Table of Contents
Collection Overview +/-
Collection Inventory +/-
Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-
Robert Gibson McNiece was born on 10 January 1839, on his family's farm in Topsham, Vermont. His family's humble circumstances and religious devotion would shape his character at an early age. He was raised and educated in the East, eventually becoming a Dartmouth College graduate.
Following his education, McNiece answered the call of the West; he was urged by his pastor to invest his religious zeal in the western territory of Utah and the State of California. McNiece arrived in Utah in 1877, and it is unclear if he ever had intentions of moving on to California. He sensed that he belonged in Utah, which at the time had relatively little Presbyterian presence.
Through misfortune came fortune. While McNiece was in Salt Lake City meeting with the Presbyterian congregations, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Josiah Welch, died. McNiece rose to the occasion and took Welch's place as minister, becoming the Church's second minister. He would serve in this position for two decades (1877–1897).
As a pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, McNiece's duties extended into the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute. When attempts were made to secure the foundation of a new institute of higher learning (the proposed "Salt Lake College," later "Sheldon Jackson College," and finally "Westminster College"), McNiece again rose to the occasion and was able to secure a large grant from benefactor Sheldon Jackson (1834-1909; Presbyterian minister, missionary, and Alaskan explorer). This gave new life to the efforts of solidifying the foundation of the new college, including the construction of campus buildings. Despite dark economic times, this grant moved the processes forward.
Over the coming years, McNiece would maintain close contact with Jackson and the college's President General John Eaton. A great many obstacles were in their path, some of which would prove to be stumbling blocks that would all but doom the fledgling college. Because of financial problems, Jackson had to rescind his original grant and instead deeded his Washington, D.C. property to the Board of Trustees. Robert Gordon, the college's financial agent and representative, was appointed to handle the Jackson property. Gordon was given all of the rights that his position afforded him, including power of attorney. Gordon spent money recklessly and did not keep accurate records—in the end, his expenses nearly ruined the college. Not surprisingly, Gordon never sold the property. His capabilities were assessed (although it was already too late) through inquiries made by the Board of Trustees, and he was removed from his position. No charges were ever brought against Gordon, for fear that the negative publicity would be the deathblow to the college.
Meanwhile, McNiece refused to give up hope. In 1902, Park City resident and retired Union Army Colonel William Montague Ferry was persuaded to step in on behalf of the college. Ferry purchased the property which the campus currently occupies, which allowed for the construction of new campus buildings. This facilitated many important things: prospective donors could now see proof of an institute with great potential, classes could be held once construction was complete on the new college building (Converse Hall), and the founders of the college, McNiece included, could begin to heal the financial wounds of the past.
Alhough in the background during this great financial struggle, McNiece's loyalties and ties to the college never wavered. He served as Dean and Professor until the year Ferry intervened on behalf of the struggling college (1897 – 1913); subjects taught by McNiece included "Greek, Rhetoric, Apologetics and the Bible, Philosophy, Literature and Civics" (Nyman). McNiece also served on the Board of Trustees during these years, working with the board to solidify the future of the college despite his disagreements with the incoming President Stevenson. Over the following decade, McNiece would begin to slow his activities, but would never lose the fiery ambition that gave rise to Westminster College. McNiece died on October 3, 1913, in Salt Lake City.
Brackenridge, R. Douglas. Westminster College of Salt Lake City: From Presbyterian Mission School to Independent College. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1998.
Nyman, Emil. Deans of Westminster College. Westminster College Archives, Giovale Library.
Content Description +/-
This collection consists of copies of newspaper clippings dating from 1880-1899 which were collected by Robert G. McNiece, Dean of Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah). The clippings have been organized into the following five topics: Churches, John M. Coyner, Home Missions, Robert G. McNiece, and Mormonism.
The "Churches" file features three articles: "Methodist Workers," "Rev. Greene Found Guilty," and "Poured Hot Shot." These articles are written about the involvement of the Presbyterian Church on issues such as the Methodists, embezzlement, and the ties between saloons and the church (respectively). Of particular interest was the "Rev. Greene Found Guilty" article, which details the trial of Rev. Elijah W. Greene from Logan, Utah who was accused of stealing from his creditors and "undertaking work under the jurisdiction of another denomination without the permission of the Presbytery." Greene was found guilty on all charges, stripped of his ministerial power, and excommunicated from the Presbyterian Church. McNiece was chairman of the prosecuting committee in the Greene trial; the jury consisted of 10 Presbyterian ministers of Utah.
The "Coyner, John M." file contains an editorial written by J.M. Coyner titled "A Brief Account of its [the Utah Presbytery] Sessions at American Fork." The title of the article reflects its subject and content. Coyner was the founder and first principal of the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute.
The article featured in the "Home Missions" file was published in the Interior (Chicago) and details the Presbyterian Church's home mission work in Utah. Locations of interest featured in this article are Springville, Logan, and the Sanpete Valley in Utah, and Eureka, Nevada.
The "McNiece, Robert G." file contains his addresses or articles about him, some coming from LDS publications. His addresses can be found in articles titled "Anti-Polygamy," "Dust to Dust," and "A Mormon State." Articles about him written by the LDS press can be found in "Christian Reconstruction" and "The Ministers' Latest." The reminder of the articles concern McNiece's addresses or lectures. For example, an article titled "The Martyred President" comments on an address McNiece made about President Abraham Lincoln.
Articles found in the "Mormonism" file detail similar LDS-related topics that are common throughout this collection: politics, polygamy, etc. Similar articles are found in McNiece's scrapbooks (see Collection ACC-003C).
Collection Use +/-
Restrictions on Access:
Open to public research.
Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.
Twenty-four hours advance notice is encouraged.
Restrictions on Use:
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.
Permission to publish material must be obtained from the director of the Giovale Library.
Robert G. McNiece Westminster College Dean's newspaper clippings, 1880-1899, ACC-003D, Giovale Library Archives, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Administrative Information +/-
Arranged alphabetically by subject category. The information within each folder is then organized by date or alphabetically depending on the contents.
Processed by Joshua Ivie in March 2006. The original newspaper clippings were photocopied and were not retained. Two articles concerning McNiece were copied from the William Mitchell Paden papers (MSS-002). These articles, both titled "Joseph Smith as a Prophet," summarize three lectures given by McNiece.
McNiece, Robert G. (Robert Gibson), 1839-1913
Collection materials are in English.
0.15 linear feet
Language of the Finding Aid:
Author of the Finding Aid:
Finding aid written March 2006 by Joshua Ivie.
EAD Creation Date:
2010 December 2 by Sarah Shaw
Describing Archives : A Content Standard (DACS)
Related collections and photographs in Giovale Library Archives:
Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Home Missions
College trustees--Utah--Salt Lake City--Archives
Form or Genre Terms:
Coyner, John McCutcheon, 1827-1908
Salt Lake City (Utah)--History--Sources