chapter, that he completed the first ritual and constitution.
From 1870 until 1881, he taught Latin, Greek, and chemistry at the Atkinson's School for Boys in Baltimore, Md. It was also during this time that he traveled extensively throughout Europe. In August 1881, Ammen became the literary editor of The Baltimore Sun. This move opened up the second stage of his professional career, journalism. He continued as an editorial writer on The Sun for the next thirty years.
Samuel Zenas Ammen died on January 5, 1929 at the age of 86 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is buried in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia. Samuel Zenas Ammen is the Practical Founder of the Kappa Alpha Order
Beset by the war's legacy of poverty, only 50 students were enrolled at the time of Lee's inauguration. As word of his presence spread, others arrived, until finally, 146 young men had registered for the college's first post-war session. Among those first students were three of KA's four founders, James Ward Wood, William Nelson Scott, and William Archibald Walsh. Founder Stanhope McClelland Scott, brother of William Nelson Scott, entered the college's second post-war session, the spring semester of 1866.
James Ward Wood was born December 26, 1845 in rural Hardy County, Va., (which is now in West Virginia). It was in part Lee's acceptance of the presidency of Washington College, and a new job as head master of the Ann Smith Academy for girls, that caused the Reverend John A. Scott to move his family from Hardy County to Lexington. The Scott and Wood families were friendly acquaintances, so Wood's father sent his son to Washington College, not only to study under Lee, but also to have him profit under the conservative influence of Reverend Scott. The Reverend's influence must have been strong as Wood soon became known as the 'College Bard' on campus by reason of his poems and essays that appeared in the campus paper and by the fact that he was known to enrich his conversation with biblical quotations. An 1866 essay that he wrote gives insight into his thoughts on the young K.A. fraternity. “Let us be just, charitable and good; let us be great by the prayers of widows and orphans rather than by their tears and lamentations,” he wrote. “Let us be of one mind and faith, let us banish all that is evil and cling to all that is good. Let us pull together and pull hard; but above all things let there be no doubt that we are pulling right.” In January, 1867, Wood was sent home by President Lee for failing to keep up with his studies. After a brief stint of traveling in the West, he returned to Hardy County to farm, where he eventually became a notary, magistrate, judge and representative in the West Virginia State Assembly. He died January 7, 1926 and is buried in the Ivanhoe Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Lost City, W. Va.
William Nelson Scott was born in Houston, Va., on September 25, 1848 and entered Washington College in the fall of 1865 at the age of seventeen. Since he had known Wood in Hardy County, it was natural for him to pal around with him and become involved in Wood's venture of forming a new fraternity on campus. At the founding, Scott was elected president of the group and saw the fledgling fraternity through its first trying year. It was Scott who asked Samuel Zenas Ammen, who would later transform the K.A. fraternity into Kappa Alpha Order, to join. Ammen said of Scott, “I have never seen any in equal to him in charm of voice, in solemnity of manner, in dignity of demeanor, or in general impressiveness in the initiatory customs.” After graduation, Scott entered Union Theological Seminary and completed his course of study there, and in 1872, became a Presbyterian minister. After presiding over a parish in Richmond, Va., for a few short years, he moved to Galveston, Texas where he was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church for 19 years. After surviving the Great Hurricane of 1900, that decimated the island and killed thousands, he returned to Staunton, Va., where he remained pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church until his death, June 3, 1919. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Va.
William Archibald Walsh, of Richmond, Va. was born Sept. 11, 1849. He was the third man to join Wood's enterprise of founding a fraternity and it was in his dorm room that Wood and Scott passed time between classes. The friendship that sprung from these meetings led Scott and Wood to ask Walsh to help them found their organization. After just one year at Washington College, Walsh left in June 1866 to take up his family's business as a merchant. In 1874 he spent time traveling in Africa on safari. Returning home to Richmond in impaired health, he died two years later in 1876 and is also buried in Hollywood Cemetery. Wood later wrote, “The principal work the first year (December 1865 - June 1866) was done in Walsh's room. Walsh was bright and capable, and he helped me a great deal, especially in connection (designing) with the badge.” It is likely that Walsh financed the first seven badges from a Lexington jeweler named D.M. Riley.
Stanhope McClelland Scott, the younger brother of William, was 15 years old at the time of Kappa Alpha's founding, making him the youngest founder. Even though he did not enter Washington College until January 1866, as the brother of Will Scott, he was involved in the early meetings and is considered a founder. Graduating in 1871 from Washington College, Scott went on to study medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After receiving his medical license, he returned to the land he knew as a boy and established a medical practice. Dr. Scott practiced medicine in Western Maryland and Northern West Virginia for over 50 years. The last surviving founder, he died September 4, 1933, and is buried in the Terra Alta, W. Va. Cemetery