History of Sigma Alpha Epsilon

A paragraph history of Sigma alpha epsilon from the founding of the fraternity to the present time. Chronologically arranged.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was a secret fraternity. As such, a lot of the names of members has been lost over the years. However, if your ancestor was a member of this fraternity, then this manuscript should provide some insight into the early chapters of the fraternity.

Birth of Sigma Alpha Epsilon

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was founded on the ninth day of March, 1856, at the University of Alabama, in the old city of Tuscaloosa. Eight students who had become hard and fast friends were the founders of this brotherly society, which was destined to extend to the furthermost limits of the country. Chief of the eight was Noble Leslie De Votie, an Alabama boy by birth, who was a youth of splendid promise. He was the originator of the fraternity. He, as well as the others, had formed a warm friendship for each of their group, and it was his idea that a fraternity would best perpetuate the ties which, as their college days drew to a close, seemed nearer and dearer to them all. Along the banks of Black Warrior River is the edge of the Tuscaloosa campus, and in the fall days of 1855, as these companions strolled by the river side, De Votie first unfolded his conception of a new fraternity. The thought of a bond which would hold them together for all time was full of interest to them. So it came about that in the late hours of a stormy night, the friends met in the old southern mansion and by the flicker of dripping candles organized Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The Founders

There were eight of the friends. They were Noble Leslie De Votie, John B. Rudulph, John W. Kerr, Nathan E. Cockrell, Wade Foster, Abner Patton, Samuel Dennis and Thomas C. Cook. The last of these named was not present at the time of organization. Cook had planned the fraternity with the others, but shortly before it was organized he had withdrawn from the University of Alabama and entered Princeton. At the first meeting it was voted that no one should be considered a member of the fraternity "except those present." This was afterwards rescinded to the extent of voting Cook a member, and sending him a ritual that he might initiate himself. He has always been considered one of the founders.

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Who actually founded the Sigma Alpha Epsilon is still a matter for debate. While all purport that these eight were indeed there at the beginning of the fraternity, who created the actual idea of the fraternity, and who wrote most of the bylaws is debatable. You can find another history located here: Some Notes on Theta's History