In the fall of 1854 a disagreement arose in Kappa chapter of Delta
Kappa Epsilon at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. This chapter consisted
of 12 men. Six of them, lef by Whitelaw Reid, supported one of the
members for Poet in the Erodelphian Literary 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. The man they did favor
was not a Deke. Thomas Cowan Bell and Daniel William Cooper were not
members of the Erodelphian, but their relation to the disagreement was
unqualified endorsement of the four. Thus, they became six.
The chapter of 12 was evenly divided in a difference of opinion that
ordinarily would have been decided easily one way or another. But both
sides considered it a matter of principle, and could not reach a
compromise. During the ensuing months their friendship grew distant.
Chapter meetings occurred for months with the breach constantly
widening. A dramatic dinner meeting at a restaurant in Oxford in
February 1855 set the stage for Sigma Chi's founding. Bell, Caldwell,
Cooper, Jordan, Runkle and Scobey hosted the event, hopingto mend ways
with the other six. In the words of Benjamin Piatt Runkle, "They did
not come for a long time, and then only Mr. Reid and a stranger. He
took into his confidence Minor Millikin (from nearby Hamilton, Ohio)
and the two decided on strenuous proceedings."
Millikin introduced himself, then passed judgement on all of the
matters in dispute. Since he had heard only one side of the story, his
verdict was against Runkle, Scobey and the others who had originally
opposed election of the Deke. Millikin found them guilty.
Next, Millikin unfolded a plan he and Reid had concocted by which
"justice" would be satisfied with the formal expulsion of the leaders
in the rebellion. At the moment Runkle stepped forward, pulled off his
Deke pin, tossed it upon the table and said, "I did not join this
fraternity to be anyone's tool. And that, sir, is my answer!" The six
stalked out of the room.
A rather prolonged correspondence ensued with the parent chapter of
Delta Kappa Epsilon at Yale, resulting in "The Bull of Excommunication"
in April 1855, expelling Bell, Caldwell, Cooper, Jordan, Runkle and
Scobey. It was at this time they began making plans to found their own
One of the best moves these six ever made was to associate themselves
with William Lewis Lockwood. He had entered Miami early in 1855 but had
not joined a fraternity. He was the "businessman" of the group and
possessed a remarkable organizing ability. More than any other founder,
he was responsible for setting up the general plan of the Fraternity,
much of which endures today.
During the latter months of the 1854-1855 college year, Runkle and
Caldwell lived in what is known as the birthplace of Sigma Chi (or
Sigma Phi, as it was originally called). Having been members of Delta
Kappa Epsilon, six were familiar with the general outline of fraternity
constitution and ritual content. With plans formally completed, the
seven founder announced its establishment by wearing their badges for
the first time in public on Commencement Day at Miami University, June