Guide to the Sheldon Jackson correspondence

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information


Collection Overview +/-

Title: Sheldon Jackson correspondence
Dates: 1895-1904, 1951 (inclusive)
Collection Number: ACC-031
Summary: This collection consists of incoming, outgoing, and third party correspondence of Presbyterian missionary and Westminster College benefactor, Dr. Sheldon Jackson and relates to the founding of the college in Salt Lake City, Utah. On April 25, 1902, Sheldon Jackson and his wife signed a statement allowing the college to change its name from Sheldon Jackson College to Westminster College.
Repository: Westminster College, Giovale Library
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105
Phone: (801) 832-2250

Collection Inventory +/-

box 1, folder 1: Sheldon Jackson correspondence (1895 January 7-September 30)
box 1, folder 2: Sheldon Jackson correspondence (1895 Octobter 5-November 15)
box 1, folder 3: Sheldon Jackson correspondence (1896 January 2-May 23)
box 1, folder 4: Sheldon Jackson correspondence (1896 November -- 1897 October)
box 1, folder 5: Sheldon Jackson correspondence (1899-1901)
box 1, folder 6: Sheldon Jackson correspondence (1902-1904)

Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-

Sheldon Jackson was born in Minnaville, New York in 1834. He was raised in Esparance, New York in a strictly religious household. He received his education at two academies: Union College and Princeton Theological Seminary. Jackson entered Union College at Schenectady at 19 years of age and he then went on to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating (in 1858?). He was married a short time after this graduation.

Jackson was a Presbyterian missionary in the early Indian Territory of Arkansas among the Choctaw, but left his teaching position there after one year due to medical reasons. In 1877 Sheldon Jackson was inspired to go to Alaska and survey missionary needs; Alaska proved to be his stomping grounds until is death. He did not isolate himself, however, and remained active in missionary and money making efforts. He is a notable Presbyterian missionary and college benefactor. One of his missionary efforts included helping organize the first Presbyterian Chapter in Utah in 1892, as well as backing Sheldon Jackson College financially upon its inception.

It is said that Jackson stopped by Salt Lake during a return from Alaska and saw the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute operating but not flourishing. He offered $50,000 of inheritance if a college would be started up in his name, operating under strict Presbyterian guidelines. Westminster College began its work in 1897 under the name Sheldon Jackson College.

In 1895 Sheldon Jackson was appointed the first Commissioner of Education for Alaska, and served in that capacity until 1908. When his term as Commissioner of Education ended he retired to a more quiet life in Washington D.C., where his two daughters, Elizabeth Lesley Jackson and Delia Sheldon Jackson, continued to live. Sheldon Jackson passed away in 1909.

Henry Vroom Van Pelt was a trustee and the first treasurer of Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah) serving for 20 years from 1895-1921, first under the earlier name Sheldon Jackson College, and then the later name Westminster College. He continued to advise the college on legal matters after his resignation.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin on January 25, 1854 to William Todd and Margaret Beekman Van Pelt, Henry graduated from Beloit College in 1875. He was an attorney in private practice in Wisconsin before moving to North Dakota in 1883.

On June 7, 1888, Henry married Hattie Ward Ryan. They had two children while living in North Dakota, Marion and Helen. The family moved to Salt Lake City where Henry Van Pelt and George F. Goodwin were law partners. The Van Pelts had two more children while living in Salt Lake City, Roger and Charles. In 1916, Henry Van Pelt was named commissioner of the U.S. District Court in Utah. In 1927 he resigned to return to private practice. Henry also served as a member of the Salt Lake City Board of Education for many years.

Henry died in 1935; Hattie died in 1937. Their daughter Helen Van Pelt had married Emil Nyman, an educator, school principal, college teacher and for many years, archivist at Westminster College.

Sources of Van Pelt biographical note:

  • National Register of Historical Places website, entry for the Mabry-Van Pelt House in Salt Lake City, viewed online June 2, 2016

Content Description +/-

This collection consists of incoming, outgoing, and third party correspondence of Sheldon Jackson and relates to the founding of the college in Salt Lake City, Utah. It contains notable correspondence between Reverend Robert G. McNiece and Jackson concerning securing financing for the college. A letter dated May 13, 1895, addressed to the Presbytery of Utah, details the stipulations of Jackson's proposed college endowment of $50,000.

The earliest correspondence addresses the Congregationalists' proposal to start a college in Salt Lake City, and also explores the potential of a successful Presbyterian academic institution in Salt Lake City. The Congregationalists proposed the two churches join forces. However, it was ultimately decided that such a proposed union would end in "death by starvation" (September 5, 1895). The new college was incorporated in November 1895 and was named Sheldon Jackson College.

There is also significant handwritten correspondence from General John Eaton, the college's first president. On April 25, 1902, Sheldon Jackson and his wife signed a statement allowing the college to change its name from Sheldon Jackson College to Westminster College. Other significant correspondence is from Henry V. Van Pelt (1854-1935), the college's first Treasurer.

Much of Jackson's outgoing correspondence comes from Alaska, where he was based from 1877-1908.

The third party correspondence is between Elizabeth Lesley Jackson, Sheldon Jackson's daughter, and Westminster College President emeritus Dr. Herbert W. Reherd in 1951. Reherd was writing a history of Westminster College and was attempting to locate information on the college's earliest years. The correspondence resulted in Miss Jackson sending Reherd a box of her father's college-related papers.

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:

Sheldon Jackson correspondence, 1895-1904, 1951, ACC-031, Giovale Library Archives, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Administrative Information +/-


The correspondence is arranged chronologically. When dates are the same, correspondence is arranged alphabetically by last name.

Processing Note:

Processed by Krystle Cook in May 2003. According to a letter from his daughter, Sheldon Jackson gave many book and papers to the Presbyterian Historical Society.


Jackson, Sheldon, 1834-1909


Collection materials are in English.


0.3 linear feet

Language of the Finding Aid:


Author of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written May 2003 by Krystle Cook.

EAD Creation Date:

2010 April 13 by Sarah Shaw


Describing Archives : A Content Standard (DACS)



Related Material:

Related collections and photographs in Giovale Library Archives:

Related photographs and biographies of General John Eaton, president of Sheldon Jackson College, can be found on these websites (viewed March 20, 2017):

Subjects +/-

Corporate Names:

Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Presbytery of Utah
Salt Lake Collegiate Institute--History--Sources
Sheldon Jackson College (Salt Lake City, Utah)--History--Sources
Westminster College (Salt Lake City, Utah : 1902-1983)--History--Sources

Subject Terms:

Presbyterian Church--Education--Utah
Presbyterian universities and colleges--Utah--Salt Lake City--History--Sources
Universities and colleges--Utah--Salt Lake City

Form or Genre Terms:


Personal Names:

Eaton, John, 1829-1906
Jackson, Elizabeth Lesley
Jackson, Sheldon, 1834-1909--Correspondence
McNiece, Robert G. (Robert Gibson), 1839-1913
Van Pelt, Henry V. (Henry Vroom), 1854-1935
Reherd, Herbert Ware, 1869-1952

Geographical Names:

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