The Founding of Sigma Chi

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.

 

Founders of Sigma Chi

“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