HUGH ARTHUR CARLISLE: FROM SIGMA TAU TO SIGMACHI TO BURIAL AT SEA IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC. RIP!As a member of Beta Xi chapter, University of New Mexico, Sigma Chi Fraternity, I probably thought I knew something about Hugh Carlisle. After all, his name was on a plaque on the fireplace. If asked, my response might have been “Sigma Chi; local boy; killed in World War I.” OK, sort of. Depending on your point of view, perhaps there was a much more interesting and complex story.
Hugh Arthur Carlisle, according to the most consistent evidence I found, was born November 28, 1890, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the son of James M. and Belle N. Carlisle. His father was apparently in the oil drilling business, which would account for the family moving around in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. They moved to Estancia, New Mexico after 1901 and are found there with Hugh in the 1910 census. By the time Hugh registered for the draft in 1917, he did not even list his parents’ address but, based upon other evidence, I believed they had eventually moved on to Brawley, California.
Although listed with his parents in Estancia in the 1910 census, I am guessing that the “18 year old” Hugh Carlisle also listed in the 1910 census as a boarder at the Garrison residence in Mesilla Park, New Mexico was the same as “Estancia” Hugh Carlisle. The New Mexico A & M (NMSU) yearbook lists him on the football team for 1909 and he may have enrolled there through the spring of 1911. We do find him at the University of New Mexico (UNM) beginning in the fall of 1911 thanks to his participation on the football team. He continued with that sport through the 1913 fall season, serving as captain of the team in 1912, and was considered “All Southwest” at right end by the Albuquerque Morning Journal for his play in 1913. He was playing on the varsity basketball team at UNM in February of 1914 and also played baseball. Hugh did not graduate from UNM but ended his studies there after his junior year in the spring of 1914.
For Sigma Chi, the important fact was that Hugh Carlisle was initiated into a local fraternity at UNM, Sigma Tau. The earliest reference I found to Carlisle as a Sigma Tau was in a newspaper account of the “follies” stage show published on February 4, 1912. An April 19, 1913, newspaper story listed an “H.A. Carlisle” among the Sigma Tau actives. Sigma Tau was created at UNM in 1907 apparently with the express purpose of eventually being chartered as a chapter of Sigma Chi. Sigma Tau gained local attention for its popular “follies” stage production and it purchased the home of former UNM President W. G. Tight on Central Avenue near the corner of what is now Central and University in Albuquerque. The success of Sigma Tau is certainly reflected in the number of its initiates from prominent Albuquerque families.
The Sigma Chi convention had rejected the Sigma Tau application three times before finally granting the charter on August 6, 1915. The prior rejection was generally seen as reflecting the small size and relative newness of UNM. The University recognized the situation and had strongly supported the effort of Sigma Tau to become a “national” fraternity. UNM President David Boyd, in 1915, publicly acknowledged that the granting of the charter was, at least in part, a reflection of the advancement and growth of UNM since the founding in 1889.
Hugh Carlisle remained active in the effort to obtain a Sigma Chi charter and was among the final Sigma Tau petitioners in 1915. Carlisle was initiated into Sigma Chi on April 22, 1916, the date of the installation of the chapter at UNM, along with student “actives” and several other graduates or former students. His active participation did not end with his initiation and in June of 1917 he and fourteen others, including the City Attorney, W.A. Keleher, an initiate at Washington & Lee University, formed the Sigma Chi alumni chapter in Albuquerque.
In addition to Carlisle, approximately 30 Sigma Tau became Sigma Chi at UNM in 1916. Three I believe played a role in post UNM story of Hugh Carlisle: (1) Pearce C. Rodey, a graduate of Harvard and a Sigma Tau during his earlier time as a student at UNM. Rodey had returned to Albuquerque in the fall of 1915, joining his father, Bernard Rodey, in the practice of law; (Bernard Rodey, as a territorial legislator, had carried the bill which created UNM in 1889); (2) Edmund Ross, who also did not graduate from UNM, but who, in 1914, was practicing civil engineering with his father, Pitt Ross; Edmund Ross was the grandson of Edmund G. Ross, who had served in the 1880s as the territorial governor of New Mexico and prior to that a U.S. Senator from Kansas. (Senator Ross was included in President John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” for bucking the political winds and voting against the impeachment “conviction” of President Andrew Johnson.); and, (3) Kenneth C. Balcomb, who did receive his BA in civil engineering in 1916, but became a prominent Albuquerque businessman in real estate and insurance; in addition to being Sigma Tau brothers, Balcomb was also a football teammate, and served in the National Guard with Carlisle. (Rodey and Ross were also among the 14 Sigs forming the Albuquerque alumni chapter.)
