Guide to the Robert G. McNiece Westminster College Dean's subject files

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information


Collection Overview +/-

Title: Robert G. McNiece Westminster College Dean's subject files
Dates: 1882-1972 (inclusive)
Collection Number: ACC-003B
Summary: This collection consists of the records collected by Robert G. McNiece, Dean of Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah) during his lifetime, as well as McNiece's biographical data and obituaries. The records, dating from 1882-1972, reflect both McNiece's role within Westminster College and his broader interest in the community. They are arranged into 18 subject categories.
Repository: Westminster College, Giovale Library
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105
Phone: (801) 832-2250

Collection Inventory +/-

box 1, folder 1: Actions
box 1, folder 2: Addresses
box 1, folder 3: Biographical
box 1, folder 4: Congressional record
box 1, folder 5: Donation book
box 1, folder 6: Gordon, Thomas
box 1, folder 7: McNiece, Renwich Sloane -- wedding announcement
box 1, folder 8: Notebook
box 1, folder 9: Obituaries
box 1, folder 10: Presbyterian endowment
box 1, folder 11: Property
box 1, folder 12: Proposed memorial
box 1, folder 13: Publications
box 1, folder 14: Reports
box 1, folder 15: Role book
box 1, folder 16: Statement
box 1, folder 17: Temple will
box 2, folder 1: Property [oversized]
box 2, folder 2: Proposed memorial [oversized]

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.

Works consulted:

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 biographical information, deeds, legal documents, newspaper clippings, property descriptions, publications, reports, sermons, and speeches that were collected by Robert G. McNiece, Dean of Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah) during his lifetime (exceptions being biographical data, obituaries, information on the proposed memorial, etc.). The records reflect both McNiece's role within Westminster College and his broader interest in the community. They are arranged into 18 subject categories.

McNiece collected documents that dealt with both policy and property. There is a notice of actions taken (see "Actions") by the Women's Executive Committee regarding furnishings in the residential areas. Many documents were kept by McNiece that regard the Washington D.C. property as well as Salt Lake properties (see "Property"). These records include descriptions of the property, deeds, etc., and are related to the correspondence (though they were not attached to them). Similar to "Action" is "Statement"— a statement specifying the teaching of the Bible in the classroom (this is possibly in reference to one of the stipulations specified in the agreement with Colonel William M. Ferry to provide assistance to the College).

The "Biographical" file includes works written by Westminster College archivist Emil Nyman (1892–1982), including his "A Short History of Westminster College."

Articles published by McNiece ("Publications" file) include an article written to the editor of "Christian Education" titled "Concerning Sheldon Jackson College," as well as two sermons ("The Christian Conflict"), the editorial "The Redemption of Utah," a lecture titled "Indebtedness to Christianity," and a booklet titled "Reasons for a Legislative Commission for Utah."

The "Temple Will" file contains a typed extract from the will of Mary J. Gunton Temple donationing funds to the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A. for the construction of two chapels at locations chosen by the Board, one in memory of her late father William Gunton, and another in memory of her late husband Edward Temple. As a result of this bequest, Gunton Memorial Chapel (later occupied by the Third Presbyterian Church) was built at the corner of 1700 South and 1100 East, Salt Lake City, Utah. The founders hesitated in building the chapel on college property because they were uncertain whether it was a good idea to make it the first building on campus.

The college's financial agent Thomas Gordon's activities are well documented (see "Gordon, Thomas"). These records have direct relation to Gordon and include his contract with the college and other legal documents, and memoranda.

The file on Renwick Sloane McNiece contains his marriage announcement to Hazel Morse Hartley on 1 October 1950. Renwick McNiece (1886-1983), son of Dean McNiece and his wife Sara Irwin, graduated high school from Salt Lake Collegiate Institute in 1903.

There are also records that relate to McNiece as a Presbyterian minister and an anti-polygamist. They include addresses given by McNiece on Mormonism. They typically emphasize the need for Presbyterianism and the end of polygamy. There is also a notebook comprised of many newspaper clippings which McNiece used to record information on LDS stakes throughout Utah.

A copy of the "Congressional Record" in the collection is an example of McNiece's anti-polygamy interest, although no passages are highlighted or notes made. It is titled "Proposed Additional Legislation for Utah Territory" (15 April 1886–5 May 1886).

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.

Preferred Citation:

Robert G. McNiece Westminster College Dean's subject files, 1891-1908, ACC-003B, Giovale Library Archives, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Administrative Information +/-


Arranged alphabetically by subject category, then chronologically within each category.

Processing Note:

Processed by Joshua Ivie in March 2006. A copy of Nyman's biographical sketch on McNiece has been aged to resemble a historic document. Its purpose and the techniques used are unknown.


McNiece, Robert G. (Robert Gibson), 1839-1913


Collection materials are in English.


0.4 linear feet

Language of the Finding Aid:


Author of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written March 2006 by Joshua Ivie

EAD Creation Date:

2010 November 18 by Sarah Shaw


Describing Archives : A Content Standard (DACS)



Related Material:

Related collections and photographs in Giovale Library Archives:

Subjects +/-

Corporate Names:

Gunton Memorial Chapel (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Sheldon Jackson College (Salt Lake City, Utah)--History--Sources
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983)--Administration
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983)--Endowments
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983)--Finance
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983)--Endowments
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983)--History--Sources
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983). Dean's Office--Archives

Subject Terms:

Chapels--Utah--Salt Lake City
Deans (Education)--Utah--Salt Lake City--Archives
Educational fund raising
Mormon Church--Controversial literature
Presbyterian Church--Utah--Clergy
Presbyterian Church--Education--Utah
Presbyterian universities and colleges--Utah--History--Sources

Form or Genre Terms:

Clippings (information artifacts)
Legal documents
Wedding announcements

Personal Names:

Gordon, Thomas, Rev.
Gunton, William
McNiece, Renwick Sloane, 1886-1983
McNiece, Renwick Sloane, 1886-1983--Marriage
McNiece, Robert G. (Robert Gibson), 1839-1913--Archives
Nyman, Emil, 1892-1982
Temple, Mary Jane Gunton, 1830-1927--Will

Geographical Names:

Salt Lake City (Utah)--History--Sources