National Fraternity Founding
The founding of Sigma Chi, began as the result of a disagreement over who would be elected Poet in the Erodelphian Literary Society of Miami University in Ohio. Several members of Miami University's Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter (of which all but one of Sigma Chi's founders were members) were also members of the Erodelphian Literary Society. In the fall of 1854 this society was to pick its Poet, and a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon was nominated for the position. He was supported by five of his brothers, but four others (Caldwell, Jordan, Runkle, and Scobey) felt that he lacked the required poetic talent. These men instead chose to give their support to another man who was not a member of the fraternity. Bell and Cooper were not members of Erodelphian, but their support for the dissenting four was unequivocal. The chapter had twelve members and so was evenly divided. Other differences might have been forgotten, but both sides saw this conflict as a matter of principle and over the next few months there came a distancing of their friendship. The matter came to a head in February 1855, when, in an attempt to seal the rift, Runkle and his companions planned a dinner for their brothers. The feast was prepared, and the table was set, but only one of the men who supported the DKE member as poet arrived, Whitelaw Reid. With him Reid brought a stranger. The six learned that the stranger was an alumnus of DKE from a nearby town.
"My name is Minor Millikin; I live in Hamilton", said the man. "I am a man of few words." Reid had told Millikin his side of the dispute, and the two were present to lay down punishment on Runkle, Scobey, and the rest. The leaders of the rebellion (Runkle and Scobey) were to be expelled from the fraternity. The other four, after being properly chastised, would be allowed to stay a part of the group. At the announcement of the punishment, Runkle stepped forward. He pulled off his Deke pin, tossed it to the table, and said, "I didn't join this fraternity to be anyone's tool! And that, sir", addressing Millikin, "is my answer!" Runkle stalked from the room and his five brothers followed. One final chapter meeting was held, at which the chapter was six-to-six divided on the issue of expulsion. The parent chapter at Yale University was contacted, and all six men were formally expelled. The six men soon associated themselves with William Lewis Lockwood, a student from New York who had not joined a fraternity. Lockwood's natural business acumen helped to organize the fraternity in its early years. On June 28, 1855 (Commencement at Old Miami), the Sigma Phi Fraternity was founded. The theft of the Constitution, Ritual, Seals, and other records from Lockwood's room in Oxford in January 1856 necessitated the change of the name of the fraternity to Sigma Chi. Eventually, this action could have been forced upon the group as there was already a Sigma Phi Society in the collegiate world. Much of Sigma Chi's heraldry is inspired by the legendary story of the Emperor Constantine from the Battle of Milvian Bridge against Maxentius. Notably, the White Cross and the motto "In Hoc Signo Vinces" are evidence of the Constantine link. Although many of the symbols of Sigma Chi relate to Christianity, Sigma Chi is not a religious or Christian fraternity
Benjamin Piatt Runkle (September 3, 1836 – June 28, 1916) was born in West Liberty, Ohio. Runkle helped design the badge of Sigma Chi based on the story of Constantine and the vision of the cross. Runkle was known for having a fierce pride and was suspended from Miami University when he fought a member of Beta Theta Pi for sneering at his badge. When the Civil War began Runkle joined the Union Army. He was badly wounded at the Battle of Shiloh and left for dead on the battlefield. Runkle stayed in the army as a career and retired as a major general. After the army he was ordained an Episcopal priest. He was the only founder to serve as Grand Consul. He died on Sigma Chi's 61st birthday in Ohio. He is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Thomas Cowan Bell (May 14, 1832 - February 3, 1919) was born near Dayton, Ohio. He was twenty-three years old when Sigma Chi was founded, second oldest of the founders. He graduated from Miami University in 1857 and began teaching. In 1861 he enlisted in the Union army and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war he returned to his career in education, serving as the superintendent of schools in Nobles County, Minnesota as well as the principal and president of several preparatory and collegiate institutions in the Western United States. Bell died the day after attending the initiation of alpha beta chapter at University of California Berkeley on February 3, 1919. He is buried at the Presidio of San Francisco in San Francisco National Cemetery in California. Section OS, Row 43A, Grave 3.
William Lewis Lockwood (October 31, 1836 - August 17, 1867) was born in New York City. He was the only founder who had not been a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. He was considered the "businessman" of the founders and managed the first chapter's funds and general operations, becoming the first Quaestor of Sigma Chi. After graduating from Miami University in 1858 he moved back to New York and began work as a lawyer. He joined the Union Army at the breakout of the Civil War and suffered serious wounds, from which he never recovered. He was the first founder to enter the Chapter Eternal. He named his son after Franklin Howard Scobey.
Isaac M. Jordan (May 5, 1835 - December 3, 1890) was born in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania as Isaac Alfred Jordan. His family later moved to Ohio where Jordan met Benjamin Piatt Runkle and became close friends. After graduating from Miami University in 1857 he went onto graduate school, where he graduated in 1862. He then began work as an attorney and was elected to the United States Congress in 1882. He proceeded to change his middle name, Alfred, to just the letter "M" to help distinguish himself from his brother and law partner, Jackson A. Jordan. He died in 1890 after accidentally falling down an elevator shaft while greeting a friend. He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Daniel William Cooper (September 2, 1830 - December 11, 1920) was born near Fredericktown, Ohio. Cooper was the oldest founder and was elected the first consul of Sigma Chi. After graduating from Miami University in 1857 he became a Presbyterian minister. Cooper's original Sigma Phi badge came into the possession of the Fraternity at the time of his death. It is pinned on every new Grand Consul at their installation. Cooper is buried at the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Franklin Howard Scobey (May 27, 1837 - July 22, 1888) was born in Hamilton, Ohio. Scobey was considered The Spirit of Sigma Chi for being friendly with everybody and not just a select group of people. After graduating from Miami University in 1858 he went on to graduate again in 1861 with a law degree. He worked as a journalist in his hometown until 1879 but went on to become a cattleman in Kansas until 1882. Scobey then moved back to Ohio where he took up farming until his death. Never physically robust, Scobey was afflicted with hearing loss in his final years.
James Parks Caldwell (March 27, 1841 - April 5, 1912) was born in Monroe, Ohio. By the age of thirteen Caldwell had completed all academics which could be offered at his local academy. He was then sent to Miami University with advanced credits. Caldwell was just fourteen at the time of the founding making him the youngest of the founders. After Caldwell graduated from Miami University in 1857 he practiced some law in Ohio but moved to Mississippi to begin a career as an educator. When the Civil War broke out he joined the Confederate Army. During the war he was taken prisoner but later, due to the influence of General Benjamin Piatt Runkle, was offered freedom on the condition that he renounce his allegiance to the Confederacy. He rejected this offer and remained loyal to the south. He was later released, again due to the influence of General Runkle. After the war he moved back to Mississippi and was admitted to the bar. He moved to California in 1867 and practiced law. In 1875 he began to travel frequently practicing law and editing newspapers. He died in Biloxi, Mississippi where the latest issues of The Sigma Chi Quarterly were found in his room.
Local Chapter History
The Theta Omicron (ΘΟ) Chapter of Sigma Chi was founded in 1985 here in Davis, CA. Originally, the chapter house location was at 525 Oxford Circle by Cuarto, before moving to its current location at 400 Parkway Circle across from the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC).
Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
The Sigma Chi Sweetheart is elected for the term of a year each Spring to assiss in organizing events and represent the chapter on campus and in the community.
"The girl of my dreams is the sweetest girl, of all the girls I know" -The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi