Secret Society: Tau Eta Phi




Throughout the research for this blog, a mystery has remained. In Parham’s military records, he is recorded as being a student, but where? There was no direct confirmation he attended the University of Mississippi, now known as Ole Miss. This summer, a family road trip came across the photoed treasure. A relative produced a fraternity pin with the name P.M.Buford engraved upon the back. Through research, it was discovered this secret society, Tau Eta Phi, existed only during the year 1861 at the University of Mississippi as all the members went off to war.

The family was unable to locate any images online or references to this fraternity except an obscure historical document entitled The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History. “Greek” societies were not allowed on campus at that time and could, therefore, only meet off campus in secret. There were seven secret fraternities, Tau Eta Phi being one of them.  Only two literary societies were permitted on campus.

The University of Mississippi 1861 Senior Class Book states:

During the spring of 1861, political events interrupted campus activities, and many students withdrew before the end of the school term to enlist in the Confederate Army. Most joined a company called the “University Greys” led by William B. Lowry, a nineteen year old student. Others joined the Lamar Rifles (another Lafayette County unit) or returned home to enlist in local units.

With only four students registered for fall classes, the university closed, and would not resume classes until 1865.

Ole Miss has the patriotic heritage of a student body in 1861 which put aside education to defend their homes, lands, and country.


Who Were the Lamar Rifles?

Parham was a student at the time of his enlistment.  As documented in Lamar Rifles:  A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. by the Historical Committee of “The Survivors’ Association of Lamar Rifles”:

The members of this Company were some of them students of the University of Mississippi, and nearly all were sons of prosperous merchants, planters, and professional men, and of Revolutionary ancestors.  They, as well as their fathers, believed absolutely in the doctrine of State sovereignty and the right to defend their homes and all constitutional rights against the aggressions of the Federal Union if it should become necessary.  Theirs was true and loyal fidelity to the principles enunciated by the fathers of the country who founded the Republic.

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