A group of twelve men established the Benton Literary Society at the Normal School during the years 1891-1892. They wanted an association dedicated to the encouragement of literary efforts, particularly debate and oratory. Students named the society in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, a well-known orator and political figure who had served in the Missouri legislature, as well as in the U.S. Congress. Their motto was “Once a Benton, always a Benton.” In the early years of the college, literary societies were a very important part of the social and scholarly life on campus. As time went by, the growing need for classroom space, more interest in social life, and declining interest in debate and other scholarly activities led to the marginalization of literary societies. After much discussion, fraternity houses gradually replaced literary societies. In the late 1950s, the Benton Literary Society petitioned to become a chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. On April 10, 1960, the Bentons officially became the Epsilon Phi chapter of the 133rd chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity in the United States.