Guide to the Sheldon Jackson College records

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information


Collection Overview +/-

Title: Sheldon Jackson College records
Dates: 1896-1982 (inclusive)
1896-1902 (bulk)
Collection Number: ACC-127
Summary: This collection consists of the records dating 1896-1982 of Sheldon Jackson College, Salt Lake City, Utah. The bulk of the materials (1896-1902) are publications about administrative activities of the college and include a college announcement, two articles from Christian Education dated April and June, 1896, audits, brochures, catalogs and the college prospectus.
Repository: Westminster College, Giovale Library
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105
Phone: (801) 832-2250

Collection Inventory +/-

box 1, folder 1: Announcement
box 1, folder 2: Articles
box 1, folder 3: Articles of incorporation
box 1, folder 4: Audit report (1900)
box 1, folder 5: Audit Committee
box 1, folder 6: Brochures
box 1, folder 7: Catalogs
box 1, folder 8: Prospectus

Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-

Sheldon Jackson College, Salt Lake City, Utah (1895-1901): Sheldon Jackson College in Salt Lake City, Utah was chartered in 1895 and opened 1897 on the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute campus. The one and only commencement was held on June 4, 1901. The Board of Trustees approved a name change to "Westminster College" on Feb. 6, 1902. Sheldon Jackson and his wife signed an agreement to the name change on April 25, 1902.

In late March, 1892, the Presbytery of Utah, in planning for a possible college in Utah, elected a Board of Trustees for the proposed college, consisting of five ministers (Rev. S.E. Wishard of Ogden, Rev. G.W. Martin of Manti, Rev. Josiah McClain of Nephi, Rev. C.M. Shepherd of Springville, and Rev. R.G. McNiece of Salt Lake City) and four laymen (Col. W.M. Ferry of Park City, F.E. Gregg and Frank E. Pierce of Salt Lake City, and W.I. Brown of Nephi). Robert G. McNiece was named President (Chairman) of the Board, Rev. McClain, Secretary, and Gill S. Peyton was appointed Treasurer. A committee was formed to begin drafting by-laws and a constitution for the proposed college.

In August, 1892 the Board proposed the name "Salt Lake College". In April and May, 1893, the Board examined four locations proposed for the campus; Ogden was considered especially attractive, but further study returned the Board to its original resolution to locate in Salt Lake City, and this was confirmed.

By August, 1896, with support from Sheldon Jackson, the college was named "Sheldon Jackson College" and the Board of Trustees under this name held its first meeting in Salt Lake City. The first order of business was to elect a President, and General John Eaton of Washington City was chosen.

In a letter dated May 1898 to Mrs. Jeanette H. Ferry, Robert G. McNiece mentions the plan to consolidate Sheldon Jackson College and the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute and informs Ferry that both Dr. Eaton and Dr. Jackson have given their approval.

In 1902, William Montague Ferry (1824-1905), a trustee of Westminster College, would step in and provide the college with the funding it desperately needed, buying the property that the campus currently occupies.

Source consulted: Westminster College archivist Emil Nyman's unpublished work titled "Presidents of Westminster College (as of 1973)".

John Eaton (President of Sheldon Jackson College): John Eaton was born December 5, 1829 in Sutton, New Hampshire. His mother died when he was 17 years old, and he was left to care for his 7 surviving younger siblings. By working several jobs, he was able to attend Thetford Academy in Vermont, and then Dartmouth College, graduating in 1854. He was briefly the principal of Ward School in Cleveland, Ohio, and then was appointed superintendent of schools in Toledo, Ohio. He completed his education at Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, and was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1862.

The day after graduating from Andover, Eaton joined the Union Army as a chaplain. He was later charged by General Ulysses S. Grant to serve as superintendent of freed slaves in the Mississippi Valley (from 1862-1865). Grant sent Eaton to the White House to report to President Lincoln in July 1863. While Superintendent of Negro Affairs for Tennessee, he helped establish 74 schools. In 1863 he was made colonel of the 63rd Regiment of Colored Infantry, and in March 1865 was promoted to brevet brigadier general.

After the Civil War, General Eaton was editor of the Memphis Daily Post (1866-1869). He served as Tennessee Superintendent of Schools from 1867-1869. In 1870 he was appointed U.S. Commissioner of Education, succeeding Henry Barnard. He remained in this post until 1886. During this same time he also reorganized the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.

From 1886-1891, John Eaton was the 4th president of Marietta College in Ohio. In 1895 he was named president of Sheldon Jackson College in Salt Lake City, the first and only president of the college. When the college was renamed Westminster College in 1901, Eaton became the first president under the new name. He visited Salt Lake City only once and spent the majority of his time fundraising for the college in the Eastern United States. In his absence, the role of running the college fell primarily to Robert McNiece who would later be named the first Dean of Westminster College.

Eaton died February 9, 1906 at the age of 76 in Washington, D.C. and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. John Eaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C. is named after General John Eaton.

Sources consulted (viewed online November 5, 2013):

  • Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF): "Eaton, John, 1829-1906".
  • Marietta College "John Eaton, 1885-1891". (
  • Mr. Lincoln & Friends "The preachers : John Eaton (1829-1906)" (www.mrlincolnandfriends).
  • Wikipedia article "John Eaton (General)".

Robert G. McNiece: As a pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Robert G. 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.

