Origins of the University of North Dakota


The Celebration To-Day.  Laying The Corner Stone.  Some Particulars of the Origin of the Work.  The Origin, ETC.

The laying of the corner stone of the University of North Dakota, to-day, becomes an event especially important in the history of Grand Forks.  By the location of the university and observatory buildings at this point, the establishment thereof constitutes our city the educational centre of North Dakota, and this is a proper time to give a brief history of the inaugural steps had in the location, progress and construction, and a synopsis of the educational facilities here offered the young and coming generations of our commonwealth.

In a letter addressed to the Hon. Geo. H. Walsh, under date of Jan. 8th 1883, Dr. W. T. Collins, suggested the advisability and practicability of securing to this portion of North Dakota a State Normal School or some other educational institution, by legislative enactment.  Mr. Walsh answered as follows:


MY DEAR SIR: – Your amendments to the City Charter at hand and will be presented to-morrow.  In reference to a Normal School, the Governor is not favorably inclined as you can see by his message.  How would an agricultural college or University with a section providing for a Normal class do?  I think probably the Governor would be more favorable to an institution of this kind.  Does our Independent school law need amendment?  Wish you would write me anything that might suggest itself to you needing legislation.  Respectfully, GEO. H. WALSH.

In answer to this letter of Mr. Walsh, Dr. Collins strongly urged the greater importance of a University with the necessary provision for departments in agricultural and mechanic arts.  On February 8th Dr. Collins received a letter from Mr. Walsh, dated February 1st, in which he asks to have a bill prepared for the University and forwarded to him for introduction.  On February 10th 1883, the following letter was expressed to Mr. Walsh with a draft of the bill referred to:

GRAND FORKS, D. T., Feb. 10, 1883.  Hon. GEO. H. WALSH, Yankton, D. T.

MY DEAR SIR: – Herewith I send to you draft of University bill.  While it may be short of what it might be in some things, yet it was the best I could do in the time.  I trust you may succeed in securing its passage.  Certainly you have the best of grounds upon which to base strong argument in its support.  The public institutions of the Territory are all located in the southern portion thereof, and by legislative provisions, are rapidly absorbing all lands granted the Territory by the general government.  Heretofore the southern portion has received all appropriation and no exception to the case this year.  Without reflecting upon our North Dakota representatives, if this thing is to continue, would it not be quite as well for them to remain away from the legislative assembly and allow South Dakota full sway?  It is simply damnable to allow such gross injustice by one section of our country to the other.  You should be able to secure an appropriation for the University, of $30,000 to $40,000, for a beginning.  Yours truly, W. T. COLLINS.

After Mr. Walsh’s letter of February 1st, he was called to St. Paul, Minn., and there ascertained that another representative in the legislature was having a bill prepared for the location of a university at Jamestown.  Mr. Walsh hastened his return to Yankton, and not finding the expected bill copied and introduced, and secured the passage of the same, which was afterwards amended.  He also secured the


appropriating $30,000 for the University, conditional upon the donation of a site for the same of not less than ten acres, and $10,000 for the erection and equipment of an observatory, by the citizens of Grand Forks.

To Mr. Walsh, great credit is due for the tact and energy exhibited in securing the passage of these legislative enactments, for no sooner had he introduced the first bill than other sections of North Dakota, rushed in with bills for the location of insane asylums, penitentiaries, agricultural colleges and normal schools without number.  After the passage of these bills, upon the recommendation of Mr. Walsh, the Governor nominated Dr. C. E. Teel, Mr. James Twamley and Dr. W. T. Collins, the two former for four years and the latter for two years, as resident Regents, and Mr. E. A. Healy, of Drayton, for four years, and Dr. R. M. Evans, of Minto, for two years, as the Board of Regents, for the University of North Dakota, and they were duly confirmed.

These gentlemen qualified and the resident Regents united in calling a meeting of the board to convene at the city hall in the city of Grand Forks, on the 21st day of April last, and their first session was held on that date with a full board present.  Preliminary organization was had by the election of Regent E. A. Healy as chairman, and Hon. Geo. H. Walsh as secretary.


then effected a temporary organization by the election of Regent C. E. Teel President, and W. T. Collins Secretary, and a committee was appointed to draft a code of by-laws for the government of the board.  A resolution was adopted advertising for tenders of a site for the university and steps taken to secure plans and specifications for both buildings.

