History of Sigma Chi

Sigma Chi History

In December, 1855, William Lewis Lockwood wrote his feelings about the fraternity he had helped create. He was the only "outsider". He had not been a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity as the other six had been. On January 5, 1856, he spoke to his six brothers:

"I look back over the few short months since our union of kindred hearts and minds. The offspring of love and good intent!. . .Many difficulties will beset our path, but like David we must go forth alone to fight the Philistines, and like him we will conquer and shall be the best of old Miami's (of Ohio) sons. But in order to become so, we each and every one must struggle upward and onward. Let us strive to be rich and great, not in lands and money, not with the vulgar throng, but rich in mental worth, great among the intellectual. . .and good, that "thy spirit shall come at times to the dreams of men to settle peace within their souls." Let us spare no labor, nor be sparing of toil. Let us give our whole strength to the work, and endeavor to fill with honor the place where we are."

Lockwood concluded his thoughts on that January evening with these prophetic words: "And when the green on our graves has mouldered away, some gray warrior sitting by night at the blazing fire will tell thy deeds to his sons, and they shall bless and admire the men of old."

The Seven Founders..."All Honor to Their Names"

Sigma Chi History

Benjamin Piatt Runkle was 18 years old when Sigma Chi was founded and was, perhaps, the most rebellious of the seven, noted by his adamant stance when confronted by the Deke alumni. He, along with Lockwood, designed the badge: "Its selection grew from an admiration of its meaning." After graduation, he served nobly in the Civil War; he volunteered for service and quickly became Major General. At the battle of Shiloh, he was seriously wounded and left for dead leading to premature accounts of his death in newspapers. His wounds forced him to retire from military service. He was the only founder to serve Sigma Chi as its national president from 1895-1897. He lived his last eight years in Hillsboro, Ohio and, ironically, died on the 61st birthday of Sigma Chi at the age of 80. He is remembered for his courage: first in college by standing firm on his principles and later on the battlefield.

Thomas Cowan Bell was 23 years old when he helped found Sigma Chi and he is remembered for his keen wisdom in decision-making and in his later life. His aunt's home was used as the first chapter house of Sigma Chi, where the seven would meet to formulate ideas and discuss issues. Bell served with distinction in the Civil War attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After the war he returned to education, becoming the superintendent of schools in Nobles County, Minnesota; later he became president of Philomath College and later of Central Oregon State Normal School. His personality and unselfishness caused Runkle to say that Bell had "an expression on his face that made one instinctively reach for his hand."

William Lewis Lockwood was born on Halloween in 1836, and was the only founder not a member of Dekes. He possessed the needed skills of organization and integrity which were crucial in Sigma Chi's survival and expansion. With enthusiasm he joined the six founders and continued to be very active while in college and as an alumnus. After graduating he returned to his home in New York, passed the bar in 1860, and began practicing law. When the war broke out, he helped recruit volunteers and eventually attained the rank of Captain. However, he was seriously wounded at the assault on Fort Wagner and had to be discharged. He formed the very successful firm of Lockwood, Alpin and Company but his health failed and in 1867 he died at the early age of 31. He is remembered for his integrity in establishing Sigma Chi, in his honorable service to his country and in his professional life.

Daniel William Cooper was known as the "balance wheel" of the fraternity because of his maturity and confidence. He was 26 years old when he help found Sigma Chi and gave the group inspiration and cohesion; he was the first president of the chapter. After graduation he entered the seminary and was ordained a Presbyterian minister which took him to many churches and on missionary services. He was the last of the founders to die (1920) and his original pin was presented to the fraternity as a permanent memento of the founding and is now passed on from one national president to the next. He is remembered for his self-control and level-headedness. These traits led Runkle to recall: "The little band was, if possible, over-stocked with physical courage, nervous energy, and overleaping ambition to place the White Cross high in the heavens. Cooper was quiet, calm, earnest, true, conscientious, and faithful. He was as the shadow of St. Peter passing by. We all sought him in his modest quarters, and no one came away without better resolutions and stronger hopes."

Franklin Howard Scobey emphasized the importance of diversity of personalities and character when recruiting new members embodying the philosophy set forth in the "Spirit of Sigma Chi". He was instrumental in recruiting four of the others into Dekes and later recruited Lockwood. Runkle had this to say about his soft-spoken friend: "Without Frank Scobey I do not believe that Sigma Chi would have succeeded and endured. We had our disappointments, our months of gloom and times when it seemed that we had no chance of success. But Frank Scobey was never discouraged. Always looking on the more hopeful side, his very smile and cheerful words of encouragement gave us new heart." And he was only 18! After graduation he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1860, but suffered from increasing deafness which hindered him in later life. Finally settling on a farm near Oxford, he became intensely involved in horticulture and unfortunately became afflicted with an acute facial inflammation causing him to become isolated. At the age of 41 he died. He is remembered for his congeniality and courtesy in his dealings with others and for his cheerfulness when faced with adversity.