In 1914, Carlisle went to work as a “traveling salesman” with Gross, Kelly & Co. Gross Kelly was a major New Mexico wholesale/distributor business headquartered in Santa Fe with offices in four other New Mexico towns and in Trinidad, Colorado. Tobacco products were included in their business and that fact is consistent with the October 22, 1914, item in The Belen News noting that American Tobacco Co. representative Hugh Carlisle had been in town. (Newspapers had a hard time finding local news in those days.) In 1918 he moved on to work for a new Albuquerque wholesaler/distributor, Bond-Dillon Co., whose president, Richard C. Dillon, would serve as governor of New Mexico, 1927-30. Employees at both of these companies may have had an influence on Carlisle. Both companies were consistent sponsors of newspaper ads during WWI urging New Mexicans to buy Liberty Bonds. Gross, Kelly had even joined in sponsoring a full page ad which ran on July 27, 1918, encouraging the “Men of Albuquerque” to enlist in the U.S. Army.
Perhaps he needed no encouragement. Carlisle’s draft registration of June 5, 1917, noted that he had spent 3 years in the New Mexico National Guard, obtaining the rank of Lieutenant. Apparently his service coincided in apart with his tenure at UNM. For example, I did find a reference to Lt. H. A. Carlisle in a July 1913 newspaper story describing the use of the Guard to assist the police during an auto race. On his draft registration form he indicated his desire to return to the Guard. Efforts to regain his commission in 1917 may have been part of what was later described as his attempt to enlist and his rejection because of his “poor” vision.
Hugh Carlisle was included in the list of 69 persons from Bernalillo County drafted by the New Mexico Draft Board on July 25, 1918. The board in its announcement said Carlisle would serve as “captain” of the group headed to Camp Travis in San Antonio for training. Carlisle was eventually sent to Camp Wheeler in Georgia, where the Signal Corps trained personnel for “communication service” and assignment to various parts of the army needing that specialty. Carlisle, with the rank of Private, was assigned to the 106th Field Signal Battalion and the 31st Division of the Army Medical Detachment (AMEDD). He sailed for France with the 31st Division on October 7, 1918.
According to the history of the AMEDD, the 31st Division never “fully” participated in WWI. The report of the Chief Signal Officer to the Secretary of War states that the 106th Field Service Battalion ended up at the Signal Corp Replacement Depot at St. Aignan, France and returned to the United States on January 30, 1919. In fact, before it left Georgia the 106th Field Signal Battalion had been hit by the so-called “Spanish flu” outbreak. The close confines of a ship crossing the Atlantic probably did not help, even if the ship included men with medical training. Hugh Carlisle was among those who did not make it to the Replacement Depot in France. He died on October 18, 1918, of either influenza or pneumonia, and was buried at sea with military honors. His death is memorialized on the plaque at the American Cemetery in Suresnes, France honoring the 974 men buried or lost at sea.
Although “died from disease” was a major statistical category of service deaths in WWI, it is probably not surprising that Carlisle’s death was not big news in 1918. The only Carlisle death story I have found is one containing about sixty words published on November 26, 1918. Carlisle had married Dorothy Safford of Santa Fe on June 28, 1917, and the 1918 article was essentially Dorothy Carlisle’s statement that she had been notified of his death in France from pneumonia. As late as March 27, 1919, Dorothy Carlisle was still providing the New Mexico State Historical Service with information on Hugh’s death. The lack of accuracy in that earliest account, and the lack of a “headline grabbing” story line on his death makes the remembrance of Hugh Carlisle even more intriguing.
Hugh A. Carlisle Post No. 1. The American Legion essentially begins in France in February of 1919, followed by an organizational meeting in St. Louis in May, 1919. None other than Pearce C. Rodey was a member of the organizing committee in New Mexico, and a delegate to the St. Louis meeting. (Pearce Rodey had served in the Navy in 1918.) On June 4, 1919, a meeting was held in Albuquerque and the“Hugh A. Carlisle Post No. 1” was formed. Pearce Rodey was elected the first Vice-Commander of the post. The article in the Albuquerque Morning Journal on June 5, 1919, notes that American Legion rules required that the person for whom the post is named had to have been a resident of the county where the post was created. Although the article did not describe the “politics,” it did mention that one other name was considered for the Post name, David M. Rosenwald. The information on Hugh Carlisle was not completely accurate; it placed his death in France and indicated that he was still a student at UNM when he “enlisted.” It did, however, correctly note that he had played football and was a Sigma Chi. (The post in Albuquerque eventually became the “Carlisle-Bennett Post No. 13.”)
