Guide to the Robert J. Caskey Salt Lake Collegiate Institute Principal's correspondence,

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information


Collection Overview +/-

Title: Robert J. Caskey Salt Lake Collegiate Institute Principal's correspondence
Dates: 1892-1948 (inclusive)
1892-1904 (bulk)
Collection Number: ACC-015
Summary: This collection consists of the correspondence (incoming, outgoing, and third party correspondence) of Robert J. Caskey, 4th principal of the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, a position he held from 1892-1904. The Institute was established in 1875 by John M. Coyner and supported largely by the Presbyterian Church with the goal of educating young minds and converting the Mormons to Christianity. It joined with Westminster College shortly after Caskey retired as principal.
Repository: Westminster College, Giovale Library
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105
Phone: (801) 832-2250

Collection Inventory +/-

box 1, folder 1: Incoming correspondence (1892 January 23 - 1894 August 29)
box 1, folder 2: Incoming correspondence (1895 March 22 - 1899 October 2)
box 1, folder 3: Incoming correspondence (1900 January 15 - 1902 December 27)
box 1, folder 4: Incoming correspondence (1903 January 7 - 1903 December 24)
box 1, folder 5: Incoming correspondence (1904 January 26 - 1904 August 17)
box 1, folder 6: Outgoing correspondence (1900 May 26 - 1901 July 15)
box 1, folder 7: Third party correspondence (1901 June 27 - 1948 May 27)

Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-

Robert J. Caskey was born in 1860 in Cook County, Illinois to Alexander and Ellen Caskey. He attended public schools in the area until 1882 when he matriculated college at Knox College in Illinois, graduating in 1887 with an A.B. degree. Caskey moved to Utah in late 1887 and became the principal of the academic department at the Salt Lake Colligate Institute. In 1891 Caskey married Helen Sophia Wishard (1869-1934) and together they had three daughters: Lois, Carol, and Kathryn. In 1892, Caskey became principal of the entire Institute, succeeding Charles S. Richardson, a graduate of Colby University in Maine who had held the position for only one year.

The Presbyterian Board of Home Missions made it clear that Caskey was hired to provide a religious education to his students and his work was strictly mission work. At the same time, the newly formed public school system in Salt Lake City was providing free quality education without sectarian religious agendas and enrollment in various Protestant-based private schools in Utah was dropping. Between 1890 and1893 enrollment at the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute dropped 50 percent, and hardest hit were the lower grades. The Panic of 1893 and years of nation-wide economic depression which followed exacerbated the situation. There was a downsizing begun in the 1890s in Presbyterian home missionary enterprises, all denominational elementary schools in Utah were closed, and high school work was consolidated into one location, the Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. As R. Douglas Brackenridge writes in his history of Westminster College, "Caskey inherited an institution on the verge of collapse … the Board of Home Missions … considered the school an anomaly … located in a prosperous urban environment, functioning under an autonomous board of trustees, and following its own unique curricular path, the institute projected the image of an eastern preparatory school rather than a frontier mission station." The Mission Board wanted to transfer the Institute to the Board of Aid for Colleges and Academies. The College Board was overburdened with financial aid requests from impoverished institutions already under its care and delayed a decision. The Presbyterian Woman's Executive Committee felt that without an elementary school at the Collegiate Institute, it no longer fit their emphasis on grammar school education. There were simultaneously many requests from Presbyterian synods throughout rural Utah seeking aid for a variety of other educational missions.

Eventually, a compromise was worked out which allowed the Institute to survive a few more years through the recession, but Caskey and the Board of Home Missions were both frustrated; at the end of the 1903-1904 school year, Caskey submitted his resignation. He was replaced by the fifth and final principal of the Institute, George Beaty Sweazey.

Caskey had served 17 years at the institute (1892-1904). He was highly involved with education throughout his life and claimed many accomplishments including: member of the Board of Examiners for Salt Lake City schools; Superintendent of the Sunday school for the First Presbyterian Church; President of the Utah Christian Endeavor Society (Caskey was elected president at the Society's Fifth Annual Convention, held April 17, 1893 at the Congregational Church of Ogden, Utah. He presided at the Sixth Annual Convention held April 3, 1894 at the new First Congregational Church in Salt Lake City and was reelected as president); one of the organizers of the Young Men's Christian Association of Salt Lake City, and member of the Board of Directors of the Young Men's Association of Salt Lake City. Caskey died in 1916.


  • Westminster College of Salt Lake City : from Presbyterian mission school to independent college / R. Douglas Brackenridge. Logan Utah : Utah State University Press, 1998, pages 65-69.
  • The Church Review, Vol. 4, Issue 1, 1896?
  • "Descendants of George Wishard" / Edward S. Bruner, viewed September 12, 2011 on Family Tree Maker website.

