From the archives: Wire editor kidnapped

Louis Moench, News Reporter

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The history of fraternities on Whitman campus goes way back — the first Greek organization on campus was established in 1913.

National fraternities, such as Beta Theta Pi, have long been prominent institutions with many well-known members and sizable resources. Controversies surrounding their activities, however, have also long been their couple.

Many of the fraternities that are well-established today had their beginnings as less-established “secret societies,” usually male organizations of students exhibiting various degrees of mischievousness.

Theta Nu Epsilon (TNE), today a sophomore-only group recognized by the North American Interfraternity Conference, was founded on the campus of Wesleyan University as a chapter of Yale’s Skull and Bones society in 1870. Their initial development included the founding of unsanctioned chapters at universities throughout the American South, which were sometimes banned by their universities for engaging in student political mischief, according to Baird’s Manual of American College Fraternities.

At the same time as TNE was growing in membership, secret members were believed to have taken advantage of the senatorial system to control student government, even at Whitman. 

When these coalitions were banned, the TNE chapter at Whitman responded by kidnapping the editor-in-chief of the Whitman Pioneer, Whitman’s former student newspaper, ridding him of his shoes and dropping him off 10 miles into the Blue Mountains.

According to Dana Bronson, Associate Archivist at Whitman, Kenny Davis was so embarrassed by having been kidnapped that when he returned to the offices of the Pioneer, he burned the entire run of the paper on the front page — which was the story of his kidnapping. The Pioneer was reprinted that day with no mention of his kidnapping, but that did not keep the story from reaching the Seattle Times later that week.

TNE was made to pay for the cost of the incinerated editions.

Here is the article Davis burned, referring to the kidnappers as a “Mysterious Force,” which is what TNE had dubbed their members responsible for his kidnapping.