Carlisle Boulevard, Albuquerque. What is today a major north/south street in Albuquerque was mentioned in newspaper ads at least as early as April of 1926: “Beautifully located South of Nob Hill on Carlisle Avenue—Let us Show You.” (The Metcalf Agency.) (The name was spelled “Carlyle” in the 1927 City Directory, a correction made in the 1929 Directory.) The author of the book on Albuquerque street names did not have a clue as to the origin of the name, guessing it might have been named for the Pennsylvania town and Indian School, or maybe a local family. I did not find a newspaper story on the naming of the street but I do have some “circumstantial evidence” to introduce. On October 2, 1923, Hugh Carlisle’s Sigma Chi brother, Edmund Ross, was elected to the Albuquerque City Commission, a position he held through out the 1920s!
Carlisle Gym. In June of 1928 the University of New Mexico dedicated a new gymnasium, one of the four “Spanish Pueblo Revival Style” buildings built in 1927- 28 by UNM. Apparently the gym remained unnamed for almost a year and one-half. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1929, following a downtown parade of “two thousand participants,” a ceremony was held at UNM to name the gym after Hugh A. Carlisle. (The state cultural properties inventory notes that it was named for Hugh Carlisle, one of four UNM students who died in WWI, but the only one who did not die in combat. Other sources put the number of UNM WWI deaths at five.) Eight hundred people attended the ceremony and the UNM Board of Regents was represented by its President, Mrs. Reed Holloman. This ceremony, however, was primarily a “veterans day” event.
Although no longer an officer at the American Legion post, the master of ceremonies was Pearce C. Rodey. The Governor Dillon was the “featured speaker,” appropriate for a national holiday emphasizing the veterans and those who lost their lives. He did specifically mention that Hugh Carlisle had been a “business associate” and how pleased he was that Hugh’s sacrifice for his country was recognized by the university. What I would call the “commemorative speech” was given by a former American Legion Post Commander, Kenneth C. Balcomb.(Balcomb had made good use of his engineering background, enlisting in the Army June 29, 1918, and serving until December 4, 1918.) Balcomb, as if anticipating questions from a society celebrating “war heroes,” described Carlisle as “an example of a man who played the game of athletics and life in an honest, straightforward manner, fearing no one yet respecting everyone.” Carlisle, Balcomb noted, “was a steady and dependable chap . . . who always could be counted on.”
Given the different world of publicity and “communications” in 1918, it is not surprising that the remembrance of one service member by his community may look accidental or arbitrary. The brothers of Sigma Chi can no doubt be proud of the fact that one of their own was remembered by his contemporaries and indeed by his successors at the Beta Xi Chapter.
Mark B. Thompson, August, 2015
Historical information about Sigma Chi at UNM
This history is what I have found out as of 8/23/09.
Special thanks to Brad Tepper - a historian of the Albuquerque Country Club who was able to provide documents regarding the purchase of their old property by the Sigma Chi Alumni.
The Beta Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi was chartered in 1916. This was 61 years after the founding of Sigma Chi in 1855 and 27 years after the founding of UNM in 1889. The Chapter house was located at Central Ave and Terrace.
On July 9th, 1928, 12 short years after the start of the Beta Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Chapter, a number of Sigma Chi Alumni headed by Brother Rodey, had the vision and opportunity to purchase the old Albuquerque Country Club building which included 3 AC of land. I am still trying to identify how the Alumni Association purchased the other land which is depicted on the aerial images. Should anyone have knowledge of this, I would like to hear from you. Lee Morgan 505-980-2499.
This land is depicted on the old aerial photographic images posted to the history page of the Alumni web site www.abqex.com The property went from Las Villagras (Now Yale Blvd), extending west about an 1/8th of a mile with the south boundary being Las Lomas (originally known as Lomas), then extended north to an area just north of what we know as Lomas now. See the aerial images.