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.

Content Description +/-

This collection consists of the records dating 1896-1982 of Sheldon Jackson College, Salt Lake City, Utah. The bulk of the materials (1896-1902) are publications about administrative activities of the college and include a college announcement, two articles from Christian Education dated April and June, 1896, audits, brochures, catalogs and the college prospectus.

The most significant records of this collection are the articles of incorporation for Sheldon Jackson College. These documents represent the founding of the college (1896) by Samuel E. Wishard, Robert G. McNiece, Newton E. Clemenson, F. L. Arnold, W. A. Hough, Edward M. Knox, George W. Martin, Josiah McClain, Chas F. Richardson, J. H. Livingston Smith, Hugh H. McCreery, James Thompson, and William R. Campbell. Also included are various resolutions and amendments to the Articles of Incorporation (the last resolution is dated 10 June 1961). The last record included with the articles of incorporation is a copy of the articles (ca. 1895) created in the early 1980s attached is a brief statement regarding Westminster College's "evolving role and mission in this community." This copy shows the changes to the college between 1896 and 1982.

An article in Christian Education described Sheldon Jackson College's prospects as woeful, stating "the college will rise, if it shall rise at all, upon the ruins of a union college [Salt Lake College]." Salt Lake College was viewed by those producing the publication, as Utah's legitimate Christian/Presbyterian college, and saw the founding of Sheldon Jackson College as an imminent threat.

The 1901-1902 college announcement provides information on the college trustees, calendar, the college's objectives, a description of the college's property, boarding expenses, the college's achievements, and its future goals. One 6 page pamphlet, labelled "Sheldon Jackson College" has a list of trustees and faculty, as well as images (from photographs) of "Sheldon Jackson College, College Hill, Salt Lake City, Utah, W.E. Ware, Architect", "Rev. Sheldon Jackson, D.D., L.L.D.", "Hungerford Academy, Springville, Utah", "Rev. John Eaton, Ph.D., L.L.D.", and the "Salt Lake [Collegiate] Institute". The brochures and prospectus also promote the college.

The brochures provide promotional information regarding the origin of the college, the college's ties to the Presbyterian Church, and its objectives, while the prospectus promotes the college by highlighting and describing the landmarks near the college such as the streets of Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute, and City Creek Canyon.

The college catalogs represent three academic years: 1897-1898 (Salt Lake Collegiate Institute and the prospectus of Sheldon Jackson College), 1898-1899 (the first year of Sheldon Jackson College), and 1900-1901 (for Sheldon Jackson College and Salt Lake Collegiate Institute; the Institute is listed as the Preparatory Department of Sheldon Jackson College). The catalogs provide basic historical information, information regarding the types of classes offered by the college, lists of trustees, and brief descriptions of the academic programs offered by the college (and Collegiate Institute, where appropriate).

The 1900 audit report and the auditing committee records document the actual workings of the college. The audit report outlines the expenses of the college at the request of Robert G. McNiece; the audit was prepared by J.E. Bates, Public Accountant. Related to the audit is the findings of the auditing committee, on the expenses incurred by and payments made on the behalf of Thomas Gordon, the college's investment agent. Gordon was hired and sent to Washington, D.C., to transform the college's property into a lucrative investment; "the property was originally owned by Sheldon Jackson, but donated to the college when he was unable to fulfill his original commitment to provide the college with a $50,000 grant (i.e., Jackson deeded the property to the college in place of his grant). Complications arose when the college's financial agent, Thomas Gordon, was discovered to have abused his power of attorney for personal gain. The end result of Gordon's misappropriation was a substantial monetary loss for the college (amounting to about $35,000). No lawsuit was ever filed against Gordon, for fear that the negative publicity generated would doom the college." The report provided by the auditing committee asserts that no suitable report can be made due to Gordon's poor record keeping.

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 College records, 1896-1982 (bulk 1896-1902), ACC-127, Giovale Library Archives, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Administrative Information +/-


Arranged alphabetically by subject, thereunder chronologically.

Processing Note:

Processed January 2007 by Joshua Ivie.


Sheldon Jackson College (Salt Lake City, Utah)


Collection materials are in English.


0.2 linear feet

Language of the Finding Aid:


Author of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written January 2007 by Joshua Ivie; biographical note and related materials expanded November 2013 by Sarah Shaw.

EAD Creation Date:

2013 October 10 by Sarah Shaw


Describing Archives : A Content Standard (DACS)



Related Material:

Related collections in Giovale Library Archives:

Related photographs in Giovale Library Archives:

Related photograph of William M. Ferry and photographs and biographies of General John Eaton held by other institutions:

Subjects +/-

Corporate Names:

Sheldon Jackson College (Salt Lake City, Utah)--Archives

Subject Terms:

Educational fund raising
Presbyterian Church--Education--Utah
Presbyterian universities and colleges--Utah--History--Sources

Form or Genre Terms:

Academic prospectuses
Catalogs (documents)

Personal Names:

Campbell, William R. (William Richard), 1857-
Clemenson, N. E.
Jackson, Sheldon, 1834-1909--Correspondence
Martin, G. W. (George Washington), 1848-1919
McClain, Josiah
McNiece, Robert G. (Robert Gibson), 1839-1913
Wishard, S. E. (Samuel Ellis), 1825-1915

Geographical Names:

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