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

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 scrapbooks
Dates: 1879-1903 (inclusive)
Collection Number: ACC-003C
Summary: This collection consists of three scrapbooks compiled as early as 1887 by Robert G. McNiece, Dean of Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah. Each scrapbook has been filled with newspaper articles regarding issues faced in Utah by the Presbyterians, such as Mormons and polygamy.
Repository: Westminster College, Giovale Library
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105
Phone: (801) 832-2250

Collection Inventory +/-

box 1, folder 1: Mormonism
box 1, folder 2: Utah [legal size]
box 1, folder 3: Utah and Mormon affairs [legal-size]

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 three scrapbooks compiled by Robert G. McNiece as early as 1887. Each scrapbook has been filled with newspaper articles regarding issues faced in Utah by the Presbyterians, such as Mormons and polygamy. In many cases, McNiece only included the clipping itself without attribution. While he was collecting articles from local papers (at least one article is noted as having come from the "Salt Lake Tribune"), many of the publication sources are unknown. The topics detailed in each scrapbook are similar. McNiece made a brief notation about the focus of the scrapbook, on or near each inside cover. McNiece's notations reflect the contents in very brief terms, and do not serve to describe any specific issue.

The first scrapbook details Mormonism, with attention paid to polygamy, LDS presidents (John Taylor); no starting date is indicated.

The second scrapbook is given the notation Mainly about Utah and is dated 1887. This book focuses on politics, the B. H. Roberts case (the Congressional unseating of Roberts), and polygamy.

The third book is designated Utah and Mormon Affairs and is also dated 1887. This book addresses the same topics as the other two, but in a broader and more inclusive way.

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 scrapbooks, 1879-1903, ACC-003C, Giovale Library Archives, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Administrative Information +/-


Arranged alphabetically by scrapbook title.

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 23 by Sarah Shaw


Describing Archives : A Content Standard (DACS)



Related Material:

Related collections and photographs in Giovale Library Archives:

Subjects +/-

Corporate Names:

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. First Presidency
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983). Dean's Office--Archives

Subject Terms:

Deans (Education)--Utah--Salt Lake City--Archives
Mormon Church--Relations--Presbyterian Church
Presbyterian Church--Relations--Mormon Church
Presbyterian universities and colleges--Utah--History--Sources
Religion and politics--Utah--History--19th century--Sources
Utah--Politics and government--History--19th century--Sources

Form or Genre Terms:

Clippings (information artifacts)

Personal Names:

McNiece, Robert G. (Robert Gibson), 1839-1913--Archives
Roberts, B. H. (Brigham Henry), 1857-1933
Taylor, John, 1808-1887

Geographical Names:

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