The Alumni apparently had a vision to permanently locate the Chapter house on this property as it was across the street from the University President’s home. The University was still relatively young and growing rapidly. Although the property was purchased on the above date it did not have clear title. The property cost was $19,400. There was a 1000.00 commission paid, $1000.00 down, $5000.00 due in 90 days and the balance was paid for on a contract for 5 years at the rate of 8% interest. There was a problem with the title so the State Legislature had to pass a bill to clear up the title. The state bill was approved on February 15th, 1929 to perfect the land title.
This is a excerpt from an article about the history of the Newman Center. The Newman Center was named after Cardinal John Henry Newman.
In early 1950, Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne, sensing a greater need by Catholic college students for direction and unity, purchased land for $80,000 on Las Lomas Road from the Sigma Chi Fraternity and asked the Albuquerque Council of Catholic Women (ACCW) to undertake a project of fund raising and remodeling of the dilapidated property. With enthusiasm and ingenuity, bold solicitations for donations and progressive dinners, the ACCW matched the Archdiocese contribution of $15,000 and turned the fraternity property into a residence for 20 male university students and the two Dominican chaplains, whom Archbishop Byrne invited to Albuquerque. Their efforts also provided a student lounge which accommodated 80 and a chapel that seated 40. The first chaplain, Father Ralph Goggins, O.P. and his assistant, Father John Reardon, O.P. brought great zeal to their work on the campus but there was little money to fund their own bare necessities.
“University’s Standing Is Recognized In Grant of Charter by Sigma Chi”
(The Evening Herald, Albuquerque, N.M. Saturday, August 7, 1915, p. 5)
“What is considered unusual recognition for a university so small as the local one is given by the granting of a charter to a local fraternity in the university, Sigma Tau, by the Sigma Chi Fraternity at its national convention in Berkeley, Cal., yesterday. Word of the action of the national body came from a delegation sent to the meeting last Sunday.
Dr. David R. Boyd, president of the university, stated this morning that he considered the action but one more recognition of the standing of the institution. ‘We have been recognized by the national association of state universities,’ the president said, ‘and now a great social organization has recognized us. It simply means that we are recognized as the equal of any university in the land, socially and every other way.
‘Sigma Chi is a fraternity of long standing and a large alumni roll. It never enters an institution of whose standing there is the slightest doubt. This charter means the national body, after thorough investigation, believes the university is permanent affair and one worthy of the highest sort of recognition.’
The delegation which attended the convention was composed of Hugh M. Bryan, H.T. Sewell, George T. Walker and Carl D. Brofein.
The granting of the charter ends a fight which has been prosecuted by the local fraternity since early in 1907. It was done as a result of the fourth petition entered, after two investigations had been made of the university by disinterested members of the national body, and several internal inquiries by individual members.
A powerful factor in obtaining the charter was the support of the governor, the president of the university regents, the university president, various faculty members and about a score of men prominent in local and state circles.
Several of the grand officers of the national fraternity will visit the local chapter next week. Arrangements are being made to show them the university and to acquaint them with local conditions. The chapter authorized by the issuance of the charter will be installed about Thanksgiving.
Sigma Chi was founded in 1855 at Miami university at Oxford, O. It now has over 12,000 members, divided into about seventy active and forty alumni chapters. Many of the most prominent men in the county have been members of it, as well as many who are in the public eye today. Walter L. Fisher, formerly secretary of the interior, George Ade, John T. McCutcheon and countless others whose names appear in print daily are members of it.
College men consider it near the top of the list of fraternities, from whatever standpoint it may be judged, whether size, number of chapters, men included within its chapter bounds, or what not. It is non-sectarian, broad in principle, and emphasizes such traits that the members are generally considered as men of the highest character. The petitioners have expressed themselves as highly honored at being admitted to it.
Among the New Mexico men who are members of it are Judge Larin C. Collins of Santa Fe; William A. Keleher, of this city; A.H. Rockafellow and Judge J. M Hervey, of Roswell; Herndon Lehr, of Silver City; Chair Justice, of Roy, and nearly a score of others. Roman Hubbell is the only other member in Albuquerque. All the men named aided in securing the charter for the local university institution.
The fraternity has the recognition of the faculty and is encouraged in its work by the president and other members of that body. The object of the Sigma Tau has been to bring together young men of high ideals, moderate ability, ambitious purposes and congeniality, for the benefits of fellowship and the moral and mental training which united striving for a common high ideal were expected to bring. In these it was striving practically for the same things that the larger national organization, which it petitioned, was striving.