The Board adjourned to and again assembled again on May 16th, all of the regents being in attendance during a three days’ session.  The code of by-laws was adopted, the tender of twenty acres of land and $10,000 for the erection and equipment of an observatory made by Messrs. Wm. Budge, M. Ohmer, and John McKelvey, was accepted and plans adopted for the university.

The Board of Regents broke ground on May 25th and assembled in annual session June 5th, and on June 6th perfected their organization by the election of Regent Dr. W. T. Collins, President, and Rev. F. W. Iddings, Secretary.  Building committee – Regents Twamley, Teel and Evans.  Executive committee – Regents Healy, Twamley and Evans.  Farm committee – Regents Teel, Evans and Twamley.  Library committee – Evans, Healy and Teel.

The President and Regent Healy were appointed a committee to visit other university and observatory buildings, and after visiting the university of Minnesota, the observatory at Northfield, Minn., the university of Wisconsin, at Madison, and Cornell university at Ithaca, N. Y., reported July 6th to the Board, recommending certain changes in the plans, which were made by the Board.  On August 15th the contract for the construction of the university building was awarded at $32,500, and the observatory at $5,600 to P. B. Broughton, Esq., of Minto, D. T.


now under process of construction is 120 feet by 54 feet four inches, including the basement four stories in height.  The main room of the basement is set apart for a mechanical room.

First Floor – Chemical lecture room; laboratory; recitation rooms for Natural Science, Mathematics and English, respectively, 20 ft. 5 in. by 27 ft. 2. in.; the president’s office, reception room, professors’ rooms and cloak rooms.

Second Floor – Five recitation rooms for professors of metaphysics and ancient languages, library and reading rooms, etc.

Third Floor – Two recitation rooms for professors of modern languages and history, two rooms for literary societies and scientific societies, similar in dimensions to the first floor.


The Board of Regents contemplate the opening of the university about the 15th of September, 1884, with the following departments:

1.  A preparatory department of elementary instruction, including a normal class.

2.  The college, or department of science, literature and the arts.

3.  The college of mechanical arts, with courses in civil engineering, mechanical engineering and architecture.

4.  The college, or department of agriculture.


now under process of construction on the university grounds, is 28×55 feet.  The astronomical department of the observatory will put in operation not later than next spring, when time will be furnished to all points in north Minnesota, Dakota and Manitoba.


The progress of the work has so far advanced that the board have been enabled to formally inaugurate the building by the laying of the corner stone with proper and solemn ceremonial, befitting the importance of the enterprise.  The arrangements for the celebration were given fully in Sunday morning edition, and but little remains to be added.  It is expected that some five or six Masonic lodges will participate in the ceremonial to be conducted by the grand lodge.  The general parade of the fire brigade will add to the éclat of the procession, and everything tends to indicate that the laying of the corner stone will be attended with the brightest auspices of a hopeful career for this most important factor in the educational future of North Dakota.

Information was received yesterday that Gov. Ordway and Gen. Beadle, with a number of other distinguished guests, will be in the city to-day to take part in the ceremonies.

Some changes having been made in the route of procession, we give it as finally arranged:

Marshal of the Day.
Regents of the University.
Mayor and City Council.
Col. E. Smith, Marshal in charge of Masonic Section.
Grand Lodge of Dakota A. F. & A. M.
Acacia Lodge No. 15, A. F. & A. M.
Fire Department.
Citizens in Carriages.
Citizens on Foot.

The procession on moving will take up the following


From corner Third street and Kittson ave.; down Third street to International avenue; down International to Sixth street; up Sixth street to DeMers avenue; down DeMers avenue to Fourth st.; up Fourth st. to Gertrude avenue; down Gertrude to Third street; down Third to railway crossing where the procession will disband and take train for the University grounds.


Music by the Cadet Band.
Prayer by Chaplain of the Grand Lodge.
Remarks of Gen. W. W. Beadle, Superintendent of Public Schools of Dakota.
Oration by D. L. Kiehle, Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Minnesota.


Excursion tickets to University grounds, 25 cents; to be purchased at Trepanier’s drug store, and Geo. Budge’s drug store.  Tickets must be secured before entering the car.

Two cars will be run from the Third street crossing to the University grounds, trains running as often as required during the afternoon.

Business houses on the line of procession are requested to close from 1 o’clock till 4 p. m.  (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Tuesday Morning, October 2, 1883, Volume 4, Number 127, Page 1)


Share Button