Content Description +/-

This collection consists of the correspondence (incoming, outgoing, and third party correspondence) of Robert J. Caskey, 4th principal of the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, a position he held from 1892-1904. The Institute was established in 1875 by John M. Coyner and supported largely by the Presbyterian Church with the goal of educating young minds and converting the Mormons to Christianity. It joined with Westminster College shortly after Caskey retired as principal.

The largest portion of the materials are incoming correspondence. Most of these letters relate to the business of the Institute, mainly daily operational and financial affairs and are authored by various members of the Board of Home Missions (such as George F. McAfee, Superintendent of School Work and Treasurer Harvey C. Olin) and the Woman's Board of Home Missions (such as Miss S.F. Lincoln, Treasurer). It seems that the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute was largely under the control of the Woman's Board of Home Missions. There are several letters from Caskey's cousin, Bettie (Elizabeth M.) Wishard, who was a member of the Woman's Executive Committee of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church) which discuss 'the work', referring to the missionary work in Utah. Some of the letters contain information regarding a construction of new student housing. Another prominent issue discussed in the letters was the possibility of joining with Sheldon Jackson College (which changed its name to Westminster College in 1902), but there were various disputes and some doubt expressed concerning the college's financial stability. The Woman's Board refused to allow the merger to occur.

The outgoing correspondence consists of four letters. Two letters that were never sent concerned business with Sheldon Jackson College. A copy of one that was sent concerns the issue of the Collegiate Institute lending the college rooms for the academic year. The fourth is an invitation to Rev. George W. Martin, a Presbyterian missionary and early Westminster college trustee, to attend the Institute's 25th anniversary celebration.

The third party correspondence contains a few general letters to the new principal of the institute (George Beaty Sweazey) and a letter to Rev. Robert G. McNiece concerning a dispute between what rules students should adhere to at the institute, but mostly it contains exchanges (written in 1948) between the former president of Westminster College Herbert W. Reherd, Edward Caldwell (an old classmate of Caskey's), and Caskey's daughter Mrs. C.E. McDowell, concerning Caldwell's attempt to obtain information to write an article on Robert J. Caskey. In the exchange that took place it was discovered that Caskey came to the institute as an instructor in 1887 and later became the principal eventually leaving institute in 1904. The Woman's Board of Home Missions took over the institute in 1896 and stayed in control until 1910 when the institute finally merged with Westminster College. At that point the Institute became the Preparatory Department for the college. It moved from downtown to join the college on its campus across town in 1912.

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 J. Caskey Salt Lake Collegiate Principal's correspondence, 1892-1948, ACC-015, Giovale Library Archives, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Administrative Information +/-


Arranged by incoming, outgoing, and third party correspondence, thereunder chronologically.

Processing Note:

The collection was arranged by Nicki Blair in June 2003. The materials were found mainly in chronological order and that original order was largely maintained.


Caskey, Robert J. (Robert John), 1860-1916


Collection materials are in English.


0.3 linear feet

Language of the Finding Aid:


Author of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written by Nicki Blair in June 2003; expanded with a biographical/historial note written by Sarah Shaw in 2011.

EAD Creation Date:

2011 September 6 by Sarah Shaw


Describing Archives : A Content Standard (DACS)



Related Material:

Related collections and photographs in Giovale Library Archives:

Subjects +/-

Corporate Names:

Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Woman's Board of Home Missions
Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Woman's Executive Committee for Home Missions
Salt Lake Collegiate Institute--Administration
Salt Lake Collegiate Institute--History--Sources
Salt Lake Collegiate Institute. Principal's Office
Sheldon Jackson College (Salt Lake City, Utah)--History--Sources
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983)--History--Sources

Subject Terms:

Preparatory schools--Utah--Salt Lake City--History--Sources
Presbyterian Church--Education--Utah
School principals--Utah--Salt Lake City--Archives

Form or Genre Terms:


Personal Names:

Caskey, Robert J. (Robert John), 1860-1916--Archives
Caldwell, Edward, 1861-1949
Lincoln, S. F.
Martin, G. W. (George Washington), 1848-1919
McAfee, George Fletcher, 1841-1907
McDowell, C. E., Mrs.
McNiece, Robert G. (Robert Gibson), 1839-1913
Olin, Harvey C.
Reherd, Herbert Ware, 1869-1952
Sweazey, George B. (George Beaty), 1875-1946
Wishard, Elizabeth M.

Geographical Names:

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