The fraternity was the first in New Mexico, and possibly in Arizona also, to limit its membership to men of college rank; it was the first to maintain a fraternity house in Arizona or New Mexico, was the second to enter the University of New Mexico and is the third oldest organization in either of the states mentioned. It is also the first one in either state to own its home and the third in point of size in Arizona and New Mexico, being outranked in this respect by Delta Phi, an Arizona organization with over 100 members, and Pi Kappa Alpha, the first national fraternity in either Arizona or New Mexico, which formerly was the Alpha Alpha Alpha fraternity of the University of New Mexico, chartered by the national body about the end of the last college year.
The roster of graduate members of the fraternity, at the close of the last college year, was as follows:
Kenneth C. Balcomb, Allen E. Bruce, Carl D. Brofein, Howard S. Bateman, Thornton F. Bright, Charles R. Clark, Fred M. Calkins, W.F. Gatlin, Emmet Hannum, W. J. Higgins, A.S. Hunt, Pelham McClellan, Orin McGary, J.A. Lapraik, John Pennewill, James Redfield, H.M. Shields.
The members residing in Albuquerque, but not attending the university are: Charles M. Weber, Harry McL. Frank, Hugh M. Bryan, George Walker, Edmund Ross, D.R. Land, Elwood M. Albright, Willam McMillin, Hugh A. Carlisle, E. Stanley Seder, R. T. Sewell, Frank D. Shufflebarger.
These men all will become members of the Sigma Chi fraternity when the chapter is installed here.” (transcription by Mark Thompson, Beta Xi, 1958)
CHARTER ISSUED BY SIGMA CHI
TO LOCAL CHAPTER (The Albuquerque Morning Journal, Saturday, August 7, 1915, p. 4) “Recognition of Standing of University is Extended by Well-known College Fraternity at Recent Convention. Word was received yesterday from the delegation of Sigma Tau fraternity men who left Sunday morning for the Sigma Chi Convention at Berkeley, Calif., that the last named organization had granted a charter to the local body. The action ends a campaign which has endured since the spring of 1907, despite three defeats and numerous disappointments of minor sort.
The granting of this charter constitutes recognition of the University of New Mexico as growing, permanent, progressive institution by one of the most conservative organizations of college men in America. The delegation which secured the action was composed of Hugh M. Bryan, formerly Rhodes scholar from New Mexico, H. T. Sewell, assistant cashier of the American Trust, a Savings bank of the city, and George T. Walker and Carl D. Brorein. The granting of this charter was urged by many prominent men of the state, members of the Sigma Chi fraternity or in positions which lent added weight to their opinions as laymen.
University’s Worth Emphasized.
Since the principal difficulty in the past had been the size of the university and a fear that it would not endure, the members of the local organization, when they decided to send representatives to the convention of the body they sought to enter, concentrated their efforts on showing that the university was permanent, was growing, had a high standing and was progressive in policy. Letters and telegrams from the governor, the chairman of the board of regents, the president of the university, and many others were forwarded to the convention, some commending the personnel of the fraternity as well as the permanency and standing of the institution.
The standing of the university in the eyes of these members of the state community, it is understood, as expressed in these letters, was the deciding factor in securing the issuance of the charter. The recognition accorded the university, in thus issuing a charter to and an organization composed of its students, is regarded by Dr. Boyd and by the fraternity members as a stamp of national approval of the institution. Especially is this felt to be true when extended by an organization of such standing, dignity and age as the Sigma Chi fraternity.
Sigma Tau dates its history from December22, 1903, when it entered the university. It has initiated forty-nine men, of whom eighteen were undergraduate students at the end of the last college year. Some eighteen months ago it purchased the former home of Dr. W.G. Tight, opposite the university campus on East Central avenue, which it had leased for several years prior to that time, and has made its home there since.” (transcriber’s notes: Dr. David R. Boyd was the incumbent President of U.N.M. in August, 1915. Dr. William G. Tight was a former president and for whom the “Tight Grove,” at the N.E. corner of University and Central is named. Sigma Tau local is not to be confused with the engineering society by the same name created at the U. of Nebraska in1904. The UNM chapter of the engineering society was chartered in 1928 and in 1974 merged with Tau Beta Pi honorary.
Transcription by Mark Thompson, Beta Xi, 1958.)