Rooted in Golden Oak

Published on June 15, 2021 in News, Press Releases

Did you know the original petition to form Sigma Tau Gamma was signed on a fireplace mantle? Below, read about one of the greatest relics in the Fraternity’s history.

Written by CEO Emeritus Bill Bernier, Kent State

This fireplace mantle is constructed of quarter-sawed golden oak. One is unlikely to encounter this wooden art absent antique origin. That is because harvested golden oak of sufficient size to produce quarter-sawed boards is no longer available.

This fireplace mantle was the pride of “Ma” Trotter. It graced the parlor of her popular rooming house known as the House of Trotter in Warrensburg, Missouri. 

In 1920, Founder Emmett Ellis was a trusted resident, having lived there while attending college in 1917 when he enlisted in the Army Ambulance Corps. In this era, there were residence halls for women only.

Founder Allen Nieman startled Mrs. Trotter with his sheer size when he sought residence. The boarding house was at full capacity with no rooms available, yet his charming demeanor induced her to allow him to take up residence in her parlor, the location of her much-beloved fireplace.

Prior to his WWI service, Founder Nieman attended William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri, where he had been a member of a local college fraternity. Naturally gregarious, Nieman made quick friends with all of the House of Trotter residents. His room, the parlor, became a gathering point.

In early July, following the June 28, 1920 gathering of the Founders in Professor Parker’s room, the Founder’s gathered in “Ma” Trotters parlor. There they signed the petition to the Faculty and the original Constitution of Sigma Tau Gamma.

In the small parlor, they crowded in. According to Founder Ellis, each Founder signed each document upon the ledge of the mantle of the fireplace. 

To our knowledge, no fraternity has a relic of this significance in its archives. In addition, the original petition to the faculty and the original constitution signed upon the mantle of this fireplace is in the archives of Sigma Tau Gamma.

Today, the golden oak fireplace mantle can be found at Sigma Tau Gamma Headquarters in Indianapolis. It sits at the center of the building, with chairs, a table, and a couch sitting in front, creating a warm and inviting space, just like it did for “Ma” Trotter 100 years ago.



Founded at the University of Central Missouri on June 28, 1920, Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity celebrated 100 years of brotherhood in 2020. In the last 100 years, the organization has called 197 campuses home and has more than 73,000 initiated members. With a current presence on 75 campuses from coast to coast, our membership includes more than 2,700 undergraduate men. The Headquarters, which is home to the Fraternity, Foundation, and WPN Housing Company, is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Visit for additional information.