The Founding of Sigma Chi

The beginnings of The Sigma Chi Fraternity are traced back to the fall of 1854 at the Kappa Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (Deke). A bitter disagreement arose in this chapter of 12 men. Six of them, led by Whitelaw Reid, supported one of the members for Poet in the Erodelphian Society. Four of the other six members, James Parks Caldwell, Isaac M. Jordan, Benjamin Piatt Runkle, and Franklin Howard Scobey, refused to vote for the brother because they knew him to lack poetic abilities. They favored a man for office who was not a Deke. Thomas Cowan Bell and Daniel William Cooper were not members of Erodelphian, but sided with the four members in the disagreement.

The chapter of 12 was then evenly divided in a difference of opinion that ordinarily would have been easily decided and then forgotten. However, both sides considered it a matter of principle and refused to compromise. The ensuing months resulted in a constantly widening breach in the chapter.

The disagreement came to a boil at a dramatic dinner meeting in February 1855 at a restaurant in Oxford. The meeting was hosted by Bell, Caldwell, Cooper, Jordan, Runkle, and Scobey in hopes of finally solving the disagreement. The gentlemen arrived early and waited for the other members. After some time, Whitelaw Reid arrived with a stranger to the group—Minor Millikin (an alumnus of the fraternity from nearby Hamilton, Ohio).

Millikin lost no time: “My name is Minor Millikin; I live in Hamilton. I am a man of few words.” He then passed judgement on the matters after hearing only Reid’s side of the story. His verdict was against Runkle and the others and stated his plan to solve the situation. His decision called for the expulsion of the leaders of the rebellion (undoubtedly Runkle and Scobey), and the punishment of the other members who sided with them.

At this dramatic moment, Runkle stepped forward, pulled off his Deke pin, tossed it on the table and remarked, “I didn’t join this fraternity to be anyone’s tool. And that sir is my answer!” Runkle stormed out of the room, followed by his five colleagues.

A long correspondence ensued with the eventual expulsion of Bell, Caldwell, Cooper, Jordan, Runkle, and Scobey by the parent chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Yale University. At this time, the six began making plans for their own fraternity.

They associated themselves with William Lewis Lockwood, a fellow student of the university who had not joined a fraternity. He evolved to be the businessman of the fraternity, and more than any other Founder, was responsible for the general plan of the Fraternity. Much of this plan still endures today.

With all of their plans formally completed, the seven Founders announced the establishment of their new Fraternity by wearing their badges in public for the first time on Commencement Day at Miami University on June 28, 1855.