James Parks Caldwell was the youngest of the founders being only 14 when he became part of Sigma Chi. Early in his life, others saw his remarkable intelligence and dedication to his principles. After three years at Miami he was graduated and then studied law. He moved to Mississippi and set up a law practice but soon enlisted in the Confederate Artillery when the war started. He was captured in 1863 and remained a prisoner of war until the conflict ended. During his imprisonment he was offered his freedom if he denounced his allegiance to the Confederacy but he declined and remained loyal to the South. After the war he practiced law and traveled extensively throughout the United States. In 1888 he returned to Mississippi where he set up his law practice. He died in 1912 in Biloxi and is remembered for his fidelity to principle, evidenced in his college days and during the Civil War. His young age while in college inspired the other founders to foster a "spirit of youth."

Isaac M. Jordan, besides being one of the "recalcitrant six", was largely responsible for the initial expansion of Sigma Chi. While a student he vigorously recruited new members both at Miami and on other campuses. Upon graduation he studied law and was admitted to the bar; he practiced in Dayton and later formed a law practice with his brothers in Cincinnati. In 1882, Jordan was elected to Congress. He is remembered for his high ambition and initiative reflected in the Jordan Standard, which has become the guide for pledging men to Sigma Chi.

Constantine Chapter

Harry St. John Dixon and his small band of Sigma Chi soldiers established what has come to be known as the Constantine Chapter of Sigma Chi. The Constantine Chapter was organized on the night of September 17 during the heated Atlanta campaign of the Civil War. The place of the historic event was a few miles southwest of Atlanta. Dixon, who was a member of Psi chapter’s class of 1861 at the University of Virginia, states the circumstances under which the war-time chapter was conceived:

It was ascertained that a number of the Fraternity were in the Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston during the Atlanta campaign in 1864. It was conceded that the South was forever disunited from the general government, and it was assumed that all chapters throughout the South would cease to exist. Furthermore, it was deemed expedient that we brothers should know each other and our several commands for the purposes of relief in distress, and communication in case of need, with our Northern brethren. In the ruin at hand my sentiment was to preserve the lofty principles typified by the White Cross. I know that I had no authority to establish a chapter of Sigma Chi outside a college, or at all; but, isolated as we were, I thought I should raise the standard and fix a rallying point. By so doing, we should preserve t he order, whether we failed or not in our struggle for independence.

Sigma Chi HistorySigma Chi History

Throughout the war, Dixon kept informed of all Sigma Chis known to be in the vicinity, and he kept their names recorded upon the flyleaf of his diary. With the plan for a Confederate Army chapter fully formed, he and Harry Yerger, Mississippi 1864, who was in Dixon’s division, contacted all brothers who might reach the place selected for the meeting. Of this first meeting Dixon wrote:

The meeting was held in a deserted log cabin on the outskirts of the camp, at night. By a miraculous effort one wretchedt allow candle was procured. The cabin was in a state of frightful dilapidation. Its rude walls and rafters were covered with soot and cobwebs, and the floor showed evidences of having been the resting place of sundry herds of sheep. But the spirit was there and shone brightly. There was no time for ceremonies beyond what were absolutely necessary. We had left the camp without permission and did not know at what minute our bugles would sound ‘To horses’ as the ‘fearful adversary’ was at hand. We got some ‘chunks’ and, by placing rails upon them, improvised benches, lit our candle, had the President reconnoitre the premises thoroughly, and upon his report that all was well, proceeded with business. This, however, was hardly necessary, as our ‘hall’ was on the edge of a lonely field, and was almost covered with vines and overhanging trees.

The chapter elected Harry St. John Dixon as Sigma, or president, and Harry Yerger as Chi, or vice president. Other brothers known to be involved in this chapter include Reuben T. Pollard, Mississippi 1861; Evan J. Shelby, Mississippi 1862; and William H. Bolton, original Sigma Chi chapter at La Grange (Tennessee) 1862. The Constantine Chapter initiated two men, Thomas N. Fowler and A.B. Raffington.

The only badge in the chapter was the one Dixon improvised earlier in the war. All had lost their original badges. The loss was keenly felt, for the badge could not then be replaced in the South, and Dixon cherished it as invaluable in case of capture. With an ingenuity born of necessity, Dixon fashioned a rough substitute from a silver half-dollar. The task required several weeks of tedious work, which he performed at odd times in camp with his pocket knife and a file. With great labor, he even set the Greek letters SC therein with bits of gold.

A final, formal meeting occurred New Year’s Day 1865. With Dixon presiding, these devoted men of the Southland passed a resolution to pay a tribute of respect to the four Constantine Chapter Sigs who had died during the war. The last days of the war quickly came and rendered impossible any further activities of this wartime chapter.

Core Values, Vision, and Mission

Core Values
Sigma Chi’s core values are Friendship, Justice and Learning. Our vision is to become the preeminent collegiate leadership development organization — aligned, focused and living our core values. Our mission is to develop values-based leaders committed to the betterment of character, campus and community.

Vision
The fundamental purpose of the Sigma Chi Fraternity is the cultivation, maintenance and promotion of the core values of Friendship, Justice and Learning.

Mission
In the pursuit of these high ideals, the Sigma Chi Fraternity is able to offer tremendous value in augmenting the collegiate experience and supporting the lifelong journey of each of its members. We hope to assist brothers in becoming men of character, caring husbands, compassionate fathers and community leaders.