EUGENIA TUCKER COCHRAN FITZGERALD


The Founder of Alpha Delta Pi



   Eugenia Tucker grew up in a world of wealth and privilege, surrounded by people who had to struggle just to get by.  Her father, a wealthy planter, sent her to Wesleyan College in Macon, where she could obtain the finest education a fine young lady could receive.  While at Wesleyan, Eugenia and a small group of school girls founded the Adelphean Society, the first society or sorority for college women in the United States, on May 15, 1851   The Adelphean Society evolved into Alpha Delta Pi, the oldest women's sorority in the world.

     Eugenia was born January 29, 1834 in the Buckeye District of Laurens County. Her father, Dr. Nathan Tucker, was a Rhode Island native who came to Laurens County in the 1820s to set up what later became a widespread and lucrative medical practice.  Dr. Tucker, amassed one of the largest plantations in Laurens County.  His home, Buena Vista, was located at the northeast corner of the Buckeye Road and Jackson Lake Road, formerly known as the Wrightsville and Oconee Road. Dr. Tucker, one of  the largest slave owners in the county, was known far and wide for his compassion for his slaves.  As a delegate to the Secession Convention of 1861, Dr. Tucker voted "no" on the issue of leaving the Union.  During the war, he forbade Gen. Samuel Wray Ferguson's Mississippi Cavalry, who was on picket duty between Sherman and Andersonville, from camping on his plantation.

     Laurens County's school system in the 1840s was less than sufficient, especially for the upper class children of the county's wealthy planters.  Dr. Tucker, who surprisingly had no college education, wanted the best possible education for his five children, four girls and one boy, Lucien Quincy Tucker.   Dr. Tucker employed governesses from the North to help him in raising his family. His wife, Elmira Horn Tucker, died at a young age.  One governess, because of her radical abolitionist ideas, caused such a stir with the house servants that she was promptly dismissed and sent home.  The library of the thirteen - room Tucker home  was lined with shelves filled with all of the classical literature of the day.  Dr. Tucker subscribed to the best magazines and once a year shipped them off to Philadelphia for binding.  Lucien and Eugenia were sent to closest private academy  at Midway, near Milledgeville.   Eugenia and her brother completed their courses at the academy. Lucien was sent to Princeton University to complete his formal education.
       
     A daughter of a neighbor returned from Macon with stories of how wonderful Wesleyan was.  Eugenia had never seen much of the world.  Dublin, fourteen miles away, was a lifeless and decaying town.  Midway was a little better, not far from the capital city of Milledgeville.  Eugenia, like her father, was a lover of books. Eugenia dreamed of going to college.  Finally, Dr. Tucker consented and summoned Hector and Paris, two of his most trusted servants, to fetch his  finest black horses and hitch them  to the big carriage.  Uncle Peter, another of Dr. Tucker's oldest and most faithful servants, took Eugenia on the fourteen-mile ride up the Oconee Road to Oconee Station on the Central of Georgia Railroad.  From Oconee, Eugenia boarded the west bound train for Macon.  It was a new world with strange faces all around her.  Eugenia lips quivered.  Her heart beat raced.  The dreaded entrance examination was upon her.   Naturally,  she passed the test and entered the Junior class at Wesleyan, which in 1836 became the world's  first college established exclusively for women.

     The girls began their days with a 6:30 a.m. prayer, followed by a series of two-hour recitations.  Their day ended with a 7:00 p.m. supper.  Bed time was 10:30.  Upon meeting other members of her junior class, Eugenia found that "they were more of mischievous enjoyment than their lessons."   She decided that what Wesleyan needed was a women's society, one that "would influence her friends to
join her in forming an association for their advancement."  Nineteen young girls (Eugenia was only seventeen) gathered on  May 15, 1851.  Prof. Edward A. Meyers, an English professor at the college, suggested that the group call themselves, "The Adelphean Society."   The word "Adelphean" was derived from the Greek word meaning "sister."  Eugenia was elected as President of the society.

     Along with Eugenia, five of her closest friends are considered the original founders.  The girls were mostly from influential families in the state.  Ella Pierce was a daughter of Bishop George F. Pierce, the college's first president. Octavia Andrew, who entered Wesleyan at the age of thirteen, was a daughter of a Bishop James O.  Andrew. Other founding members were Mary Evans, daughter of a Methodist minister in Macon, Elizabeth Williams, and Sophronia Woodruff.

     Eugenia graduated as valedictorian of her Wesleyan Senior Class of 1852.   In an elegant ceremony in the Tucker home on December 4, 1861, Eugenia joined hands in marriage with  Judge Arthur Erwin Cochran, formerly of Wilkinson County  but then a resident of Glynn County.

     Judge Cochran was one of the most brilliant lawyers in the state.  He was a member of the Georgia legislature and a member of the Secession Convention, where he, like his future father in law, supported remaining  in the Union.  Cochran,  the first judge of the Brunswick Superior Court Circuit,  recognized the need for better railroads.  He resigned from the bench and was named the first president of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad.  The town of Cochran, Georgia is named in his honor.    Judge Cochran, a widower, had one son, Arthur Emmett Cochran, whom Eugenia raised as her own.   The younger Cochran, represented Pierce County in the Georgia legislature at the tender age of twenty one and later established a successful practice in San Diego, California.   Eugenia returned to Macon to live with her new family.  Following Judge Cochran's death in 1865, Eugenia, who was bequeathed a substantial fortune, toured with friends in Europe, places she had read about in her father's library.  After eight years of widowhood, Eugenia married Dr. Edmund Fitzgerald, of Macon, who was also a widower, with a beautiful young daughter.  Eugenia wrote in her memoir,


   "Nothing in my life give me more sincere pleasure than to see her occasionally and to feel that she regards me as her mother."  Following Dr. Fitzgerald's death in 1887, Eugenia moved to Washington, D.C. to live with her step daughter and her new husband, a civil engineer Captain A.F. Lucas.  Eugenia outlived most of her relatives.  Her sister, Ella, married Col. John M. Stubbs of Dublin, but who, like many young women of her time, died too young.   Her brother Luicien served with honor as a Captain in the 57th Georgia infantry during the War Between the States.

     The Adelphean Society became Alpha Delta Phi in 1905.  Nine years later, the name was changed to Alpha Delta Pi, to avoid confusion with a men's fraternity.  That same year, Wesleyan officials abolished all sororities at the school.  Eugenia remained active in the alumni association of Alpha Delta Pi, whose motto was originally,  "We live for each other."   She was affectionately known by generations of sorority members who succeeded her as "Mother Fitzgerald."  




   Suddenly, on 10th day of December in 1928, Eugenia died in her sleep in Fort Worth, Texas, where she had been living the last eighteen years with her niece Roberta Andrew Flournoy.  She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. In August of 1933, her body was disinterred and brought back to her second hometown of Macon. She was buried beside Dr. Fitzgerald.   At the age of ninety four, Eugenia had been the oldest alumni of Alpha Delta Pi and Wesleyan College.  She was the last survivor of those six young girls, who one hundred and fifty years ago today, founded the first and the oldest women's sorority in the United States.

Comments

A Georgian said…
Thanks for an excellent piece on our history
Lake Dweller said…
Thank you for once again sharing Georgia history in such an interesting manner!
I'm sharing this with many friends!