Phi Kap, Skulls
Epsilon Chapter
Black and Old Gold
Maltese Cross, Skull
Yellow Chrysanthemum
Nationally Founded
October 19, 1850 at the University of Pennsylvania
Locally Chartered
August 16, 1854
Leukemia and Lymphoma
Local Website
National Website

Phi Kappa Sigma

Charles Francis Himes with the help of friends founded the Epsilon chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma in 1854, the first fraternity at Dickinson College. The original chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma was located at the University of Pennsylvania and was founded by Dr. Samuel Brown Wiley Mitchell on October 19, 1850. Mitchell and six other friends adopted a constitution, which led to establishment of Beta chapter at Princeton in 1853. The brothers of Phi Kappa Sigma could now call themselves a national fraternity. One year after that, the Epsilon chapter at Dickinson College overcame many struggles with the faculty to become the fifth chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma in the nation.

As fraternities had grown in popularity and spread throughout the nation's universities, anti-fraternity sentiment began to rise. Most of the student body denounced fraternities as undemocratic and probably detested their exclusion from them. The campus community as a whole regarded fraternities as evil and Dickinson College devoted much time and energy to digging up these secret organizations and destroying them as quickly as possible.

Building their organization was not easy, as the administration became suspicious of everything; complete secrecy was the key to survival of the Epsilon chapter. Finding new members for initiation into the Epsilon chapter was no easy task. Since secrecy was of the utmost importance, the brothers had to be sure that they could trust their college career to the prospective member's judgment. If this prospective member decided for any reason to approach the faculty about the existence of the fraternity, the college careers of the entire chapter were in jeopardy. It was also necessary to judge the feelings of the prospective member on the subject of fraternities before the question of them joining could be asked, as most men in those days were of anti-fraternity sentiment. Lastly, there was the final problem of asking the prospective student to join the Epsilon chapter without raising the suspicion of other students or faculty.

Keeping the organization a secret was, of course, trying at times. After three years of hiding from the faculty and administration, President Collins discovered the Epsilon chapter. On November 27, 1857 the Epsilon chapter roll was obtained by the faculty, which named a total of thirteen students as members of the fraternity. The fraternity was required by the President to disband, hand over their chapter papers to be burned, and to sign a pledge not to meet as a group thereafter. According to Charles Coleman Sellers, "when discovered by the faculty and order to disband it (the fraternity) gave, but by no means kept, its acquiescence." Supported by its original founders, including Charles Francis Himes, who was still very active in Epsilon affairs, the existence of Phi Kappa Sigma continued in secret even after it was discovered by the faculty.

Following the Civil War, Charles Francis Himes returned to the college as a professor in the fall of 1865 and again became extremely active in the affairs of his fraternity. Now that he was on campus again, it was easier to monitor what was going on and to advise the current members on issues. In the fall of 1866, after the close of the Civil War, there were only six brothers present on campus to begin the twelfth year of the existence of Epsilon at Dickinson College. The war hurt Chapter as well as Dickinson College and in 1877, Epsilon chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma ceased to exist because there were only 51 students enrolled on campus and the brothers would not lower their standards just to keep their chapter alive.

With the help of Himes, on September 18, 1895, thirteen students were initiated into the Epsilon chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma at a home on West Pomfret Street which became the first fraternity house on the campus. Phi Kappa Sigma had managed to survive beyond their discovery by the faculty in 1857 and through the hard times of low enrollment at Dickinson after the Civil War. The Epsilon Chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma has since initiated thousands of brothers at Dickinson College and is currently running smoothly with 38 active brothers.